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Samsung unveils Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G with 100X Space Zoom and S Pen support

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Samsung unveils Galaxy S21 Ultra with long-range zoom and S Pen support
Earlier than ever before, Samsung has just announced the Galaxy S21 series, its flagship trio that brings in a brand new design with a stylish camera that blends into the frame of the phone and the most powerful processor so far.

Featuring support for Samsung's S Pen for the first time in an S series phone, the most versatile camera system and the overall most advanced feature set, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the headliner. It comes with a gigantic, 5,000mAh battery, and is a chunky phone, noticeably bigger than your average. Just as big as in size, it is also big in price: it's the most expensive of the S21 bunch, the Ultra has a luxury-level price tag of $1,200.

So what is it all about and how is it different than the more reasonably priced Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus models? Let's find out!

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Samsung Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra

- get the S21 series with up to $700 trade-in, accessory credits, half-price financing, and exclusive colors.

Buy at Samsung

Design, Display, Size and Colors

Two conservative colors and an extra large and bulky size


While the S21 and S21 Plus are available in quite a few daring new colors, the Ultra is available in two rather conservative colorways: Phantom Silver and Phantom Black. At least in most stores that is, while interestingly, there are three other S21 Ultra colors that will be available exclusively at Samsung.com, a Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, and Phantom Brown. All of the models feature a glass back with the latest Gorilla Glass Victus for better resistance to drops and an aluminum frame for a stylish look. The design element that stands out the most, however, is the giant camera bump protruding from the back and taking up nearly half the width of the phone. Also, while the S21 and S21+ feature flat screens, the display on the Ultra is ever so slightly curved towards the edges.

Speaking of that screen, it is a 6.8" OLED display with 10Hz to 120Hz dynamic refresh rate that changes automatically depending on the content. And for the first time in a Galaxy, you can run the phone at 120Hz even at the maximum QHD resolution. Samsung has also improved the brightness and contrast of the screen, which is now the brightest out there with a peak of 1,500 nits and 50% better contrast than on last year's model.
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As for the rest, you have the power and volume keys on the right side of the phone, and there are no buttons on the left (thankfully, no dedicated Bixby button either). And just as you'd expect, there is no headphone jack, while the loudspeaker system consists of one bottom firing loudspeaker and another speaker located in the earpiece. On the bottom, you will find find the USB-C port and mic grill.  The Ultra is also water-sealed with an IP68 rating, meaning that it can survive the accidental drop in water easily.

It is the sheer size of the S21 Ultra that impresses, though: the phone is not only larger in width and height, it's also noticeably thicker than your regular phone, and it weighs close to 8 ounces. Take a look at our size comparison tool below to see how it measures against other big phones on the market:

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Dimensions

6.5 x 2.98 x 0.35 inches

165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm

Weight

8.04 oz (229 g)

Samsung Galaxy S21+

Samsung Galaxy S21+

Dimensions

6.35 x 2.98 x 0.31 inches

161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8 mm

Weight

7.13 oz (202 g)

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Dimensions

6.49 x 3.04 x 0.32 inches

164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1 mm

Weight

7.34 oz (208 g)

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Dimensions

6.33 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches

160.84 x 78.09 x 7.39 mm

Weight

8.03 oz (228 g)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Dimensions

6.5 x 2.98 x 0.35 inches

165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm

Weight

8.04 oz (229 g)

Samsung Galaxy S21+

Samsung Galaxy S21+

Dimensions

6.35 x 2.98 x 0.31 inches

161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8 mm

Weight

7.13 oz (202 g)

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Dimensions

6.49 x 3.04 x 0.32 inches

164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1 mm

Weight

7.34 oz (208 g)

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Dimensions

6.33 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches

160.84 x 78.09 x 7.39 mm

Weight

8.03 oz (228 g)

Compare these and other phones using our Size Comparison tool.


S21 Ultra colors



  • Phantom Silver
  • Phantom Black (*only Black model will be available with 256GB or 512GB storage)


  • Phantom Titanium (only at Samsung.com)
  • Phantom Brown (only at Samsung.com)
  • Phantom Navy (only at Samsung.com)

Learn more about all the Galaxy S21 series color options here

S Pen support

First S series phone to support it, but you have to buy the S Pen separately


The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first S series Samsung phone to support the S Pen, but unlike the Galaxy Note family where the S Pen is tucked inside the phone for easy access, here, you cannot stow it inside the phone and it doesn't even come included in the box.

Instead, you have to separately purchase the S Pen and if you want to keep it always at hand, Samsung suggests a folio type of a case and a back cover one that offer a special slot on the side for the S Pen (but they do make the phone extra wide). Also, the S Pen that Samsung sells specifically for the S21 Ultra is a bit different than the one on the Note series, it's thicker, so it might actually be a bit more comfortable to hold and use. And instead of having a button on the top of the S Pen that you press to take it out of the Note phones, you need to kind of chip off the S Pen from the case of the S21 Ultra. The Ultra having a Wacom digitizer is also compatible with third-party pens like ones from Staedtler, Lamy and Uni.

For all else, the functionality is mostly the same: you have the convenient lock screen notes, you can annotate images, and use most of the features you have on the Note series and the Samsung Notes app.

Camera

108MP main camera and the next gen 100X Space Zoom shooters


The Ultra also improves the camera in a big way with a new quad camera system on the back.

The main camera features an 108-megapixel sensor, the next generation of the one Samsung introduced with the S20 Ultra in 2020, and this one should improve on two key areas, focusing and low-light performance. It is also paired with a wider lens than on most other phones out there. It uses a 24mm lens versus the commonly used 26mm focal distance on others, and that means you will get wider shots, especially useful for landscape photos for example.

But the big focus of the Ultra is zooming. You get not one, but two telephoto lenses: a 3X zoom lens and then a periscope, 10X zoom lens that gives you more reach than on most other phones. In fact, with the S21 Ultra, Samsung is resurrecting the Space Zoom branding and allows you to zoom in as much as the insane 100X.


The camera app has also gotten a fresh coat of paint. Single Take, the feature where a single press of the shutter button captures photos from all cameras, slightly different angles as well as a few videos, is now improved and serves you an automatically AI generated fun clip to share. You also get a new Director's View mode where you can capture split-screen video with footage from the rear camera on one side and the front camera on the other, as well as capture preview footage from all the cameras right as you record. Plus, you get improved Portrait Mode (a feature Samsung used to call Live Focus) with better object separation and additional settings.

On the video side, you can capture up to 8K video at 24fps (rumors wrongly suggested you could capture 8K30). You also have better video stabilization with Super Steady mode that works with even 4K60 recordings (but not 8K). 
 

Processor, Storage, 5G and Wi-Fi 6E

Snapdragon 888 for the US model, Exynos 2100 for the rest of the world


Under the hood, the S21 Ultra is powered by the latest and greatest chips available: US models will be equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, while international models will run on the Samsung-made Exynos 2100.

We won't go into the minute details here, but what's important to know is that Samsung seems to have caught up with Qualcomm and the gap between Exynos and Snapdragon models, where Exynos models usually had worse performance and power efficiency, well... that gap seems to be gone with this latest Exynos chip.

See our detailed comparison between the Snapdragon 888 vs Exynos 2100

As for storage, the S21 Ultra starts at 128GB, but you will also be able to purchase a 256GB and even an all out 512GB model, but interestingly, Samsung is dropping the microSD card slot on all S21 models. Samsung was one of very few companies to still support microSD cards, a power user feature that was appreciated by some, but that comes to an end with the S21 series.

S21 Ultra RAM and storage options


  • 128GB model with 12GB RAM
  • 256GB model with 12GB RAM (*only with Phantom Black colorway)
  • 512GB model with 16GB RAM (*only with Phantom Black colorway)

Connectivity


The S21 Ultra supports both the sub-6GHz and mmWave types of 5G, meaning that it will work with all the various 5G networks in the United States (T-Mobile has rolled out a sub-6GHz 5G network, while AT&T and Verizon have focused on mmWave roll-out). What's new with the S21 series is that the Snapdragon 888 chip also comes with a 5G modem built-in and not separate as on previous chips, which could contribute to less of a power draw with 5G.

Also, the Ultra is the only one in the series to have Wi-Fi 6E connectivity, which theoretically allows the phone to reach 4X faster speeds than Wi-Fi 6. In practical terms, this means that a 6.5GB Fortnite download on Wi-Fi 6E can take up only 8 seconds versus 31 seconds on Wi-Fi 6.

New fingerprint scanner

Larger and nearly 50% faster 

Samsung is also fixing one of the biggest complaints about its phones in recent years: the sluggish fingerprint scanner. The company has been using the first generation of Qualcomm's ultrasonic fingerprint scanner for a couple of years now, even as newer and faster solutions were adopted by others. Thankfully, the S21 series will ship with the newer, second gen Qualcomm 3D Sonic Sensor which means a 77% larger sensor size, 1.7X more biometric data captured, and most importantly, 50% faster speed.

For reference, the first generation scanner was just 4 x 9 mm in size, while the new sensor measures 8 x 8 mm.

Battery life and Charging

More than a day on a single charge


Equipped with a 5,000mAh battery and a more power-efficient processor, the Galaxy S21 Ultra promises solid battery life.

So far, Samsung is saying that the battery on the Ultra "outlasts the day, even on 5G", while for the S21 and S21 Plus it says they have "all day battery", which suggests that the Ultra will indeed have a longer battery life than the other two.

If you have followed the rumors, you probably already knew that the S21 Ultra was coming without a charger in the box. That is indeed the case, as you only get a USB-C cable included in the box and you would need to purchase the power adapter separately. The S21 Ultra is said to support up to 45W fast charging speeds and it will also support fast wireless charging at rates of up to 15W.

Prices and Release Date

$1,200 price brings a sigh of relief

The Galaxy S21 Ultra will be available on all three major US carriers, AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, as well as in stores like Best Buy.

Samsung is kicking off pre-orders for the Galaxy S21 Ultra right away, while the actual release date is set for Friday, January 29th.

Good news is that prices for the Galaxy S21 Ultra start at just $1,200 in the United States, far below the $1,400 price of last year's S20 Ultra, but we do recommend you keep an eye out for various offers and trade-in deals as Samsung usually has some great discounts soon after the launch.

Galaxy S21 Ultra 128GB: $1,200
Galaxy S21 Ultra 256GB: $1,250
Galaxy S21 Ultra 512GB: $1,380
 

Samsung Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra

- get the S21 series with up to $700 trade-in, accessory credits, half-price financing, and exclusive colors.

Buy at Samsung

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