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One might say that Samsung is not only decking out its new flagship Galaxy S21 Ultra handset with the latest tech available but also releasing it in the winter, more than a month earlier than usual, for a reason. What could that reason be?
Galaxy S21 Ultra vs S20 Ultra colors and display size
Galaxy S21 Ultra vs S20 Ultra colors: Black, Silver, Blue, Brown, Titanium (S21U) vs Gray (S20U)
6.8" LTPO with S Pen support vs 6.9" LTPS displays
Dynamic 120Hz@1440p vs static 120Hz@1080p refresh rate
165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm vs 166.9 x 76 x 8.8 mm dimensions
The S20 Ultra is a rather huge and heavy phone with a giant camera bump on the back. With the S21 models, however, Samsung is launching a design refinement to what is already one of the best screen-to-body ratio scores in their class.
At the front, Samsung touched its Infinity-O design slightly by reducing the chin at the front, but on the back it blended the camera bump with the phone's sides, thus leaving the impression for one uninterrupted design flow it now calls Contour Cut Camera, and it looks stunning.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G design
The Galaxy S21 Ultra sports a curved 6.8" QHD+ display, so Samsung doesn't have to make compromises with the phone's width like it does for the S21 and S21+. We'd rather have the curved display sides than bezel uniformity, as its predecessor S20 Ultra is positively gigantic and hard to handle even without a case tacked on, indeed.
Speaking of cases, there are a few, like the Clear View and Silicone covers - that have versions with S Pen tucked in, as that's the newfangled S21 Ultra functionality compared to the S20 Ultra. The first S Pen for the S-line will support the features we know and love from the Note line, save for the ones that require taking it out of a silo, of course.
The shaved-off bottom chin is an added bonus that results in a tangible height decrease as, when it comes to overall size, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is a tad smaller than the Galaxy S20 Ultra (166.9 x 76 x 8.8 mm), at 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm.
That blending of the camera island with the frame is a rather unique design decision, and makes the rear look like it's been etched into a piece of marble, with only the camera set remaining elevated, as if to emphasize its significance. In short, Samsung has made the Galaxy S21 series the most beautiful phones it has created so far, refining all the little compromises of the "bezel-less" design with camera island that has been all the rage for the past two years or so.
Moving on to the most exciting S21 Ultra feature, besides the dual-zoom cameras, its 6.8" 1440p display. The S20 Ultra has static refresh, then the Note 20 Ultra introduced a dynamic one of sorts, but still only in 1080p screen mode, whereas the Galaxy S21 Ultra does what the OnePlus and Oppo collaboration with PixelWorks achieved a year before it - full 120Hz dynamic refresh rate at the display's native QHD+ resolution.
The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.
The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.
The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.
The thing is, however, that while others are just now planning to introduce LTPO OLED displays, Samsung is already at the next LTPO generation on the S21 Ultra. It offers 15% less power draw compared to what's on the Note 20 Ultra or even the S21+, for instance, and consumes close to 30% less energy than the panel on the S20 Ultra.
Not only that, but it is brighter, and with higher contrast than what Samsung mustered last year, so the all-important display award is definitely going in the Galaxy S21 Ultra corner, especially when it comes to refresh rate management and outdoor visibility. Plus, Samsung discontinued the S20 Ultra, so you don't have much choice anyway.
Galaxy S21 Ultra vs S20 Ultra specs, battery life and charging speeds
Snapdragon 888/Exynos 2100 5nm vs Snapdragon 865/Exynos 990 7nm processors
12GB/16GB DDR5 1z vs 12GB/16GB DDR5 1y process RAM
5000mAh battery, 30W/45W charging
Say what you will about Samsung's ignominious decision to use two different mobile processor lines in its phones, but this trend is here to stay with the S21 series as well. Powered by both the latest Snapdragon 888 and the Exynos 2100 processors of Qualcomm and Samsung, respectively, the S21 Ultra won't leave you much room for complaining, though, as both of these powerful chipsets are built on the freshest 5nm process.
AnTuTu is a multi-layered, comprehensive mobile benchmark app that assesses various aspects of a device, including CPU, GPU, RAM, I/O, and UX performance. A higher score means an overall faster device.
If the T-Rex HD component of GFXBench is demanding, then the Manhattan test is downright gruelling. It's a GPU-centric test that simulates an extremely graphically intensive gaming environment that is meant to push the GPU to the max. that simulates a graphically-intensive gaming environment on the screen. The results achieved are measured in frames per second, with more frames being better.
On top of that, Samsung's new LPDDR5 1z RAM memory packs can transfer at the rate of 6,400 megabits per second (Mb/s), which makes it 16 percent faster than 12GB LPDDR5 memory you find on flagships like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. The 16GB package, in particular, can transfer 51.2GB of data in just one second. That's the equivalent of transferring 10 5GB-sized full-HD content.
The 1z packaging process for the LPDDR5 module also made it 30 percent thinner than its predecessor, which means it takes up less space inside smartphones. To make the 16GB package in the S21 Ultra Samsung needed just eight chips, whereas its predecessor based on the 1y process needs 12 chips to offer the same capacity.
The new processor and RAM production methods bring about less power draw on their own. Coupled with the more frugal LTPO adaptive refresh display technology that Samsung put on the S21 series, the technologies may bring a boost to the Galaxy S21 Ultra battery life, as it ships with the same giant 5000mAh pack as its predecessor. Add to that the fast 45W charging speed for said battery, and the S21 Ultra is knocking it out of the park when it comes to battery life, at least for a phone with this display size and specs list.
Galaxy S21 Ultra vs S20 Ultra zoom, night, and portrait camera samples
108MP ISOCELL 2.0 HM3 vs 108MP ISOCELL HM2
10MP 10x vs 48MP 5x periscope zoom cameras
10MP 3x telephoto zoom (S21U)
Laser AF vs 3D ToF camera
If you thought that the S21 Ultra would simply get the otherwise excellent Note 20 Ultra camera set and call it a day, you don't know Samsung and its determination to kill it on the hardware front. Not only does the S21 Ultra sport the third generation of Samsung's 108MP sensor but it also adds a middle 3x telephoto zoom distance, and a laser autofocusing system.
The 108MP ISOCELL HM3 sensor comes with improved light sensitivity, while Samsung ditches the underutilized 3D ToF sensor used in the Galaxy S20 Ultra to help avoid its focusing troubles replacing it with laser autofocus on the S21 Ultra, perhaps the one borrowed directly from the Note 20 Ultra with the same purpose.
The 12MP ultrawide lens camera is staying put, but we are glad to report the reworkings of the optical magnification range by including two 10MP sensors to take care of the long-range 10x periscope zoom, and the 3x midrange zooming, just like on, cough, Huawei P40 Pro+, cough. The 40MP selfie snapper from the Note 20 Ultra is also an improvement over the Galaxy S20 Ultra's front camera in the portrait mode separation aspect.
S21 Ultra vs S20 Ultra zoom, night and portrait samples
The 10X zoom camera is a godsend for certain shots and looks great. Capturing pictures from afar is now much easier and the S21 Ultra truly excels in that. While it was a struggle to maintain the subject in the viewfinder at 30X or more zoom on the Note 20 Ultra and S20 Ultra because the slightest hand shake would move the camera significantly, it's now much easier to get a lock on your subject with the S21 Ultra.
The scene optimizer - which is basically Samsung's auto mode for its camera - is now better at detecting night situations and it will now smartly use a longer exposure more often than earlier Samsung phones where often you had to manually switch to Night Mode. The S21 Ultra consistently got brighter and better looking shots than the Note 20 Ultra and, respectively, S20 Ultra, at night just using the auto mode.
Galaxy S21 Ultra vs S20 Ultra price
$1199 vs $1399 launch price (for the 128GB models)
Apple took the high road and didn't increase the iPhone 12 Pro Max price compared to its predecessor, even though it slapped the best camera sensors in the iPhone 12 range on it. By that criteria, Samsung is also taking the high road with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, meaning that the base will still be expensive at $1199.99 because of all that top-shelf hardware stuffed inside of it, just like its predecessor, yet its launch price is much less.
Wait, you didn't think that the fastest memory and processors in the Android universe and beyond, the dynamic display refresh at full resolution, the 5000mAh battery pack, and the best camera kit with periscope zoom on a phone would come for less these days now, did you?
All in all, even if Samsung didn't discontinue the Galaxy S20 Ultra, it would've been a hard sell against the lower S21 Ultra launch price and the way better design, display, camera, and battery life, so if you are wondering whether to jump the gun, better do it while the preorder window lasts. Samsung will ask just $300 more for the upgrade when you trade in the S20 Ultra and get the new Buds Pro for free, and, really, you'll be getting a phone with no current match in specs and performance.
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