The Galaxy S21 series is finally official, and as you would expect, it’s the Galaxy S21 Ultra that is the true-blue flagship with all the latest and greatest specs. The S21 Ultra is the third flagship from Samsung to carry the ‘Ultra’ tag, and the camera experience is once again the main attraction, with a number of important upgrades on that front. S Pen support is another highlight, as all the leaks and rumors have revealed in recent months.
Galaxy S21 Ultra brings big camera upgrades
The Galaxy S21 Ultra has the same 108MP main rear camera as the Galaxy S20 Ultra, but it now has a laser autofocus module for fast and accurate focusing. The 48MP telephoto camera has been replaced by two telephoto 10MP lenses, one for 3x magnification and the other for 10x zoom and beyond. Maximum zoom still goes up to 100x, and the telephoto cameras also have Dual Pixel autofocus and optical image stabilization. Samsung has also added Dual Pixel autofocus to the 12MP ultra-wide camera, while the 40MP front-facing camera carries over as-is from the S20 Ultra.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first Galaxy flagship to be able to record 4K videos at 60 frames per second on all rear cameras, a feature we have had on our wishlist for the longest time. There’s also an option to capture 12-bit RAW files in Pro mode. Other features are similar to the ones you get on the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+, including Zoom Lock, Director’s View, and a Portrait mode with new and professional background blur and lighting effects.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra shares the beautiful new design language of the Galaxy S21 and S21+, with the camera housing at the back melding into the metal frame for what is one of the freshest and modern designs we’ve seen on any smartphone in recent years. Like the Note 20 Ultra, there’s Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back. And the Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t just stop there: It also has an improved high refresh rate display with quite a few impressive features, most notable of which is support for the S Pen.
S Pen support is real, and so is 120Hz refresh rate at WQHD+ resolution
The S21 Ultra is the first non-Note Galaxy flagship to support stylus input. As expected, Samsung is selling an S Pen separately and the phone doesn’t have the slot for one, though there are a couple of new cases that the S Pen can be attached to. The S Pen here is more similar to the thick stylus Samsung sells with its tablets and it lacks Bluetooth connectivity and a gyroscope, but Samsung says the S21 Ultra is compatible with all Wacom styluses, which includes any of the S Pens you get with Galaxy Note smartphones.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra also gets the adaptive refresh rate technology Samsung introduced with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra – the refresh rate can vary from 10 Hz to 120 Hz depending on the content you’re viewing, and this time around, the high refresh rate works at WQHD+ resolution. The display can go as bright as 1500 nits, and unlike the S21 and S21+, the S21 Ultra has a curved screen. Beneath the display sits the newest version of Qualcomm’s ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, which should theoretically be 77% larger and 50% faster than the fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy S20 series.
Under the hood, the S21 Ultra is powered by the Exynos 2100 chipset in most markets and the Snapdragon 888 in others. There’s 12GB of RAM on the variants with 128GB and 256GB storage and 16GB RAM on the variant with 512GB storage. There’s no microSD slot, sadly, and Samsung is touting cloud storage and the S21 Ultra’s 5G connectivity as workarounds for not being able to expand storage with a microSD card. The S21 Ultra also supports Wi-Fi 6E and UWB for easy file and content sharing with other devices and connecting to UWB-enabled smart devices.
Like the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is powered by a 5,000 mAh battery, though the charging speed tops out at 25W and you won’t get a charger in the box. Fast wireless charging and reverse wireless charging are supported as well. The S21 Ultra is also IP68 rated for water and dust resistance, has stereo AKG-tuned speakers, and supports Samsung Pay. It runs Android 11 with One UI 3.1 out of the box and should be good for three major Android OS upgrades.
Galaxy S21 Ultra hits retail stores on January 29
The release date for the Galaxy S21 Ultra is set for January 29 while pre-orders will open today, with the 128GB+12GB configuration to cost $1199/€1249/£1149. All retailers will carry it in Phantom Silver and Phantom Black, while those who order it on Samsung’s official website will be able to select from Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, and Phantom Brown colors as well. Pre-order offers will be different based on market, but you can expect at least a free Galaxy SmartTag tracker if you get your pre-order in by January 28.