Galaxy S21 ultra

Samsung has officially lifted the covers from its highly anticipated flagships – the Galaxy S21 series. As usual, the company has launched three phones of different sizes – and of course, three price points – namely the Galaxy S21, S21+, and the S21 Ultra. The design is fresh, there are new camera tricks, a faster processor(s) drives them from inside, and one of them has even inherited the best feature from the Galaxy Note family – stylus support! Excited to see what smartphone wizardry Samsung has unleashed with its latest phones? Here’s everything you need to know about the Galaxy S21 series:

A trifecta of Samsung flagships

Samsung is not making any wild changes to the core Galaxy S line-up this year. Just like the Galaxy S20 trio, Samsung has launched three Galaxy S flagships this year as well – the vanilla Galaxy S21, the slightly bigger Galaxy S21+, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra. And if you take into account Samsung’s commitment to launching a ‘Fan Edition’ every year, a Galaxy S21 FE might be unveiled down the road. But for the January 14 Galaxy Unpacked event, only the three core Galaxy S21 series members have made their global debut. 

READ MORE: Samsung Galaxy S21, S21+ arrive rocking a fresh design, fast innards, and new camera tricks

A fresh design approach

Samsung Galaxy S21
My colleague Adam, who’s had some hands-on time with the three phones, thinks that the Galaxy S21 series looks stunning.

Fresh design, new colors

The South Korean electronics giant went back to the drawing board for designing its first flagship portfolio for the next decade. And from what we’re seeing now, Samsung is going to divide opinions again. Samsung has redesigned the camera island and has given it a sloping edge so that it appears to blend seamlessly with the surrounding metallic frame. It looks good at first glance, until you see how wide and ugly it becomes on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. But hey, that’s just my opinion.

And of course, the camera bump is still there. The dual-tone purple-gold finish of the Galaxy S21 and S21+ actually stands out from the rest of the colors, but the silver trim looks rather bland. The Galaxy S21 will be sold in Phantom Violet, Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink and Phantom White shades. The Galaxy S21+ on the other hand, is up for grabs in Phantom Violet, Phantom Silver and Phantom Black trims. However, Samsung.com is exclusively selling two additional color options – Phantom Gold and Phantom Red.

Samsung Galaxy s21
READ MORE: Here’s your first look at the official protective cases for Samsung Galaxy S21 series

Galaxy S21 will be made out of plastic

Now, there is another major difference here. The vanilla Galaxy S21 is made out of plastic, while the Galaxy S21+ and its Ultra sibling rock a glass-and-metal sandwich design. Now, this appears to be a conscious cost-cutting decision on Samsung’s part, but buyers who are shelling a minimum of $800 dollars on the standard Galaxy S21 definitely won’t be happy about it. I, for one, am despondent for sure! But on the bright side, you get the same frosted finish with a matte texture on all three phones,

Galaxy S21 internals – a bittersweet tale

Now, when it comes to the internal hardware, Samsung appears to have made some weird decisions here. The Galaxy S20 series had a more pixel-dense display with QHD resolution, while the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ have downgraded to FHD+ resolution. The Infinity-O design with a hole-punch drilled in the middle is here to stay, but Samsung is saying goodbye to curved edges this time around and is offering a slightly curved pane only on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Additionally, all three Samsung devices come with IP68 certification for dust and water resistance. 

120Hz refresh rate, Gorilla Glass 7 protection

Now, the only difference between the Galaxy S21 and its Plus sibling when it comes to core display attributes is the size. The vanilla Galaxy S21 features a 6.2-inch Infinity-O Dynamic AMOLED 2X display, while the Galaxy S21+ packs a slightly bigger 6.7-inch panel. The rest of the traits such as FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels) resolution, 120Hz refresh rate and 1300 nits of peak brightness. The display automatically adjusts the refresh value between 48Hz and 120Hz based on the on-screen content.

READ MORE: Don’t expect the Samsung Galaxy S21 to come with a power adapter

Coming to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, it packs a more pixel-dense 6.8-inch display with WQHD+ (3200 x 1440 pixels) resolution, while the brightness output is also higher at 1500 nits. Notably, Samsung will allow users to operate the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s display at peak WQHD+ resolution with 120Hz refresh rate mode enabled. How big a toll it will take on the battery is a question for another day. Notably, the refresh rate of Galaxy S21 Ultra’s display can change its output between 120Hz and an even lower 10Hz refresh based on the content you’re watching on it.

Another area where the Galaxy S21 Ultra stands out is support for a stylus, a feature that was recently confirmed by the US FCC a while ago. Unlike the Galaxy Note series, the Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t offer an in-built docking station for the S Pen. However, Samsung will sell covers that do have a slot for housing the S Pen on the side. Now, this isn’t the same stylus that Samsung offers with the Galaxy Note series, and it lacks some features such as air gestures. But if you’ve got a spare stylus from the Galaxy Note series phones, you can use it on the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Separate Qualcomm and Exynos variants

Snapdragon 888 for some markets, Exynos 2100 for the rest

Now, let’s talk about the silicon at the heart of the Galaxy S21 line-up. The variant bound for the US market will come with Qualcomm’s latest-and-greatest Snapdragon 888 SoC. As for European and Asian markets (most of them), Samsung will offer models powered by the in-house Exynos 2100 SoC. So yeah, there will again be a lot of unhappy buyers who rue the lack of Qualcomm SoC and the supposed benefits that come with it. But going by the on-paper specs, the Exynos 2100 appears to be a really promising chip.

READ MORE: Samsung Galaxy S21 appears online in a hands-on video, and it looks fantastic

The Galaxy S21 and its Plus variant will pair the Qualcomm/Exynos SoC with 8 gigs of RAM and 128GB / 256GB of onboard storage. As for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, it bumps up the amount of RAM to 12GB or 16GB and also adds a 512GB storage variant to the mix. It is worth noting here that none of the Galaxy S21 series phones allow storage expansion via a microSD card slot.

Now, about the battery. The Galaxy S21 fits a 4,000mAh Li-ion unit under the hood, the Galaxy S21+ will draw juice from a 4,800mAh battery, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes equipped with a 5,000mAh juicer inside. All three phones support fast charging, wireless charging as well as reverse power share to juice up other accessories such as earbuds.

All three phones support 5G, and Wi-Fi 6 and NFC will be a part of the package as well. notably, the Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra also support the UWB (Ultra Wideband technology), while the S21 Ultra exclusively offers Wi-Fi 6E support as well.

A little something about the cameras

Let’s talk cameras now. The Galaxy S21 and S21+ feature three cameras at the back with identical specifications, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra has four snappers at the back alongside a laser AF module. 

The Galaxy S21 and Plus sibling feature a 12MP (f/1.8, 1/1.76-inch, 1.8µm, OIS) primary camera, a 12MP ultra-wide angle snapper (f/2.2, 120°, 1/2.55-inch, 1.4µm), and a 64MP telephoto lens ((f/2.0, 1/1.76-inch, 0.8µm, OIS) with a 3x hybrid optical zoom output. On the front is a 10MP (f/2.2, 80°, 1/3.24-inch, 1.22µm) selfie snapper. 

READ MORE: Samsung Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra appear in leaked live images

Coming to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, it packs a 108MP (f/1.8, 1/1.33-inch, 0.8µm, OIS) primary camera and a 12MP (f/2.2, 120°, 1/2.55-inch, 1.4µm) wide-angle shooter. There are two telephoto cameras at the back, one of which relies on a periscope or folded lens system. The first one is a 10MP (f/2.4, 1/3.24-inch, 72mm, 1.22 µm, OIS) camera with 3x hybrid optical zoom output, while the second 10MP telephoto camera (f/4.9, 1/3.24-inch, 240mm, 1.22 µm, OIS) offers up to 10x hybrid optical zoom output

But it’s not all about the hardware, as Samsung is also offering some neat camera tricks as well. To start, the 108MP camera does 9-in-1 pixel-binning to produce 12MP shots, but there’s an option to enable the full 108MP resolution mode as well. The Galaxy S21 can also take 12-bit HDR photos that are said to preserve more color information and dynamic range. Plus, all four rear cameras as well as the front camera are capable of recording 4K videos at 60fps. Lastly, the wide-angle camera is now capable of shooting 12-bit RAW files, which offer more control when it comes to editing images. 

Galaxy S21

But not all camera upgrades are limited to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, as the standard S21 and S21+ also offer their own fair share of camera tricks and imaging improvements. All three devices can record 8K video, while the SuperSteady mode for reducing shakiness in videos supports capture at 60fps now. The new vlogger mode lets users record video using both the front and rear camera, and also see the live thumbnails for each camera simultaneously.

Improvements have also been made to Night Mode and Single Take have also been made, and the latter now even allows you to extend the capture time to 15 seconds. The Director’s View is another feature that lets users pick the best shot from among the three images captured by each camera lens. All three Galaxy S21 devices can record 8K videos at up to 30FPS as well.

Samsung Galaxy S21Samsung Galaxy S21+Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
6.2-inch Flat FHD+
Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Infinity-O Display (2400×1080)
421ppi pixel density
HDR10+ certified
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
(48~120Hz)
Eye Comfort Shield
6.7-inch Flat FHD+
Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Infinity-O Display (2400×1080)
394ppi pixel density
HDR10+ certified
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
(48~120Hz)
Eye Comfort Shield
6.8-inch Curved WQHD+
Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Infinity-O Display
3200×1440 pixels
515ppi pixel density
HDR10+ certified
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate (10~120Hz)
Eye Comfort Shield
12MP wide camera
(Dual Pixel AF, OIS, F1.8, 1.8μm)
12MP ultra-wide camera
(FF, FOV 120°, F2.2, 1.4μm)
64MP telephoto camera
(Phase Detection AF, OIS, F2.0, 0.8μm)
3x optical zoom
30x Space Zoom
12MP wide camera
(Dual Pixel AF, OIS, F1.8, 1.8μm)
12MP ultra-wide camera
(FF, FOV 120°, F2.2, 1.4μm)
64MP telephoto camera
(Phase Detection AF, OIS, F2.0, 0.8μm)
3x optical zoom
30x Space Zoom
108MP wide camera
(Phase Detection AF, OIS, F1.8, 0.8μm)
12MP ultra-wide camera
(Dual Pixel AF, FOV, 120°, F2.2, 1.4μm)
10MP primary telephoto camera
(Dual Pixel AF, 3x optical zoom, OIS, F2.4, 1.22μm)
10MP secondary telephoto camera
(Dual Pixel AF, 10x optical zoom, OIS, F4.9, 1.22μm)
100x Space Zoom
Laser autofocus sensor
10MP
(Dual Pixel AF, FOV 80°, F2.2, 1.22μm)
10MP
(Dual Pixel AF, FOV 80°, F2.2, 1.22μm)
40MP
(Phase Detection AF, FOV 80°, F2.2, 0.7 μm)
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Exynos 2100
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Exynos 2100
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Exynos 2100
8GB LPDDR58GB LPDDR512GB / 16GB LPDDR5
128GB / 256GB storage128GB / 256GB storage128GB / 256GB / 512GB
4,000mAh
USB PD 3.0 Fast Charging
Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
Wireless Power Share
4,800mAh battery
USB PD 3.0 Fast Charging
Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
Wireless Power Share
5,000mAh
USB PD 3.0 Fast Charging
Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
Wireless Power Share
No UWB UWB supportUWB
5G
WiFi 6
NFC
5G
WiFi 6
NFC
5G
WiFi 6E
NFC
Android 11Android 11Android 11
IP68 certifiedIP68 certifiedIP68 certified
71.2×151.7×7.9mm75.6×161.5×7.8mm75.6×165.1×8.9mm
171g202g229 grams
Note: This table is best viewed in landscape mode on mobile

How much will the Galaxy S21 series cost?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra leaked teaser (Credit: Android Police)

Now, on to the pricing part, which is going to be both good and bad news. Samsung is lowering the entry-point for its upcoming flagships by pricing the vanilla Galaxy S21 below the Galaxy S20’s asking price. But on the other hand, the price of the Galaxy S21 Ultra will go even further compared to that of its predecessor. Listed below is the pricing structure of the Galaxy S21 family:

ModelPricing
Samsung Galaxy S21 (128GB)$799.99
Samsung Galaxy S21 (256GB)$849.99
Samsung Galaxy S21+ (128GB)$999.99
Samsung Galaxy S21+ (256GB)$1049.99
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (128GB)$1199.99
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (256GB)$1249.99
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (512GB)$1379.99

Interested? Check out the best Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra deals, and check out the Pocketnow website for accessory recommendations such as the best cases for your new Galaxy S21 flagship. We’ll soon be putting the Galaxy S21 series phones through their paces in our in-depth review, so stay tuned for that!

I’ve been writing about consumer technology for over three years now, having worked with names such as NDTV and Beebom in the past. Aside from covering the latest news, I’ve reviewed my fair share of devices ranging from smartphones and laptops to smart home devices. I also have interviewed tech execs and appeared as a host in YouTube videos talking about the latest and greatest gadgets out there.
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