Review Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G: a subspecies on the evolutionary scale | Digital Trends Spanish

Review Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G: a subspecies on the evolutionary scale

“In addition to stealing the S Pen from the Note range, it offers several cutting-edge features, but one lags behind.”

  • Design

  • Adaptive 120Hz display

  • Possibility of using S Pen

  • Camera

  • Autonomy

  • Wi-Fi 6 E

  • Fast charging is not the fastest

  • No charger or any other accessories

Samsung anticipated the launch of its flagship phone to coincide with CES 2021 and took center stage with its three new models for this year. In that presentation we met all the members of the Galaxy S21 family and there is no doubt that it is posited as one of the best to compete in the high-end, although it is not the one that reports the highest sales to the Korean company.

With respect to the Galaxy S20, this new generation takes a leap in design, not so much in shape and size, but in aesthetics. The largest and most advanced model, the Ultra, brings together the best of Samsung and the latest in screen refresh technology and Wi-Fi connectivity. In the camera it maintains the 108 megapixels of its predecessor and comes with some important improvements, such as double telephoto with image stabilization.

Design and display

The aesthetic retouch in the Galaxy S21 is given, above all, by the metal camera module: it is no longer independent but expands towards the upper vertex and the left side. This original design, along with the matte black finish of the Ultra model in this review, looks spectacular. This coating gives the sensation, visually, that this rear part is made of metal (and no fingerprints are marked!). It is not cold to the touch. Upside down, you touch it and it feels warm and extremely soft. It is a joy to have it in hand. I love how modern and different it looks. It is innovative. The downside about this matte finish is that it scratches quite easily.

Except for that extended module and matte black finish, it resembles most phones in terms of power and volume buttons (on the right side) and size. Measuring 75.6 x 165.1 x 8.9 mm, it is very normal, although slightly thick. It grips very well, and despite that softness it does not slip easily. Its 227 grams make it a smartphone with a high weight, although it does not feel heavy in the hand, at least without a cover, which – of course – is not included.

Speaking of absences, the box does not include the charger either and one that quickly charges the phone is greatly missed (Samsung’s fast charge is purchased separately, it costs 24.90 euros in Spain). For the benefit of the environment and the detriment of the user, more and more manufacturers are joining this trend for high-end phones. Don’t expect the wired AKG headphones included in the S20 either. And if you want to get more out of it with the S Pen –which is one of the great novelties of this model– you will also have to pay for it. Why is it that the more expensive a phone is, the less stuff some manufacturers pack? To me, personally, it doesn’t seem fair to pay so much money and not include a charger.

The QHD + screen (6.8 inches) matches that of the Galaxy Note S20 Ultra in Dynamic AMOLED 2X technology and a 120 Hz refresh rate that automatically adapts to different uses to save battery life. This high refresh rate is very noticeable when you handle the phone: it responds very quickly and fluently to the movement of your fingers. If you like bright AMOLED screens that show the most vivid colors, Samsung’s are the best along with LG’s, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s is especially so because of the 2X surname (it makes it easier to view content outdoors more than normal). Also, it supports HDR10 +.

The phone comes with two speakers, one on the top and one on the bottom, and it sounds pretty good, although at most it’s not as clean anymore.


The screen houses a camera to selfies tiny, in the center. Very small, yes, but with a very high resolution of 40 megapixels (same as the Note S20 Ultra). It is not configured by default with this resolution: you must select it on the left side (if the phone is horizontal). In this selfie mode it also allows group selfies with a wide angle. Taking selfies stunning in good light outdoors, it’s easy to look handsome in these conditions. And when you select the portrait mode (it does not come in the main menu, but through the More section) you can take selfies with different default effects to change the background (different types of blur, white or black…), although when applied, some “eat” the silhouette a bit. Come on, you can play with them and give a different touch to the selfies.

The rear camera module houses four lenses: the top one 12 megapixel with ultra wide angle. Next up is the main one with 108 megapixels and wide angle and the last one in that column, a 10 megapixel telephoto with 10x optical zoom. In the second column, above, it brings a laser sensor for Auto Focus and, below, another 10 megapixel telephoto with 3x optical zoom. This dual telephoto equipment with image stabilizer is one of the great improvements. Even the 10x zoom works wonders. From there it loses sharpness as it gets closer to 100x, the maximum.

The main lens captures colors naturally, without intensifying them. And since we are not always going to need a 108 megapixel resolution, you must activate it yourself, which is very good to help not saturate the memory. The night mode, which is accessed through the More section, meets what is expected in a high-end phone.

For those taking video, Galaxy S21 Ultra is Samsung’s first phone to shoot 4K at 60fps on all lenses. If you upload video to Instagram, you will be interested in the vertical video option that allows different default blurs and, in the selfies, adjust the smoothness of the skin with a slider bar.

The camera does not lack the classic Samsung modes to optimize food photos, AR drawings, Bixby Vision or Single Capture. And add a new one called Director perspective, with which the front and rear cameras capture video at the same time and it is possible to zoom in or zoom out while recording by pressing on icons on the screen with predetermined distances.

Performance and battery

Galaxy S21 Ultra is similar to the Galaxy S20 Ultra in some technical characteristics, with the possibility of choosing different RAM and memory. The one used for this analysis is 12 GB and 256 GB, and it is also possible to purchase one with 12 GB and 128 GB (note that you cannot expand it, contrary to the usual in previous generations, this model is not compatible with microSD memory cards) and, the most advanced, a 16GB and 512GB beast.

The processor, however, is new: it integrates Samsung’s latest for high-end, the Exynos 2100, a brain for the phone on the same level as the Snapdragon 888 (in the United States it will bring this one from Qualcomm) and Apple’s A14. Thus, the overall performance of the phone is assured, and also a good energy management (what less for its price).

In the continuous video playback test (from YouTube) carried out in this analysis, the autonomy has given for nine and a half hours (with maximum brightness and low sound), an excellent time, without being one of the best. In the same conditions, for example, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T, a phone of less than 300 euros that I analyzed in this review, gives a similar autonomy. As you expect in a high-end, it brings wireless charging (15 W) and reverse wireless charging.

To recharge it, I used a charger from an old Google Pixel phone, the only one that had a USB-C connector at both ends of the cable (this one is included in the box, and it is black). With this accessory it took 45 minutes to fill up half and 100 minutes to completely. As it is not included, I have not tested it with the 25 W that Samsung sells separately. On paper, even with 25 W it will not position itself among the phones with the best fast charging on the market. Samsung explains that it can reach 50 percent charge in 30 minutes. Its rival Huawei Mate 40 Pro comes with a 66 W capable of charging the battery to half in just 15 minutes, according to the tests carried out in this review.

Special functions and software

One of the “unique” features of this phone is the ability to use the S Pen. I have not tested it, because Samsung has not sent it, but it does not offer the bluetooth functionality of the Note range, for now: it will arrive with the version of the S Pen Pro stylus at the end of 2021. If you do not mind doing without these features and you It is worth with the normal pencil, this is sold with a case prepared to store it for 89.90 euros.

Galaxy S21 Ultra claims to be the first phone compatible with Wi-Fi 6E, more advanced than Wi-Fi 6, so it is prepared for when this connectivity is released (predictably, the first compatible devices will arrive in the last months of 2021) .

Like the rest of the family members, the most advanced model is immune to water with IP68 certification and operates with Android 11 and the Samsung One UI 3.0 customization layer. The latter makes it easy to access and customize the settings panel fast like never before (the shortcut icons are easy to reach with your thumb).


I have fallen in love with its matte black finish, both in appearance and touch (it caresses you, it is very, very soft), its manageable size and its quadruple camera. It is a shame to have to put a cover that hides its design, something highly recommended for its price and its attraction to scratches.

Due to the quality and versatility of the camera, with a thousand and one applications to take different photos and videos, it seems to me an ideal mobile for instagrammers and influencers that need a reliable model. Also for those looking to get more out of a phone with the S Pen. If you prefer: it’s like a Note 20 Ultra, only with a more advanced camera and a more attractive aesthetic (at least for me). It does not suppose an evolutionary change so great as to be considered “a new species”, but it remains in a subspecies of the Note. This is your biggest rival. Will it end up dying out with the new S21 Ultra model?

He device price with 12 GB and 256 GB it is 1,309 euros in Spain (in the United States, $ 1,250 dollars), the same as the Note 20 Ultra with that same memory, although now it is discounted on the web. For this considerable amount you get a great phone, with a good camera, the latest in processors and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, but very normal in autonomy and lagging behind in fast charging (and if you want it, you should spend a little more to buy the charger ).

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