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    Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review: Second time’s the charm for Samsung’s premier phone

    The Galaxy S21 Ultra will get a contemporary design and sports activities a stunning black end.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, unveiled alongside Samsung’s Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus telephones, proves that generally it’s a must to do one thing twice to get it proper. While simply as daring as final 12 months’s Galaxy S20 Ultra, the S21 Ultra is a refined second tackle the Ultra idea. There’s nonetheless the 100x Space Zoom, nevertheless it’s simpler to make use of. There remains to be the “big for sake of being big” design, nevertheless it seems to be far more interesting. And there’s nonetheless a excessive value, however at $1,200 (£1,149, AU$1,849) it prices $200 lower than the S20 Ultra within the US. If you need the very best specs and options, the S21 Ultra will undoubtedly appear interesting. The telephone may also appeal to digicam nerds, because of the enhancements Samsung made to the cameras. And with the addition of S-Pen assist — it is the primary Galaxy S telephone to make use of the stylus — the S21 Ultra will probably catch the attention of Galaxy Note customers in search of a distinct possibility. Read extra: Samsung Galaxy S21 vs. S21 Plus vs. S21 Ultra

    LikeGorgeous phantom black finishTwo telephoto camerasThe display screen is spectacularS-Pen assist

    Don’t LikeIt’s heavyLacks a microSD card slot$1,200 remains to be costly

    Last 12 months’s Ultra mannequin, however, appeared prefer it got here out of nowhere. It was a telephone all about extra that, by sheer destiny, was launched in the beginning of a worldwide pandemic and recession. Its daring, behemoth tackle the Galaxy S line was undercut by its $1,400 (£1,199, AU$1,999) value and points with its almost domino-sized digicam system. Overall, the S21 Ultra is a significant replace each by way of {hardware} and software program options over the S20 Ultra. And while you think about a lower cost, all of it type of is sensible.

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    We evaluation the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G and its bonkers cameras

    9:22

    The Galaxy S21 Ultra has one of the best black end I would not name the S21 Ultra’s design radically completely different, however my evaluation unit has one of the best black end I’ve ever seen on a telephone. It’s the stuff that goth desires are product of. The colour is known as phantom black, and while you see it in particular person you instantly perceive why Samsung made an almost 3-minute video explaining what went into making the blackest black. The S21 Ultra additionally is available in phantom silver and there are limited-edition phantom finishes in titanium, brown and navy, which may solely be discovered on Samsung’s web site. The digicam bump is giant and melts into the perimeters of the telephone, that are shiny black. And whereas the common S21 and S21 Plus are snazzy of their two-tone colours, the all-black S21 Ultra seems to be cool, elegant and badass all on the similar time. The S21 Ultra is somewhat heavier than final 12 months’s S20 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It’s the second heaviest telephone I’ve used previously 12 months, simply behind the Asus ROG Phone 3.

    The show is brighter and provides S-Pen assist Around the entrance is among the most spectacular shows I’ve seen. It has a Wide Quad HD decision and a variable refresh price between 10 and 120Hz, which is decided by what’s on the display screen. And simply to be clear, you’ll be able to have 120Hz and never take a success on decision just like the S20 Ultra did. The 6.8-inch show is brilliant and the distinction is attractive. Covering the display screen, and the again. is Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus. Under the display screen is a bigger ultrasonic fingerprint reader which feels peppy. I had a tough time telling if it was truly sooner than the one on the S20 Ultra. The show additionally has S-Pen assist. Support for the S-Pen means you’ll be able to draw, write, edit photographs and signal paperwork on the S21 Ultra.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    I’ve all the time been tempted by the Galaxy Note line of telephones, however I wasn’t certain I’d use the S-Pen sufficient to justify getting one. But I just like the iPad Pro-Apple Pencil method Samsung took right here. Without an S-Pen, you may nonetheless take pleasure in utilizing the S21 Ultra. But if you happen to’re S-Pen curious, you should purchase a brand new one or discover an outdated S-Pen. And there’s rather a lot you are able to do, like draw, take notes and signal paperwork. I really like modifying photographs and making changes with the S-Pen. I ought to notice there are a number of issues. The S21 Ultra would not include an S-Pen and would not assist Bluetooth or gesture performance. For instance, the S21 Ultra cannot ship you a notification if you happen to go away your pen behind. Also the Ultra would not have a built-in slot to retailer an S-Pen, however Samsung will probably be promoting instances for it that embody S-Pen storage.

    Discover the most recent information and greatest opinions in smartphones and carriers from CNET’s cell specialists.

    The S21 Ultra has 2 telephoto cameras The S21 Ultra’s digicam system obtained a number of vital updates. There are 4 rear cameras: one huge, one ultrawide and two telephoto cameras. The time-of-flight sensor is gone and as a substitute there’s laser autofocus. The 108-megapixel sensor on the primary digicam is new and it has higher autofocus for each photographs and movies. There’s even a brand new focus enhancer device that pops up onscreen to assist the telephone discover focus even sooner for photographs. The device seems to be prefer it is likely to be switching to a wider view to take action. There are 4 rear cameras: huge, ultrawide and two telephotos.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    The dual-telephoto cameras are a primary on any telephone and add a number of advantages. One has 3x magnification and the opposite 10x. This means while you zoom in, there are two locations in your zoom vary the place the picture is not being cropped the place your photograph may have higher picture high quality. Another profit is stability. The two cameras are paired collectively to assist make zooming in, even at 100x, simpler and extra regular. At 30x, a zoom information pops up that will help you discover the actual spot that you simply’re zoomed in at. You can lock it so it would not transfer, which turns the information yellow. This works properly. Obviously you continue to need to watch out to not transfer the digicam round an excessive amount of, nevertheless it’s much less finicky and irritating than the S20 Ultra. Photos from the S21 Ultra are glorious, with good element and a large dynamic vary. There is a 108-megapixel mode, however I discovered the 12-megapixel photographs coming from pixel binning look persistently nice. Below are a number of photographs I took with the S21 Ultra. I took this with the primary digicam set to 12 megapixels, which makes use of pixel binning to mix 9 pixels into one.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    One advantage of pixel binning is that it may possibly carry out the small print in a photograph. Notice the completely different textures and particulars.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    I used single-take mode within the digicam app to seize photographs and movies of this cute little canine. Here’s one of many photos my S21 Ultra selected.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    There’s a lot for the S21 Ultra to seize accurately right here: The barren tree branches, the water and the white fluffy clouds within the blue sky.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    Here are three completely different photographs I took from the very same spot utilizing the huge 1x digicam (left), the 3x telephoto digicam (center) and the 10x telephoto digicam (proper).
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    In low mild, night time mode is excellent. Flaring on the lens is minimized and photographs look brilliant and not using a bunch of picture noise or noise-reduction smearing. Below are a number of night time mode photographs I took: This was taken with night time mode and is likely to be my favourite photograph of the bunch.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    Here’s one other night time mode seize. I like how the S21 Ultra introduced the colours within the sculpture out.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    You can use night time mode on any digicam. I took this shot with the ultrawide digicam in night time mode.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    For selfies there’s the identical 40-megapixel digicam because the S20 Ultra. But you now have an possibility to alter the colour tone to both brilliant or pure which is superb. Here is a selfie I took with the pure setting.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    Samsung additionally added the power to take uncooked 12-bit colour photographs. And there is a new video characteristic known as Director’s View, which supplies you a thumbnail preview of the video feeds coming from all the cameras on the telephones. As you file, you’ll be able to change between them. Within Director’s View there is a vlogger setup that offers you a side-by-side video view or a stacked one if you happen to’re capturing vertically. This means you’ll be able to file your self with the selfie digicam and present what you are seeing or reacting to from any of the rear cameras. On paper, Director’s View appeared like one thing I would attempt as soon as however not likely use. But after a while utilizing it, I can undoubtedly see some folks being into this characteristic. If there’s a draw back to Director’s View it is that the ultimate video is saved in HD as an alternative of 4K or 8K. I’d like to see this thumbnail preview interface when recording an everyday 4K video. I’m excited to pit the S21 Ultra and its cameras in opposition to the iPhone 12 Pro Max and Google Pixel 5. Each telephone takes a distinct method to images and every will enchantment to completely different folks. S21 Ultra has a Snapdragon 888 chip and 12 or 16GB of RAM Powering the S21 Ultra is the brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, together with 12GB of RAM, or 16GB in the most costly mannequin with 512GB of storage (see the chart under for costs). In my benchmark exams, the S21 Ultra scored higher than final 12 months’s S20 Ultra. And in use, it dealt with every little thing I threw at it, even enjoying Xbox Game Pass Ultimate video games on it. Supplying juice to the telephone is a 5,000-mAh battery. I’ve simply been averaging a day and a half on a single cost. That stated, I nonetheless have a variety of battery exams to place the S21 Ultra via. Please verify again to this evaluation for updates. You can use the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate app to play Xbox video games in your S21 Ultra.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    Below are the outcomes of my benchmark exams for the S21 Ultra. 3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

    Note:
    Longer bars point out higher efficiency

    Geekbench v.5.0 single-core

    Note:
    Longer bars point out higher efficiency

    Geekbench v.5.0 multicore

    Note:
    Longer bars point out higher efficiency

    Android 11 and 5G assistThe Galaxy S21 Ultra runs Android 11 with Samsung’s OneUI 3.1 high layer. And I prefer it rather a lot. I can now default to Google Pay or Google Discover News feed, as an alternative of Samsung’s variations. The search for every little thing from settings to pop-up home windows is clear and modern. And with a telephone this large, OneUI helps make it simpler to make use of one-handed. Last, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has 5G and helps each sub-6 and mmWave flavors of 5G. You should not get the Ultra for its 5G. But as 5G networks get higher, so will your 5G speeds and connection. And then we’ll actually have one thing to speak about. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra specs vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra, Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Galaxy Note 20

    Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

    Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

    Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

    Samsung Galaxy Note 20

    Display dimension, decision

    6.8-inch AMOLED 2X, 3,200×1,440 pixels

    6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X

    6.9-inch; 3,088×1,440 pixels

    6.7-inch; 2,400×1,080 pixels

    Pixel density

    515 ppi

    511ppi

    496ppi

    393ppi

    Dimensions (Inches)

    2.97×6.5×0.35 in

    2.99×6.57×0.35 in

    6.49×3.04×0.31 in

    6.36×2.96×0.33 in

    Dimensions (Millimeters)

    75.6×165.1×8.9mm

    76.0×166.9×8.8mm

    164.8×77.2×8.1mm

    161.6×75.2×8.3 mm

    Weight (Ounces, Grams)

    8.07 oz; 229g

    7.76 oz; 220g

    7.33 oz, 208g

    6.84 oz, 194g

    Mobile software program

    Android 11

    Android 10

    Android 10

    Android 10

    Camera

    108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 10-megapixel (3x telephoto), 10-megapixel (10x telephoto)

    108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), time-of-flight digicam

    12-megapixel (ultrawide), 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)

    12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (huge angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto)

    Front-facing digicam

    40-megapixel

    40-megapixel

    10-megapixel

    10-megapixel

    Video seize

    8K

    8K

    8K

    8K

    Processor

    Snapdragon 888

    Snapdragon 865 Plus

    Snapdragon 865 Plus

    Snapdragon 865 Plus

    Storage

    128GB, 256GB, 512GB

    128GB, 512GB

    128GB, 512GB

    128GB

    RAM

    12GB, 16GB

    12GB, 16GB

    12GB

    8GB

    Expandable storage

    No

    Up to 1TB

    Up to 1TB

    No

    Battery

    5,000 mAh

    5,000 mAh

    4,500 mAh

    4,300 mAh

    Fingerprint sensor

    In-screen

    In-screen

    In-screen

    In-screen

    Headphone jack

    No

    No

    No

    No

    Special options

    IP68 score, 5G-enabled, 100x Space Zoom, 10W wi-fi charging, 10x optical zoom

    5G enabled; 120Hz refresh price; 100x zoom; water-proof (IP68)

    120Hz display screen refresh price, 5x optical zoom, 120Hz show; UWB sharing, S Pen stylus; 5G connectivity; Wireless PowerShare; water-proof (IP68)

    S Pen stylus; 5G connectivity; Wireless PowerShare; water-proof (IP68)

    Price off-contract (USD)

    $1,200 (128GB), $1,250 (256GB), $1,380 (512GB)

    $1,399 (128GB), $1,599 (512GB)

    $1,300 (128GB), $1,450 (512GB)

    $1,000

    Price (GBP)

    £1,149 (128GB), £1,199 (256GB), £1,329 (512GB)

    £1,199 (128GB), £1,399 (512GB)

    £1,179

    £849 (4G) and £949 (5G)

    Price (AUD)

    AU$1,849 (128GB), AU$1,949 (256GB), AU$2,149 (512GB)

    AU$1,999 (128GB), AU$2,249 (512GB)

    AU$1,849 (4G) and $AU$1,999 (5G)

    AU$1,499 (4G) and AU$1,649 (5G)

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