Samsung has taken the wraps off the flagship Galaxy S21 range of smartphones at CES 2021. There are three models again this year, the Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra - but the Ultra steps further away from the pack with a more powerful camera array, up to twice as much memory/storage, and its compatibility with the S Pen stylus.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is said to be a device without compromise, packing in the best tech that Samsung has at this time – and that is exactly what a flagship should do. Samsung says it is a "leap forward" and delivers a "next level" S21 experience, but I will leave that judgement to you.
Starting from the outside, the S21 Ultra features a new Contour Cut Camera housing which Samsung describes as a feature that "seamlessly blends into the device’s metal frame for a sleek, yet striking, aesthetic," but to my eyes it is quite a big asymmetric bump on the back of the phone. This design is shared by the S21 and S21+ as well, but they have three instead of four cameras built into the rear. To try and keep your S21 scratch-free, the screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus.
On the topic of the screen, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with QuadHD+ resolution and dynamic refresh from 10 up to 120Hz. It is 25 per cent brighter at 1,500nits peak brightness and 50 per cent improved contrast ratio.
Camera experiences are very important for flagships and the S21 Ultra comes packing a quad rear camera (ultra-wide, wide and 3x/10x optical zoom tele-lenses) featuring an upgraded 108MP pro sensor, from which "you can capture 12-bit HDR photos with 64 times richer colour data and more than three times wider dynamic range". All lenses are capable of 4K 60fps video and can be used in combinations with each other and the selfie cam thanks to improved camera hardware, processing, and software.
Of course this smartphone is featuring the latest and greatest 5nm processors from Samsung and Qualcomm (region dependent). These aren't named by Samsung but will be the Exynos 2100 and the Snapdragon 888. Giving that processor room to stretch its legs is 12GB or 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM. The 128GB/256GB options come with 12GB, the 512GB model gets 16GB of RAM. No microSD card storage expansion is possible.
S Pen option – only the S21 Ultra has the necessary Wacom hardware. The stylus is an extra £35, or bundled with a case with silo for £85. However, it isn't the same S Pen as with the Note, it doesn't have Bluetooth functionality but on the positive side it is chunkier and has a non-slip coating.
Connectivity options include 5G Non-Standalone (NSA), Standalone (SA), Sub6 / mmWave, as well as Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth. Wired DisplayPort over USB type-C is supported.
Other specs worth mentioning are the IP68 water resistance, second gen Qualcomm Ultrasonic Fingerprint recognition, Face recognition, Ultra high quality audio playback, NFC, MST, 5,000mAh battery with Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 plus USB PD 3.0 (PPS) certified Fast Charging for wired charging, Android 11. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra measures 75.6×165.1×8.9mm and weighs in at 229g.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra costs from £1,149 in the UK (128GB storage option). As for the Galaxy S21 and S21+ they start at £769 and £949, respectively. All models seem to be in stock from Samsung direct at the time of writing (well done) with pre-orders being fulfilled from 29th January onwards. You don't get headphones or a charger in the box. Below you can see the Galaxy S21 Ultra specs and compare them to the S21 and S21+.