Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review – All About The Camera Magic

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For those who love photography, look no further. And those who are into videography, you will love this. The new Samsung Galaxy S21 5G is one remarkable smartphone that at some point, I would call it a camera instead of a phone. It is one of the phones that I’ve enjoyed using. I have nothing but good words to describe my whole experience of using it. 

But of course, I have to be honest in my review as well. And honestly, I don’t have much negative comments about the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Let’s get on with the review.

First Look & Design

As the words get around, it is true that the Galaxy S21 and the S21 Ultra come in a smaller box. It does not include any charging brick, just the USB type-C cable and user guide documentation. I got the Phantom Black variant for the S21 Ultra. And the first thing I noticed is how solid the phone feels. It is also heavy on the top side, probably due to the huge steel camera bump that’s seamlessly moulded with the frame. 

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is one huge phone. No doubt about it. Being top heavy, sometimes it is difficult when handling it on one hand especially when you’re walking. The large screen size has a scenic view that looks great under normal indoor lighting and bright enough to be clearly seen under direct sunlight. The dynamic AMOLED display can hit up to 1500 nits brightness, making it one of the brightest displays on a smartphone. 

Right at the top of the display is the 40MP wide angle selfie camera. As usual, Samsung uses a punch hole design for the front camera rather than a notch, which is awesome. But when you go around the back, the large camera bump will stare you right in your face. 

The design of the camera bump is by far the most impressive (and beautiful) of all the devices by Samsung. The metal camera bump merged seamlessly with the phone’s frame, making it look like it is part of the body. Most of the phones we see today have a flat beautiful back but all of a sudden, you see a camera bump that looks out of place. Not with the S21 Ultra. The camera bump is made with the phone, it is part of the body. That made it beautiful to look at. 

The large camera bump houses four camera modules. It also comes with laser auto-focus and you can see that in the bump as well. And of course, the LED flash sits below it. I will talk a little more on the cameras later on. 

On the right side of the phone, there’s the usual volume rocker buttons near the top and the power button right below it. The button here feels a little solid for me, not much of a clicky type. But that’s fine somehow. On the left side of the phone has nothing, so is the top other than two tiny microphone holes for stereo recording. On the opposite end, there’s the SIM slot, USB type-C port and the bottom firing speaker. No audio jack for the S21 Ultra and for many other newer flagship devices. Sad. 

On the other hand, it is good to know that most of Samsung’s flagships have IP68 ratings for waterproof and dustproof protection. The S21 Ultra can be submerged up to 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes. You can bring the phone for a swim but don’t leave it submerged for a long period of time. It will definitely survive splashes and rain drops. 

Performance & User Experience

I never had any problems when it comes to Samsung devices for my daily use. Their reliable OneUI is so easy to use and has many additional Samsung only features. It works well pairing with Samsung’s wearable devices such as the Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Watches. It also works seamlessly with most Samsung Smart Home devices too. That’s why I’m a fan.

Now for daily usage, the S21 Ultra works wonders. If you’re doing some heavy multi-tasking work on your phone, you don’t have to worry about performance. You can actually forget about it. Don’t think about what it can do, just focus on what more you want to do. Whatever you throw at it, it will execute the task without breaking a sweat. 

Checking emails? Easy. Editing some photos? That is a breeze. You can even have it to edit your large 8K videos with ease and be done with it in no time. I usually have the S21 Ultra with me at all times. I use it for photo and video editing. I use it to capture photos and videos at every chance I get. It supports Samsung’s very own stylus that usually comes with the Note series so you can do a little illustrations or jotting down notes. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review - All About The Camera Magic

So in terms of performance, just forget about it. It can do what you can’t without any delay, all thanks to the new Samsung Exynos 2100 5nm chipset that is mind-blowingly fast. It is as good as the S21 Ultra Snapdragon 888 variant, and a whole lot better when it comes to AI processing. The new chipset is supported by a 12GB RAM and 256GB internal storage (for the unit in this review) and it also has a 16GB RAM with 512GB storage variant. If you want more RAM and space, go for that. 

I was unable to test the 5G network speed here in Malaysia as most telcos have not rolled out the 5G services to the public yet. So bummed with that. But overall network speed and signal reliability is really good. Calls came in crystal clear and I didn’t get any call drops or whatsoever. 

Gaming with the S21 Ultra is awesome. The new chipset managed to perform beyond what I expected. As usual, PUBG Mobile is my personal graphic and performance benchmark test. If it plays well, I will give my own opinion on that. I can set the graphics to its highest setting with HD+ and realistic view with the highest framerate. I even turned on the shadows and anti-alias, which usually required more processing power and battery. 

And the Galaxy S21 Ultra handled everything perfectly. 

I got to play for close to two hours before the battery drained out. That is good battery endurance for all those heavy gaming sessions. Graphics are great. It is one of the smoothest graphic rendering that I have ever encountered. I have played on the Galaxy Tab S7+ previously and I’ve also said that it was my best experience for mobile gaming but this S21 Ultra came close to that. Of course, I preferred the large screen of the tablet but the S21 Ultra would be the next best device. 

I also tested the performance with the Antutu 3D benchmark app and it scored a good 631893 in the test. That is a flagship score. Anything above 600k is a flagship score. But I know some of the made-for-gaming devices have already passed the 700k mark but I’m very pleased with the S21 Ultra’s overall performance. I never seem to disappoint.

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As for the battery, it comes with a Li-Ion 5,000mAh capacity battery. It also comes with 25W fast charging to get the battery level up from 10% to 100% in less than an hour. It also supports Qi/PMA wireless charging so you can use any of your old Qi wireless charging decks with the S21 Ultra. 

Camera

If you ask me what is the S21 Ultra’s niche market, I would say it’s for photography enthusiasts. As I mentioned before, it comes with 4 camera modules. I love photography and I can safely say that I can use this phone to outperform any old dSLR cameras out there. Most of the modern smartphone cameras are already better than the old dSLR cameras. My old Nikon D90 can’t perform as good as most of the phone cameras these days. And the Galaxy S21 Ultra goes beyond that. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review - All About The Camera Magic

It is a photography phone. It is also excellent in videography. A Malaysian movie director even shot an entire short film 100% with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Go ahead, watch the short film that was shot entirely with the S21 Ultra below:

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is able to shoot a 4K video at 60fps and up to 8K at 24fps. I usually set it to shoot 4K at 60fps for my personal use. The electronic image stabilisation worked really well to reduce shakes and sudden jerks. And most of my videos turn out brilliant. 

So here’s the camera setup for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. 

  • Camera:
    108 MP, f/1.8, 24mm (wide), 1/1.33″, 0.8µm, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
    10 MP, f/4.9, 240mm (periscope telephoto), 1/3.24″, 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom
    10 MP, f/2.4, 70mm (telephoto), 1/3.24″, 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
    12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, Super Steady video
  • Selfie Camera: 40 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/2.8″, 0.7µm, PDAF
  • Main Video: 8K@24fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS
  • Selfie Video: 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30fps

Now let’s have a look at the photos… 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review - All About The Camera Magic

Getting the indoor shots for ultra wide and zoom towards the floor area. No blur and colours are well balanced.

For this shot, I hit the zoom button to go as far as I can until it maxed out. The end result is a little blurry but can still have some details.

Outdoor shots are always accurate and gorgeous.

Night shots are wonderful. On wide angle main camera, the image turned out great with no obvious noise and details are good. And the zoom shot turned out okay too.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review - All About The Camera Magic

Can’t go wrong with food photos.

Selfie shots are mostly good. Details are well preserved and colours are good. Even when using the selfie camera in low light works great.

The only downside of using the camera for a long period of time is that the back panel near the camera module will heat up quite a lot. I really mean a lot, especially when you’re shooting long videos. The heat can be a little worrying for some, even me at times. I remember using the S21 Ultra for one of my work shoots, the back panel heated up so much that I had to put the phone in a refrigerator to cool it down. 

Apparently this only happens with the Exynos 2100 variant of the phone, not much on the Snapdragon 888 version. This is something that Samsung needs to address quickly. But on the upside, nothing happened to the phone. Performance is still top notch and there are no errors or whatsoever after the heat up. 

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is not made for everyone but at the same time, everyone can use it. It has its own niche market and target users. If you love photography, this is a phone for you. Nothing can go wrong when you have the S21 Ultra when trying your hands in photography. It is a wonderful device to capture any of your precious moments when you need it, and still produce stunning results. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review - All About The Camera Magic

For your daily use like social media or multi-tasking between your email and Word docs, everything is smooth and easy. I can get to about 24+ hours of use on a single charge provided that I don’t play games or binge on any YouTube videos. And when I do play games, the S21 Ultra can still last the whole day until I had to plug in the charger at night. I don’t usually like to leave the phone charge overnight so I will make sure to pull the plug as it reaches 100%. 

I had a great time testing and playing with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. What else can I say? The display is great, the performance is among the best I’ve tested and the camera is phenomenal. No wonder it is the phone of choice by some of the top reviewers for video and photos. They will know a good camera when they see one. And I’m pretty sure that I gave the correct title for this review – It’s all about the camera magic. 

You can purchase your brand new Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G from the official Samsung store for a recommended retail price starting from RM4,999.00

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Specifications

  • SoC: Exynos 2100 (5 nm), Octa-core (1×2.9 GHz Cortex-X1 & 3×2.80 GHz Cortex-A78 & 4×2.2 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • GPU: Mali-G78 MP14
  • OS: Android 11, One UI 3.1
  • Memory: 128GB 12GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM, 512GB 16GB RAM
  • Display:
    Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1500 nits (peak)
    6.8 inches, 112.1 cm2 (~89.8% screen-to-body ratio)
    1440 x 3200 pixels, 20:9 ratio (~515 ppi density)
  • Build: Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus), glass back (Gorilla Glass Victus), aluminum frame
  • Battery: Li-Ion 5000 mAh, non-removable, 25W fast charging
  • Camera:
    108 MP, f/1.8, 24mm (wide), 1/1.33″, 0.8µm, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
    10 MP, f/4.9, 240mm (periscope telephoto), 1/3.24″, 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom
    10 MP, f/2.4, 70mm (telephoto), 1/3.24″, 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
    12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, Super Steady video
  • Selfie Camera: 40 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/2.8″, 0.7µm, PDAF
  • Sensors: Fingerprint (under display, ultrasonic), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
  • Colours: Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, Phantom Brown

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G

RM4,999.00
9.1

Design

9.0/10

Performance

9.5/10

Price

8.3/10

Camera

9.6/10

Functions

9.0/10

Pros

  • Beautiful display
  • Great performance
  • Awesome camera
  • Solid build
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • A little top heavy
  • Heat up on long camera use
  • Bulky

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