Recently, we reviewed the Galaxy S21, the base model in Samsung’s new flagship lineup. Now though, we’re reviewing the S21 Ultra, the top-of-the-line model in the S21 series. As the highest-end variant, the Ultra is filled with only the best features, including an impressive quad camera setup with a 108MP main shooter, as well as a large 6.8-inch display with a QHD+ resolution and adaptive refresh rate.
While the aforementioned features are the biggest highlights, the S21 Ultra still has a ton of other flagship features, including an Exynos 2100 processor with 5G, a 5,000mAh battery with fast charging, and even S Pen support–the first for an S-series smartphone. This should make the S21 Ultra a phone that Galaxy Note fans can also consider.
With all these high-end features, it comes as no surprise that the Galaxy S21 Ultra has an equally high-end price tag of just under PHP 70k. At this price point, is the top-end Galaxy smartphone worth it? Find out here in our full Samsung S21 Ultra review!
Before we check out the phone’s performance and camera capabilities, let’s first take a look at its design. What stands out at first glance is its size–the S21 Ultra is a massive phone. It’s also feels quite hefty too, meaning users with smaller hands may not find it too comfortable to use. Though if you have larger hands, or are willing to go with both hands, the S21 Ultra feels great to hold and use.
As for how it looks, the S21 Ultra in Phantom Black has a matte finish that makes it more low-profile than other flagship phones (which usually have glass backs). Personally, I’m a fan of the matte finish as it means it won’t be a fingerprint magnet. While I like it for the most part, what I’m not a big fan of is the large camera bump at the top right. It looks nice and distinct, but it can be annoying as you can’t lay the phone flat.
At the front, we have the phone’s massive 6.8-inch display. While the base S21 does not have curved edges, the S21 Ultra’s screen curves slightly on the sides, making for a more borderless look. If you’re not a fan of curved edge displays, don’t worry as the S21 Ultra’s screen is only curved ever so slightly, meaning it’s still easy to grip.
A similarity it does share with the base S21 is the holepunch notch at the top. Again, I would’ve preferred it if the notch was on the upper left side instead of right on the middle, but it’s not much of a distraction on the S21 Ultra’s large screen.
Samsung flagships usually pack the best displays for high-end phones, and the S21 Ultra is no exception with its 6.8-inch QHD+ AMOLED screen. After watching some shows and some movie clips on it, I can safely say that the S21 Ultra has the best AMOLED display I’ve seen in any phone so far. Aside from having a high resolution for extra detail, the S21 Ultra’s screen also has vibrant colors and enough brightness for a great viewing experience.
As for audio, the S21 Ultra’s onboard stereo speakers are excellent thanks to good audio quality (you can even hear lower bass notes) and loud volume. If you don’t have wireless speakers/headphones with you, the stereo speakers can still provide a great listening and/or viewing experience; just don’t use it while in public so as not to disturb others.
The Samsung S21 Ultra Review unit we have with us is powered by the Exynos 2100, the latest flagship chipset from Samsung. So how well does it work for gaming? For the most part, it delivers.
When playing popular games today such as League of Legends: Wild Rift and Call of Duty Mobile, the S21 Ultra had no problems running them at max graphics setting. Though we did notice that it got a bit warm when playing, but not enough to be uncomfortable.
The Exynos 2100 also had enough power to run several games at 120FPS. If you play title with 120FPS support, the S21 Ultra is a great option thanks to its adaptive display that has up to a 120Hz refresh rate. Though make sure to turn down the resolution to 1080p when playing these titles.
In our tests though, the S21 Ultra wasn’t able to max out Genshin Impact. Instead, you have to play at the Medium graphics setting for a playable framerate.
Meanwhile, above are the synthetic benchmark scores of the S21 Ultra.
Geek Photoshoot Capabilities
The highlight feature of the S21 Ultra is no doubt its 108MP wide + 12MP ultra-wide + 10MP telephoto (3x optical zoom) + 10MP periscope telephoto (10x optical zoom) quad rear camera setup. The front 40MP shooter is no slouch either, making for a great camera setup on paper.
In practice, the S21 Ultra’s cameras impressed even more! First off, daytime outdoor and well-lit indoor images turn out well, with photos in these situations having a ton of detail and vibrant colors.
At night, photos are just as impressive thanks to the phone’s Night Mode. If you have Scene Optimizer on when shooting, Night Mode should automatically be used in low light situations. But in cases where it does not, you can manually shift to Night Mode.
The S21 Ultra’s 12MP ultra-wide also left us impressed thanks to great photo quality, even at night thanks to Night Mode. In fact, it’s one of the best ultra-wide shooters we have tried among flagship Android phones.
Similar to the ultra-wide, the telephoto shooters did not disappoint. While the 3x and 10x shots were already of high quality, we were surprised to see that even 100x zoom shots are quite sharp, with words even being readable–an impressive feat. The S21 Ultra’s telephoto setup, then, is the best we’ve tried, even beating last year’s S20 Ultra.
What makes the telephoto camera even better is that its low light performance is not bad at all. Though you do have to use Night Mode and have steady hands to take good low light photos.
Finally, the phone’s 40MP selfie shooter does not disappoint as it takes high quality selfies that are social media-ready, even without editing/touch-ups.
Given that the phone had good gaming performance overall, it came as no surprise that the S21 Ultra also delivered for everyday use and for productivity. Coupled with an S-Pen, the S21 Ultra is a great partner for creative and office professionals who want a smartphone that they can take notes and/or create art on. Though take note that the S-Pen is a separate purchase and not included with every S21 Ultra.
For battery life, the S21 Ultra can last for around a day of use at 1080p and with adaptive refresh rate on. Though if you have adaptive refresh rate on at the max resolution, expect to run out of juice in a day or less of heavy use. So to get the most battery life, you’ll have to play around with the display settings.
As for its other features, the S21 Ultra has a bit of a mixed bag. While it has a fast and responsive fingerprint scanner and fast wired/wireless charging, the phone does not come with a headphone jack. The S21 Ultra doesn’t come with much inside the box either as Samsung did not include a charger with this device. While this should be fine for previous Samsung phone owners, it’s not ideal for new Galaxy users as they’ll have to buy a new charger just to fast charge the phone.
Samsung S21 Ultra Review – Final Geek Lifestyle Verdict
So, does the S21 Ultra deliver? For the most part, it does! Thanks to an excellent display and a flexible camera setup that should satisfy photography lovers, the S21 Ultra does deserve its ‘Ultra’ moniker. While it’s not a perfect smartphone given its fairly average battery life and gaming performance that could be better, the S21 Ultra is still a clear step above previous Samsung Galaxy flagships.
Overall, if you want a flagship phone with good performance, great cameras, and a class-leading display, the S21 Ultra might just be the best Android phone available today. Sure, the PHP 69,990 price tag might be steep, but for users who want a truly top-of-the-line smartphone and are willing to spend, the S21 Ultra is a worthy choice.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra specs:
- 6.8-inch WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (10-120Hz refresh rate)
- Exynos 2100 processor (5nm process)
- 12GB/16GB RAM
- 128GB/256GB/512GB storage
- Rear cameras: 108MP wide + 12MP ultra-wide + 10MP telephoto (3x optical zoom) + 10MP periscope telephoto (10x optical zoom)
- Front camera: 40MP
- 5G, LTE, UWB, Wi-FI 6E
- Ultrasonic Fingerprint scanner, IP68 certification, USB Type-C port
- S-Pen compatible
- 5,000mAh battery with Super Fast charging + Fast Wireless charging + wireless PowerShare
- Android 11 (One UI 3.1)