Samsung launches Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+, and Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung announced the official arrival of the Samsung Galaxy S21, Samsung Galaxy S21+, and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. The three models collectively represent Samsung's first 2021 flagship offering. The early launch of the Galaxy S21 series sets the tone for Android flagship smartphones.
Samsung Galaxy S21 lineup
The Samsung Galaxy S21 series phones are all 5G-ready, contrary to the preceding Galaxy S20 series that offered 4G and 5G variants. As with past Samsung Galaxy S handsets, the Galaxy S21 series brings a combination of new flagship processors, state-of-the-art cameras, and a host of flagship-tier features in each device. However, this year we see the introduction of a few downgrades too.
Plenty of the upgrades cut across all three devices, so we'll quickly cover them here before discussing each model below. The majority of the new Galaxy devices' specs had already been confirmed before their launch.
Samsung Galaxy S21 series specs. Source: HardwareZone.com
Samsung's new design is largely related to its camera housing. The Contour Cut Camera housing blends seamlessly into the metal frame, with the rest of the device rear adopting a hazy finish.
The Galaxy S21 series phones are packed with the newly announced Snapdragon 888 in the US and the Exynos 2100 in most other regions.
According to Samsung, the 5nm chipset offers performance increments compared to previous-generation Exynos processors – 20% in CPU, 35% in GPU, and 2x AI processing.
Photography and videography received the most improvements across all Galaxy S21 series models.
Space Zoom, Samsung's compelling zoom feature, now gets Zoom Lock for better focusing and stabilizing.
The new Galaxy devices offer 8K Snap, allowing the phone to screengrab 32MP images from 8K footage filmed using a Galaxy S21 series device.
Super Steady videos can now be recorded at 60fps.
Single Take received 5x more AI processing for the few modes it has.
However, a new recording feature is the Director's View, which offers two sub-features – Vlogger View (front-and-back real-time recording). Director's View also offers Live Thumbnail, which allows a Galaxy S21 user to swap active lenses during a recording, with little windows to the side for previewing the field-of-view through each lens. If a Galaxy S21 user has a Samsung Live Buds Pro, they can use wireless earbuds as a voice microphone while letting the smartphone microphone record ambient sound.
Not everything is roses since the expandable storage option via microSD slot on the Galaxy S20 series didn't make it to the Galaxy S21 series. Also, the charging adapter is not included in the box, either. Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus feature a dropped resolution from WQHD+ to FHD+. The last Galaxy model to feature a below 1440p screen resolution was the Samsung Galaxy S5, released in 2014.
Samsung Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+
Samsung Galaxy S21.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21+ carry FHD+ resolution displays. Samsung instead kept the same display dimensions and same panel quality, so users who liked the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ for their sizes would find the new 2021 equivalents right at home.
Samsung Galaxy S21+.
The Galaxy S21 gets a 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display that can go up to a 120Hz refresh rate, while the Galaxy S21+ has a 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display that also goes up to 120Hz refresh rate. Unlike the S21 Ultra's curved screen, the Galaxy S21 and S21+'s display is flat while keeping the same screen Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel quality across the three S21 series handsets.
While the Galaxy S21 battery capacity stayed on par with the previous Galaxy S20's (at 4,000mAh), the Galaxy S21+ received a slightly larger battery capacity. It now sits at 4,800mAh, about 300mAh more than its S20+ predecessor.
Both Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ kept the same combination of triple-rear lenses as their predecessors (12MP main, 12MP ultra-wide-angle, 64MP telephoto with 3x hybrid optical zoom). Both devices feature massive upgrades in computational photography instead.
The phones also come with Android 11 out of the box, so it's already packed with Google's latest mobile operating system cloaked under Samsung's One UI 3.1 reskin and user interface.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The rumors proved to be somewhat true. Yes, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra supports an S Pen, thanks to a Wacom partnership. However, the phone doesn't come with a Galaxy S21 S Pen out of the box, nor does it have a built-in S Pen slot like the Galaxy Note20 handsets.
According to Samsung, the Galaxy S21 S Pen (sold either on its own or with its official phone cover) and all past S Pens (including and beyond the Note20 or Galaxy Tab S7/S7+ ones) would work with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
That aside, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra carries over the same form factor as its predecessor while implementing the dual-tone Contour Cut Camera housing design present in all new phones. The battery capacity remained unchanged, too, at 5,000mAh.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra now has a slightly smaller 6.8-inch, curved Dynamic AMOLED 2X display rated at WQHD+ resolution ( pixels resolution). The panel is now capable of going up to 120Hz refresh rate even at maximum resolution. Its Dynamic Refresh Rate directly varies between 10Hz to 120Hz, depending on the phone's content. Interestingly, the much improved full brightness for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, at 1,500 nits (S20 Ultra capped out at 1,200 nits).
The rear camera configuration received slight changes, going from a triple-rear on the S20 Ultra to a quad-rear combo on the S21 Ultra. The upgraded primary lens' sensor and the ultra-wide-angle lens kept the same megapixels (108MP and 12MP respectively), but Samsung now has two telephoto lenses instead of one.
The first is a 10MP telephoto lens offering 3x optical zoom, while the second is a 10MP telephoto camera with 10x optical zoom. Both zoom lenses pack Samsung's proprietary Dual Pixel technology, enabling fast, accurate autofocusing even at long range.
They are also jointly responsible for the 100x Space Zoom on the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The most significant upgrade in Samsung's imaging capabilities is its 4K resolution recording in 60fps across all lenses – any Galaxy S21 Ultra user wouldn't need to compromise on video resolution or framerate and freely select the preferred lens. Finally, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has both 12-bit HDR and 12-bit RAW photo capturing, bringing the HDR and RAW photo compatibility on par with the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
A camera feature that received improvements is the Bright Night mode, where it uses 12MP Nona-binning technology to make ‘larger' pixels and capture more light.
Summary of Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra features
Like the Galaxy S21+ and Note20 Ultra, the Galaxy S21 Ultra will also support ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. UWB is necessary for specific near-field uses, like digitally unlocking car doors and file sharing. Besides Digital Car Key and Android Auto support, the Galaxy S21 Ultra also has SmartThings integrated into Android Auto, allowing you to use a compatible Galaxy S21 phone to control your smart home from your Android Auto car.
Come 29 January 2021; the Galaxy S21 series is available at the following prices, configurations, and colors: