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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review Roundup: Samsung’s legitimized the “Ultra” Phone.

And with it’s new price, it’s probably worth buying for the few who can afford it..

Samsung’s S21 flagship phones are here, eye-catching designs and lowered prices and all. And while we definitely will go into the viability of buying the semi-downgrades of the significantly cheaper S21 and S21+, we have a bigger and more bombastic phone to tackle that’s a seeming improvement to last year’s disappointing S20 Ultra. Say hello to the phone that’s turning “Ultra” into a smartphone mainstay: the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Now Samsung’s flagship phone offerings have gotten confusing the past 2 years, with or more offerings of their flagship Galaxy S phones aimed at different customer segments. For example in 2019 next to the S10 and S10+ there was the S10e meant to be a cheaper smaller flagship, which was (kind of) succeeded by last year’s S20FE for being a cheaper entry flagship for many people to buy. But while the S20 line had the FE to make Samsung’s flagships more accessible, Samsung also introduced another segment to its premium smartphones last year, the Galaxy S20 Ultra, along with introduction of the Ultra range of Samsung flagships; phones that would be right at the top of what the company had to offer with large screens, big spec sheets, envelope-pushing cameras and a price tag to match. But the S20 Ultra was a miss for us, and while we loved the Note 20 Ultra, it was more of realization of the true Galaxy Note line rather than the realization of the Ultra line. Hence with the S21 Ultra Samsung still had to sell the concept of the Galaxy Ultra phone again. And well the truth is, they sold it pretty darn well.
So if you haven’t watched The Verge’s interview above yet, here’s how Samsung wins it with this phone: The design’s actually great, especially for a big phone, the spec sheet is crazy, with 12-16GB of RAM, 128-512GB of storage, 5 impressive cameras including the 108MP sensor with laser autofocus that beats even the Note 20 Ultra’s along with a 3x and 10x zoom lens, the usual wireless and reverse wireless charging features, water resistance  and a 5000mAh battery combined with a million Samsung specific perks such as Wireless Dex casting, S-Pen support and so many other things you might have to look up a whole other article to see them all. So everything but the kitchen sink. Well, kind of, Samsung sacrificed the SD card slot this year, which I hope is something people fight for more than they did the headphone jack, but otherwise something you might forget on the much larger storage models. Simply put, it’s an overly impressive phone, especially on paper, and that’s not by mistake because Samsung aims for the Ultra phones to be bombastic showcases of what the company can do. But unlike the S20 Ultra, this phone is as amazing in practice too it seems, and it technically starts at up to USD$ 500 dollars cheaper than last year’s S20 Ultra with a price tag of $1200. Not cheap at all, but arguably better value in every way compared to the obvious rival the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

 

And how does it compare to the 12 Pro Max’s camera? Well, if the Note 20 Ultra was just below the iPhone on quality but beat it in versatility, the S21 Ultra is even closer with even more features. It’s actually seemingly the most feature-rich camera on the market right now (though I imagine some Sony stans could bring back the Xperia 1 ii for contradiction) and unless you really prefer the Pixel 5 or iPhone 12 Pro Max’s specific approaches to color science, you likely would be more in love with this camera more consistently based on just how much you can do.

Based on the two reviews you may have watched above, it would seem like the S21 Ultra is the best Samsung phone or the best Android phone (and arguably the best phone period) that you can buy. I’m not sure I agree with that, after all the Note 20 Ultra is still almost just as good, only falling short in the display area and a few camera features, the iPhone 12 Pro Max probably holds the hearts of every Apple fan and unless you’re really itching to serve over $1000 on a phone, none of theses are worth the cash. Phones like the Pixel 4A 5G make these super flagships seem ridiculous, and even normal flagships are beginning to get a little pragmatic again with the S21 starting at $800 instead of the S20’s $1000. There are drawbacks for that price drop and I would even argue that Samsung is making its base flagships worse so you can want the Ultra and foldable phones more, but in the end they’re still more appealing and better suited to the average customer. Hence the S21 Ultra isn’t necessarily the best phone on the planet, but it is the best Ultra phone to date, arguably the best big phone on the market, and pretty much proof that Samsung has locked this super expensive Ultra line for the foreseeable future. Is that a good thing? Well considering it dropped to a lower starting price this year and would hopefully stay in that spot a little longer, then maybe it’s not so bad. But for now, we can just be happy that Samsung’s top flagship, is pretty much worth the money.
We’ll check out the more controversial (and confusing) S21 and S21 plus in the coming week. Be ready for those and check out other smartphone reviews below.

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