That Samsung has made one of the best, if not the best, Android phone of the year has long been no news. After being announced in January, I have been able to test the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the most expensive and powerful, and largest model in the range and my conclusion is that: it is the best.
Of course, this conclusion can be qualified and I can also add that it is not the right phone for me because I am tired of gigantic phones and I like more to be able to operate them with one hand. Which, in recent years, has limited me to the iPhone or mobile phones that are ‘not Ultra’ and that have much less spectacular technical characteristics.
The only word to define what phones like the Galaxy S21 Ultra carry inside is that. It is spectacular that a mobile phone today can have a 5,000mAh battery inside, a 6.8-inch OLED screen of a quality superior to that of many televisions, an Exynos 2100 processor that rivals that of your computer, and possibly more quantity of RAM, which can be 12GB and 16GB depending on what you are going to spend on your mobile.
EVERYTHING HAS A (HIGH) WRECK
Because if you want to buy a phone like this, you are going to have to pay an interprofessional minimum wage and then a good chunk more. At 1,259 euros for the 12GB and 128GB model, 1,309 euros for the 12GB and 256GB and finally, 1,439 euros for the 16GB and 512GB model.
What do you get for this fortune? The mobile with one of the best cameras on the market, with only the most expensive iPhone of all as a direct competitor; a pocket computer that costs to drain the battery throughout a day of intensive use; and a great screen for when you lie in bed to see something or for when you take a long trip on the Metro or plane if the latter is ever possible again.
Samsung has left some things on the way this year, such as the mobile charger or headphones. If Apple does it, the others do it, and the environment is the perfect excuse to save good money on the transport of mobile phones by plane (the box is half as large as in its predecessor).
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They have also dispensed with the possibility of using a microSD card to expand the storage of the mobile, something that, honestly, I do not think almost anyone needs today if the mobile itself has at least 128GB of space. It hurts me more to have lost a few years ago the option of connecting headphones via a 3.5mm jack.
These two negative points do not spoil the whole. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is a very nice and symmetrical phone, with a huge screen that occupies the entire front except for the selfie camera, which is within the usual perforation that is so fashionable right now. I would have liked the bold and colorful colorway of its little brothers to be present on this model, though.
Under the screen, there is a fingerprint sensor that at least has not given me problems, but which is still a worse alternative than using facial recognition. It is something less secure but infinitely more practical to unlock the mobile.
When it comes to using, the Galaxy S21 Ultra adds integers because its customization layer on Android works very well and now there is a shortcut to the left of the main screen to Google Discover. Samsung has realized that its alternative was not being used and has surrendered to Google’s monopoly. The good news in terms of functionality, but one more defeat against the multinational search engine.
The inclusion of Google Discover is perhaps the biggest advancement in the functionality of Samsung’s One UI, which has reached a point of aesthetic and functional refinement that is difficult to improve.
If we add to this that the screen works at 120hz (twice what was the norm before), the fluidity of interactions, animations, and other movements in the menus and apps is incredible. Although not everyone will notice this greater fluidity at first, when you go back to another mobile that does not work at 120hz, you notice it outrageously.
A BETTER SCREEN THAN YOUR TV
That the screen is exactly twice as fluid means that it does twice the work (to understand us), so it requires more energy consumption. In other words, your battery will last less, especially if the mobile works at its maximum resolution, something that was not possible before.
Samsung has done a good job to alleviate the extra consumption derived from the use of a screen of these characteristics. The most impressive thing is that the screen knows how to adapt and work at different refresh rates (the times the screen is updated per second) and thus consumes less. If you are watching a movie at 24hz, in theory, the mobile adapts to it and consumes less. If you play a video game at 120hz, it works at full capacity.
This good battery and display management is perhaps the brightest thing about the phone. The Galaxy S21 Ultra does something competitors can’t yet. They will sooner or later, but right now, who gets the best image without sacrificing battery life, is this mobile.
It is also a success that the screen is a bit curved, but not as much as in previous models. I’m fed up with mobiles that look like Dalí-painted clocks on the sides because then menus aren’t handled so well.
Samsung has opted for a smaller curvature that makes the grip comfortable while not hindering the use of the mobile. If you use gestures to move around the phone, something I recommend, you will have to remove the screen protector that comes on by default because it rubs badly when you swipe your thumb.
The other great strength of this phone is its camera, or its multiple cameras, as you prefer to refer to those four holes on the back and that, given how Samsung has integrated the module on the side, they give that particular aspect to this range of mobiles.
In my tests against an iPhone 12 Pro Max, both phones are almost indistinguishable in terms of the quality of the photographs, with one gaining a little in some aspect (color, the iPhone) or another (sharpness, the Samsung). In other words, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is one of the best phones to take pictures of the moment.
To my surprise, I think I like the Samsung selfie camera even more because it comes out more real (and unfortunately, with a much more imperfect and blemished skin) than with the iPhone. For the first time in a long time, there is a non-Pixel selfie camera that takes me out with well-defined freckles and wrinkles that I miss when I look in the mirror.
It is also clearly superior to the iPhone in another point: it has a double telephoto lens, that is, a 3x lens and a 10x lens that you can use in certain situations. By software, it is possible to make a false zoom of up to 100 increases, but the quality of any photograph that you take like this will be testimonial and to show off that the mobile can do something like that. It is an incredible technology, but one that I do not get much use to.
What is a great advance is the inclusion of the RAW format for photography. As Apple already did, being able to make images loaded with information to later retouch in greater depth is something that very few people will value, but that does not mean that it is less important. Personally, I never edit the photographs I take much because they all go to social networks that destroy their quality anyway, but if you like photo editing, this mobile is a marvel.
The same if you record video. I don’t see myself recording 8K videos because it doesn’t look much better than 4K and almost no one can see it at that resolution on a TV or monitor, but the 4K recording of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is excellent for a mobile phone.
Stabilization is very aggressive and can sometimes give an artificial air to the video, but 99% of the time it is something that benefits the final result. Now, the most stable recording requires switching to 1080p recording mode and perhaps this is the most recommended for those who record with their mobile doing the goat. Be that as it may, they have improved over the predecessor.
EVERYTHING THAT CAN BE ASKED OF A MOBILE
With high-end phones, I always conclude that I do not know if it is unfair or correct: for what they cost, they can already do everything right. If you can or want to pay what the Galaxy S21 Ultra is worth, you will have the best mobile on the market in your pocket until Apple or Samsung launch a better one next year. And even then, it will remain an outstanding phone for two more.
The screen is the best that has ever been made, the processor power is excessive for 99% of the tasks you do, the battery is outstanding and you can get even more life if you lower the resolution a bit to the mobile and the cameras portray reality more and more faithfully.
If you take good care of this mobile and know how to take advantage of all the features of its camera, you will have everything you need to ask from a phone without a doubt and I am quite sure that few terminals will be able to beat it.
Evaluate well if it is what you need: if you are not an almost professional photographer if you charge your mobile every day and do not miss more battery if you do not need a giant screen to watch Netflix, and if you do not play many powerful video games on your mobile either Maybe the Galaxy S21 Ultra is big for you. Why do you want a Ferrari if you only take your car out to go to work?
Now, following the analogy, we all wish we had a luxury car that massages our asses while we drive and that has a great stereo and does not consume excessively. If you want the Ferrari among Android phones, go ahead: the Galaxy S21 Ultra can’t disappoint anyone.