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It’s mid-2021 and many brands have launched their flagship phones with quiet fanfare and an interesting set of features and functions. I’ve tried many of these new flagship phones, and have grown to respect these brands’ attempts in capturing market share with interesting designs and feature sets. Yet again, Samsung still proves its leadership in Android smartphones with the real ultra smartphone in the bunch - the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G.
I may have used the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G on and off in the past few months, but it’s still the phone I feel most comfortable with as a daily driver. It feels solid on hand, and I’m always confident in its build and performance. Covered in Gorilla Glass Invictus, it’s cool to the touch and feels sturdy like a solid slab of, well, glass. And even with its large size, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is well balanced and easy on the hand.
To recap on the display, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G sports a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED screen with a sharp 1440x3200 resolution supporting HDR10+ and 120Hz refresh rate for buttery smoothness. It’s super bright, super crisp and very fluid. Quite frankly, one of the best screens for flagship phones this 2021. I’m only slightly miffed with the slight curve, as I’ve always preferred a flat screen.
At first, I was apprehensive about the Exynos 2100, the chipset variant sold in Singapore. But I’ve rarely had any issues with the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G on daily use, and I’ve tried to do everything - social media consumption, gaming, remote play with my PS5, long sessions of video streaming and even actual work with Google sheets, docs and slides.
Most apps perform as well as they could be. I would attribute this to ONE UI, Samsung’s software flavour of Android 11. ONE UI 3.1 seems to be fully optimised for Samsung’s Exynos chipset, that it performs on par or even better than other flagships running Snapdragon 888 and their own software overlay.
Even Dex on the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G feels like a full operating system already. I found myself using it quite often - wirelessly connecting with my TV (also a Samsung) and using my Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. I use it mostly for video streaming, and gaming still lags. But, it still gets warm to the touch after prolonged use.
Finally, the camera set. To recap, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G includes a 108MP Wide, 10MP periscope telephoto, 10MP telephoto and a 12MP ultrawide camera for its camera array. It is by far the most comprehensive set of lenses in smartphones today. And the selfie camera is no slouch at 40MP wide.
I’m not a camera aficionado for sure; I’ve kept my camera in standard most of the time. This is also by far, the best camera to take and shoot with very little user intervention. Standard photos are great, with expected vibrant colours. Zooming to 100X at first seems like a gimmick, but it is quite usable, provided you have stable hands and aim. Even night shots perform quite well, with the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G able to capture more light to add more details in the shot. Videos as well are better than expected, with excellent stability when needed.
A couple of things still annoy me, though. I’m never a fan of in-screen fingerprint scanners. I sometimes miss the target and always have to stop and think about my thumb placement when trying to unlock it. It can be inaccurate at times, especially with a screen protector. Even if the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G has one of the more accurate ultrasonic scanners, I’d still avoid using it. There are alternatives to unlocking, like the always reliable PIN number. Battery life is fine. The 5000 mah battery can carry you through the day, but having no charger in the box can be a bummer, especially for other brands who’ve packed high-speed chargers in the boxes.
This hasn’t stopped me from picking up the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G whenever I can, though. It’s probably one of the best smartphones of the year. A bright, sharp and fluid screen; powerful and reliable internal; cameras that make you feel like a pro; and just the overall great experience keeps this phone at the top of the heap.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is available in the official Samsung Lazmall with Phantom Silver and Phantom Black options. It starts with a storage of 256GB, priced at $1,698.
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