An excellent smartphone let down by the choice of SoC
Avaliado no Reino Unido em 6 de julho de 2021
This is my review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, 12/256 GB version. Bought for £954 during the Prime Day sales. Taking advantage of the current Samsung Cashback deal which will knock another £150 off, the final price to me will be £804. I purchased direct from Amazon using their interest free installment option, which I have used before and find convenient.
The S21 Ultra comes in a slender matte black box that matches the matte black panel of the smartphone. The box is slender because no charger or headphones are included. You get a USB-C to USB-C cable and the SIM Tray ejection pin. Nothing more, nothing less...I appreciate that Samsung has lowered the prices for the S21 range this year, and that they say they are trying to reduce the carbon footprint of their products. But, I still had to order a Samsung (Super Fast Charging) charger separately from Amazon.
The S21 Ultra is in my eyes a nice looking phone. A black glossy aluminium frame sandwiched by two panels of Gorilla Glass Victus. The rear camera housing is essentially a metal plate that melds into the frame. All matte black and seemingly impervious to fingerprint smears. The phone has a 6.8" screen, with minimal bezels and a compact frame. Because of this it is practically the same size as the phone I am replacing, a 6.67" Samsung A70, and at 227g slightly heavier.
Smartphone displays are Samsung's forte. This one (a Dynamic Amoled 2X) is probably their best ever. With adaptive 120Hz, HDR 10+, and up to 1440 x 3200 (515ppi) pixels, you're getting all the goodies. I always use Vivid colour mode. Natural mode is less punchy but more realistic. Brightness is excellent, supposedly up to 1500nits, which is a blessing outside on a sunny day. I stream or download a lot from Netflix, Amazon Video, and Disney+. And this viewing experience is simply superb.
The refresh rate is adaptive between HDR and SDR content. And it seems to work seamlessly. It will probably be more appreciated by gamers, which I am not, so I can't comment on that. You can change screen resolution between HD+, FHD+, and WQHD+. I prefer the middle ground with adaptive Refresh Rate on.
Which brings me on to the reason why this is a four star review. The Exynos 2100 and battery life. I swore not to go back to an Exynos SoC. And I did only because the gap between the Exynos and Snapdragon (according to tech sites) is the smallest it has been. Both these chips are manufactured by Samsung on a 5nm fabrication line. And yet only China and the US get the Snapdragon variant!! Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with this, as I don't game, and so couldn't care less that the Snapdragon uses the latest Adreno 660 GPU, while the Exnos uses a Mali-G78 GPU. Those who do may be better off looking for a Snapdragon 888 smartphone.
However, Exynos chips are infamous for their effects on battery life, among other issues. And I feel that even at this early stage battery life is average at best. I can see why the S21 Ultra comes with a 5,000mAh cell. I feel that the first 20% depletes too fast. As I write this Battery and device care in Settings tells me that I have 19hrs 59mins left at 82% at my current rate. And yet I lost 18% in 2hrs just with simple web browsing. There are of course many variables to this. And you can customise screen and battery settings until you find a setup that suits your usage.
There is some Internet chatter that certain apps like the camera app can accidentally activate via movement when in pocket. And this could contribute to battery drain. Whether this is true or not I don't know. What I do know is that Samsung are probably class leaders when it comes to software fixes, updates, and patches.
And talking of software, the S21 range of course comes with Android 11, and a guaranteed 3 OS updates. One UI 3.1 is Samsung's Android skin of choice. I like it, and have used it under one name or another for a long time. A couple of years ago I used a phone running Android One before switching back to Samsung. To my mind One UI is more polished and genuinely useful. The main difference of course being the settings panel. Bloatware is at a minimum, and I always exercise the options to uninstall or force close unwanted or duplicate apps. The main culprits being Samsung or Microsoft. I usually stick to Google services for core apps.
The main selling point of the S21 Ultra for me was it's camera setup. A 108mp primary, a 12mp ultrawide, and two 10mp telephoto zoom lenses. All 4 have OIS, although the ultrawide which is utilised for video has something called Super Steady Video which I guess is a form of electronic stabilisation. I did a lot of online research to determine the best cameraphone for what I want. The general consensus usually has the S21 Ultra at the top of the pyramid. The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is supposedly stunning, but around £450 more expensive, in the UK at least. The Sony Xperia 1 III will probably command a similar price. I like the processing algorithms used by Samsung in their camera app. The correction and sharpening available with autofocus gives quick shots, that are nicely detailed, with usually accurate colours. The selfie camera is a 40mp module that shoots in standard 10mp or high resolution 40mp. 4k video at 60fps is available on all the cameras, selfie included. Photo and video results are the best I have seen on a smartphone.
Other notable highlights worth mentioning include a remarkably accurate and fast ultrasonic fingerprint reader. S-Pen Support, although one is not included. And a hybrid stereo speaker system where the top speaker is incorporated into the earpiece. The only other negative to me, other than the ones I have already mentioned is the lack of a headphone jack. Leaving you the options to go wireless or use an ungainly USB-C adaptor.
The flagship competition to the S21 Ultra comes from the OnePlus 9 Pro, Xiaomi 11 Ultra, Oppo Find X3 Pro, and the upcoming Sony Xperia 1 III and Huawei P50 Pro. In my mind the Samsung beats them all when price and the overall balance of features is taken into account. Although even better if you can get hold of the Snapdragon 888 variant.
I will update this review further down the line...
16 pessoas acharam isso útil