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Home >Technology >Tech Reviews >Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: Living up to the specs

Android phones often try to market specs, with companies throwing everything but the kitchen sink at their flagship phones. But the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra may be the first phone that’s throwing the right specs at you — right, in the sense that they go a long way in justifying the price. That’s all a flagship phone really needs to do, doesn’t it?

Let’s start with the display. The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s display is 0.1 inch larger than the one on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. But this 6.8 inch display is not about the size — at all. Instead, it’s about pushing 120Hz refresh rates at WQHD resolution, something Samsung has taken criticism for not being able to do before. In practice, this means you don’t need to compromise screen resolution for smooth user interface (UI) transitions etc. If you want to know what a good display should feel like, this is it.

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That said, we would prefer more true to source colours, which Samsung’s market research obviously suggests isn’t the way to go. So if you like rich vibrant (read oversaturated) colours, and chances are that you do, this again is the display you want. If you like ‘popping’ colours, Samsung has been championing that for years now. The display is bright, rich and smooth, which is exactly what you should expect if you’re reading the spec sheet for this phone.

The next big boast on the spec sheet are the cameras — there are five of them. Whenever a company boasts more megapixels, we reviewers automatically fall back to the “megapixels don’t matter debate". Samsung did just that, putting a ‘new’ 108MP camera on the back, a 12MP ultrawide, two 10MP telephoto cameras (with 3x and 10x optical zoom), and a 40MP front camera.

As true as the megapixel argument is though, it doesn’t matter as long as the end result is right. The Galaxy S21 Ultra gets as close to the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s camera as a phone can, though it doesn’t quite beat it.

This phone will make food look tasty, sceneries that will make you miss travelling and low light shots that will make you want to throw a lot of other Android phones into the trash. Samsung still needs to stop over brightening daylight photos though, which is an area where it pales noticeably in comparison to the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Colours, again, are oversaturated, but the argument here is the same as it was for the display — people like it. We’re willing to yield to Samsung’s market research here.

Smartphone cameras become significantly worse when you shoot with them in India, and Samsung can’t get past that. Having said that, it will do the best an Android phone can in India today. It has no mentionable shutter lag, can shoot great photos in every setting and has more features than most of its competitors. Your iPhone 12 Pro Max wielding friend will still get better photos at times, especially in terms of colour representation, but people won’t always pick his phone at parties over yours.

That leaves us with performance and battery life, both of which are strong for this phone. The S21 Ultra gets up to 16GB RAM and a whopping 512GB storage. The Exynos 2100 system-on-chip inside doesn’t leave you wanting for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, and the phone will support anything you can and will want to do with a phone today. We used the phone for continuous Pokemon Go gameplay over a 10 plus hour journey and it had just over 30% battery left by the end of it.

In sum, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the absolute best that Android phones can offer. Other than the price, the only reason to not buy this phone would be if you don’t like phones that are huge, unwieldy and threaten to fall out of even men’s pockets when they sit down.

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