Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: This has some serious camera chops

Mala Bhargava | Updated on January 17, 2021

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

One-day-later impressions of Samsung’s top of the line flagship

It’s difficult for me not to feel a distinct frisson of excitement when watching Samsung unveil a new flagship line for the year. For heaven’s sake, I’ve been using a Samsung phone since 2002. My first Samsung phone was a Porsche inspired flip phone called True-i. It was a feature phone with which you could do little, but I was fiercely possessive of it and lived in fear that someone would touch it out of curiosity — because it was the ultimate in phone tech then.

Look at the dramatic contrast between the Galaxy S21 Ultra and those early phones. This is a serious machine with more power than computers have had until recently.

The appearance

If I was disappointed at getting a black phone to review, that feeling was quickly dispelled after looking at the Ultra. The smooth matte-finish double-black or rather Phantom Black looks like it really means business. The main feature that would capture your eye is the huge camera assembly on the back of the phone. Samsung has come up with a clever and attractive way of offsetting the camera bump and preventing it from touching the surfaces too much. They’ve wrapped the edge of the device over to the edge of the camera housing. This strong accent is probably one thing that makes the phone look different this year. The other two models, S21 and S21+, have other colours and dual-tone looks that make them less likely to be confused with any previous Samsung flagship.

Exynos 2100

In India, the S21 Ultra is running on Samsung’s new chip, the Exynos 2100. This is unlikely to bring a lot of cheer cheer to tech savvy users, who have been most annoyed at not having the newest Snapdragon on their phones. Snapdragon is said to ensure better performance, efficiency and better battery life.

Then again, I suspect there’ll be fewer complaints with the five nanometer Exynos. It’s supposed to amp up power efficiency by up to 20 percent and performance by 10 per cent. Its ARM Mali-G78 GPU is supposed to lead to 40 per cent better graphics performance. We’ll soon see if reviews bear that out. The India variant reviewers are looking at has 12GB RAM and 256 UFS 3.1 storage. It is working with the Android 11 OS and Samsung’s OneUI 3.1. This is of course a 5G phone.

Battery power

Of the three phones that were launched, the S21 Ultra has the largest battery at 5,000mAh with 25W fast charging and 15W wireless charging. The box that it comes in is surprisingly slim until you remember and realise there’s no charging adaptor to take up space.

Extras disappear

Apple had started this not-so-convincing trend of ‘reducing’ e-waste this way. So, after trolling Apple for not including the charger, Samsung has done exactly the same thing. There’s a sudden disappearance of extras in this way, else one might have seen the inclusion of the S-Pen, which the S21 Ultra supports, as well as some kind of protective case. There’s no external memory card slot on this phone and no 3.5 mm headphone jack either.

The camera

The 6.8 inch QHD AMOLED display has only a tiny hole for the front camera. The screen has an adaptive refresh rate that automatically switches though a range of 10Hz to 120Hz

The absolute crowning glory of the S21 Ultra promises to be the set of cameras it comes with. The primary HM2 lens is a 108MP. It has a 12MP ultra wide companion lens and two separate 10MP telephoto cameras with 3X and 10X periscope zoom and digitally goes up to 100X zoom. The front camera is a 40MP. The app supports the cameras with some interesting new features that need checking out, meant for videographers and photographers.


The S21 Ultra costs Rs Rs 1,16,999 for 16GB RAM + 512GB and Rs 1,05,999 for 12GB RAM + 256GB.

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Published on January 17, 2021
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