Like its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S21 comes in three versions: S21, S21 + and S21 Ultra. Many similarities, but some important differences make the right choice difficult. We help with the decision.
Samsung’s S series traditionally offers the best the manufacturer has to offer for the first half of the year at the beginning of the year. The grade series then sets the bar a little higher in the second half. Despite the corona pandemic, Samsung is even a little earlier than last year in 2021 and presented its new S21 models in January; they will be available from January 29th. The S-Class is again available in three versions: S21, S21 + and S21 Ultra. Visually, they differ primarily in size, and the models also have a lot in common – so why spend a lot more money on the Ultra when the S21 can do almost the same thing without adding a name? The emphasis is on “almost”, because the differences are partly in the not so unimportant detail. We reveal
Visually, there is the biggest change in the camera compared to its predecessor. In each of the three models, it is now integrated in a frame which – apart from the black version – is contrasting in color and thus stands out. In addition, it now also extends around the edges of the upper left corner of the smartphone up to the frame and therefore looks better integrated than its predecessor, despite clearly protruding from the back.
The back made of glass is matt in all models and color variations, so fingerprints and other soiling are hardly visible. The front of all models is dominated by the display with a narrow bezel, the front camera peeps through a punchhole notch, as with the predecessors. While the screen on the S21 is only slightly rounded at the edges (2.5D glass), Samsung uses the usual strongly curved edges for the S21 + and S21 Ultra, i.e. an edge display.
There are only minor differences in the larger version compared to the previous year. The S21 and S21 + are about the same length, but slightly wider, while the Ultra model is slightly shorter and narrower. As in the previous year, differences between the Plus and Ultra models are small. All three models gain weight, the plus model is pretty much in the middle at 200 grams. All three models have IP 68 certification; the Ultra is the most cautious when it comes to color selection. Here there is only silver and black, with the S21 + there is also violet and the S21 is available in gray instead of black and white instead of silver, also in pink and violet. If you order directly from the Samsung online shop, you can also choose gold or red as the color for the S21 +, and for the Ultra you can also choose from titanium (light gray), navy (blue gray) and brown.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 comes to the customer with the smallest display, so the model is generally the handiest. Here the screen measures 6.2 inches. The display of the S21 + is significantly larger but hardly smaller than the screen of the Ultra model with its 6.8 inches. Here the panel measures an impressive 6.7 inches, the resolution is as with the S21 at 2400 × 1080 pixels and thus below the resolution of the previous models. Because before that was 3200 × 1440 pixels for all three models, with the S21 models this flood of pixels is only reserved for the Ultra model. That shouldn’t bother the “small” S21, after all, the model still has an image sharpness of 420 ppi (pixels per inch). The significantly larger plus is just under 400 ppi, which could deter potential buyers because on paper it doesn’t really go with high-end. Very few users should be able to see a real difference.
The display type is the same for all three models. Samsung relies on its Dynamic AMOLED 2X, an OLED panel with, particularly high brightness. Samsung puts the S21 and S21 + at an impressive 1300 cd / m², with the Ultra model it should even be up to 1500 candelas. That raises the bar again for smartphone displays. Further advantages such as high contrasts, rich colors, and optimal viewing angle stability should also be set. With a flagship model like the S21, higher screen refresh rates should of course not be missing. The S21 and S21 + regulate them independently from 60 to 120 Hertz, the S21 Ultra from 10 to 120 Hertz.
In addition, the Ultra model understands input with a stylus. As with the Note models, Samsung has again worked with digitizer specialist Wacom. In contrast to models such as the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (test report) , the S-Pen is not included in the scope of delivery of the S21 Ultra and cannot be stowed in the device. Instead, there is a special case for the S model that allows the pen to be transported. Software features such as the Eye Comfort Shield blue light filter are available on all three S21 models.
There is also a kind of dichotomy with the camera: S21 and S21 + get one feature, the Ultra a better one. In the case of the former models, this is a triple cam consisting of a 12-megapixel main lens (aperture f / 1.8) and optical image stabilizer (OIS), 12-megapixel wide-angle (f / 2.2), and a telephoto lens with 64 megapixels (f / 2.0 ) and OIS. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, has four cameras: the main lens with 108 megapixels, f / 1.8 and OIS, wide-angle with 12 megapixels and f / 2.2, a telephoto lens with 10 megapixels and f 2.4 and another telephoto lens with 10 megapixels with f / 4.9. The two telephoto lenses offer 3 and 10 times optical zoom; instead of phase detection autofocus, the Ultra model uses laser autofocus. While the digital zoom on the S21 and S21 + is limited to 30x magnification, creates the ultra 100x zoom. All three models record 8K videos, the Ultra also manages 4K / 60. On the software side, all three models are set up in the same way, for example, there is Directors Mode, in which the user can see all lenses live and select the one they want. This also works (additionally) with the front camera.
On paper, the S21 Ultra is clearly ahead of its cheaper sibling models in terms of the camera, but in everyday life, this will first have to be proven in a test. The situation was similar for the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (comparison), which was released at the end of 2020, but most users are unlikely to have had any differences to the significantly more expensive S20 models.
The most noticeable difference to the previous models is the use of the new Exynos-2100 as a chipset. It is said to be more energy-efficient and stronger than its direct competitor Snapdragon 888, which is also built using the 5-nanometer process. With that, the demands of European Samsung fans to finally stop using the “weaker” Exynos chips instead of Qualcomm chips as in the US, should be off the table – if Samsung’s promises are true.
Samsung has apparently achieved improvements in performance and efficiency by not using its own CPU designs as before, but rather hardly any changed ARM reference designs. The strongest core of the octa-core chipset is now a Cortex X1 with up to 2.9 GHz clock frequency, plus three A78 cores with up to 2.8 GHz and four A55 cores with up to 2, 2 GHz. Samsung uses a Mali G-78 MP 14 as the graphics unit. Compared to the Mali G-77 MP11 in the previous chip, it should be up to 40 percent stronger.