The S21 Ultra is the first S series model to support the S Pen for all your doodling needs. — Photos: Samsung If only one word could be used to describe the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, then it would be “refined”. Instead of just chasing megapixels and processor clock cycles, Samsung has found nifty new ways to put every tech it has managed to cram into the phone to great use, making it a polished product built in line with the user’s needs. Even in terms of design, the S21 Ultra’s protruding camera block, an eyesore for many other phones, blends in with the design to give it a sleek finish. The phone comes in two colours – Phantom Silver and Phantom Black – the former eye-catching, while the latter more interesting because of its matte finish. The matte finish would be my pick if one is planning to forgo a case, as it feels nice to the touch and is not a fingerprint magnet.The matte black finish is nice to the touch and, more importantly, is not a fingerprint magnet. Talking about fingerprints, the S21 Ultra boasts a much larger and faster fingerprint sensor on the front. During the review, it hardly failed to recognise my fingerprint and was super quick. Then there is the screen. At 120GHz, scrolling and playing games can’t get any smoother, and it’s supported at Quad HD+ (3,200 x 1,440 pixels) resolution unlike previous iterations or other models in the S21 range. The S21 Ultra is also the first S series phone to support the much-coveted S Pen stylus, which has been exclusive to Samsung’s Galaxy Note range, the company’s other flagship series, until now. So if you already own a Note smartphone, you can use its S Pen to doodle and draw on the screen, or opt to buy the upcoming souped-up stylus which will be bigger, and dare I say, mightier. Play all the angles The highlight of the S21 Ultra is its back cameras – a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera, 108-megapixel wide-angle camera and dual 10-megapixel telephoto cameras, one with 3x optical zoom and the other with 10x. I am not sure if you have ever been an Instagram spouse and can empathise but as a self-proclaimed terrible photographer, taking photos has always been a challenge for me.The upgraded Single Take feature is a boon for bad photographers like this reviewer. Here is where the upgraded Single Take feature comes in handy – the S21 Ultra now takes up to 10 shots in a second (up from two in the last gen) and then presents only the best photos based on aesthetics, including facial expression and composition. It really beats having to tell your model to stay still while you snap multiple photos manually. You are also given a monochrome photo in the selection which looks pretty arty. Video too inherits this feature, making use of the phone’s sizable 6.8in screen to present you in real-time the view from all the lenses – the ultra-wide and wide angle lenses, and the telephoto lens – as well as the front 40-megapixel selfie camera. You can quickly switch to any of the lenses with a single tap, without having to hazard a guess as to how your video will change when you switch cameras. Whether you use these features or not, the S21 Ultra is a big improvement over the last generation, as it takes photos that are detailed, more vibrant and flush with colour. Low-light photography has also been improved and the laser focus makes snapping photos a quick affair.The Director Mode allows you to see how a video will look from all the lenses, including the front, simultaneously. You get two telephoto lenses – 3x and 10x optical. Zooming into faraway objects never looked better as there is little to no degradation within this range. You can stretch it with digital zoom, especially if there is sufficient natural light, but going beyond 30x risks making the picture grainy. S Class All in all, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is a great phone both in terms of hardware (it boasts a souped up Exynos 2100 processor, for instance) and software (it runs on the latest One UI user interface which is the most polished yet). There are, of course, minor niggles – Samsung has not bundled a charger (though a cable is included) or wired earphones in a move to go green, and this is a trend that will be widely adopted by other Android makers this year.The S21 Ultra has the best screen yet and at 120GHz, scrolling and gaming feels smooth. While you may have a spare charger, you may not have USB-C earphones, in which case a wireless model is your best bet, as it will work with any phone, now or in the future. But you do get a bigger battery – 5,000mAh – which charges up to 50% in about half an hour. I never felt in danger of the battery going flat even when I used the phone extensively day and night. The company has also done away with external storage, so if you are into shooting 8K videos – you’ll notice another vast improvement here – then you may want to opt for the 512GB model. Otherwise the phone surpasses expectations and is possibly the best Android model in the market right now. It is, however, by no means cheap. If price is an obstacle, then check out the S21 Ultra’s more affordable siblings – the S21 or S21+, both of which also support 5G. GALAXY S21 ULTRA 5G (Samsung) Android 11 smartphone PROCESSOR: Octa-core Exynos 2100 processor MEMORY: 256GB storage and 12GB RAM or 512GB storage and 16GB RAM CAMERA: Back – 12-megapixel ultra-wide, 108-megapixel wide, 10-megapixel telefoto (3x optical zoom), 10-megapixel telephoto (10x optical); front – 40-megapixel camera DISPLAY: 6.8in QHD+ (3,200 x 1,440 pixels) BATTERY: 5,000mAh RATING: 4 out of 5 stars PRICE: RM5,299 (256GB model); RM5,899 (512GB)
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