Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra or S21 Ultra; what’s the difference? | Cell

THE Samsung announced the launch of Galaxy S21 Ultra, successor to Galaxy S20 Ultra, in January 2021, ahead of the traditional schedule. The latest cell phone brings a renewed look, improvements to the screen, a 10x optical zoom camera and the long-awaited compatibility with the S Pen (albeit with some “but”). If you are in doubt about which smartphone to buy – or just want to understand what changes between generations – follow the comparison of technical data sheet that we set up below.

Galaxy S20 Ultra or Galaxy S21 Ultra

Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy S20 Ultra (Image: Vitor Pádua)

Galaxy S21 Ultra has more elegant design

In 2020, the Galaxy S line did not stand out as much in design. With solid colors and without many exciting details in the finish, the Galaxy S20 Ultra was a break of expectations in relation to what we saw with the models of the Galaxy S10 family.

Fortunately, in 2021, we have a reason again to say: “wow!”. Samsung had already agreed with the look of the Note line at the end of last year, and now brings the Galaxy S21 Ultra with greater sophistication. The camera set is in a hollow frame, and the rear has a matte coating – sober and elegant.

Galaxy S21 Ultra (image: disclosure / Samsung)

Galaxy S21 Ultra in black and silver colors (image: disclosure / Samsung)

And speaking of coating, the glass used is more resistant to scratches and accidental scratches. This is the Gorilla Glass Victus, which promises protection against falls of up to 2 meters. The specifications for water and dust resistance of the previous generation are maintained (IP68).

Moving on to dimensions, the newer smartphone is slightly smaller, although it basically maintains the same thickness. For those who no longer thought the Galaxy S20 Ultra light, the bad news is that the latest generation weighs even more.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

Galaxy S20 Ultra (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

Galaxy S20 Ultra Galaxy S21 Ultra
Dimensions 166.9 x 76 x 8.8 mm 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm
Weight 220 grams 228 grams
Colors Cosmic Black Phantom Black (black) and Phantom Silver (silver)

More economical display and improved brightness

The screen of the Galaxy S21 Ultra suffered a small reduction in size (practically imperceptible), going from 6.9 to 6.8 inches, and maintains the high level standard conserved in the last models of the line. But there are significant improvements in brightness.

According to the manufacturer, the display offers a peak of 1,500 nits, 25% more than the Galaxy S20 Ultra. The difference was noted during the practice tests of the Tecnoblog. This feature contributes to even better contrasts on the S21 Ultra’s Dynamic AMOLED display.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

Another welcome change is the variable refresh rate. The Galaxy S20 Ultra already had a 120 Hz screen, but on a continuous basis, which drained the smartphone battery quickly, if the user chose to keep the configuration active.

With the new feature, already present in the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the display varies between 10 Hz and 120 Hz to save energy when the displayed content is static and deliver greater fluidity in games or other relevant situations.

And for those who want the best of scenarios in terms of graphics, the Galaxy S21 Ultra now supports 120 Hz in maximum resolution, that is, in Quad HD + (3200 × 1440 pixels). It should be noted that the Ultra version is the only one that keeps the edges slightly curved – the S21 and S21 + adhered to the flat panel.

Performance and battery

The Brazilian Galaxy S21 Ultra uses Exynos processor, as well as the S20 Ultra. This time, we are talking about the Exynos 2100 (5 nm), octa-core model with GPU Mali-G78 MP14. It is a chip that owes little to the Snapdragon 888 used in the North American version, especially for ordinary users (who are not only interested in benchmark test numbers).

This processor is manufactured in a 5 nanometer process (against 7 nm of the Exynos 990 present in the predecessor model), and delivers greater energy efficiency – in addition to better performance. It is even difficult to compare this last point in practice, given that the S20 Ultra already had very high performance.

In terms of storage and RAM, we look like this:

Galaxy S20 Ultra Galaxy S21 Ultra
  • 128 GB
  • 512 GB
  • MicroSD input up to 1 TB
  • 256 GB
  • 512 GB
  • No microSD input
RAM memory

A negative point of the S21 Ultra noticed in the tests of the Tecnoblog is that the phone can get too hot, something not noticed in the S20 Ultra. On the other hand, even maintaining the capacity of 5,000 mAh, the battery has excellent autonomy – you can check the numbers in our review.

We can’t talk about the battery without getting into the controversy of the last few months: the lack of a charger. The Galaxy S20 Ultra, launched in early 2020, still escaped the new fashion, but, like Apple, Samsung also decided to remove the accessory from the box of the S21 Ultra to, according to the brand, contribute to environmental preservation. The attitude drew the attention of Procon-SP, which investigates the conduct of the company to find out if the action corresponds to the sale.

Cameras: better optical zoom on the Galaxy S21 Ultra

Come on, forget the exaggerated numbers of 108 MP and 100x zoom.

He forgot?

Still, the cameras in the Galaxy S line are spectacular in both generations. The Galaxy S20 Ultra had already received top marks in our review, and its successor brought even more breath to the optical zoom (which brings the image closer without great loss of quality).

With two telephoto lenses, one 3x and the other 10x, the Galaxy S21 Ultra takes you even further when photographing and exploring scenarios previously unthinkable, all with great dynamic range. And those are the big highlights in the picture compared to the predecessor – which will hardly be enough reason to make an owner of the S20 Ultra want to pay to migrate to the latest generation, but it will certainly appeal to zoom lovers.

In selfies, we continue with a 40 MP sensor that, with pixel binning, makes excellent images of 10 megapixels. In both cases, the portrait mode is not as accurate as that of the rear camera, since the front uses only software processing – but this is just a detail that shouldn’t be too much trouble.

In the videos, there is no big news: the maximum resolution is kept from 8K to 24 fps. A nice feature that came with the S21 Ultra is the Director’s View mode, which uses the front and rear camera at the same time during shooting, and also allows you to switch between three lenses at the rear.

Galaxy S20 Ultra Galaxy S21 Ultra
Back camera
  • 108 MP (f / 1.8), OIS
  • 48 MP (f / 3.5), telephoto, OIS, 10x hybrid optical zoom
  • 12 MP (f / 2.2), ultrawide
  • 0.3 megapixel depth sensor (f / 1.0)
  • 108 MP, (f / 1.8), OIS
  • 12 MP (f / 2.2), ultrawide
  • 10 MP (f / 2.4), telephoto, OIS
  • 10 MP (f / 4.9), telephoto, OIS
Frontal camera 40 MP (f / 2.2) 40 MP (f / 2.2)
Videos (main)
  • 8K @ 24 fps
  • 4K @ 30 fps or 60 fps
  • 8K @ 24 fps
  • 4K @ 30 fps or 60 fps
Videos (Selfie) 4K @ 30 fps or 60 fps 4K @ 30 fps or 60 fps

S Pen, 5G and ultra wideband (UWB)

Let’s go to what is restricted to the newest model, the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The smartphone is the first in the line to have support for the S Pen – but the integration could be better.

First of all, there is no compartment integrated with the cell phone to store the pen, and you will have to buy it separately if you are really interested. In addition, the S Pen for S21 Ultra lacks the Bluetooth capabilities of the latest Galaxy Note models. In practice, you will not be able to use the accessory to pause music or take photos from a distance.

Samsung promises a S Pen Pro with Bluetooth later this year – we’ll have to wait and see what it can deliver.

Galaxy S21 Ultra and S Pen (Image: Press Release / Samsung)

Galaxy S21 Ultra and S Pen (Image: Press Release / Samsung)

Another advantage of the S21 Ultra is the 5G (the Brazilian models of Galaxy S20 Ultra were not compatible). The technology is still very incipient in Brazil, but for those who intend to use the cell phone for some good years, it is still an asset – and rivals the iPhone 12 line, from Apple, which is also already prepared for the arrival of the fifth generation of mobile networks.

Finally, the Galaxy S21 Ultra also features an ultra wideband (UWB) chip that allows you to use the Galaxy SmartTag + and other similar products to find lost items.

Price and cost-benefit: which cell phone to choose?

Well, nobody expects low prices here, right? The Galaxy S21 Ultra went on sale in Brazil for R $ 9,499 (256 GB) and can reach R $ 10,499 (512 GB), while the Galaxy S20 Ultra can now be found in retail for around R $ 7 thousand.

So, let’s talk about choices between resources and consider some scenarios.

If you already have a Galaxy S20 Ultra: unless you have money to spare and have fallen in love with the design of the Galaxy S21 Ultra, I don’t see many reasons to migrate now. The latest model brings interesting features, but nothing that makes such a difference at the moment for most users.

If you use a recent Galaxy Note: continue with your smartphone, for now. Despite having integration with the S Pen, it is still very limited. It is worth waiting to know what Samsung intends to do in the next chapters.

If you want to upgrade from another old phone: the Galaxy S21 Ultra is an excellent smartphone and brings everything a top of the line must have, especially for those passionate about photography and for those looking for high performance for heavy tasks on an Android phone. In addition, it is better prepared for the future with 5G support. Does it fit in your budget? So, go ahead!

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