Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Vs S20 Ultra: Now that the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is finally available, how does it compare to last year’s Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra?
Should you save some money and go for the S20 Ultra instead?
And is it worth upgrading from the S20 Ultra to the S21 Ultra?
And we’ll be trying to answer all of these things in this video by putting all the key differences side-by-side SuperSaf Style.
So the first thing I want to say is that pretty much everything that I criticize the S20 Ultra last year has been improved on the S21 Ultra.
It’s almost like somebody from Samsung was watching my review and going through all of the points one by one.
I’m kidding, obviously.
Lots of people also had a lot of feedback on the S20 Ultra, but I’m really happy to see a lot of these things have been implemented.
But there are actually a few things missing on the S21 Ultra that we have on the S20 Ultra.
Now, the first thing I want to look at is the overall design.
I’ve said before that the S20 Ultra does look a little bit bland.
It’s available in this gray, black, and then there was a white later on, but it’s pretty flat and plain.
Nothing really stands out.
The S21 Ultra in my opinion looks really, really good.
I really like the updated camera module which now blends into the side.
There’s really nothing else out there that looks like this.
And Samsung has gone for a matte finish on the back this year, compared to the glossy finish that we had last year.
The glossy finish attracts lots of fingerprints.
The matte finish just looks sleeker, in my opinion.
I absolutely love this phantom black.
There’s also a phantom silver version available and there are additional colors exclusively available from Samsung as well.
So there’s really something for everybody.
We do have IP68 water and dust resistance on both devices and they are roughly about the same size.
The S21 Ultra does weigh a little bit more but it is a little bit smaller overall.
One of the reasons for that is because it’s got a slightly smaller 6.8-inch display versus the 6.9 inches on the S20 Ultra.
And we’ve got Samsung’s Infinity-O design with the punchouts and small bezels.
The bezels I would say are roughly about the same on both devices.
Now the displays do share a lot of similarities.
We do have a dynamic AMOLED technology with a quad HD resolution on up to a 120-hertz refresh rate.
However, there are lots of improvements to the S21 Ultra.
Firstly, the S20 Ultra, although you can have up to 120 hertz, when you are at 120 hertz you can only be at full HD resolution.
On the S21 Ultra, you can have the maximum sharpness with maximum smoothness.
I’m totally copywriting that line.
One of the reasons why Samsung is being able to implement this on the S21 Ultra is because it’s got an LTPO display that supports an adaptive refresh rate.
You can go all the way down to 10 hertz and all the way up to 120 hertz, depending on what you’re viewing on screen.
So right now the screen is completely static.
There is no need for it to be 120 hertz.
This really helps in saving battery life.
Now, this is a new technology, which is not available on the S20 Ultra.
The S21 Ultra also has a brighter display.
I believe this is the brightest smartphone display out there.
If you’re somebody like me who wears sunglasses a lot and uses your smartphone outdoors you’re really going to appreciate this.
And the S21 Ultra also has Gorilla Glass Victus.
We’ve got Gorilla Glass six on the S20 Ultra.
Gorilla Glass Victus is just a lot more durable.
I’m not somebody who does drop tests but we have seen some drop tests of the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra which was the first device with Gorilla Glass Victus on.
It does perform very, very well.
Now, this is not to say that the S20 Ultra has a bad display by any means.
It’s actually a very, very good display.
It’s just that the S21 Ultra is better.
And I would say it’s actually the best display on any smartphone right now.
Now both displays do have a slight curve on the edges.
It’s nothing too significant.
And both devices also have an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner.
But the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra does have Qualcomm’s latest 3D Sonic Sensor, gen two.
We’ve got the gen one on the S20 Ultra.
The gen two scanners are around 77% larger and around 50% faster.
Now it’s really difficult to show this on camera but I have noticed generally that there are fewer failures on the S21 Ultra compared
to the S20 Ultra.
Now let’s move on to the cameras.
And I’m pleased to say that Samsung has made lots of improvements to the S21 Ultra cameras compared to last year’s S20 Ultra.
So we’ve got ultra-wide primary and telephoto cameras but on the S20 Ultra, we have a single telephoto camera with four times optical zoom.
On the S21 Ultra, we have two optical zoom cameras.
One is at three times, and the other is at 10 times.
We also have a laser autofocus sensor on the S21 Ultra.
And this is something that we didn’t have on the S20 Ultra which did give some focusing problems.
Now, granted Samsung did introduce lots of software updates to improve the autofocus on the S20 Ultra.
However, it was never absolutely perfect.
The S21 Ultra with its laser autofocus sensor completely solves any focusing issues.
Now let’s take a look at some samples.
Firstly, the ultra-wide camera.
I think both actually do a really good job.
I wasn’t too pleased with the S20 Ultra ultra-wide shots when it initially came out.
But again, these have been improved with software.
The S21 Ultra does have a better dynamic range.
Although I have found in certain situations it can really boost the shadows which do result in some processing.
I’m confident that Samsung can improve this with software updates, but one of the key things that we’ve got on the ultra-wide camera of the S21 Ultra is the fact that it’s got dual pixel autofocus and this allows it to refocus for macro shots.
This is something that I really like about the S21 Ultra.
You can get some really cool-looking shots with that macro camera.
Moving on to the primary cameras.
We do have a 108-megapixel camera on both devices.
However, the sensor on the S21 Ultra has been improved to a newer version.
And in good light, I think both actually do a really good job, overall.
You can notice that the S21 Ultra does have a better dynamic range.
But one area where you will definitely notice the difference is in low light.
Take a look at this example, the S21 Ultra just giving you a much brighter, sharper, and cleaner image.
Now, one of the issues that you do face with a large sensor size on a smartphone that I’ve gone into length in many other videos is that you do have a very small plane of focus.
And that means things can get out of focus very quickly especially if you are close up.
So take a look at this picture.
The leaf looks absolutely great.
We’ve got a nice shallow depth of field but if you do start looking towards the edges of the leaf then things are starting to get out of focus on both devices.
Now, Samsung has actually listened once again and given us an option to solve this which is called focus in handsome mode.
So if you do get closer than around 30 centimeters to a subject, then this is automatically going to kick in which uses the ultra-wide camera to keep more things in focus.
And as you can see, it definitely does deliver.
Now, granted, the images won’t look as flattering as you have with the shallow depth of field but in certain situations, it can be very, very useful and you can switch it on and off as you please.
Now, the S20 Ultra actually has a great zoom.
However, the fact that Samsung plastered 100X space zoom on the camera module itself really took away from how good the zoom was at around 10 times, which is generally what I would use it for a maximum.
Again, Samsung has listened to us and there is nothing like this on the S21 Ultra.
And if you take a look at some examples.
Here, you can see that when we are at three times on the S21 Ultra and when we were at four times on the S20 Ultra results are super crisp.
We can go 10 times, and here we’ll start noticing the advantage of the optical zoom on the S21 Ultra, especially in the areas of the grass.
Things are sharper.
The S20 Ultra is still doing very good but really when you start noticing the differences are at the more extreme zoom levels.
So here is an example of 30 times.
The S21 Ultra, definitely giving you a much cleaner result.
And then we can go all the way up to 100 times.
Again, the S21 Ultra because it is using that 10 times the optical zoom is giving you much, much more detail.
Now I’ve said this many times before and I’m going to say it yet again how many times are people going to use 100 times zoom?
Yes, if there’s a sign that you want to see the distance, maybe you use it, but generally speaking the three times and the 10 times are absolutely great.
And I’m glad that Samsung hasn’t plastered this all over the camera module.
So the attention doesn’t actually go to it.
The attention stays on the fact that three times, 10 times, even up to 30 times is very, very good.
For selfies, we’ve got a 14-megapixel camera on both devices.
Although generally, you will be shooting at around 10 megapixels.
And again, Samsung has listened.
I have complained about this for many years.
Samsung devices tend to really brighten up your face which I’m not a fan of because it does make me look quite fair.
I’m proud of my brown color.
Well, with the S21 Ultra you can actually switch between natural or bright selfies.
It gives you the option.
Of course, I selected natural and yes skin tones are definitely much more natural compared to what they were on the S20 Ultra.
Looking at my skin, there’s definitely some smoothing going on on the S20 Ultra, even though everything is set off to complete zero, but I have noticed that results on the selfie camera of the S21 Ultra are a little bit soft.
You’ll notice in this example that the S20 Ultra does give you sharper results.
Also, although skin tones are better on the S21 Ultra, if you look at my jacket, the color is more accurate on the S20 Ultra.
Now, these are things once again, I’m confident that Samsung can improve with software updates.
Overall, I’m very, very pleased with the improvement Samsung has brought over to the S21 Ultra compared to the S20 Ultra.
Let’s now talk about video.
So we do have 8K at up to 24 frames a second on both devices but with the S21 Ultra, you can format 4K 60 frames a second from all of the cameras.
On the S20 Ultra, you can only do 4K 60 from either the primary camera or the front-facing camera.
Video quality is actually really good on both.
The S21 Ultra does come with some new software features.
So we do have single take 2.0 where it will be taking lots of videos and images from all the different cameras and then compiling them.
And we’ve also got the director’s view, which lets you preview the different lenses when you are filming.
This is something that you don’t have on the S20 Ultra.
One of the reasons for that is the newer internals on the S21 Ultra.
Now let’s talk about this.
We do have the Exynos versus Qualcomm battle once again.
Depending on your region you will be getting different versions of this.
So the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra either comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset or Samsung’s Exynos 990.
Now I’ve gone on about this in a lot of detail in my full review of the S20 Ultra which I will link in the cards under the description.
But in a nutshell, the Qualcomm version was just better in terms of performance and battery life, compared to the Exynos version.
With the S21 Ultra, you have either the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or the Exynos 2100.
Now Samsung has actually brought lots of improvements to 2100.
And in my usage so far, it has been very, very fast.
Unfortunately, I do not have the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 version of the S21 has yet.
However, it is on order and it will be coming very soon.
And I will do more of an extensive review of the S21 Ultra with both chipsets.
If you do want to see that video first then be sure to subscribe and hit that bell icon.
Now, the S20 Ultra although the performance is pretty good overall, the S21 Ultra being the new device
with the new internals is just going to be better.
We’re looking at around 25% improved CPU performance and around 35% improved GPU performance.
Now in the day-to-day, you might not notice it hugely but one of the things I always say is lifespan.
If you do get the S21 Ultra is just going to last you that much longer compared to the S20 Ultra.
And another thing to keep in mind as well is software.
Right now, both devices do have Android 11 with one UI but the S21 Ultra being the newer device will be getting software
updates longer compared to the S20 Ultra.
Another thing that will go towards the improvement of performance on the S21 Ultra is the fact that it’s got UFS 3.1 storage
versus UFS 3.0 storage.
And for storage options, we actually have the same 128, 256, as well as 512-gigabyte variants available.
But the S21 Ultra no longer has a micro SD card slot.
The S20 Ultra does.
So you can expand the storage on the S20 Ultra by quite a significant amount, almost up to 1.5 terabytes.
If you do go for the 512-gigabyte version this is something you will not be able to do on the S21 Ultra.
And if a micro SD card is important to you then obviously this is going to be something that you’ll be very disappointed to hear about the S21 Ultra.
Now let’s move on to the batteries.
So we actually have the same size batteries on both devices.
However, the S21 Ultra being the newer device does have the more efficient five anatomies to chipsets compared to that on the S20 Ultra.
And I have found that overall I am getting better battery life on the S21 Ultra so far.
I’ve only had it for just over a week, so there’s a disclaimer.
I will be covering my battery life usage after using the S21 Ultra in both variants for over a month.
So do watch out for that video.
Both devices have up to 15 watts of wireless charging and both also support reverse wireless charging, wireless power share where you can use these devices to charge others wirelessly.
However, the S20 Ultra does get a few advantages here.
Firstly, the S20 Ultra does support faster wired charging up to 45 watts.
The S21 Ultra can only do up to 25 watts of wired charging.
Also, and I guess, more importantly, the S20 Ultra does come with a 25-watt charger included out of the box.
The S21 Ultra this year does not come with a charger included, unfortunately.
I’ve gone on about this many, many times.
I think it’s something that a lot of people can definitely get over because of the likes of wireless charging and other chargers you may already have.
However, the fact that Samsung made fun of Apple for not including a charger and doing the same a few months later
I’m just not too keen on it.
But anyway, moving on both devices does have stereo speakers.
So we’ve got one speaker in the earpiece and one bomb firing.
They both sound very, very good.
And let’s talk about some of the additional features.
Firstly, the S21 Ultra does come with ultra-wideband technology, which is going to give it better connectivity.
It’s going to allow you to do things like track down your S21 Ultra even if it doesn’t have an internet connection and also do things like using your S21 Ultra as a touchless key for your car.
We’ve also got hyper-fast wifi 6E on the S21 Ultra which can give you up to four times faster wifi speeds.
Now you will need a compatible router to get up to those speeds, but this is something else that you get on the S21 ultra.
Now, one thing that you may not get on your units of your S21 Ultra, however, is MST support.
So MST allows your phone to work with the point of sale terminals that only support old-school magnetic stripe cards.
This is something that we’ve got support for across all of the S20 Ultra units but some S21 Ultra units do not have this supported.
Now, this is going to vary depending on your region and if MST support is important to you then I would recommend speaking to your retailer before making your purchase.
Now, one new thing that we’ve got this year which we’ve never had on a Galaxy S device before is S Pen support.
So you can use an S Pen with the S21 Ultra.
Now this S Pen is not included like it is with the Note series.
It is something that you’re going to have to buy separately because there is really no where to put the S Pen within the S21 Ultra you will likely have to buy it with a case unless you want to keep losing your S Pen.
Now, this is something that I think is a great addition.
I’m somebody who uses my S Pen a lot and having this feature on the S21 Ultra is definitely nice to have.
And finally, looking at the price.
So the S21 Ultra is actually coming in at a lower price compared to what the S20 came in at last year.
A little bit cheaper here in the UK but quite a bit cheaper in the US.
Now, obviously, because the S20 Ultra has been out for about a year, the price has dropped quite a bit.
I’ve just had a quick look.
And at the point of this video, it is going for around 800 pounds in the UK on Amazon and around $950 in the US.
I’ll leave some Amazon links down below.
So, based on that, let’s try to answer the question.
Should you save some money and go for the S20 Ultra instead of the S21 Ultra?
Well, in my opinion, you should go for the S21 Ultra, especially if you’re going to be pre-ordering because Samsung is currently
including the Galaxy Buds Pro, as well as a Galaxy Smart Tag.
Those both together are worth around 250 pounds making the S21 Ultra a much more compelling deal, but I guess if you are
in a bit of a budget and you’re going to be getting an even better deal on the S20 Ultra, maybe you’re going to be picking it up second hand, then it is a very good device overall although I would also recommend possibly checking out the Note 20 Ultra, which
did bring lots of improvements.
If you’ve currently got the S20 Ultra, should you upgrade to the S21 Ultra?
Well, that really comes down to you.
If you’re generally happy with the S20 Ultra I’d recommend maybe waiting until we’ve got the next version out, but if you do want the improvements of the S21 Ultra and you think they will be worth it for you then I can definitely recommend the S21 Ultra.
It’s an excellent smartphone overall.
I want to go back to the fact that Samsung really did take the feedback on board and brought us all of the improvements that we asked for.
That’s what I think anyway.
What do you guys think?
Do drop me a comment below and let me know your thoughts.
As I said, we will be doing lots more S21 Ultra coverage here on the channel, SuperSaf Style.
I hope you enjoyed this video and found it useful.