Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely evaluate: the brand new king of Android telephones | Samsung


The Galaxy S21 Extremely is Samsung’s new superphone for 2021 – and comes out firmly as the very best of its kind, with a worth to match.

Outfitted with a brand new extra highly effective digicam system – with not one however two optical zoom lenses on the again for an enormous 10x optical zoom – it prices from £1,149 and leads Samsung’s 2021 cell line, which additionally contains the smaller and cheaper £769 S21 and £949 S21+.

The Galaxy S21 Extremely appears broadly the identical as its predecessors – all-screen on the entrance, aluminium sides and a glass again. Essentially the most distinctive change is a big digicam lump mixing into the aspect.

samsung galaxy s21 ultra review
The frosted glass on the again hides fingerprints however feels silky easy to the contact. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The 6.8in display is marginally smaller than the Notice 20 Extremely and S20 Extremely from final yr, however is crisp, color wealthy and tremendous brilliant. In order for you big-screen leisure in your pocket it delivers whereas its 120Hz refresh charge (double that on an iPhone) makes scrolling by way of feeds tremendous easy.

The S21 Extremely is a really giant and comparatively heavy outsized telephone placing it in competitors with the Notice 20 Extremely and iPhone 12 Professional Max. I might nearly use it with one hand, however most will want two arms to make use of it safely with out utilizing some type of telephone grip.

samsung galaxy s21 ultra review
Qualcomm’s second-generation ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensor is a dramatic enchancment. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian


  • Foremost display: 6.8in QHD+ Dynamic Amoled 2X (515ppi) 120Hz

  • Processor: Samsung Exynos 2100 (EU) or Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 (US)

  • RAM: 12 or 16GB of RAM

  • Storage: 128, 256 or 512GB

  • Working system: One UI 3.1 based mostly on Android 11

  • Digital camera: Quad rear digicam: 108MP extensive, 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP 3x and 10MP 10x telephoto, laser autofocus; 40MP front-facing digicam

  • Connectivity: 5G, twin nano sim, USB-C, wifi 6E, NFC, Bluetooth 5, UWB and placement

  • Water resistance: IP68 (1.5m for 30 minutes)

  • Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm

  • Weight: 227g

35 hours of battery life

samsung galaxy s21 ultra review
The telephone ships with only a USB-C cable but it surely helps super-fast charging, hitting 80% in 47 minutes and a full cost in simply over 70 minutes utilizing a 25W or larger USB PD 3.0 (PPS) energy adaptor. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The S21 Extremely ships with Samsung’s just-released Exynos 2100 processor in Europe (as examined) or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 within the US. Each variants include 12GB or 16GB of RAM relying on mannequin.

Efficiency was glorious all-round. The S21 Extremely feels noticeably snappier than the Notice 20 Extremely from final yr; from unlocking the telephone to launching apps, each motion occurs just a bit bit faster.

Battery life can be robust. The telephone simply outlasts a full day of heavy utilization. I get in extra of 35 hours between costs – 7am on day 1 till 6pm on day 2 – with my basic utilization, which incorporates greater than 5.5 hours of screen-on time break up between chat apps, Chrome, Gmail, Evernote, the Guardian, Spotify and lots of others, taking pictures about 15 photographs and spending about three hours on 5G, the remaining on wifi.

That’s longer than the 30-hour battery of the Notice 20 Extremely, however barely in need of the S20 Extremely from final yr and much behind the 48-hour battery of the iPhone 12 Professional Max. Altering the display from the default dynamic 120Hz refresh charge and FHD+ decision to the upper QHD+ decision decreased the battery life by a few hours.


Samsung doesn’t present an estimate of the variety of full-charge cycles the battery ought to final. Batteries in comparable gadgets can usually final for 500 cycles whereas sustaining at the least 80% of their authentic capability.

The telephone is mostly repairable and comes with a 24-month guarantee. Display screen repairs for its predecessor the S20 Extremely price £269. The battery is replaceable by authorised service centres at a value of not more than £59.

Samsung presents trade-in and recycling schemes for outdated gadgets, however the smartphone doesn’t embrace any recycled supplies. The corporate publishes annual sustainability studies however not impression assessments for particular person merchandise.

The S21 Extremely doesn’t ship with headphones or an influence adaptor within the field, only a USB-C charging cable, decreasing its carbon footprint.

One UI 3.1

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Customers now have a alternative between Samsung’s Free or Google’s Uncover for his or her information aggregator on the house display on the S21. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The S21 Extremely is without doubt one of the first smartphones to run Samsung’s newest model of Android 11 known as One UI 3.1.

It inherits a lot of the new options from Android 11 together with: separation of dialog, media and different alerts within the notifications shade; dialog bubbles; and extra privateness controls over location and different permissions.

A brand new partnership between Samsung and Google brings the search agency’s Uncover feed and Messages texting app to the S21 sequence. Varied Microsoft apps and programs for linking knowledge and apps into Home windows 10 are additionally current, which work effectively too.

There’s a little bit of app duplication, together with two completely different SMS apps each known as “Messages” – one made by Samsung and the opposite Google – however general One UI 3.1 continues to be probably the most refined and greatest closely customised variations of Android.

Samsung has pledged to assist at the least three main Android model updates and 4 years of month-to-month safety patches, which is sweet for Android gadgets, however pales as compared with Apple’s five-plus years of assist for its telephones.

Digital camera

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Samsung’s digicam app is without doubt one of the higher ones accessible and now does extra mechanically, switching to macro or night time modes relying on the scene. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The S21 Extremely is the primary Samsung smartphone to characteristic a brand new quad-camera with a 12MP ultrawide, 108MP customary extensive and never one however two 10MP telephoto cameras – one with 3x and one with 10x optical zoom.

It is without doubt one of the most adaptable digicam programs accessible, out zooming all however Huawei’s P40 Professional Plus from final yr. The principle digicam shoots superb photographs, with improved low gentle efficiency and higher processing than final yr’s S20 Extremely. The ultrawide digicam is nice in brilliant gentle, however can begin to look a bit darkish and overly sharpened in contrast with the principle digicam in decrease gentle ranges.

Each the 3x and 10x cameras produce actually good, crisp photographs even within the comparatively dim gentle of stormy climate. The 3x digicam is right for zooming in on individuals and different objects a number of metres away, whereas the 10x magnification lets you meaningfully shut the gap to topics considerably additional away.

The digicam system can even easily zoom from 1x to 10x magnification utilizing hybrid and optical zoom from a mixture of the cameras with spectacular outcomes.

Above 10x magnification, Samsung’s “Area Zoom” system applies a digital zoom to the 10x telephoto digicam. Pictures shot as much as 30x are superb certainly. Carrying on as much as the 100x most zoom the photographs are clearly artificially enlarged, however are nonetheless a marked enchancment from the 100x zoom on Samsung’s earlier prime smartphones. A brand new “zoom lock” system helps stabilise your shaking arms at 30x or above. Faucet a small preview window and the telephone locks in on that patch of the picture usually turning a blurry mess right into a surprisingly sharp picture.

samsung galaxy s21 ultra review
The modules on the again are as follows: 12MP ultrawide within the prime left, 108MP fundamental left center, 10MP 10x telephoto backside left, laser autofocus prime proper and 10MP 3x telephoto backside proper. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Samsung’s night time and portrait modes are additionally improved. A brand new macro mode Samsung calls “focus enhancer” makes use of the ultrawide digicam to supply some actually sharp and good photographs too. The only take characteristic, which captures movies, photographs and produces animations is nice enjoyable and is now sooner and smarter. The 40-megapixel selfie digicam is without doubt one of the greatest accessible too.

The cameras additionally shoot glorious video as much as 8K with a spread of helpful instruments resembling a “director view”, which reveals you the view from three of the rear and the selfie digicam without delay. Samsung continues to guide Android rivals on video.


samsung galaxy s21 ultra review
The 40-megapixel selfie digicam pokes by way of a small gap within the prime of the display, just under the hidden earpiece speaker. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • Name high quality was actually good each usually and on speaker.

  • Focus enhancer sometimes triggered when simply attempting to shoot utilizing the principle digicam, leading to overly sharpened photographs.

  • The three preview thumbnails in administrators view are simulated from the ultrawide digicam, however the principle view switches to the suitable digicam when chosen.

  • The S21 Extremely helps Samsung’s S Pen stylus just like the Notice 20 Extremely which may be purchased as an non-obligatory further.


The Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely prices £1,149 with 128GB of storage, £1,199 with 256GB or £1,329 with 512GB and 16GB of RAM, transport on the 28 January.

For comparability, the Galaxy S21 prices £769, the Galaxy S21+ prices £949, the Galaxy Notice 20 Extremely prices £1,179, the Galaxy Z Flip prices £1,300, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 prices £1,799; the OnePlus 8 Professional prices £799 and the Apple iPhone 12 Professional Max prices £1,099.


The Galaxy S21 Extremely is Samsung’s newest large, heavy and costly superphone that makes significant enhancements to each the digicam and basic usability.

All the standard top-quality components are there. The display is beautiful, efficiency is sweet, battery life is great and the software program is the newest accessible. However it’s the a lot improved fingerprint scanner that makes the largest distinction to day-to-day utilization – it’s quick, correct and responsive in a approach Samsung’s earlier efforts simply weren’t.

The brand new dual-telephoto digicam system can be a marked enchancment, offering a stage of flexibility and optical zoom that you just simply can’t get with different mainstream rivals.

Samsung supplies at the least three years of main software program updates, which matches the very best of Android rivals however lags behind Apple’s 5 years of iOS updates.

In order for you the very best Android superphone the Galaxy S21 Extremely is it and can take some beating this yr.

Professionals: large 120Hz display, 5G, nice and versatile digicam, 3x and 10x optical zoom, twin sim, One UI, wi-fi charging and powershare, good efficiency, lengthy battery, quick fingerprint scanner.

Cons: enormous, heavy, very costly, no headphone socket, solely three-plus years of software program updates.

samsung galaxy s21 ultra review
The digicam lump is now built-in into the aspect of the system, which can make becoming a protecting case barely more durable or bulkier. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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