This is why the Galaxy S21 Extremely beats Samsung’s older Galaxy Observe 20 Extremely


Samsung’s made selecting a premium cellphone tougher than ever with the Galaxy S21 Extremely and the Galaxy Observe 20 Extremely, two equally priced telephones with comparable specs launched inside six months of one another. Each have S Pen help, nice zoom cameras and 120Hz refresh price screens, and on paper it is onerous to inform which one is the higher purchase. To seek out out, I used them facet by facet for 2 weeks evaluating them in 5 totally different classes: shows, design, cameras, battery and efficiency.

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The S21 is the flagship Android cellphone to beat. It has a superb, 6.8-inch show, Snapdragon’s newest 888 chip and a strong digicam with a 3x and 10x optical zoom. It now has S Pen help just like the Galaxy Observe, however the stylus does not include the cellphone itself, and there is nowhere to place it if you happen to get one (until you purchase a particular case).

Learn our Galaxy S21 Extremely overview.


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That is the cellphone to purchase for these searching for essentially the most fluid S Pen expertise because it has low latency and Bluetooth help, so you should use gestures or management your cellphone with the stylus. And its specs are virtually as spectacular because the S21’s with a quick processor, nice cameras and 8K video recording.

Learn our Galaxy Observe 20 Extremely overview.


The S21 Extremely feels simpler to make use of one-handed

Each telephones have a curved AMOLED display, with the 6.9-inch Observe 20 Extremely simply edging out the 6.8-inch S21 Extremely by way of measurement. The S21 Extremely is the heavier of the 2 telephones, however I discovered it simpler to make use of one-handed because the digicam is balanced higher in comparison with the domino-style digicam module on the Observe 20 Extremely.

Each telephones are coated within the strongest model of Corning’s glass, Gorilla Glass Victus, however since neither survived our drop check, I might extremely advocate getting a case for them. 

Higher show choices on the S21 Extremely 

For issues like gaming, scrolling internet pages or watching movies, each shows will look unbelievable. They’ve a variable, or adaptive refresh price of as much as 120Hz, which suggests it is altering the refresh price relying on what you are doing, like the next price for gaming, or a decrease price when the cellphone is standing by. However the S21 Extremely helps the very best WQHD Plus (1440p) decision in 120Hz whereas the Observe 20 Extremely solely helps full HD (1080p) with the adaptive refresh price. To get the very best decision on the Observe 20 Extremely, you may have to drop to 60Hz or the usual refresh price.

S21 Ultra vs. Note 20 Ultra

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Each telephones even have a fingerprint reader hidden beneath the show, and whereas I did not discover that a lot distinction between the 2, anecdotally the S21 Extremely’s sensor felt quicker to authenticate and unlock the cellphone.

The S21 Extremely takes the digicam crown 

The S21 Extremely takes the already super-close zoom on the Observe to the following stage with two telephoto cameras: One that may optically zoom to 3x and the opposite 10x, providing extra flexibility for photographers who wish to get nearer to the topic with out bodily transferring nearer. The Observe 20 Extremely, in contrast, has just one telephoto digicam with a 5x optical zoom.

I additionally observed that Samsung has improved the picture processing of zoom images taken utilizing hybrid (optical and digital) zoom, which is something past the attain of the telephoto digicam. Wanting on the identical 50x photograph taken on each telephones, the S21 Extremely’s picture is clearer and retains extra element in comparison with the Observe 20 Extremely. You may stand up to 100x on the S21 Extremely, however I by no means discovered myself utilizing this excessive zoom as a result of the picture seems fairly mushy.


A comparability of 50x hybrid zoom on the S21 Extremely (left) and Observe 20 Extremely (proper).

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Normal images of landscapes and surroundings look nice on each telephones and I could not actually inform them aside. The primary wide-angle digicam makes use of a 108-megapixel sensor on each telephones which is beneficial for cropping after the actual fact, or making actually massive prints, however I discovered the common 12-megapixel images have been nice as nicely. Each telephones use a way referred to as “pixel binning” on these common pictures that helps to retain plenty of element and good dynamic vary.

S21 Ultra vs. Note 20 Ultra camera

The S21 Extremely is on the left and the Observe 10 Extremely is on the precise. Spot the distinction?

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In low mild, I favor the S21 Extremely, though evening mode pictures look extra processed with larger distinction and fewer noise than images taken on the Observe 20 Extremely in the identical mild. Video high quality is nice on each, particularly when filming at 4K. To my eye, the dynamic vary is a contact broader on the newer cellphone, however I might be very proud of both. The S21 Extremely has a bonus in that it will possibly movie on the telephoto digicam at 4K/60, whereas the Observe 20 Extremely can solely use digital zoom at this decision and body price. Each telephones movie in 8K at 24fps. You may see many extra photograph and video samples within the video on this web page.

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Galaxy S21 Ultra vs. Note 20 Ultra


S Pen is better on the Note 20 Ultra

Many fans of the Galaxy Note series may have been concerned when they saw the S21 Ultra would support the S Pen, because it could potentially signal the end of the Note family of phones. 

The S21 Ultra may be the first non-Note phone with stylus support, but the S Pen doesn’t do quite as much as it can on the Note 20 Ultra, at least not just yet.

Both phones let you draw on the screen, take notes, annotate screenshots, convert handwriting to text or straighten your handwriting in the Samsung Notes app. The S Pen on the Note 20 Ultra also has Bluetooth support, which lets you use air gestures to open the camera or take photos remotely, to name just a few examples. The phone can also ping you if you leave the S Pen behind somewhere. And the Note can also store the S Pen inside the phone, unlike the S21 Ultra — you can buy a separate case with a storage slot for the stylus, but if you’re anything like me, you’d still lose the S Pen regardless of the case.

S21 Ultra vs. Note 20 Ultra

Lexy Savvides/CNET

I couldn’t notice much of a difference in terms of the performance of the S Pen when using it on the two phones side by side, but artists may be able to tell the difference, thanks to the 9ms latency on the Note 20 Ultra. Samsung will release an S Pen Pro later in 2021 that offers Bluetooth support to bring it more in line with the functionality on the Note. 

Note 20 Ultra: Smaller battery, slightly longer life 

The S21 Ultra has a 5,000-mAh battery compared to 4,500 mAh on the Note 20 Ultra, but a larger capacity battery doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get more juice out of the phone. Usage patterns, 5G connectivity, processing power and display brightness all play a part in overall battery life; I didn’t see a huge difference in battery life between the two phones. 

Both phones made it comfortably through a full day of use with juice to spare. At the end of the day of heavy usage running both phones at 120Hz, the WQHD Plus screen (on the S21), filming 4K video and gaming, I was left with anywhere between 10 and 15% battery on the Note, and around 10% on the S21 Ultra. Anecdotally, I felt that the Note 20 Ultra had better standby time overall when I wasn’t using the phone. You can check out our full reviews of the S21 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra for results from our official battery test.

S21 Ultra vs. Note 20 Ultra

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The base storage level on both phones starts at 128GB with the option to go up to 512GB on both, or an intermediate 256GB tier on the S21 Ultra, but only the Note 20 has the option to expand with a microSD slot. The S21 Ultra also misses out on the charger in the box, as well as MST support in Samsung Pay. 

Depending on where you live, you’ll either get a Snapdragon or Samsung’s own Exynos processor. I’ve only tested the Snapdragon 888 on the S21 Ultra and 865 Plus on the Note 20 Ultra, so can’t comment on Exynos performance, but both phones never left me wanting when it came to trimming 8K videos, gaming or running a myriad of apps at a time.

The Galaxy S21 wins, but not by much

In the end, I found that these phones share so many of the same features that it doesn’t make sense to upgrade from the Note 20 Ultra to the S21 Ultra if you already have the (slightly) older phone. But improvements in the camera, S Pen support and a more balanced one-handed feel was enough to sway me to choose the S21 Ultra if I was looking for the best overall Galaxy experience.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs. Note 20 Ultra specs

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Display size, resolution 6.8-inch AMOLED 2X, 3,200×1,440 pixels 6.9-inch; 3,088×1,440 pixels
Pixel density 515 ppi 496 ppi
Dimensions (inches) 2.97×6.5×0.35 in. 6.49×3.04×0.31 in.
Dimensions (millimeters) 75.6×165.1×8.9mm 164.8×77.2×8.1mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 8.07 oz.; 229g 7.33 oz., 208g
Mobile software Android 11 Android 11
Camera 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 10-megapixel (3x telephoto), 10-megapixel (10x telephoto) 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)
Front-facing camera 40-megapixel 10-megapixel
Video capture 8K 8K
Processor Snapdragon 888 Snapdragon 865 Plus
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB
RAM 12GB, 16GB 12GB
Expandable storage No Up to 1TB
Battery 5,000 mAh 4,500 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen
Headphone jack No No
Special features IP68 rating, 5G-enabled, 100x Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging, 10x optical zoom 120Hz screen refresh rate, 5x optical zoom, 120Hz display; UWB sharing, S Pen stylus; 5G connectivity; Wireless PowerShare; water resistant (IP68)
Price off-contract (USD) $1,200 (128GB), $1,250 (256GB), $1,380 (512GB) $1,300 (128GB), $1,450 (512GB)
Price (GBP) £1,149 (128GB), £1,199 (256GB), £1,329 (512GB) £1,179
Price (AUD) AU$1,849 (128GB), AU$1,949 (256GB), AU$2,149 (512GB) AU$1,849 (4G) and $AU$1,999 (5G)


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