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  • (upbeat music)

  • - This is the Samsung Galaxy,

  • hold on.

  • Yeah, that's better.

  • This is the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

  • And I know what you're thinking.

  • Another year, another big Samsung phone, am I right?

  • Well, actually, no, this year's first big Samsung phone

  • is the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

  • And it's different because this is our third Ultra phone.

  • There was the S20 Ultra the Note 20 Ultra and now this.

  • And three iterations means that Samsung

  • has had time to work out all of the kinks.

  • Now in Samsung world Ultra

  • means that it should be the biggest and best version

  • that you can get.

  • And last year, the original S 20 Ultra

  • was not that much better than the regular S 20s.

  • The camera had issues,

  • and it was a lot more expensive.

  • This year the Galaxy S21 Ultra is much better.

  • The camera's improved,

  • and the price has dropped by 200 bucks.

  • So it starts at $1,200.

  • So I guess third time's a charm.

  • So we have to start with the obvious thing

  • about Ultra phones.

  • They are huge.

  • The screen on the Galaxy S21 Ultra is 6.8 inches diagonally.

  • And if you're keeping count

  • and you know that Samsung is keeping count,

  • that makes this phone 0.1 inches bigger

  • than the iPhone 12 Pro Max screen.

  • But the S21 is taller and narrower than the Max

  • and therefore to me, it's just much easier to hold.

  • See, Samsung has kept the curved edges on the screen

  • and actually don't mind it here, I think it works.

  • And it means that the bezels are that much smaller

  • and the phone can be that much narrower.

  • The iPhone 12 Pro Max just feels way bigger,

  • because it's wider.

  • As long as we're comparing the Samsung phone to the iPhone

  • let's just get it all out of the way right at the top.

  • Right now I think some of you are going to disagree with me

  • but I think the Galaxy looks better.

  • I do love the new squared off edges on the iPhone,

  • but you know what?

  • The camera bump here is one of those things

  • that we forgot looks weird,

  • because we got so used to camera bumps,

  • but it is it's weird.

  • And so Samsung's fix for the camera bump

  • is to make the metal rails on the side curve right into it.

  • And I actually think it looks slick as hell.

  • And it means that the camera glass here

  • is just a little bit recessed.

  • Although yes, there are just a lot of camera holes here

  • and that, that does look weird.

  • Speaking of the back it's Gorilla Glass Victus

  • also same on the front,

  • and it has this matte finish, which is pretty nice.

  • And yes, it is Phantom black,

  • and it does look very black in person.

  • It also resists fingerprints pretty well,

  • but it might be a little bit more delicate

  • than I would want it to be.

  • We just set this down a concrete to get a shot

  • and it's already got a little bit of scratch on it,

  • where you can see silver underneath.

  • Maybe that was a dumb idea, but, now you know.

  • Anyway, look you're only getting this phone

  • if you love big phones

  • and Samsung is just better at

  • making big phones than Apple is.

  • They've been doing it for way longer.

  • Samsung's version of Android

  • lets you size text how you want.

  • It can have a little side rail

  • on the side that you can swipe in for extra functions.

  • It makes it fairly simple to split screen apps,

  • lets you turn apps into little pop-up windows

  • that shrink down to floating bubbles.

  • You can just do a lot more with these phones.

  • Look, the size of these phones they're basically tablets

  • and Samsung is just better at putting tablet options

  • into its software.

  • So big phone, good, right?

  • Well sure but,

  • honestly it's not that hard to find a big Android phone.

  • The point of the S 21 Ultra

  • is to be the most powerful and capable Android phone,

  • price be damned

  • and right now, yeah, this is that.

  • Let's come back to the screen.

  • It's 3,200 by 1440 pixels

  • and you can set it to have an adaptive refresh rate

  • so it can dynamically change from 10 to 120 Hertz.

  • That makes scrolling and animation smooth

  • but it saves battery life

  • when there's nothing moving on the screen.

  • And on the S 21 Ultra for the first time,

  • you can have both maximum resolution,

  • and higher refresh rate at the same time.

  • You don't have to pick one or the other.

  • Actually a funny story about the screen,

  • usually when Samsung launches a big new phone,

  • it will talk for like an hour about it's screen tech

  • but with this one, they're just like, yep,

  • this is the best screen.

  • And yep, it is.

  • I mean hell sometimes I would even switch the color

  • from natural which I usually prefer to vivid

  • just to feel more alive.

  • I think the screen looks great.

  • This is also the first mass market phone

  • with a new Snapdragon 888 processor from Qualcomm.

  • So it has Wi-Fi 6E both kinds of 5G,

  • has better graphics,

  • and of course it's fast.

  • It benchmarks really well,

  • though of course the iPhone still beats it.

  • But to me, the important thing is that feels fast

  • and there's never any lag.

  • And for the first time in an S series phone,

  • there's support for Samsung styluses, the S pen

  • they're separate and I assume they'll work fine.

  • Samsung didn't send us one.

  • So I can't test it.

  • But looking at the demos,

  • if you've ever used a Note,

  • it's going to probably be about the same experience here,

  • minus support for Bluetooth.

  • Now the $1,200 base model has 128 gigs of storage

  • and 12 gigs of RAM.

  • For 50 bucks more, you can step up to 256 gigs of storage

  • and there's a 512 model that has 16 gigs of RAM

  • and it's 180 bucks more.

  • And really you should get one of those models

  • with more storage because

  • in order to cut the price on this phone

  • down from where it was last year,

  • Samsung had to take some stuff out.

  • So, you know,

  • we know they took the AC adapter out of the box,

  • because Apple did so of course Samsung is going to do it,

  • but they also cut the micro SD card slot.

  • And that move felt inevitable,

  • but it is kind of a bummer to not have expandable storage,

  • especially for a phone that can shoot 8K video

  • and let you take 108 megapixel photos if you want to.

  • But for me, none of the specs that I've just rattled off,

  • the positive or the negative

  • were as important to my experience of using this phone

  • as the next spec.

  • It has Qualcomm's newest, fastest and biggest

  • fingerprint sensor in the screen.

  • There's a much bigger area that you can tap to unlock.

  • And I do mean just tap.

  • It's just like boop, unlocked.

  • Boop, unlocked.

  • Boop.

  • It's great.

  • And also, you know, it works if you're wearing a mask.

  • And speaking of great, battery life.

  • On this phone for the review,

  • I turned on all the bells and whistles.

  • I had max resolution adaptive refresh rate,

  • always on screen, I had the brightness cranked

  • all the way up most of the time,

  • and then I spent days and days shooting tons of photos,

  • and testing out 4K and a little bit of 8K video

  • and I never killed the battery

  • until basically halfway through day two.

  • There's a 5,000 milliAmp battery in this thing,

  • and I think it's enough.

  • (upbeat music)

  • Really though the thing that Samsung wants to separate

  • the Ultra Galaxy phones from the other Galaxy phones

  • are the cameras.

  • The Ultras are the ones that get

  • Samsung's 108 megapixels sensor,

  • and they're also the ones that get longer telephoto lenses.

  • So, okay.

  • What do we got here?

  • Five cameras.

  • There's the main 108 megapixel sensor at F 1.8,

  • which kicks out 12 megapixel images by default,

  • there is a 12 megapixel ultra wide.

  • Then there are not one

  • but two 10 megapixel telephoto lenses,

  • one at a 3 X zoom in one at a 10 X zoom.

  • And the other hole here is for the laser auto focus sensor.

  • Then the fifth camera is the

  • 40 megapixel selfie camera on the front,

  • which does 6.5 megapixels by default

  • but you can get the full 40 megapixels if you want.

  • So let's start with that 108 megapixel camera,

  • because it is the heart of this whole system.

  • It is a second generation Samsung sensor.

  • The first one was in the original Galaxy S 20 Ultra

  • and that 108 megapixel sensor was a whiff.

  • It had focus problems which Samsung later had to fix

  • on the Note 20 Ultra with a laser for autofocus,

  • which is also here but other than that though,

  • it just wasn't really worth the hype.

  • Samsung's regular cameras

  • on the regular S 20s were almost as good.

  • Now with the Galaxy S 21 ultra,

  • well now it's good.

  • I haven't had any shutter lag.

  • I haven't had any misfocus issues

  • and things like the narrowed plane of focus

  • seemed a little bit better too.

  • It is a noticeable step up from last year.

  • In fact, there's really only one other smartphone camera

  • that's even in the same league as his phone.

  • And it is not the Pixel 5 which I gotta say

  • has really fallen behind this year.

  • Now the other phone that's worth talking about here

  • is the iPhone 12 Pro Max

  • which also has a larger sensor compared to the other iPhone.

  • So, you know what?

  • Let's just look at some samples.

  • So I think this first photo

  • is a really good representative example

  • of what the S 21 Ultra can do.

  • I set the focus point through the fence and

  • I love that it grabs sharpness,

  • and detail of everything behind the fence,

  • whole lighting of the fence itself had a little bit of blur.

  • Plus the colors here are super accurate to what I was seeing

  • during that shoot.

  • Here's a night mode shot,

  • and let's just get into the S21 Ultra versus the 12 Pro Max.

  • I prefer how Samsung exposed the bike here,

  • but I think both are good.

  • And just look at the detail on the tire thread in the shot.

  • Mwah!

  • Here's another comparison photo,

  • and you can start to see how these cameras

  • have different opinions on how to expose things.

  • Samsung still wants to make things

  • just a little bit brighter than I like

  • while Apple has honestly learned its lesson

  • and is happy to leave contrast and shadows in.

  • Now here's comparing portrait mode,

  • and again, Samsung kind of just over does it

  • with the colors a little bit,

  • but I do think it has slightly better sharpness.

  • Comparing ultra wides, both seem fine.

  • I think it comes down to just choices and preferences