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Review: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has an amazing camera

Ashwin Rajagopalan
It’s almost like a fashion trend. After obsessing over whites, blues and reds, Samsung’s new flagship will make you rediscover the mystique of black all over again. One of the first things that blew me away with the new Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra was the stunning haze black finish. It’s matte, feels every inch premium and it doesn’t have a predilection for smudges or fingerprints.

The Ultra is Samsung’s new moniker for flagship class. It started with last year’s S20 and was further refined with the Note 20 Ultra. Samsung unveiled three S21 devices as part of its first major launch this year. While the S21 and S21+ make a play for a value-conscious consumer, the Ultra is fashioned for the ‘I want it all’ consumer and it all begins with the camera.
I loved the design of the big and bold rear camera module in last year’s Note 20 Ultra. Samsung takes it a notch further with the S21 Ultra – it’s now a gorgeous contour-cut camera with cutting edge lenses. We’ll say this after more than a week of extensive testing – it’s one of the best smartphone cameras you can snag right now in India.

There’s a 108MP primary lens, but it’s the dual telephoto lenses – with 3X and 10X optical zoom that combine to create a whole new set of possibilities. You can shoot up to 100x with the Space Zoom option that has been refined with a new Zoom lock feature that ensures the camera is not shaky even at 100X. Samsung’s flagships have aced lowlight photography over the last couple of years; the S21 Ultra is no exception. The 40MP selfie cam comes with some cool new tricks too; I enjoyed testing the new Portrait modes.
If there’s one thing that the Galaxy S series has stood out for since its debut more than a decade ago, it’s the vibrant display. The S21 Ultra is arguably the smartphone display to beat with a variable refresh rate (up to 120Hz). You can now catch videos with the highest QHD resolution at 120Hz refresh rate, something that gamers will totally dig. The 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x display (1440 x 3200 pixels / 20:9 aspect ratio / 515 PPI) is also great to binge watch HD content on Netflix. At over 220 gm, the device is no lightweight but doesn’t feel too unwieldy in your hand thanks to its design footprint.

The S21 Ultra comes with a few surprises. It becomes the first Galaxy S series device that supports Samsung’s S-Pen that Note loyalists swear by. It’s not integrated with the device like the Note flagships though. You’ll have to either buy the S-Pen separately or with a silicon case that also houses the S-Pen; but that adds extra heft to the device. But more than this cool new feature, it’s the omissions that are likely to generate a lot of buzz in the medium run.
There’s no Micro SD slot, you will have to cope with the onboard storage. Samsung has also opted to ditch the charging brick and headphones as part of its environmental initiatives. Customers will eventually have to adapt to this trend as more and more brands make this shift.
Samsung’s flagships are generally hardware powerhouses. The S21 Ultra is powered by Samsung’s all-new Exynos 2100 processor. We checked out the 12GB / 256GB variant (there’s also a 16GB/512GB variant); it was blazing fast with a robust 5000 mAh battery that keeps up. It all comes together really well, in what might well be the best Android flagship out there. And yes, it comes in Phantom Black.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G starts at Rs 1,05,999 and is available in Phantom Black and Phantom Silver.
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