What kind of hypes were those a few years ago when the eternal rivals Apple and Samsung presented their new smartphones. The sales figures are still pretty good, but the feeling of being completely left behind with a two or three year old cell phone is far less pronounced than it was then. Accordingly, it is difficult for manufacturers to provide incentives to buy their new models. With its latest top-of-the-range model, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, Samsung is mainly trying again with the camera module.
There are four cameras in it: an ultra-wide angle, a wide-angle lens and two telephoto lenses. The second one in particular is tough: it offers ten times the magnification, which is roughly equivalent to a 240 millimeter telephoto lens on a single-lens reflex camera. It was installed horizontally and looks around the corner with the help of a mirror.
Top marks in image quality
Although this design is very space-saving, the entire camera module in the Ultra model is quite bulky. You shouldn’t be surprised, because the engineers have made the seemingly impossible out of the limited space available in smartphones. But at some point physics does set limits.
In connection with a lot of electronics and algorithms for image calculation, the S21 Ultra achieves top values in image quality. The camera software also offers many manual setting options, from the frame rate to white balance. Videos can even be recorded in 8K, but then only with the usual 24 frames per second in cinemas. 4K videos, on the other hand, are possible with up to 60 frames per second and look very professional – also because of the built-in image stabilization. It is also possible to fade in small images of the other lenses while filming and then switch over if necessary. There is also a setting for video reporters in which half of the image is provided by one of the rear cameras and half by the front camera.
The pen is optional
For the first time, Samsung has also provided the option of using a pen with the new Ultra. It costs 40 euros extra and is passive, so it cannot be used as a remote release for the camera like the Note 20. In addition, there is no slot in the housing for it.
Speaking of slots: Samsung has saved on the slot for a memory expansion via micro-USB card. So you have to decide when buying how much memory you will need. As with the predecessor and Apple, the analog headphone jack is missing. And like Apple, Samsung no longer supplies a power adapter, just a cable. Most people should have a USB charger at home, but whether it supports the quick charge function is another question. The S21 devices can also be charged inductively with up to 15 watts, which is decent for induction.
“Tidy” would almost be an insult to the S21 Ultra’s impressive 6.8-inch OLED screen. It can display up to 1440 by 3200 pixels, but is set to more moderate 1080 by 2400 pixels at the factory. Which is still crisp, but is more battery-friendly. The enormous maximum brightness ensures that it is easy to read even outdoors in sunlight. The refresh rate is 120 Hertz. However, it is turned down as soon as that is not necessary to relieve the battery. It holds 5000 mAh and should easily last a working day. The front and back of the cell phone housing are made of glass, the frame of aluminum.
The smaller models Galaxy S21 and S21 + have to cut back on the camera. They also have neither a memory card slot nor a headphone jack. The back of the housing is made of plastic. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a disadvantage, the material is much less sensitive to breakage.
List prices range from 850 euros for the S21 to 1430 euros for the Ultra model with 512 gigabytes of memory. Only the top model can actually provide a certain aha effect. The sister models haven’t changed too much compared to their predecessors. At least that makes them a good tip for anyone who doesn’t believe that they necessarily need the top model.