Samsung Galaxy S21 – which of the 3 new models do I need?

Samsung has presented the Galaxy S21 series. With the Galaxy S21, the Galaxy S21 + and the Galaxy S21 Ultra, it comprises three devices that appear quite similar at first glance. In terms of equipment, however, there are some, sometimes decisive, differences. But which Galaxy smartphone is right for me? TECHNOLOGY BUTTON compares the new models and gives an answer.

Samsung held this year’s Unpacked Event almost a month earlier than last year. Now the Galaxy S21, the Galaxy S21 + and the Galaxy S21 Ultra are official and bring one or two surprises with them. In this comparison, we reveal exactly how the three models differ and which smartphone is suitable for whom.

Samsung Galaxy S21 with a new design

Samsung’s new smartphones already differ optically from their predecessors, the Galaxy S20 series. Because with the Galaxy S21, the manufacturer is introducing a new design, which is particularly evident in the area of ​​the camera. Although it still sits on the upper left edge of the devices, the camera surround now runs slightly around the housing. The case itself is made of glass and metal with a matt Finnish finish, has rounded edges and a USB-C connector at the bottom. Samsung continues to do without a headphone jack. All three smartphones are also protected against water and dust in accordance with IP68.

Galaxy S21 camera design
The new camera design is one of the most noticeable features on the Galaxy S21 

On the other hand, there are hardly any changes in the design of the front. The full view display dominates here, which Samsung calls Infinity-O due to the hole-shaped notch. It houses the front camera. While the screen of the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 + is straight, the Ultra model has a slightly curved screen that runs discreetly around the sides.

Also read: Samsung Galaxy S21 prices leaked

Partly decisive differences in the display

The three models also differ in terms of size. If you like it more compact, you can choose the Galaxy S21, which has an overall size of 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 millimeters with its 6.2-inch display. It has roughly the same dimensions as the Galaxy S20 from last year. The Galaxy S21 + makes a significant leap up. It has a display with a diagonal of 6.7 inches and measures 161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8 millimeters. It is about one centimeter longer and also slightly wider than the S21. At 6.8 inches and 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 millimeters, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the largest model in the range, but only slightly larger than the S21 +.

All three smartphones use DynamicAMOLED 2x, which Samsung first used on the Galaxy Note 20. The display technology scores with rich colors, a particularly high contrast and above all with its high maximum brightness. Samsung specifies this with a full 1300 nits for the Galaxy S21 and S21 + and even with 1500 nits for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The Ultra thus has the brightest display that Samsung has ever installed in a smartphone.

The fact that the Galaxy S21 and S21 + support an adaptive refresh rate between 60 Hz and 120 Hz is interesting for gamers. The Galaxy S21 Ultra even offers an adaptive refresh rate of 10 Hz to 120 Hz. The displays offer their maximum performance when they are needed – for example in mobile gaming. In everyday use, however, the devices work with less Hertz and thus save electricity. Another new feature is the so-called Eye Comfort Shield, behind which an automatic blue light filter is hidden. With its help, Samsung wants to reduce eye fatigue when using smartphones for a long time.

Unfortunately, all these positive adjustments are countered by a sometimes disappointing display resolution. Because this is only 2400 x 1080 pixels for both the Galaxy S21 and the S21 +, i.e. Full HD +. Both devices have a significantly lower resolution than the Galaxy S20 models (3200 x 1440 pixels). The resolution is also reflected in the pixel density. Due to its compact dimensions, the Galaxy S21 still has a good 421 ppi (pixels per inch – pixels per centimeter). With its 6.7-inch Galaxy S21 +, it is only 394 ppi – that’s a bit low for a luxury smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra supports S Pen

The Galaxy S21 Ultra, however, stands out in the comparison of the displays. And not just because of its higher resolution of 3200 x 1440 pixels and the resulting pixel density of 515 ppi. The smartphone is the only model in the series that also supports pen operation via S Pen. For this purpose, Samsung has worked with Wacom to enable the function previously reserved for the Note models. Unlike the Galaxy Note, the S Pen is not included in the scope of delivery and cannot be stowed in the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Rather, Samsung offers a special cover that also includes the stylus.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with S Pen
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first smartphone in the series that can be operated with a pen

Features of the Galaxy S21, S21 + and Ultra in comparison

Samsung Galaxy S21 Samsung Galaxy S21 + Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Display 6.2 inches, Infinity-O,
Dynamic AMOLED 2x,
up to 120 Hz, max. 1300 nits
6.7 inches, Infinity-O,
Dynamic AMOLED 2x,
up to 120 Hz, max. 1300 nits
6.8 inches, Infinity-O,
Dynamic AMOLED 2x,
up to 120 Hz, max. 1500 nits
resolution FHD + (2400 x 1080 pixels), 421 ppi FHD + (2400 x 1080 pixels), 394 ppi WQHD + (3200 x 1440 pixels), 515 ppi
processor Samsung Exynos 2100,
5 nm, Octa-Core (1x 2.9 + 3x 2.8 + 4x 2.2 GHz)
Samsung Exynos 2100,
5 nm, Octa-Core (1x 2.9 + 3x 2.8 + 4x 2.2 GHz)
Samsung Exynos 2100,
5 nm, Octa-Core (1x 2.9 + 3x 2.8 + 4x 2.2 GHz)
Storage 8 GB + 128 GB
8 GB + 256 GB
8 GB + 128 GB
8 GB + 256 GB
12 GB + 128 GB
12 GB + 256 GB
16 GB + 512 GB
Main camera Triple camera:
12 megapixels (ultra wide angle), 1 / 2.55 “, f / 2.2
12 megapixels (wide angle), 1 / 1.76″, f / 1.8
64 megapixels (telephoto), 1 / 1.72 “, f / 2.0

30- space zoom
8K video (16: 9 format, 24 fps)

Triple camera:
12 megapixels (ultra wide angle), 1 / 2.55 “, f / 2.2
12 megapixels (wide angle), 1 / 1.76″, f / 1.8
64 megapixels (telephoto), 1 / 1.72 “, f / 2.0

30- space zoom
8K video (16: 9 format, 24 fps)

Quad camera:
108 megapixels (wide angle), 1 / 1.33 “, f / 1.8
12 megapixels (ultra wide angle), 1 / 2.55“, f / 2.2
10 megapixels (Tele1), 1 / 3.24 “, f / 2.4
10 megapixels (Tele2), 1 / 3.24 “, f / 2.9

Hybrid Optical Zoom, 100x Space Zoom
8K video (16: 9 format, 24 fps)

Front camera 10 megapixels (wide angle), 1 / 3.24 “, f / 2.2 10 megapixels (wide angle), 1 / 3.24 “, f / 2.2 40 megapixels (wide angle), 1 / 2.8 “f / 2.2
battery pack 4000 mAh,
Quick Charge 3.0 with 25 watts, wireless charging, wireless power share
4800 mAh,
Quick Charge 3.0 with 25 watts, wireless charging, wireless power share
5000 mAh,
Quick Charge 3.0 with 25 watts, wireless charging (15 watts), wireless power share
software Android 11,
Samsung One UI 3.1
Android 11,
Samsung One UI 3.1
Android 11,
Samsung One UI 3.1
security Face recognition, ultrasonic fingerprint sensor Face recognition, ultrasonic fingerprint sensor Face recognition, ultrasonic fingerprint sensor
links Bluetooth 5.0, NFC Bluetooth 5.0, NFC Bluetooth 5.2, NFC
Internet WLAN a / b / g / n / ac / ax, HE80, LTE, 5G WLAN a / b / g / n / ac / ax, HE80, LTE, 5G WLAN a / b / g / n / ac / ax, Wifi 6E, HE160, LTE, 5G
Others IP68, stereo speakers: Sound by AKG, dual SIM IP68, UWB, stereo speakers: Sound by AKG, dual SIM IP68, UWB, stereo speakers: Sound by AKG, dual SIM, pen operation
measurements and weight 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm,
approx. 169 g
161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8 mm,
approx. 200 g
165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm,
approx. 227 g
Colours Phantom Gray, Phantom White, Phantom Pink, Phantom Violet Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Violet Phantom Silver, Phantom Black
RRP 128 GB: 849 euros
256 GB: 899 euros
128 GB: 1049 euros
256 GB: 1099 euros
128 GB: 1249 euros
256 GB: 1299 euros
512 GB: 1429 euros

Also read: The Samsung Galaxy S21 could come without a microSD card slot

Performance of the Galaxy S21 models very similar

As far as the performance of the new Samsung smartphones is concerned, it is on a very similar level. Because the new Exynos 2100 works in all three devices, which is said to be more powerful than the Snapdragon counterparts for the first time. The use of two different processors in different countries often caused problems for users in the past.

New Exynos 2100 in detail

With the Exynos 2100, that should change. According to Samsung, the octa-core chip is not only more energy-efficient than its predecessor, it is also 5G-compatible. The System on Chip (SoC) is manufactured using the compact and modern 5-nanometer process and is divided into three clusters. It is noticeable here that Samsung no longer relies on its own CPU design, but on the ARM Cortex-X1. The prime core manages 2.9 GHz at its peak and thus provides a decent performance boost. The Exynos 2100 also offers three Cortex-A78 cores with a maximum clock of 2.8 GHz and four energy-saving Cortex-A55 cores with up to 2.2 GHz. The Mali-G78 MP14 is used as the graphics unit, which promises a performance increase of around 40 percent compared to the Mali-G77 MP11 used in the Exynos 990.

Storage, WiFi and connections in comparison

In the rest of the comparison of the Galaxy S21 models, we summarize the Galaxy S21 and the S21 +, as their equipment is very similar. The Galaxy S21 Ultra stands out unmistakably from the trio.

This becomes clear, among other things, with the memory. While the Galaxy S21 and S21 + each have 8 GB of RAM and optionally 128 GB or 256 GB of internal storage, the Ultra comes with 12 GB of RAM and 128 GB or 256 GB, but also in a version with a full 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage to disposal.

The colors of the Samsung Galaxy S21
The three Galaxy S21 models are available in different colors at the start

Samsung also divides the three devices into two groups for the Internet. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the only model in the series and so far Samsung’s first smartphone that supports the new Wifi 6E standard. In contrast to Wifi 6 (in the S21 and S21 +), Wifi 6E can also transmit outside of 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, which not only minimizes the load on the bands, but also enormously increases the wireless speed. Disadvantage: Wifi 6E is still not really usable because the 6 GHz frequency band has not yet been released. When the time comes, the Galaxy S21 Ultra will be ready.

Another advantage of the Ultra model is the support of Bluetooth 5.2 compared to Bluetooth 5.0 in the Galaxy S21 and S21 +. The standard, which was only introduced in 2020, supports LE audio (LE – Low Energy) and can thus optimize audio transmissions. For example, several headphones can receive music from one audio source and are up to 200 meters away from the source.

 

Also read: What is Wi-Fi 6 and do I need it now?

The camera of the Samsung Galaxy S21 in comparison

One of the most important points in the Galaxy S21 comparison is the camera. Here, too, Samsung has equipped the Galaxy S21 and S21 + identically, while the Ultra model outperforms its two siblings.

Galaxy S21 and S21 +

In the Galaxy S21 and S21 +, Samsung uses a triple camera, which is composed of a 12-megapixel wide-angle, an ultra-wide-angle with 12 megapixels and a telephoto lens with 64 megapixels. The apertures open from f / 1.8 to f / 2.2 depending on the sensor.

Thanks to the stored artificial intelligence, even inexperienced photographers should get the best out of their photos. For this, Samsung has, according to its own statement, optimized the background mechanisms for recognizing motifs and for ideally adjusting the camera settings. The manufacturer has also adapted well-known modes such as “Single Shot” or “Portrait”. Zooming is possible with the camera of the Galaxy S21 and S21 + with up to 30x magnification.

In addition, videos can be recorded in 8K with the triple camera. So that no moments are lost, the camera captures a few additional seconds before and after the actual recording. If the user plays a film recorded in this way, he can extract high-resolution photos from the individual sequences. The manufacturer calls the option “8K Video Snap”. The “Director’s View” function also makes it possible for the first time to switch between different sensors while recording. If you want to include your own face in a video – for example to capture your own reaction to an event – you can do this with “Vlogger View”. To do this, the smartphone adds the front camera and combines both recordings into one video.

Galaxy S21 Ultra

The camera of the Galaxy S21 Ultra also supports the functions mentioned above, but offers significantly better features overall. Instead of three, Samsung uses four sensors, i.e. one quad camera. The highlight is the 108 megapixel wide angle with f / 1.8 aperture and phase detection autofocus (PDAF). The sensor with 12-megapixel non-binning technology combines up to nine pixels in order to capture a lot of light. It is supported by an ultra-wide angle with 12 megapixels and two telephoto lenses each with 10 megapixels but different aperture sizes of f / 2.4 and f / 2.9. Images recorded with the camera can be saved as 12-bit RAWs and later professionally processed.

For the first time, the camera of the Galaxy S21 Ultra allows 4K video recordings with 60 FPS (frames per second) across all sensors. As with the other models, the setup allows maximum recordings in 8K.

The zoom is very different from that of the Galaxy S21 and S21 +. The decisive factor here is the dual telephoto lens setup that Samsung is using for the first time in a smartphone. It allows up to 100x magnification thanks to a 3x optical and up to 10x optical zoom of the telephoto lenses.

Galaxy S21 models in price comparison

The new Samsung smartphones will be available in stores from January 29, 2021. Despite many improvements, but also some deteriorations such as the display resolution, the devices are cheaper than their predecessors, the 5G versions of which had an RRP of 999, 1099 and 1349 euros at the start in spring 2020.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is now available from 849 euros. Those who opt for the much larger Galaxy S21 + can get the smartphone from 1049 euros. The Samsung Galaxy Ultra is the most expensive model in the range with prices starting at 1249 euros. All three devices support 5G and are offered in different colors.

Conclusion: which model is suitable for whom?

At the end of the comparison of the three Galaxy S21 models, it can be seen that the devices can basically be divided into two user groups. Because the Galaxy S21 and the S21 + are so similar in many details that they hardly differ from each other. The decision can therefore be made primarily on the basis of the size. If you like it more compact and at the same time don’t want to spend too much on your new smartphone, you can choose the Samsung Galaxy S21. Due to its smaller display diagonal, this model also has a somewhat sharper display overall. In our opinion, it offers the duo’s better price-performance ratio.

The Galaxy S21 + is something for users who like large smartphones. However, the reduced resolution is a bit negative here. Although the S21 + has a higher battery capacity, the energy requirement of the larger display makes up for this advantage over the S21.

Galaxy S21 Galaxy S21 + Galaxy S21 Ultra
Per + cheapest
+ compact
+ good display
+ strong performance
+ 5G
+ waterproof
+ wide range of colors
+ strong performance
+ 5G
+ waterproof
+ ultra broadband sensors (UWB)
+ best overall equipment
+ compatible with S Pen
+ strong camera
+ Wifi 6E
+ Bluetooth 5.2
+ lots of storage options
+ very good display
+ waterproof
+ 5G
Contra -no ultra broadband sensors (UWB) – quite large – comparatively
weakest display
– compared to expensive
– very expensive
– very large and heavy
– rather classic color selection

 

The Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, plays in a completely different league. Here buyers get – admittedly for a lot of money – the best that Samsung currently has to offer in the smartphone sector. The very good camera and S-Pen support are particularly worth mentioning here. There are also more storage options to choose from. The advantage of WLAN 6E, however, cannot really be used at the moment. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is therefore only for users who do not want to forego anything. For most users who value the latest technology and good performance, the Galaxy S21 is sufficient.

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