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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G


One might say that Samsung is not only decking out its new flagship Galaxy S21 Ultra handset with the latest tech available but also releasing it in the winter, more than a month earlier than usual, for a reason. What could that reason be?

Korean analysts are saying that hijacking market share from the down-and-out Huawei is one of the reasons behind an early Galaxy S21 Ultra release, but something tells us that Apple’s belated iPhone 12 Pro Max launch has something to do with it as well. This way, Samsung will have a formidable trio of phones – Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra – to go against the iPhone 12/Pro/Max, respectively, right after the 2020 iPhones sales peak rolls over into the first quarter.

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs S20 Ultra colors and display size

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra vs S20 Ultra colors: Black and Silver (S21U) vs Gray (S20U)
  • 6.8″ LTPO vs 6.9″ LTPS displays
  • Dynamic [email protected] vs static [email protected] refresh rate
  • 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm vs 166.9 x 76 x 8.8 mm dimensions

The S20 Ultra is a rather huge and heavy phone with a giant camera bump on the back. With the S21 models, however, Samsung is launching a design refinement to what is already one of the best screen-to-body ratio scores in their class. First off, we have a sloping, flatter side at the top right corner that makes the back look like it’s been cut from a piece of marble with only the camera island standing loud and proud, fused with the corner sides.

Samsung aims to refine its Infinity-O design significantly by not only reducing the chin at the front, but also blending the camera bump with the phone’s sides, thus leaving the impression for one uninterrupted design flow. Samsung is so proud of its uniform display frame width creation at the Galaxy S21 models’ front, that it has trademarked new design features called Blade Bezel and Blade Display.

The “blade” part may have something to do with the new Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra design that blends the side frame with the camera island but more likely it refers to Samsung’s Great Chin Massacre at the front that shaves off the bottom bezel as much as it can.

Since only the Galaxy S21 Ultra carries a slightly curved display, while the S21 and S21+ go with flat panels, Samsung resorts to a slight overall bezel thickening to achieve the uniformity. In other words, Samsung has evidently managed to shrink the bottom chin to 2mm, but that’s as far as it can go, considering that this is the area that houses the display connector, and, instead of pushing further, it simply made the rest of the S21/S21+ frame of equal width. 

Needless to say, since the Galaxy S21 Ultra sports a curved 6.8″ QHD+ display, it can’t do uniform, but this way Samsung won’t have to make compromises with the phone’s width like it does for the S21 – 151.7mm x 71.2mm x 8mm dimensions, against the S20’s 151.7mm x 69.1mm x 7.9mm – in order to accommodate the uniform bezel that will now be a tad wider at the sides. 

We’d take it, if it achieves the symmetric look that you saw in the leaked renders of the S21 series. For the S21 Ultra, however, we’d rather have the curved display sides than bezel uniformity as its predecessor is positively gigantic and hard to handle even without a case tacked on. The shaved-off bottom chin is an added bonus that results in a tangible height decrease as, when it comes to overall size, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is a little smaller than the Galaxy S20 Ultra (166.9 x 76 x 8.8 mm) at 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm.

Nothing beats uniform bezel width in an “all-screen” Infinity-O Samsung design when it comes to aesthetics. That blending of the camera island with the frame is a rather unique design decision, and makes the rear look like it’s been etched into a piece of marble, with only the camera set remaining elevated, as if to emphasize its significance. In other words, no more thicker chins at the bottom, after Samsung did wonders with shrinking the top bezel thanks to the Infinity-O design with a punch hole for the front camera. In short, Samsung could make the Galaxy S21 series the most beautiful phones it has created so far, refining all the little compromises of the “bezel-less” design that has been all the rage for the past two years or so.

Another interesting leak in the early Galaxy S21 series release report is the colors that will be. For comparison, the S20 series come in Cosmic Gray, Cosmic Black, Cloud Blue and Cloud Pink (Aura Red or Cloud White are special editions), depending on the model. The color choices for the S21 series have now also been moved around: 

If you are disappointed that the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes in only two somewhat somber colors, the new silver is a nice touch, Samsung always does silver well, plus the flagship’s price is definitely not targeted at the younger crowd who appreciate a palette of colors to choose from and express their individuality. Samsung, however, more than makes up for it with the new 6.8″ LTPO display panel that finally does 120Hz refresh at the full 1440p display resolution. 

Yeah, about that “exciting feature” – the S20 Ultra has static refresh, the Note 20 Ultra introduced a dynamic one of sorts, but still only in 1080p screen mode, whereas the Galaxy S21 Ultra does what the OnePlus and Oppo collaboration with PixelWorks achieved a year before it – full 120Hz dynamic refresh rate at the display’s native QHD+ resolution. Bazinga!

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs S20 Ultra specs, battery life and charging speeds

  • Snapdragon 875/Exynos 1000 5nm vs Snapdragon 865/Exynos 990 7nm processors
  • 12GB/16GB DDR5 1z vs 12GB/16GB DDR5 1y process RAM
  • 5000mAh battery, 45W charging
Say what you will about Samsung’s ignominious decision to use two different mobile processor lines in its phones, but this trend is here to stay with the S21 series as well. Powered by both the latest Snapdragon 875 and the Exynos 1000 processors of Qualcomm and Samsung, respectively, the S21 Ultra won’t leave you much room for complaining, though, as both of these powerful chipsets are built on the freshest 5nm process. 

Whether or not they will differ in performance, thermal throttling or graphics rendering, remains to be determined. As far as synthetic benchmarks are concerned, the Exynos 1000 got 1302 single-core score on Geekbench and 4250 in multi, while the Snapdragon 875 version of the S21 notched 1159 and 4090 points, respectively, so at least as far as raw performance goes, the Exynos isn’t behind the Snapdragon. Needless to say, this could also be explained as a difference in clock speeds that the engineering prototypes were running on, as the upcoming Exynos scored much lower on Geekbench when clocked at “only” 2.2 GHz.

While the benchmark above is of the S21+ which is listed as having 8GB RAM, this is the base version, and the S21 Ultra sports a storage version with the industry’s fastest, largest-capacity 16GB LPDDR5 DRAM. Samsung started its mass production around the time it announced the Note 20 Ultra, so it didn’t have time to include it there. Bummer, as the new memory, according to Samsung, offers the highest speed and largest capacity ever provided by mobile DRAM.

Samsung adds that the LPDDR5 packs can transfer at the rate of 6,400 megabits per second (Mb/s), which makes it 16 percent faster than 12GB LPDDR5 memory you find on flagships like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. The 16GB package, in particular, can transfer 51.2GB of data in just one second. That’s the equivalent of transferring 10 5GB-sized full-HD content.

The 1z packaging process for the LPDDR5 module also made it 30 percent thinner than its predecessor, which means it takes up less space inside smartphones. To make the 16GB package in the S21 Ultra Samsung needed just eight chips, whereas its predecessor based on the 1y process needs 12 chips to offer the same capacity.  

The new processor and RAM production methods bring about less power draw on their own. Coupled with the more frugal LTPO adaptive refresh display technology that Samsung put on the S21 series, the technologies may bring a boost to the Galaxy S21 Ultra battery life, as it ships with the same giant 5000mAh pack as its predecessor. Add to that the new 45W charging speed for said battery, and the Ultra is knocking it out of the park when it comes to battery life, at least for a phone with this display size and specs list. 

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs S20 Ultra camera

  • 108MP ISOCELL 2.0 HM3 vs 108MP ISOCELL HM2
  • 12MP Ultrawide
  • 48MP vs 10MP 5x periscope zoom cameras
  • 10MP 3x telephoto zoom (S21U)
  • Laser AF vs 3D ToF camera

If you thought that the S21 Ultra would simply get the otherwise excellent Note 20 Ultra camera set and call it a day, you don’t know Samsung and its determination to kill it on the hardware front. Not only does the S21 Ultra sport the third generation of Samsung’s 108MP sensor but it also adds a middle 3x telephoto zoom distance and a laser autofocusing system. 

The 108MP ISOCELL HM3 sensor comes with improved, while Samsung ditches the underutilized 3D ToF sensor used in the Galaxy S20 Ultra to help avoid its focusing troubles replacing it with laser autofocus on the S21 Ultra, perhaps the one borrowed directly from the Note 20 Ultra with the same purpose.

The 12MP ultrawide lens camera is staying put, but we are glad to report the reworkings of the optical magnification range by including two 10MP sensors to take care of the long-range 5x+ periscope zoom and the 3x midrange zooming, just like on, cough, Huawei P40 Pro+, cough. The 40MP selfie snapper from the Note 20 Ultra is also an improvement over the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s front camera.

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs S20 Ultra price

Apple took the high road and didn’t increase the iPhone 12 Pro Max price compared to its predecessor, even though it slapped the best camera sensors in the iPhone 12 range on it. By that criteria, Samsung is also taking the high road with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, meaning that the base will be expensive as heck at $1399.99 for all that top-shelf hardware stuffed inside of it, just like its predecessor. 

Wait, you didn’t think that the fastest memory and processors in the Android universe and beyond, the dynamic display refresh at full resolution, the 5000mAh battery pack, and the rich quad-camera kit with periscope zoom would come for less these days now, did you? 

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