When it first appeared, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra was the Korean tech giant’s best phone ever. And while it’s since been superseded by the Galaxy S22 Ultra, it’s still a stunning piece of kit. But is it worth buying in 2022? Read our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review now to find out.
Our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review in summary
With an epic 6.8-inch screen, quad lens camera setup and superb battery life mean that the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is still an excellent device, even if it’s over a year old.
It supports Android 12 and is set to get an Android 13 update later in 2022, meaning users will have access to all of the latest features from Google’s operating system.
While its processor may not be quite as rapid as that of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, its overall performance, coupled with deals that make it far more affordable than this year’s model, make it easy to recommend.
SThe Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra packs in some incredible specs, including:
- 6.8-inch display with Dynamic OLED tech and 1,500 nits brightness
- 120Hz refresh rate
- Quad lens camera with main 108MP lens
- 40MP front facing camera
- 8K video recording
- Huge, 5,000mAh battery
- 5G as standard
- 128GB, 256GB and 512GB storage options
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra’s camera is where it truly stands out, even taking into account the excellent imaging options on the newer Galaxy S22 Ultra.
The main camera comprises four lenses. A main 108MP lens with f/1.8 aperture, which is backed up by two 10MP lenses, one which features a standard telephoto setup and 3x optical zoom and the other with a periscope telephoto that packs 10x optical zoom.
The fourth, ultrawide 12MP lens serves up super steady video.
The result is images that look stunningly detailed, with great performance in low light as well as daytime conditions.
Throw in 8K video shooting and this is a camera built for the social media and video streaming generation.
While the minor boosts available in the Galaxy S22’s camera make it slightly better, the S21 Ultra’s effort is still incredible, especially considering it can be picked up for significantly less.
The front facing, 40MP camera also ensures that selfies look the part, with 4K video recording making it ideal for Instagram and TikTok clips.
The sleek metal finish and neat manner in which Samsung rounds the edges surrounding the rear camera make the Galaxy S21 Ultra one of the best designed smartphones currently available.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra looks broadly the same, so if it’s design chops you want, then you needn’t look any further.
The sheer scale of the handset means it will always need to be used two-handed.
But that’s no issue when it can serve up striking video and games on a device that feels every bit as premium as it did when it launched in 2021.
Samsung has long made a play of the importance of big screens on its smartphones. And the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is no different.
The display here is a massive 6.8-inches. It utilises Dynamic AMOLED tech to serve up pictures in beautifully rendered detail.
The 1440 x 3200 pixel resolution is among the best in the business, and while the 1,500 nits brightness rating has been marginally superseded by the Galaxy S22 Ultra, to the untrained eye the difference is negligible.
Throw in a 120Hz refresh rate, designed to make games and apps look as they’re meant to, and you’ve got a truly sensational display.
Operating system and performance
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with Android 11 but can be updated to Android 12 out of the box, the most recently fully available version of Google’s operating system.
It uses Google’s One UI, meaning it’s easy and intuitive to use, with access to the very best apps and games via Google Play.
What’s more, the newly minted Android 13 should be making its way to the S21 Ultra later this year.
The chipset here is Samsung’s Exynos 2100. This ensures excellent performance and, although it’s a year older than the newer Exynos 2200, it still does an impressive job. For everyday users, this is a difference that is virtually impossible to discern.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra packs a huge 5,000mAh battery. This is about as big as you’ll find on any smartphone and means that, in real world terms, it can go about two days between charges.
At a time when some phones need to be juiced up twice a day, that’s a big deal. There’s support for 25W fast charging and Qi wireless charging support too.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra's deals and incentives
Because the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is over a year old, there are some superb deals available here at Moneysupermarket.
At the time of writing, you can get the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra on Three for £39 per month after paying £245 up front.
That gets you a huge 100GB of 5G data, plus unlimited calls and texts.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra pricing
It’s harder to secure the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra now that it has been superseded by the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
But shop around and you can find it unlocked for around £510. That’s a great price, especially if you pair it with a cheap, SIM only deal.
Pros and Cons of choosing Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra in 2022
- Amazing camera
- Huge, bright screen
- Excellent performance
- Great deals available
- Galaxy S22 Ultra has since superseded it
How does Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra compare against other Samsung phones?
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra remains one of the best Samsung phones out there.
However, the newer Galaxy S22, Galaxy S22 Plus and Galaxy S22 Ultra feature newer Samsung chipsets, will support Android software for longer and come with camera tech that is marginally better.
While it’s more affordable than it was on release, some may find the price a little too much to wear.
The latter do not have the same fully equipped cameras or internal prowess, but do offer excellent Android performance at prices that won’t break the bank.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a brilliant smartphone.
It has one of the best cameras on any phone, has a screen that is built for gaming and watching video on the go and shrill stands up to the competition, over a year since its release.
The Galaxy S22 may just edge it, but with great deals available, the S21 Ultra remains one of the finest handsets you can buy.