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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Galaxy S21 review

samsung galaxy s21

The Samsung Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Ultra were Samsung’s top end devices in 2021. Since superseded by the Galaxy S22 series, they remain among the best and most powerful smartphones available.

So, which one should you go for? Read on for our comprehensive head to head review.

Overall Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Both the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra are superb phones, each one packing access to some of the best tech around.

But although it costs more, for us the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra wins out, thanks to its amazing screen, a camera which outdoes its smaller stablemate and a spec sheet that really is the business.

This is a handset built for gaming, taking pictures and life on the go.

And with the newer Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra now available, it means you can get great deals and still take advantage of tech that will stay cutting edge for years to come.

  • Winner, Specs and features: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
  • Winner, Design: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
  • Winner, Camera: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
  • Winner, Screen: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
  • Winner, Design: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
  • Winner, Battery life: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
  • Winner, Software: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
  • Winner, Price and availability : Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Specs and features

The spec sheets for both the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra are first rate.

Each one supports the latest Android 12 operating system, has 5G as standard, face recognition smarts, the latest Gorilla Glass Victus tech for protecting against bumps and scrapes, IP68 waterproof and dustproof rating and 120Hz screen refresh rate for super smooth scrolling.

However, there are some key differences which put the Galaxy S21 Ultra ahead.

It supports Samsung’s ace S Pen stylus, has a 512GB storage option (the Galaxy S21 only goes up to 256GB) and has RAM options of 12GB and 16GB, compared with 8GB on the Galaxy S21.

These are small things for everyday users, but if you want a top end phone that will have a long life, they are worth paying extra for.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Design

The design of both the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Ultra is broadly similar, with a rear bump to house the main camera and a punch hole on the display for the selfie snapper.

However, what sets the Galaxy S21 Ultra apart is its curved edges, as opposed to the flat finish of the regular S21.

That might not sound like much, but it means the larger device sits really neatly in the hand, without the sense it might slide out at any time.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that the Galaxy S21 Ultra is larger. It has a massive 6.8-inch screen, compared with a 6.2-inch effort on the Galaxy S21.

That extra size may be off putting to some, but it does make the Galaxy S21 Ultra a better overall phone, capable of streaming and gaming on a whole other level.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Camera

This is where the Galaxy S21 Ultra really stands out from the Galaxy S21.

While the latter packs a more than capable triple lens setup for its main camera, with 12MP ultra wide and wide angle lenses and a 64MP telephoto lens, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has four lenses: a 12MP ultra wide, 108MP wide angle and two 12MP telephoto cameras.

The software on both cameras is largely the same, meaning impressive portrait mode, image stabilisation, 8K video recording and night imaging.

However, the Bright Night sensor on the Galaxy S21 Ultra means even better night time photography.

The results from the Galaxy S21 are rock solid, but the overall look of pictures taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra are noticeably better, with greater detail and more richness.

The selfie camera on the S21 Ultra is a colossal 40MP, compared with 10MP on the S21. That means better video calls and selfies that look crystal clear.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Screen display

The screen on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is larger than the Galaxy S21, a huge 6.8-inches rather than 6.2.

Both are capacious by modern standards, but the S21 Ultra feels more like a small tablet rather than a smartphone.

The result is a device built for streaming video and long gaming sessions. Each phone packs 120Hz refresh rate for smooth rendering of video and social feeds.

However, the S21 Ultra has a range of 10Hz to 120Hz, against 40Hz to 120Hz. In the real world though, it’s hard to tell much difference.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s Edge QHD+ tech is brighter and crisper than the Galaxy S21’s FHD+ smarts too, great if you love to watch a lot of video on the move.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Battery life and performance

Performance wise, each phone here packs the same Samsung Exynos 2100 chipset. This serves up rapid, lag free performance.

Although outdated by the Exynos 2200, it remains one of the best in the business.

Both devices can also be updated to the latest Android 12 software from Google, with the standard One UI making it easy to use.

The battery on the Galaxy S21 Ultra is larger, however, standing at 5,000mAh rather than 4,000mAh.

That means it can last longer, with up to two days on a single charge rather than one and a half.

That’s a big difference at a time when battery drain is a real issue. For us, the Galaxy S21 Ultra wins out here.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Software

Both the Galaxy S21 and S21 Ultra use the same Android software. Each one shipped with Android 11 but can now be updated to Android 12.

With the One UI on top, it’s great to use and has all the latest software from Google, with access to the best versions of Gmail, Maps and Photos.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Ultra might be over a year old but they are still widely available.

Here at Moneysupermarket you can get the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra from Three on a 24 month contract, paying £245 up front and then £39 per month for 100GB of 5G data and unlimited calls and texts.

The Galaxy S21 can be snapped up from the same network for £240 up front, but then just £20 per month for 100GB of 5G and unlimited calls and texts.

  • Galaxy S21 5G (128GB Grey)
    Galaxy S21 5G
    • 100GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £309.00 device cost
    • £17.00 per month
    24 month contract From Fonehouse
  • Galaxy S21 5G (128GB Pink)
    Galaxy S21 5G
    • 6GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £149.00 device cost
    • Special offers with O2 Priority
    • £18.00 per month
    24 month contract From MobilePhonesDirect.co.uk
  • Galaxy S21 5G (128GB Grey)
    Galaxy S21 5G
    • 6GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £149.00 device cost
    • Special offers with O2 Priority
    • £18.00 per month
    24 month contract From MobilePhonesDirect.co.uk
  • Galaxy S21 5G (128GB Violet)
    Galaxy S21 5G
    • 6GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £149.00 device cost
    • Special offers with O2 Priority
    • £18.00 per month
    24 month contract From MobilePhonesDirect.co.uk
  • Galaxy S21 5G (128GB Pink)
    Galaxy S21 5G
    • 20GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £99.00 device cost
    • Special offers with O2 Priority
    • £21.00 per month
    24 month contract From MobilePhonesDirect.co.uk
  • Galaxy S21 5G (128GB Grey)
    Galaxy S21 5G
    • 20GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £99.00 device cost
    • Special offers with O2 Priority
    • £21.00 per month
    24 month contract From MobilePhonesDirect.co.uk
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (128GB Black)
    Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    • Unlimited 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £14.99 device cost
    • Special offers with O2 Priority
    • £50.00 per month
    24 month contract From MobilePhonesDirect.co.uk
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (128GB Black)
    Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    • 110GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £238.99 device cost
    • Special offers with O2 Priority
    • £31.00 per month
    24 month contract From Buymobiles.net
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (128GB Black)
    Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    • 110GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £238.99 device cost
    • Special offers with O2 Priority
    • £31.00 per month
    24 month contract From Affordable Mobiles
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (128GB Black)
    Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    • 80GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £238.99 device cost
    • Special offers with O2 Priority
    • £31.00 per month
    24 month contract From Buymobiles.net
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (128GB Black)
    Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    • 80GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £238.99 device cost
    • Special offers with O2 Priority
    • £31.00 per month
    24 month contract From Affordable Mobiles
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (128GB Black)
    Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    • 100GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £194.99 device cost
    • £33.00 per month
    24 month contract From MobilePhonesDirect.co.uk

How do other phones compare against each other?

It’s great to see how other phones compare, so check out the rest of our head to head reviews.

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