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Photo by Chaim Gartenberg/The Verge
Samsung’s latest flagship Galaxy phones were unveiled earlier today (Thursday 14th January 2021) at their Unpacked event - the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra. The S21 starts at US $799, the S21 Plus at US $999 and the S21 Ultra at US $1,199.
Surprisingly, the S21 and S21 Plus are some of the least expensive flagship phones released by Samsung in recent years. The S21 Ultra seeks to be the ultimate Samsung smartphone that cuts no corners and aims to offer the most premium phone possible — with a price tag to match.
However, the internal changes of all three (3) models are more incremental from last year’s S20 lineup, and in some cases, they are an intentional step back. All three (3) will be available to pre-order on 14th January 2021 and will launch on 29th January 2021.
GALAXY S21 & S21 PLUS
Barring the obvious differences in screen size, battery size, and a few other minor details, the S21 and S21 Plus are almost identical devices - unlike last year’s S20 and S20 Plus.
Samsung made a few compromises in order to reach the lower starting price points of this year’s S21 (US $799) and S21 Plus (US $999). For instance, the displays, while the same 6.2-inch (S21) and 6.7-inch (S21 Plus) sizes as last year’s models, no longer have the subtly curved edges that have been a Samsung hallmark for years.
The screen resolution on the S21 and S21 Plus has been reduced from 3200 x 1440 on last year’s models to a more modest 2400 x 1080. Both phones still offer 120Hz refresh rates, although it’s dynamically adjusted now. Lastly, the RAM has also been dropped from 12GB to 8GB.
Unfortunately, the smaller S21 makes some additional trade-offs: the back panel is made of polycarbonate plastic, not glass, and it lacks an ultra-wideband radio, which the S21 Plus and S21 Ultra offer for better integration with Samsung’s new Galaxy SmartTag.
Samsung is following in Apple’s footsteps by no longer including a charging brick or headphones in the box, justifying it with similar environmental reasons (although Samsung will also likely save a few dollars by not bundling those parts).
The processor used in the S21 and S21 Plus (along with the S21 Ultra) is the latest Snapdragon 888 chipset from Qualcomm, which promises big improvements in overall performance. There’s comprehensive 5G integration on both devices, with support for mmWave and sub-6GHz networks. The fingerprint sensor has been upgraded to Qualcomm’s new 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2, which should be faster and easier to use. As for batteries, the S21 still offers a beefy 4,000mAh battery, and the S21 Plus has been upgraded to an even larger 4,800mAh one.
The camera system remains largely unchanged from last year’s models. Both the S21 and S21 Plus offer a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera, and a 64-megapixel telephoto lens, along with a 10-megapixel selfie camera. The S21 Plus, however, has lost the depth sensor from the previous S20 Plus.
Samsung will no longer over-smooth faces by default and will instead make it an option - which is a welcomed change.
GALAXY S21 ULTRA
The S21 Ultra will be the first Galaxy S phone to support Samsung’s S Pen stylus. Unlike the Galaxy Note series however, the S Pen does not slide into the body of the S21 Ultra (you need a special case for that). The S21 Ultra starts at US $1,199 and does not include any extras like the S Pen or a case. You can purchase the S Pen separately for US $40 or for US $1,269 you can get the S21 Ultra bundle which includes the S Pen and a case. The case holds both the phone and the S Pen but it is rather bulky, adding extra width to an already large-sized phone.
The S21 Ultra also has a lot in common with the original S20 Ultra, including a massive screen, a 108-megapixel camera, and top-of-the-line specs.
The S21 Ultra features a 6.8-inch 3200 x 1440 OLED display, with refresh rates up to 120Hz (a refresh rate the S21 Ultra can hit at full resolution, unlike last year). There’s 12GB of RAM, a 5,000mAh battery, up to 512GB of storage, and Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 888 processor.
Aside from the big 108-megapixel camera sensor, the S21 Ultra features an additional three (3) rear cameras. There is a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera and two (2) separate 10-megapixel telephoto cameras: one with a 3X zoom and one with 10X zoom, which Samsung says is designed to give users more flexibility in how they approach shots. The downside of all those added sensors is that it expands the camera array to almost twice as wide as the regular S21 and S21 Ultra models.
As The Verge puts it, “With the S21 [models], if you want the best thing Samsung has to offer, you are going to have to buy the biggest thing.”
[Source: The Verge]
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