Close

What are you looking for?

cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Original topic:

Returning the S21 Ultra: Honest review

(Topic created on: 03-02-2021 05:02 PM)
Eldrid
Pathfinder
Options
Galaxy S21 Series
Hi all just thought I'd share my experience with the s21 ultra and give you my perspective on why I am returning this device.

I am a long time Samsung user and have been using only Samsung devices for the last 4-5 years. So after seeing all the positive influencer reviews I decided to buy the s21 ultra 512gb with 16gb ram top of the line.. the best phone money can buy. But unfortunately after paying over £1300 I felt like I didn't get the usual flagship experience that you once got with Samsung devices. I own a note 9 and man what a device that is, the only reason I wanted to "upgrade" was for the cameras and the fact that Samsung were offering me a good trade in value. Below I will be comparing vs the note 9 and while the s21 ultra is certainly an upgrade in terms of specs what Samsung forgets is that when one buys a flagship its the experience that counts as well.

1 - The unboxing - well there's not much to it really. You open the box you get a phone and a cable. Even the cable is a USB C to USB C. We'll if they're assuming people will use old chargers then they should provide a USB C - USB A and an USB c to USB A converter like they did all this while this will also help with transferring data from the old phone. The note 9 on the other hand had a premium unboxing experience with you having to slide out the box from the sleeve and once you take your phone out you have other goodies. Not a big deal but didn't feel as premium after paying so much. That being said the build quality of the phone is awesome and it looks beautiful it feels solid in the hand. Not much larger than the note but because it is chunkier its easier to hold and feels premium all round. Great design overall. 

2 - The screen - This is one thing I absolutely fell in love with in the s21 ultra. The front is nearly entirely screen and the difference between 120hz and 60hz is noticeable when comparing side by side. I think Samsung, as always, have done an excellent job with the screen. Unfortunately my screen had a slight pink tint. When you look at the screen at certain angles and the background is white this tint is visible for example on Facebook or ebay. Probably poorly calibrated or a manufacturing issue. A search online reveals quite a few others have this issue. For such a pro level phone a pink tint is unacceptable as people use these phones to edit photos etc with all that power. And the colour accuracy being off doesn't make sense at this price. Comparing side by side the note 9 doesn't have this issue and whites look white from any angle no pink tint. Overall the 120hz is definitely something I think of as an upgrade though as everything is buttery smooth and one UI 3.1 looks beautiful. In my opinion this is the hallmark of this device and is great for gaming watching videos etc. 

3 - The cameras - It's all advertisement nothing else. The camers are sub par and a Google pixel or iPhone from a couple of years ago can beat it easy! Yes it has great camera hardware. But the shots I took with the 10x optical zoom or even the 3x have an unacceptable amount of processing resulting in blurry water colour like images. Feathers and fur come out noisy and blurry. The macro from the wide angle lens is pretty good and sharp though. But if you plan to take pictures of pets, birds kids etc who won't be too still, especially in indoor lighting you will most likely get blurry photos that you can barely use as the camera is slow overall. The cameras are great for outdoor landscapes in bright light and have great dynamic range. Also comparing indoor photos of objects and plants my note 9 produces photos that are sharper. The AI on the portrait mode is a hit or miss at times blurring the body of the subject. In many regards the note 9 performs comparably in good light and its hard to tell the difference. The portrait mode is arguably better on the note 9 as it uses both cameras to capture portraits. Overall the camera was the main reason I got the phone but was left disappointed with it. Sure they've improved it since last year but its still not there yet. It will likely take another couple of generations for them to get everything right. Also some will argue that software updates can probably fix most of the camera issues. Well perhaps so but I didn't pay £1300 to be a beta tester for Samsung. They shouldn't release half baked products it should work as promised straight out of the box. 

4 - Battery life - its pretty good on the s21 ultra I was averaging 7ish hours of screen on time with 10% left. The note 9 was around 5 hours which would still get me through the day. With us being stuck at home anyway it doesn't matter much for me right now. 

In conclusion unless you just want to have the latest and greatest for bragging rights, or unless you're into heavy gaming or photo/video editing and need the power, if you own a previous generation Samsung flagship like the note 9 or 10 I would say don't upgrade, especially not for the csmeras as your device is probably capable enough for most daily tasks and likely takes better photos. The only perceiveable upgrade is the screen and some marginal quality improvement in photos from the main camera in certain situations. But £1300 is a significant sum for not so significant upgrades. Yes the processor, storage, ram, software is new but most people barely harness all that power and yesteryear flagships are still snappy enough in real life usage. The note 9 does feel less smooth because of the 60hz refresh rate but it's not like it hangs or struggles to cope with tasks. Also if you don't look at them side by side it's easy to eventually forget and get used to the 60hz display. £1300 for smoother scrolling through menus and Facebook is a bit of a stretch and the phone didn't seem like a significant upgrade that I would happily stick to for the next 2-3 years. 

Also, I missed having an sd card slot to swap files quickly between devices and the headphone jack is still awesome on the note 9 also the finger print reader on the note 9 is much more reliable. Another strange thing I noticed is that the light sensor on the note 9 is much better. If I switch the lights off for example the phone does a much better job of adjusting screen brightness vs the s21 ultra. Hence I have decided to stick with it for now and see what other phones come out this year or maybe even next year. In fact I just received a security patch for the note 9 today so good to see Samsung will still supporting this device with security updates for the next year or so. Samsung have come a long way in that regard and is probably why i would want to stick with them. 

For now it's goodbye s21 ultra. 




17 REPLIES 17
Rocketron
First Poster
Options
Galaxy S21 Series
Also get a pink tinge hmmmm🤔
0 Likes
AliIbrahim
Pioneer
Options
Galaxy S21 Series
thought I was the only one. I feeling my s9plus takes better pictures!!
mt s9plys shows more details on my dogs(can see the strands ect) fur but my s21ultra kinda just blurs
screen is fantastic and battery life is okay
HellCat
Explorer
Options
Galaxy S21 Series
That seems like a fair review but equally you sound reluctant to move on from the Note 9. This appears to play a big part in your cynicism towards the S21.
I have just moved on from an S20 Ultra so the upgrades on the S21 seem even less of an advancement than they would from a 3 year old Note 9. However, I still think the S21 is an all round better phone.
If you were doing more intensive tasks on your Note 9 such as playing xbox games I think you'd be surprised at just how much better the all round performance of the S21 actually is.
Many products leave the factory with some features needing software upgrades, it may not be ideal but user feedback is valuable and this point isn't enough to condemn a phone within a week or so of being released.
My question would be that if the Note 9 is soo good, why did you upgrade at all? 🤔
0 Likes
Eldrid
Pathfinder
Options
Galaxy S21 Series
I think my review clearly states I upgraded for the cameras. I am not at all reluctant to move from the note 9 else I wouldn't have opted to trade it in. I am not condemning the s21 ultra just hoping my review will benefit others in a similar situation like me. I totally get that for games and other activities that utilise the power, the s21 ultra cant compare to a 3 year old note. But for most other activities the note is still perfectly usable and il go out on a limb and say the main camera is arguably better on the note 9. See these two pictures. Taken from the main camera on both. The sky looks blue when infact it was grey and the note 9 did a much better job of representing that. The oversharpening is horrible on the s21 ultra. Yes the image ia brighter and looks more pleasing until you zoom in and realise the grass is an oversharpened noisy mess. Also the roof tiles have very little detail on the house. Not sure how much is visible here as this site probably compresses images further. When i fork out the dough i expect results I wanted an upgrade and sadly this TO ME this didn't feel like one. I am sure there are numerous people to whom this IS an upgrade and that's fair. We all have different requirements I guess.

20210203_160405_21286.jpg

20210203_160407_21284.jpg

0 Likes
Eldrid
Pathfinder
Options
Galaxy S21 Series
I would hardly call it reluctance. If I were reluctant I wouldn't have opted to trade in the note 9. The s21 ultra is by no means a bad device. The idea of the review is to help people who are in a similar situation like me i.e they have an older flagship but want to upgrade for the cameras. The new and improved cameras were my main motivation to upgrade. After spending a week or so with both devices in hand there were a few observations which is what the post is about. I am sure the s21 is great for gaming and other power hungry activities. Yes the note is still good for the purposes I use it for hence the s21 ultra is going back. Take a look at the two pics below the camera on the note 9 is miles better both shot on the main camera btw not the zoom. Not sure what is visible here due to the files being compressed further but the grass is so artificially bright and overprocessed that even zooming in slightly you can see all the noise and artifacting. The sky is bluer as well. The pic from the note is much cleaner when you zoom in, grass looks likw grass and tiles look like tiles. Also see the 3rd pic from the 10x optical zoom horrid! For 1300 quid it feels more like im settling for something than upgrading with these cameras. I had the exynos version btw not sure how much bearing that has on image processing.

20210203_160407_21284.jpg

20210202_132957_20996.jpg

20210203_160405_21286.jpg

HellCat
Explorer
Options
Galaxy S21 Series
Your criticism of the camera is very valid, this is the whole focus of the S21 after all so agree with your criticism.
The phone will likely see updates in the near future that slowly correct the teething issues with the camera, again this would be better out of the box but this isn't the case.
I'm no Samsung fan boy so don't think I'm naively defending the indefensible for the sake of it.
Due to pre orderding the S21 Ultra with EE I got over £400 worth of free items including the Buds Pro so in my mind the S21 ultra is a £900 phone so these minor issues are easier for me to accept.
I haven't had a chance to put the camera through its paces as of yet but I'm sure I will experience the issues you outlined.
I just took a photo of grass in the back garden at 10x zoom, it could definitely do with some refinement.

20210203_165345_1368.jpg

0 Likes
Kace2021
Navigator
Options
Galaxy S21 Series

I disagree.  I've had the full range of devices in the Note line up and can confirm that the s21 ultra outshines then in all categories:

Screen, camera, battery life, form factor.

Sorry you've had a bag experience.  See you in the future perhaps.  Ciao 

Screenshot_20210203-163007_Device care.jpg

 

 

 

My device... Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G 12/256GB Exynos
Eldrid
Pathfinder
Options
Galaxy S21 Series
Yup. Fair enough, your experience can be different. For the situations I use the camera in I found the picture quality to be borderline unacceptable. Agree with you on the other aspects though, it is a good device overall but i didn't feel I was getting my money's worth. Hence I have decided to wait and see what else comes along this year. There are rumours there will be a note fan edition this year lets see what that has to offer. I would prefer sticking with Samsung as all my other devices are Samsung but am open to switching if something really compelling comes along.
0 Likes
Dpx
Pioneer
Options
Galaxy S21 Series

I expect the cameras on the S21 Ultra  to greatly improve over the coming weeks/months with software updates.

When the S20 Ultra first came out, the camera software was terrible. Focusing issues, shutter issues and problems with the zoom function. However, after a few software updates, it has improved considerably and I no longer have those problems.

A lot of users are very eager to get the new device right away but many forget the first batches usually have the most issues and like someone said above, require software updates to improve functions based on user feedback.

It would be great if the phone performed flawlessly from unboxing but unfortunately that isn't always the case.

0 Likes