I did a hands-on review of the Galaxy S21 Ultra recently, but feel more like an expert on the phone now that I’ve had three days to use it. It certainly is the best Android smartphone available right now, but is the S21 Ultra the best smartphone overall? I’ll try and answer that question.
The most fascinating thing about the S21 Ultra is the camera. In some cases, it’s better than the iPhone 12 Pro Max when taking very close or very far pictures of objects. Here is a closeup of my lunch the other day taken with the S21 Ultra.
The details and lighting are perfect, and the full size photo allows you to zoom in even more without the details getting fuzzy. The S21 Ultra has a 100X “Space Zoom” feature for taking pictures of far-away objects. However, this zoom number doesn’t mean much as the details get muddy after 30X digital zoom. At 10X optical zoom (the largest optical zoom lens of any Samsung smartphone), the camera takes fantastic pictures. Here is one below:
I would say that for regular pictures, the iPhone 12 Pro Max delivers more natural-looking photos, but some may disagree. Still, I’d rather live with Samsung’s camera, although both are fantastic.
Another feature I’ve really enjoyed on the S21 Ultra is the S Pen, which writes just as smoothly as it does on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. You don’t get all the S Pen features the Note offers, but if you just want to draw or take quick handwritten notes, the S21 Ultra and the S Pen make a perfect couple.
Putting the S21 Ultra next to the iPhone 12 Pro Max made me finally realize that Samsung’s 20:9 aspect ratio screens are too long. The 19:5:9 ratio of Apple’s latest iPhone screens makes scrolling and viewing content in portrait mode a lot easier. Even if the S21 Ultra has a higher resolution screen, I still prefer using the screen on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
I also keep dreaming that Samsung could release a Galaxy S smartphone with Apple’s iOS operating system, but that is just about as likely as Joe Biden becoming a Republican. It’s a shame because the S21 Ultra is still limited by Android. Don’t get me wrong; Android has improved a lot, especially over the past four years. But it still doesn’t have the smoothness and convenience of iOS
However, now that Samsung has reduced the price of its flagship phones by $200, I’m betting they sell a lot of devices. The S21 Ultra is really the do-it-all smartphone. Samsung isn’t just throwing things at the kitchen sink; they are making sure a bunch of good features stick. Still, I don’t think Samsung has done enough to make iPhone 12 Pro Max users jealous.