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Tom’s Guide First Look: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Galaxy S21 Ultra delivers dual telephoto cameras and S Pen support for less money than its predecessor

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra back (Image credit: Future)

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the smartphone expert first look at the Samsung S21. Continue reading here on Tom’s Guide to see more about the amazing features of this smartphone.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is here, and it’s designed to deliver the best of the best from Samsung. And it does stand out from the regular Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus in several ways to earn its Ultra name. This includes dual telephoto lenses for serious zooming; support for the S Pen (a first for Galaxy S phones); and a bigger, brighter and more dynamic 120Hz OLED display.

The best part about the S21 Ultra is that the price is more sane this time around, as it starts at $1,199 (compared to $1,399 for last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra). And the new Ultra comes in a sleeker design and faster performance from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chip.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra does make some trade-offs. You won’t find a charger in the box, and there’s no microSD card slot for expanding the storage. But overall the S21 Ultra looks like the most versatile Galaxy phone yet and a serious challenger to the iPhone 12 Pro Max for the title of best phone.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra release date and price

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs S21 Plus(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is available for pre-order starting January 14 at 11 a.m. ET. The release date for the Galaxy S21 Ultra is January 29. You’ll be able to buy carrier and unlocked versions of the phone.

The Ultra starts at $1,199 and includes 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You can also upgrade to 256GB of storage and to a model with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. The 256GB model costs $1,249 — basically an extra $50 — while you’ll pay $1,379 for a Galaxy S21 Ultra with 512GB of storage.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra design and colors

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra camera close-up (Image credit: Future)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has a camera bump, but it doesn’t jut out from the design as much as it did with the S20 Ultra. A new contour cut design better integrates the bump with the glass back and metal frame around the side.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra bottom SIM Card slot (Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S21 Ultra colors are limited if you’re buying through a carrier, with just Phantom Silver and Phantom Black as your options. But the matte look does come across as sophisticated and should resist fingerprints. will offer exclusive S21 Ultra colors, including Phantom Navy, Phantom Titanium and Phantom Brown.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra fingerprint (Image credit: Future)

One welcome design upgrade is that the in-screen fingerprint sensor is now 1.7x larger, so it should be a bit easier to unlock this device. This is especially handy now that many of us are still wearing masks.

Measuring 6.5 x 2.97 x 0.35 inches (165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm) and weighing 8.08 ounces (229 grams), the S21 Ultra is wider and heavier than the S20 Ultra (6.6 x 2.7 x 0.34 inches, 7.7 ounces). So this will definitely be a phone you’ll want to use with two hands.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra display

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra display (Image credit: Future)

The 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display on the Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t make you choose between sharp QHD resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate like its predecessor. This phone lets you do both at the same time, so you can enjoy smooth scrolling and gameplay without having to drop down the pixels.

The refresh rate scales all the way down to 10Hz (compared to 48Hz on the S21 and S21 Plus), which should help save on battery life. Plus, the S21 Ultra is designed to get super bright outdoors, going all the way up to 1,500 nits. The S20 Ultra maxed out at 1,200 nits.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 120Hz display (Image credit: Future)

Samsung says the S21 Ultra has a 3 million: 1 contrast ratio, which is 50% higher than the S20 Ultra. And there’s an Eye Comfort Shield feature that’s designed to reduce eye fatigue by limiting blue light.

Editor’s Note: This is just an excerpt from our Tom’s Guide smartphone expert’s first look at the Samsung S21. Continue reading here on Tom’s Guide to see more about the amazing features of this smartphone.

See also: Tom’s Guide: LG Rollable Phone Just Stole The Show At CES 2021 — Here’s Your First Look