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The price differential on the S21+ is worth the savings if you’re okay with compromising on two key fronts.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra in black & Galaxy S21+ in purple
Atom Smartphones Thursday, February 04, 2021 - 19:36

Ultra. Last year the top of the line Galaxy S20 became the first Samsung to wear this badge. It’s now come to represent the pinnacle of Samsung’s smartphones that don’t fall within its premium range of foldable devices. The Ultra devices are also among the priciest Android smartphones you can buy, crossing the Rs 1 lakh threshold. I’ll say this, the S21 Ultra is the Android flagship to beat right now. But not everyone is willing to spring over a lakh for a smartphone, neither does every consumer need all the features that make the S21 Ultra formidable. We pit the S21 Ultra against the middle child – the S21+, in the S21 line-up (that also includes the Galaxy S21) and let you pick the one that works for your needs.

Design: We were not super impressed with Samsung’s design choices for last year’s S20 devices. Cut to 2021, Samsung has completely altered the script. The S21 Ultra’s Phantom Black variant is probably our favourite version of black on any smartphone with its stunning haze black finish. The contour-cut camera module merges seamlessly with the metal rail. The S21+ features a smaller camera module but follows the same seamless design approach. We were equally smitten by the Phantom Violet colour option on the S21+. Both phones are a tad heavy; if you’re after a compact form factor, then the S21 with its polycarbonate back and 6.2-inch display might be the one for you.  

Galaxy S21 Ultra

Display: This is one of the key, noticeable differences between the Ultra and the S21+. The Ultra is probably the smartphone display to beat (with a variable refresh rate - up to 120Hz) featuring Samsung’s trademark form with gentle curves. Colours and details are incredible on the 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x display (1440 x 3200 pixels / 20:9 aspect ratio / 515 PPI). You can max out this display now – Samsung lets you catch videos on QHD resolution with a 120Hz refresh rate unlike its predecessor. It also enhances your game play experience with smooth scrolling. If you’re one of those who prefer a flat display then you might be good with the Dynamic AMOLED 2x display (1080 x 2400 pixels / 20:9 aspect ratio / 394 PPI) on the S21+. It’s certainly not in the same league as the Ultra especially if you’re prone to binge watching on Netflix. 

Camera: Samsung’s Ultra devices ride heavily on the rear cam. I’ve enjoyed exploring the versatility of this camera. There’s a 108MP primary lens but it’s the dual telephoto lenses – with 3X and 10X optical zoom that combine to create a whole new set of possibilities. This cam is certainly not afraid of the darkness - lowlight images are terrific. There’s also a whole new bunch of video tricks including a clever new Director’s View (also available on the S21 and S21+). The S21+ is essentially the same rear cam as last year’s S20 – 12 MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide and a 64MP telephoto cam. You don’t get the same zoom capabilities as the Ultra but it’s a capable all-round shooter too. The Ultra also has the edge with a 40MP selfie shooter (vis-à-vis the 10MP front cam on the S21+)

Galaxy S21 Plus

Hardware: Samsung understands ‘need for speed’. All the S21 devices are powered by the same zippy Exynos 2100 processor. The memory configurations are different though. The S21+ comes with 8GB of RAM and a choice of 128 and 256GB internal storage versions while the Ultra offers a choice of 12GB/256GB and 16GB/512GB variants. We didn’t really notice the difference in everyday usage. Battery life is dependable on both devices (the S21+ has a 4800 mAh battery while the Ultra comes with 5000 mAh). It’s the exclusions in this year’s S21 trio that have raised eyebrows. There’s no expandable storage slot, a feature that has always given Samsung fans gloating rights. Samsung has also omitted the charging brick and headphones in the retail package as part of its environment initiatives. The S21 Ultra also becomes the first device outside Samsung’s Note series that offers S-Pen support. It’s not in-built though; you’ll have to buy it as an additional accessory.   

Verdict: If you’re not limited by budget constraints, it’s easy to recommend the Ultra. It’s made for those ‘I want it all’ consumers. There’s a Rs 24,000 price differential between the base variants of the S21+ and the Ultra, a significant difference in these post-COVID times. It’s worth that saving if you’re okay to make compromises on two key fronts – the display and the camera.

The Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (available in Phantom Silver, Phantom Black and Phantom Violet) starts at Rs 81,999 while the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (available in Phantom Silver and Phantom Black) costs Rs 1,05,999 and upwards. 

Views expressed by the author are personal

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