Galaxy S21 vs. S21 Plus vs. S21 Ultra Compared

Samsung is known for offering Smartphone enthusiasts some of the greatest opportunities available in the market, especially when considering these options aren’t as pricy as some of its competitors. The popularity of the brand is not in jeopardy. The outstanding success of the Galaxy S21 models in most international markets proves the inherent value any Samsung model offers to customers.

For those thinking about getting one of these Galaxy S21 models, either because this product line is among the best rated of its generation or because acquiring another brand’s high-end smartphone is out of budget, comparing each model type is essential to making the right choice.

Let’s dive in on all the things you must know to make an informed decision!

Samsung Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra, technical specifications

 SAMSUNG GALAXY S21SAMSUNG GALAXY S21+SAMSUNG GALAXY S21 ULTRA
DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm 172 g161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8 mm 202 g
165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm 228 g
DISPLAYDynamic AMOLED 2 X 6.2 inches FHD+120 Hz
Dynamic AMOLED 2 X 6.7 inches FHD+120 Hz
Dynamic AMOLED 2 X 6.8 inches WQHD+120 Hz
PROCESSORExynos 2100 5nmExynos 2100 5nmExynos 2100 5nm
RAM8 GB8 GB12/16 GB
MEMORY128/256 GB128/256 GB128/256/512 GB
SOFTWAREAndroid 11 with One UI 3.1Android 11 with One UI 3.1Android 11 with One UI 3.1
REAR CAMERAS• Angular: 12 MP
• Telephoto lens: 64 MP, optical zoom 3x
• Ultra wide angle: 12 MP
• Others: digital zoom up to 30x, portrait mode, night mode, director's perspective
• Angular: 12 MP
• Telephoto lens: 64 MP, optical zoom 3x
• Ultra wide angle: 12 MP
• Others: digital zoom up to 30x, portrait mode, night mode, director's perspective
• Angular: 108 MP
• Telephoto 1: 10 MP, 10x optical zoom
• Telephoto 2: 10 MP, optical zoom 3x
• Ultra Wide Angle: 12 MP
• Laser sensor for Auto Focus
• Others: digital zoom up to 100x, portrait mode, night mode, director's perspective
FRONT CAMERA10 MP10 MP40 MP
CONNECTIVITY5G, WiFi6, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, USB-C5G, WiFi6, UWB, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, USB-C5G, WiFi6E, UWB, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, USB-C
BATTERY4,000
mAhFast charge
25W (charger not included)
Wireless
charging Reverse wireless
charging
4,800
mAhFast charge
25W (charger not included)
Wireless
charging
Reverse wireless
charging
5,000
mAhFast charge
25W (charger not included)
Wireless
charging
Reverse wireless
charging
OTHERIP68 water
resistance
AKG stereo
speakers
Ultrasonic fingerprint
reader
Face
unlock
2DSamsung DeX
IP68 water
resistance
AKG stereo
speakers
Ultrasonic fingerprint
reader
Face
unlock
2DSamsung DeX
S Pen holder
IP68 water
resistance
AKG stereo
speakers
Ultrasonic fingerprint
reader
Face
unlock
2DSamsung DeX
PRICE
In this generation, the differences of the Ultra model concerning its smaller siblings are higher than ever. Last year, when assessing the former Galaxy S20 models, the most expensive option was not so different from the other two models.

After thoroughly analyzing these three phones, we already have a clear opinion on which one is the best, their similarities, and the fundamental differences.

Similarities among the models

Before comparing these models in depth and explaining their key points, let’s explain those features in which they are identical since they share much of the hardware. Firstly, all three models are sold with the Exynos 2100 in Europe, with the Snapdragon 888 variants being relegated to other markets. All have a 120Hz refresh rate and AMOLED technology, although we will see what differences there are in the panel later on.

In terms of connectivity, processor, and charging technologies, the Samsung Galaxy S21 models are identical. All have the Exynos 2100 and 5G connectivity, WiFi6 or NFC, plus DeX support. UWB technology is present in the S21+ and S21 Ultra, but not in the most basic model.

Although the batteries are different, all of them feature 25W fast charging, wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging for charging other devices. None of the S21s come with a charger in the box, so we will have to get the adapter on our own. They also share stereo speakers signed by AKG, a new generation ultrasonic fingerprint reader, and 2D facial unlocking via the front camera.

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The software is also the same: UI 3.1 based on Android 11 with three years of guaranteed updates. If so, these three models should reach Android 14, which is excellent news for the operating system. They also receive monthly security updates during these three years, with the corresponding security patches and certain system-level improvements.

Design: refinement throughout the range, plastic on the smallest model

The design of the Samsung Galaxy S21 has been completely redesigned on the back. Last year the glass of the S20 was quite slippery, something that has changed (at least in one of the models) in this generation. Starting with the small model, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is the only one of this generation finished in plastic, covered by matte paint that, by the way, is more slippery than usual.

The Samsung Galaxy S21+ is finished in glass and matte paint. Like the S21, it is somewhat slippery, as this coating does not have much grip. The S21 Ultra is the one that fares the best. It is also finished in glass and matte paint, but its paint layer has much more grip.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the only one with a curved screen, and its camera module is significantly larger than that of its smaller siblings.

 

 

Aesthetically, the main difference lies in the camera module. The S21 and S21+ have a vertical strip that houses three sensors, while the Ultra has a module almost twice as large since it houses the second line of sensors (the laser and a telephoto lens). Similarly, it is the only one with a curved screen, so the front is somewhat different from its siblings as it shows the metal frame around the screen.

Regarding the ergonomic sensations, everything is defined by the dimensions. The most comfortable of the three is the Samsung Galaxy S21, with a height of just 15 centimeters and 172 grams. It is one of the most compact high-end cell phones on the market and other alternatives such as the slightly smaller iPhone 12. The S21 is a marvel when used with one hand, it fits in any pocket and, despite being made of plastic, it feels like a premium phone all the way.

S21 Ultra is the only model in the S21 family that has a curved screen

The Samsung Galaxy S21+ and S21 Ultra have almost identical measurements, although the weight of the Ultra is 228 grams compared to 202 grams for the S21+. Here we’re going to go with the Ultra, as the slight curve makes it more comfortable to wrap the phone in one hand, plus having an overall better grip. The S21+ is quite large and has hardly any elements to facilitate its ergonomics. The S21 Ultra is also considerably large, but we do have some extra aids when holding it.

Therefore, by weight and dimensions, the Galaxy S21 is the most comfortable of the three. It fits in any pocket and is not heavy in hand.

Regarding the position of ports, buttons, and others, all models are quite similar. The main difference is that in the S21+ and S21 Ultra, we cannot reach the volume button naturally with the thumb, as the button is very high. In the case of the S21, we can reach everything with one hand, as it is a much smaller terminal.

In short, the S21 is the most compact and comfortable of the three. If we assume that we want a larger phone, the S21 Ultra is more ergonomic than the S21+, with similar dimensions but much less comfortable and more slippery in hand.

Screen innovations: S21 Ultra supremacy

After years of betting on a 2K resolution, Samsung has restricted it to the Ultra model this year. This is a controversial decision that allows the S21 Ultra to stand out among its siblings since its panel is notably better this year. As we already mentioned in the review, it is quite noticeable that the panel of the S21 Ultra comes from a new generation of screens. The level of brightness, colors, sharpness, and virtually any other feature we analyzed is the highest. It is an outstanding panel that is hard to criticize.

By weight and dimensions, the Galaxy S21 is the most comfortable of the three.

The S21’s panel is less sharp and bright but still outstanding and worthy of the high-end. The panel of the S21 and S21+ is also quite good, with a sharpness more than acceptable for an average user. However, comparing these panels with the Ultra model, the 2K resolution is noticeable, especially in screen diagonals exceeding 6 inches. All models have a 120Hz refresh rate, which can be used in 2K resolution in the case of the Ultra and Full HD+ in the S21 and S21+.

Regarding screen diagonals, we have 6.2 inches in the case of the S21, 6.7 inches in the S21+, and 6.8 inches in the S21 Ultra. As we’ve already reviewed, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the only one of the three models with a curved screen, although this year it’s so light that it’s barely noticeable. There are no phantom touches or problems associated with such a curve, although the slight shadowing left by the curve is still noticeable.

This year, the victory in the panel subject goes for the Ultra model. The S21 and S21+ have good panels as well, but their technology is not as advanced. Finally, we must highlight that the S21 Ultra is compatible with S-Pen, thus being the first terminal of the S family to achieve this function.

Camera improvements

Last year, despite the 108 megapixels of the S20 Ultra, the processing ended up giving the victory to the Samsung Galaxy S20, with a reasonably large sensor but 12 megapixels. This year the resolutions are repeated, but the configuration of the S21 Ultra is more ambitious.

Besides having a better main sensor, it has a laser sensor to improve focusing (one of the problems that the S20 Ultra had last year) and a 10X telephoto lens that will surely make a difference when zooming.

Thus, the S21 ranges from 0.6x to 30X hybrid (3x optical x 10x digital), and the S21 Ultra again reaches 100X (10x optical x 10x digital). The leap in processing is not huge, but it is noticeable in the Ultra model.

Last year there was little difference in portraiture, but in this generation, the crop is better, noise is lower, and detail is better in the Ultra than in the S21. This medium-light photograph is an excellent example to show how well the Ultra manages to crop. There is also more noise in the S21’s image, something the Ultra does not show (and manages to do so without washing out the image).

Which one should I buy?

If you want the best Samsung Galaxy S, the Ultra model is the best choice. However, if you want a more compact alternative, go for the S21.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra presents significant improvements from what we saw last year. In this generation, we do find a model with a better screen, a more versatile camera, a more striking finish, and virtually everything you can ask for a high-end phone.

The S21 is the model to buy if you don’t want the Ultra: compact, robust, and reliable in any situation. It’s a high-end model that fits in any pocket and is much cheaper than its big brothers, despite sharing much of the hardware.

Regarding the S21+, it is a bit of a no man’s land. It is a larger S21, with no advantages over it. If you want a large S21 and are willing to spend about $1,200, it is worth paying extra for the Ultra, as you’ll get a better camera, a better finish, and overall the best Samsung phone to date.

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