Samsung Electronics Australia announced the Samsung Health Monitor application will launch in Australia providing access to blood pressure tracking and TGA-approved electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring via its latest Galaxy Watch series. From September 10, Australians will have access to on-demand ECG and blood pressure readings on Samsung’s latest wearables, the Galaxy Watch4 and Galaxy Watch4 Classic. These are the first Samsung smartwatches available in Australia to offer both blood pressure and ECG monitoring. The Samsung Health Monitor app with access to blood pressure and ECG monitoring will also become available on the Galaxy Watch3 and Galaxy Watch Active2 via a software update in the coming months[.
ECG monitoring on compatible Galaxy watches is registered as a medical device with the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) when connected to a compatible Galaxy smartphone. ECG tracking allows users to take an electrocardiogram reading, displaying heart rhythm as either atrial fibrillation (AFib) or sinus rhythm.
Mark Hodgson, Head of Content and Services, Mobile Division, Samsung Electronics Australia: “We know that Australians want access to the very best in health technology to not only allow them to keep track of their fitness goals, but critically, to be aware of their general health and wellbeing.
“We believe our Galaxy Watch and Samsung Health Monitor App offer a comprehensive and importantly, an accessible solution to help millions of Australians to help them improve and maintain their general health and wellbeing.”
It is estimated that around 33.5 million people worldwide are affected by Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), a common form of abnormal heart rhythm. Atrial fibrillation (AF) was the underlying or associated cause of over 14,000 deaths in Australia—9.0% of total deaths.
The electrocardiogram function works by recording the heart’s electrical activity via a sensor on the compatible Galaxy Watch. Users simply need to open the Samsung Health Monitor app while seated comfortably, and ensure the watch is fitted firmly to the wrist. Next, rest the forearm on a flat surface and lightly place a fingertip from the opposite hand on the top button on the smartwatch for 30 seconds. The app will then measure the users heart rate and rhythm, which will be displayed as either a Sinus Rhythm (a normal, regular heartbeat) or AFib (when the heart beats irregularly). Users can also export this data to PDF.
The ECG app feature was successfully included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) in Australia as a Class lla medical device. Devices undergo a rigorous approval process to be included in the ARTG to ensure that the safety of the device is acceptable and performs as intended, confirming the Essential Principles which is a set of fundamental design and manufacturing requirements for medical devices.
Blood pressure measurement
High blood pressure affects one-in-three people aged 18 and over in Australia and two-thirds of Australian adults with high blood pressure go undiagnosed. This is commonly linked to brain, kidney and heart diseases, and if left untreated, it can lead to stroke and heart failure. The blood pressure monitoring feature on the Galaxy Watch helps users to track their general health by allowing them to measure blood pressure conveniently from their smartwatch.To enable this feature, Samsung Galaxy users will need to install the Samsung Health Monitor application onto their Galaxy smartphone and connect it to their compatible Galaxy Watch.To monitor blood pressure on the Galaxy Watch device, users will need to first calibrate with a traditional cuff. They will then be able to tap to “Measure” the blood pressure anytime, anywhere. The device measures blood pressure through pulse wave analysis, which is tracked with the Heart Rate Monitoring sensors. The program then records the relationship between the calibration value and the blood pressure change to determine the blood pressure. To ensure accuracy, users are required to calibrate their device at least every 28 days. Once the calibration and set-up process is completed, users can access this information and export measurements to PDF.
Galaxy Watch4 and Watch4 Classic
Samsung’s latest Galaxy watch series also introduces a range of general health and well-being solutions including Body Composition (BIA) with key measurements like skeletal muscle mass, basal metabolic rate, body water and body fat percentage. It also offers sleep tracking that is designed to detect the sounds of a person’s snores and get their blood oxygen level while they sleep to provide Sleep Scores to help users get a better night’s sleep.
To ensure that help is never too far away in the event of a fall, Galaxy Watch4 includes fall detection, which helps identify a potential fall and can send an SOS notification to your chosen emergency contacts.These smartwatches also come packed with an array of fitness and wellness features to track a users daily activities and help them stay motivated to be their best.
Galaxy Watch4 and Galaxy Watch4 Classic will be available to purchase in Australia from September 10, 2021. Both watches showcase a sleek, iconic silhouette, with thinner cases than previous generations—and a variety of straps and customisable watch faces.
Galaxy Watch4 – a modern, minimalist option designed for versatile all-day use – will come in 40mm and 44mm, starting at AUD $399 for Bluetooth versions and AUD $499 for LTE models. The Galaxy Watch4 Classic has a a timeless smartwatch design with the fan-favourite rotating bezel. This watch will start at $549 for Bluetooth versions and $649 for LTE models and will be available in 42mm and 46mm variants in Black and Silver.
This comes following approval from the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods and the Australian Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration. Samsung does note that to get the most accurate results, it’s recommended to calibrate the watch once every four weeks. As in other regions, these stats also require a companion app that is only available on Samsung Galaxy smartphones.
Beyond the Galaxy Watch 4 series, the Galaxy Watch 3 and Galaxy Watch Active 2 will also be adding these features in Australia. Samsung doesn’t have a set date for this addition, however, only saying it will arrive in “the coming months.”
From September 10, Australians will have access to on-demand ECG and blood pressure readings on Samsung’s latest wearables, the Galaxy Watch4 and Galaxy Watch4 Classic. These are the first Samsung smartwatches available in Australia to offer both blood pressure and ECG monitoring.
The Samsung Health Monitor app with access to blood pressure and ECG monitoring will also become available on the Galaxy Watch3 and Galaxy Watch Active2 via a software update in the coming months.
It’s the year 2021, and we already had the S21 trio of Samsung high-end phones over for review. On the opposite end of the Galaxy spectrum is the Galaxy A12 (12, not 21) – an entry-level handset designed to offer the Samsung experience, on a budget.
Announced late last year and available since January, the Galaxy A12 is not the absolute most affordable phone Samsung sells – the Galaxy M02 gets that title. Samsung’s naming is a bit iffy in the lower tier and it can get confusing what’s what between the A and M series but the A12 sits just below the M12, and above the M02s. Not all of these models are available globally so you may or may not be able to snatch the most affordable Samsung in your particular neck of the woods.
The Galaxy A12 we have here is equipped with a 6.5-inch display and the consequences of the budget constraints are easy to spot. It’s one of few LCDs in the OLED-dominated Galaxy lineup, and the 720p resolution is also on the low side of average for the diagonal. It’s a fairly standard combo of size, technology and resolution for the segment, so the A12 isn’t ill-equipped, in fact.
The Mediatek Helio P35 is doing the math inside the A12 and that too isn’t a particularly exciting bit of hardware on its own. Again, however, it’s perfectly adequate for the price point – you’re getting an octa-core CPU and the chip is built on a 12nm fabrication process, so it should be decently powerful and frugal at the same time.
The quad camera setup on the back actually makes a strong case for the Galaxy A12 in its market context. While the usefulness of the two 2MP modules is debatable (one for depth data, the other for ‘macro’), the 48MP main camera and a 5MP ultrawide make for nice tandem that’s hard to find. An 8MP selfie camera completes the picture in the imaging department.
Video capture:Rear camera: 1080p@30fps; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
Battery: 5000mAh; Fast charging 15W.
Misc: Fingerprint reader (side-mounted); FM radio; 3.5mm jack.
One last important bit – the Galaxy A12 is powered by a 5,000mAh battery and that’s a lot of battery for a 12nm entry-level chipset and a 720p display, 6.5-inch as it may be. We’re expecting solid numbers for battery life.
Samsung Galaxy A12 unboxing
The Galaxy A12 arrives in a simple package that has the plain cardboard box inside a sleeve, a likeness of the phone printed on top. You get a couple of essentials – a 15W adaptor and USB-C cable and that’s it.
Taking out the phone reveals a nicely textured back
Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 • Xiaomi Poco M3 • Realme 7 (Global) • Motorola Moto G9 Power
Samsung often struggles to compete with the value-oriented brands in the lower market segments, and that’s the case with the Galaxy A12 we have here. It’s not a bad phone, and it excels in endurance, it takes decent pictures, and it looks good in the process. It’s also a Samsung, and the brand itself could make it more appealing than its actual merits.
But if you’re on a limited budget, is it really all that important what badge is on the back of your phone? Opting for one of the competitors will likely get you a superior overall package, and you might even save a little. If, however, you must absolutely get a Galaxy, the A12 is a reasonable compromise. It wouldn’t be our top choice for the money, though.
Standout textured back, nice-feeling plastics.
Excellent battery life.
Relatively capable camera setup, ultra-wide is not all that common in the price range.
Samsung‘s Galaxy A family has been a major success for the Korean giant in recent years. In fact, it now represents the largest portion of the company’s sales. That’s no coincidence either. There is only one way to pull off that level of success – and it’s by offering competitive features under high-profile branding for a reasonable amount. A daunting task that Samsung has been tackling like a true smartphone champ in nifty incremental steps throughout the last few Galaxy A generations.
The A family seems to constantly be growing as well. The lineup is sprawling, with new models seemingly popping up every few weeks. There is so much choice now, ranging from budget to nearly flagship-grade models, that Samsung could have easily spun it off into a sub-brand of its own. Not that we are suggesting they should.
the Galaxy A72 represents the highest-end model in the family. It is actually quite similar to the Galaxy A52, we recently reviewed. The vanilla version, that is, not the 5G one. Compared to the A52, the A72 offers a slightly bigger 6.7-inch, 90Hz display, an extra 8MP telephoto camera and a slightly bigger 5,000 mAh battery. Other than that, the vanilla A52 and the A72 are pretty much identical, including physically rocking a particular modern Samsung design.
Samsung Galaxy A72 specs at a glance:
Body: 165.0×77.4×8.4mm, 203g; Glass front, plastic back; IP67 dust/water resistant (up to 1m for 30 mins).
At the time of writing, the A52 starts at €350 for a 4GB/128GB unit, while the A72 costs €450 for its base 6GB/128GB tier. So the upgrades in the higher-tier model will set you back around €100 on top of the A52. Arguably, not quite as competitive on the value scale, but not bad either. Especially with features like the IP67 rating under its belt. Also, actual retail prices on both models have already come down a bit since their release, and the price difference should eventually shrink even further. Samsung is all too familiar with the kind of stiff mid-ranger competition it is facing in the space.
One more thing worth noting is that currently, there is no 5G variant of the A72 on offer. It is likely in the works, though, and has already been popping up in leaks. We can probably expect it to offer a 120Hz display, like the 5G variant of the A52 does. Potentially with a chipset swap from the Snapdragon 720G to the 750G 5G as well. That would make for yet another exciting model in the Galaxy A family. For now, however, we have a regular Galaxy A72 in for review in Awesome Blue, with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage. Let’s dive in.
The Samsung Galaxy A72 ships in a fairly plain two-piece box. Nothing too fancy, no plastic, just paper. Thick and rigid, it gets the job done. You don’t get much in the way of accessories either – just a wall charger and a few leaflets, and that’s about it.
That being said, unlike the Galaxy A52, which ships with a simple 15W charger, the A72 comes with a proper 25W PD one, including a white USB Type-C to Type-C cable. This is great news since the phone can, in fact, charge at up to 25W, and you don’t need to go out and buy a compatible charger to make use of the higher speed charging with the A72 like with the A52.
Depending on how you look at this, a proper charger in the box can be deducted from the total price of owning the A72, or rather added to the potential math of getting the A52 instead and have you adjust the value calculation a bit.
Samsung really upped its value game with the latest batch of Galaxy A family devices. The new “Awesome is for everyone” slogan definitely goes beyond vague PR talk.
The Galaxy A52 is first on our list of alternatives to the Galaxy A72. If you can live without the telephoto camera and settle for a slightly smaller, but otherwise just as excellent, 6.5-inch AMOLED display and a slightly smaller 4,500 battery, then you can save up to EUR 100 and get the A52 instead of its bigger A72 sibling. You’d also be getting a faster 25W PD charger in the A72 box, whereas the A52 ships with a 15W unit. And with that, the differences between the pair are effectively exhausted, simplifying the decision-making.
Tnen there is the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro. It comes with an even faster 120Hz AMOLED display, certified for HDR10 video. You get stereo speakers as well and a 3.5mm jack for a complete multimedia experience. The battery is a hefty 5,020 unit with 33W fast charging support and a comparable 118 hours of endurance rating, as per our review. You might be losing the telephoto, but the main 108MP snapper on the Redmi Note 10 Pro is plenty impressive. There is even an IP53 rating, which is something.
Speaking of trendy 108MP cameras, the Realme 8 Pro has been blowing up in popularity for a reason. Going for it would save you quite a few bucks, but also skips on certain niceties like high refresh rate, stereo speakers and IP rating and a telephoto cam, to name a few.
Naturally, we can’t ignore the allure of recent Poco phones either. Mainly the Poco F3, which also has a glorious 120Hz, HDR10+ AMOLED display, stereo speakers and a slightly smaller 4,500 mAh battery, though one with comparable endurance to the A72 in our testing.
Last, but not least, the shiny new Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite shouldn’t be ignored. Specifically, the 5G variant, if it is available where you live and you find yourself drawn to the trendy allure of 5G connectivity. You will, again, be missing out on a telephoto camera, compared to the Galaxy A72, though.
Samsung has made the new Galaxy A-series phones hard to ignore. The A72 packs a feature set that brings it closer than ever to flagship territory.
The Galaxy A72 rocks an eye-catching and trendy design. It’s got a solid build with IP67 ingress protection. It might not be made of premium materials but still feels great to touch.
The 6.7-inch display has gorgeous colors and great brightness output thanks to modern AMOLED tech.
The impressive hybrid stereo speaker system with Dolby Atmos shapes the Galaxy A72 into a solid multimedia device. So does the inclusion of a 3.5mm audio jack.
The quad main camera setup is versatile, with both an ultrawide and a surprisingly good 3x telephoto camera.
You can get plenty of use out of the 5,000 mAh battery, and the inclusion of a fast 25W charger in the box is much appreciated.
Last but definitely not least, there is a reason why One UI has persistently been drawing in and retaining users for years now and the A72 not only comes with the latest One UI 3.1 and Android 11 combo but also a newfound promise for long term software support – 3 major OS updates and 4 years of security patches.
Now for some downsides, or at least deficiencies on the Galaxy A72: A display with a faster refresh rate and HDR video capabilities would have been great to see. Speaking of high display refresh rates, we can’t help but think of high fps gaming – a challenge for the Snapdragon 720G chipset. While it is not holding back the current feature set of the A72 in any way, faster silicon is now readily available in the mid-range space. A higher-grade chipset would have meant some trendy extras like Wi-Fi 6 or 6e and perhaps Bluetooth 5.1 but there are now missing.
So bottom line then – just like the Galaxy A52, the A72 is a truly unique package, even on the current over-saturated mid-ranger scene. That being said, its value relies on a very particular mix of features. If it just happens to be something that resonates with you, there really is no reason to look elsewhere.
Welcome to the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE update hub. Here you’ll find the latest information on updates to Samsung’s flagship foldable phone. We’ll detail the current software versions for the device and alert you if there’s a new update rolling out. Samsung usually pushes out One UI updates regularly, but availability may be affected by variant, carrier, and region.
Current stable version: Android 11
When will the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE get Android 12? 2022 (Estimated)
Latest Samsung Galaxy S20 FE updates
July 30, 2021: Samsung has rolled out a new update to the Galaxy S20 FE, bringing the July 2021 Android security patch with it. Firmware version G780FXXU4CUG5 weighs in at just over 330MB and is available on the Exynos LTE version of the device, per SamMobile. Beyond the security patch, the update also packs unspecified fixes and improvements to the device.
Several Samsung devices are currently receiving the August 2021 Android security patch. So don’t be too surprised if the Galaxy S20 FE gains another update shortly.
To check if an update is available, head to Settings > Software updates on your device.
Previous Samsung Galaxy S20 FE updates
July 8, 2021: Firmware version G780FXXU4CUG1 arrived (h/t SamMobile) with several security patches in tow.
April 12, 2021: Firmware version G781BXXU2CUD1 rolled out to the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G. According to SamMobile, the update included no notable change bar the April 2021 Android security patch.
March 24, 2021: A host of camera updates arrived with firmware G781BXXU2CUC6 including new portrait mode effects and the ability to use the ultra-wide camera in Pro mode.
February 19, 2021: One UI 3.1 rolled out to devices after the initial update was pulled. The patch included firmware version G781BXXU2CUB5 and came in at a weighty 1.7GB.
December 25, 2020: One UI 3.0 arrived in the form of firmware version G780FXXU1BTL1 and G781BXXU1BTL4 for the 4G and 5G models, respectively. This came after reports that devices in Russia received the update a week prior.
This one’s for the fans! Or for the chemistry students with a penchant for iron alloys? It’s not ‘lite,’ that’s for sure. This is the Galaxy S20 FE 5G (or Fan Edition). The latest member of the S20 family comes with some spec changes to meet a lower price point, while still maintaining important bits to qualify for the S-series badge.
One of those is the high-end chipset, and that’s a good point to clarify that not all FEs are the same – there is a 5G-capable version and an LTE-capped one. The 4G-only model follows the usual regional differentiation with some parts of the world getting the Exynos 990 while others have their FEs equipped with the Snapdragon 865.
On the other hand, the 5G model is Snapdragon-only this time, regardless of locale. It’s this version that we’re reviewing, though we may be dropping the ‘5G’ when referring to the phone for the remainder of this review.
Placed in between the S20 and S20+ in terms of screen size, the Fan Edition packs a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display. This one’s not HDR10+ compliant and has a FullHD resolution next to its QHD brethren, but Samsung did keep the 120Hz refresh rate.
As part of the tri-set of cameras on the FE, it gets to keep the S20s main big-sensor 12MP shooter. The ultra wide-angle cam takes 12MP shots too, but from a smaller imager than on the non-fan editions. And the telephoto is different too – fans will be shooting with an 8MP almost-3x zoom unit, as opposed to the slightly odd 64MP non-tele tele setup on the S20 and S20+. Meanwhile, the selfie camera on the FE is a 32MP Tetracell unit, which may sound like an upgrade compared to the 10MP modules of the S20 and S20+, but there’s more to that as you go deeper. We’ll be doing all sorts of camera comparisons later on, of course.
Tere are some other less apparent downgrades here and there. Like the as-yet unspecified type of glass on the front instead of Gorilla Glass 6 and the plastic back where the non-fan S20s have more Gorilla Glass 6. The Fan Edition also tops out at 8GB of RAM (6GB in the base version), while the regular S20s start at 8GB and can be had even with 12GB.
Whether it’s an upgrade, a downgrade, or simply a side-step, the Fan Edition gets an optical fingerprint reader, not the controversial ultra-sonic reader of the other phones in the Galaxy S and Note roster.
Filed strictly under downgrades, however, is the retail bundle.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G unboxing
The S20 FE‘s box is Fan Edition too – it’s not the black packaging of the true flagships. It’s still the same thick cardboard, only white, and the S20 name is printed on the front, just like on the non-FEs. There are many emoji-looking imprints, something you don’t get on the regular S20 or Note20 boxes.
There’s special treatment on the inside too, but not the good kind. The accessories package is rather sparse, and besides the phone, you’re only getting an adapter and a cable to go with it. Even worse, it’s the plain old Adaptive Fast Charging unit that’s Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0 compliant – 15W max, USB-A out – lame. Non-fans are treated to a 25W adapter and earphones, but the budget cuts for this one didn’t allow for such frivolous expenses.
With the Galaxy S20 FE context is really important, more important than with most other phones. It’s got a flagship chipset inside and a 120Hz Super AMOLED display with battery life that’s spectacular for the combo, plus a hugely capable camera system, all in an IP68-rated body. Okay, that’s no big deal, there are a lot of phones that can squeeze into the above description. But the key bit is that they’re either a lot more expensive, or have regional appeal. The S20 FE? You can have that everywhere, for well under the price of a true flagship.
For example, in the US, the S20 FE is only available in 5G trim, and while its MSRP is $700, it’s been going for $600 since launch, unlocked. An S20 5G, meanwhile, is $1000 (by the way, so is the S20+ 5G, because US).
In Europe, a 4G-only Fan Edition starts at around €630, with a €100 premium if you want the 5G variant. For the S20+ those numbers are €700+ and €900+ – from reputable retailers, that is. And if you have your eyes set on getting a Snapdragon in a Galaxy S20 on this continent, for one reason or another, it’s really just the Fan Edition 5G.
In India, you can’t officially get the 5G version, but the LTE flavor has a list price of INR50K. Compare that to INR78K for an S20+ and INR70K for an S20.
Yes, we meant pricing when we said context.
The closest you can get to the S20 FE’s price (and get it globally) is the OnePlus 8 – that one goes for $600/€650/INR45K. The Galaxy’s display goes up to 120Hz (90Hz on the OP) and it has a telephoto camera plus a microSD slot. The 8 has longer battery life and faster charging capability, but it’s not like the Galaxy is lacking in this respect.
If you’re in Europe and exploring the possibility for an S20 FE 5G, that puts the Asus Zenfone 7 on the table and it’ll get you wider 5G band coverage. More importantly, it’ll come with a flip up mechanism that brings unmatched main camera versatility to selfies.
A case could be made for the brand new Mi 10T Pro 5G. With a 144Hz display, 108MP main camera and a 5,000mAh battery it’s looking really promising on paper, and early impressions from the ongoing review process indicate it can deliver. This one, with 5G capability, is more affordable than the Galaxy S20 FE with no 5G.
A very smart buy if you’re in India is the iqoo 3. Starting at INR35K for a 4G variant (since there’s no 5G Fan Edition in India anyway), the iqoo 3 matches the S20 FE’s 8GB/128GB and has spectacular battery life, a headphone jack and a decent camera. The Galaxy does counter with other niceties like a microSD slot, IP68 rating, 120Hz display, and… well, overall superior camera. Hm, but you could grab the iqoo 3 5G and have next-gen connectivity, 12 gigs of RAM and 256GB of storage for 10% less than a 4G Fan Edition.
OnePlus 8 • Asus Zenfone 7 ZS670KS • Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro 5G • vivo iQOO 3 5G
Galaxy S20 FE money also buys you a Google Pixel 5, a flagship by name but a midranger at heart with an inferior chipset and a limiting camera system among other deficiencies. It does have wide 5G support, Google’s software and all that. We really wouldn’t, though. And we usually would or at least consider it.
This one is for the fans, isn’t it? But if you aren’t one already, the Galaxy S20 FE may very well convert you – a Samsung flagship at the core at a friendlier price.
A few concessions had to be made for the lighter price tag and it’s almost as if the least expensive one bugs us the most – the charger dates back to the Galaxy Note4 times. The plastic back isn’t as classy as the glass one on higher-end Galaxies, though this could be a con or pro, depending on where you stand. For whatever reason, we’re not finding the FE’s 4K recording up to the S20 standard. And lastly, the selfie camera isn’t the best Samsung can offer.
But that’s about it. The Fan Edition may not be a truly top-tier device by the book, but it’s got the key markings of one with just the right corners cut to meet a more appealing price point. It then represents amazing value – for a Galaxy in particular, but also against competing offerings. It’s got our recommendation.
IP68 rating for dust and water protection, variety of color options.
Smooth 120Hz Super AMOLED display.
Top-class battery life.
Getting the 5G version bags you a Snapdragon-powered Galaxy in Europe.
The ultra wide and tele cameras aren’t the downgrades they appear to be compared to the other S20s, the triple camera as a whole is mostly great.
Bundled with a slow 15W charger.
Plastic back looks fine but is the opposite of ‘premium’.
No AF for selfies, unreliable portrait mode on the front cam.
Galaxy S21 Ultra just won a global award for being the best smartphone
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is a great device. It has the top position in our list of best Samsung phones. It’s certainly the Android flagship to beat for all OEMs this year. The handset has now picked up a new award that further highlights its exceptional nature.
Samsung certainly knows a thing or two about making award-winning phones. Many of the company’s flagship handsets have been similarly praised in the past as well.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G has won the Best Smartphone category at the Global Mobile Awards during the Mobile World Congress 2021. The annual GLOMO awards highlight the hardware, software and services that enable innovation in the global mobile industry.
Having been named the Best Smartphone of the past year, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G was regarded by the category judges as the “best Android smartphone Samsung has ever made.” The device delivers exceptional performance backed by innovation across the board. It features a professional grade camera system, a brilliant display and a gorgeous contour cut design. The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is also the first Galaxy S series smartphone to support the S Pen.
While the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G won the coveted award, another Samsung device was also shortlisted for this category. The Galaxy S20 FE was shortlisted because of its incredible value for money. The handset offers flagship-level functionality in a more affordable package.
Samsung fans are now looking forward to the Galaxy S22 which is expected to kick things up a notch. Before it arrives, the Galaxy S21 FE is also on the horizon. Samsung is likely going to unveil the Galaxy S21 FE towards the end of this year.
The Samsung Galaxy A11 is a budget-friendly smartphone that features a 6.4-inch HD+ “Infinity-O” display, 13MP + 5MP + 2MP triple rear cameras, and a single 8MP punch-hole selfie camera.
It runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 chipset with 3GB of RAM and Android 10 OS. There’s also a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, dual-SIM 4G LTE connectivity, and 32GB of expandable storage.
A 4,000mAh battery powers the device with support for 15W fast charging via USB Type-C.
6.4″ 720×1560 LCD
32GB, with microSD expansion
13MP f/1.8 main
5MP f/2.2 wide-angle
2MP f/2.4 depth camera
802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi (dual-band), USB Type-C, Bluetooth 4.2, 3.5mm headphone jack, Fingerprint sensor
163.1 x 76.3 x 8.0, 177g
Samsung has so many budget phones that it can be hard to keep track of them all. One of the company’s more recent releases is the Galaxy A11, a low-end device with an MSRP of $179.99. However, the sub-$200 price bracket is a highly competitive one, and the Galaxy A11 is fighting the new Moto E, Nokia 2.3, and even other Samsung-made phones for your hard-earned cash.
The Galaxy A11 sits near the bottom of Samsung‘s phone lineup in the United States, alongside last year’s Galaxy A10e and the Galaxy A01. It’s a capable smartphone, but depending on what features you care about, there are better options out there.
Design, hardware, what’s in the box
Samsung‘s budget phones mostly look the same, and the Galaxy A11 is no exception. The device has a plastic exterior, coated with a glossy finish that easily attracts smudges and dirt. I get that the idea is to emulate the look and feel of glass, but I would have really preferred a simple matte coating.
The rear cover attracts fingerprints and dust very easily
The back of the phone also has a fingerprint sensor near the top, which worked just fine in my testing. There are also three rear cameras, including a main 13MP lens, a 5MP wide-angle camera, and a 2MP depth sensor. A flash is located to the right of the camera array.
The Galaxy A11 has a 3.5mm audio jack on the top, which is (thankfully) common in phones around this price, but what isn’t common is the A11’s modern USB Type-C port for charging. There are still plenty of sub-$200 phones in the United States using the older microUSB connector, so Samsung gets brownie points there.
At 6.4 inches across, the Galaxy A11‘s screen slightly larger than the display on the Galaxy S20 (6.2″), but smaller than the screen on the Galaxy S20+ (6.7″). While the A11’s panel isn’t full HD, at only 1560×720, the screen looks decent enough watching for YouTube videos and scrolling through social media. There’s no massive notch for the camera, like on the Galaxy A10e or A01 — just a hole on the top-left of the display.
Powering the phone is a Snapdragon 450 chipset, paired with 2GB RAM and 32GB of storage. That’s not a lot of memory to work with, and the Snapdragon 450 is three years old at this point. Even though the chipset is capable of operating in 64-bit mode, Android on the Galaxy A11 runs in 32-bit mode to reduce memory usage. That means no Pokémon Go.
The Galaxy A11 is also missing NFC, so you can’t use Google Pay, Samsung Pay, or any other contactless payment applications. It’s still rare for sub-$200 phones in the United States to come with NFC support, but that doesn’t make the omission any less frustrating. The Google Nexus S from 10 years ago had NFC — it should be basic functionality in every smartphone now.
Software, performance, battery
The Galaxy A11 comes with Samsung‘s custom version of Android 10, also known as One UI 2.1. That means the software experience is fairly similar to what you get on flagship Galaxy S and Note smartphones, minus the features that require specific hardware. There are all the usual Android 10 features (full-screen navigation, improved notifications, system-wide dark theme, etc.), plus the functionality Samsung adds on top.
If you’ve used a Samsung phone at any point in the past few years, you’ll feel right at home on the Galaxy A11. Samsung still makes duplicates of Google’s applications that you can’t fully remove (or even disable, in some cases), and you can’t use third-party launchers with the new gesture navigation, but overall I don’t have many complaints with One UI.
However, if you buy the Galaxy A11 from a carrier, prepare for a lot of bloatware. My review unit came from Boost Mobile, and over 15 third-party apps were automatically installed out of the box. Some of them, like Boost’s FastNEWS app, were even sending spam push notifications.
The Galaxy A11‘s performance is about what you would expect for a cheap phone. Apps can take a few seconds to start up, and there are slowdowns when the phone is waking from sleep, but day-to-day use isn’t outright horrible. Battery life, at least, is excellent — the large 4,000mAh battery should last most people over two days.
Samsung’s One UI software might not be to everyone’s liking, but it does provide plenty of features over stock Android. Some carriers are adding lots of pre-installed apps on the A11, though.
A USB Type-C port isn’t too common on sub-$200 phones, at least in the United States.
THE NOT SO GOOD
The glossy plastic rear cover is gross.
The Galaxy Nexus from a decade ago had NFC, not having it in any Android smartphone more than $50 is just ridiculous at this point.
The US version of the Galaxy A11 doesn’t seem to be available unlocked, so you’re stuck using carrier models.
The Galaxy Note 20 series is finally official. Samsung introduced the Note 20 and Note20 Ultra last night and now we’re going hands-on with the ultimate S-Pen-packing Galaxy for 2020.
Similarly to the S20 family from the spring, the Ultra comes with exclusive all-out hardware not available on the vanilla model. In a somewhat bizarre turn of events that includes the 120Hz 1440p+ display, while the Note 20 has a plain 60Hz 1080p panel. Earlier this year even the smaller S20 had the high refresh rate and the extra pixels.
The Galaxy Note20 Ultra retains exclusivity on some of the camera bits too. The periscope telephoto, is something you won’t be able to get on the Note 20, though it’s a different module than the one on the S20 Ultra. For zooming in, the Note 20 has the same 64MP non-telephoto telephoto that stirred some controversy on the S20 and S20+ for the way it was marketed.
The 108MP Nonacell primary cam is also an Ultra-only feature and this appears to have been carried over from the S20 Ultra. Same thing with the smaller Note’s 12MP main shooter that you can find on the S20 and S20+.
Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G specs
Body: 164.8×77.2×8.1mm, 208g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus), glass back (Gorilla Glass Victus), stainless steel frame; IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins); Colors: Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black, Mystic White.
Front camera: 10 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/3.2″, 1.22µm, Dual Pixel PDAF; Dual video call, Auto-HDR.
Video capture:Rear camera: 8K@24fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS & OIS; Front camera: 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30fps.
Battery: 4500mAh; Fast charging 25W, USB Power Delivery 3.0, Fast Qi/PMA wireless charging, Reverse wireless charging 9W.
Misc: Fingerprint (under display, ultrasonic), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer; NFC; FM radio (Snapdragon model only; market/operator dependent); Samsung Wireless DeX (desktop experience support), ANT+, Bixby natural language commands and dictation; Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified); S Pen Stylus, 9ms latency (Bluetooth integration, accelerometer, gyro).
The Ultra is protected by the brand new Gorilla Glass Victus front and back and both phones get a stainless steel frame – that’s a first on a Samsung smartphone. Oddly enough, the Note 20 comes with a plastic back – that one we hadn’t seen in a while on a high-end Samsung handset.
Both Notes get the S Pen too, at least this much is still guaranteed. It’s been moved to the left of the phone now, a major change from all previous generations. It comes with added gestures and it’s got improved latency for an even more pen-on-paper-like feel – on the Ultra, that is, the vanilla model doesn’t get that either.
Galaxy Note20 Ultra hands-on
The Note20 Ultra and Note 20 sit atop the Galaxy lineup and as such offer premium build quality and design. Having said that, even here the Ultra has an edge on the vanilla model.
Both phones get a stainless steel frame, a new development for Samsung high-end phones after sticking with aluminum for their skeleton needs until now. Apple has had steel on iPhones since the X, now Samsung joins in too.
Where the two differ is in the material of both front and back. The Note20 Ultra is where Gorilla Glass Victus debuts and Corning’s latest should be safer than GG6 in the event of impact while also offering improved scratch resistance. It’s two sheets of Victus on the Ultra – both front and back, while the camera is protected by Gorilla Glass 5.
Gorilla Glass 5 is what your Note 20‘s display is covered by, but that’s not what’s raising eyebrows quite as much as the choice of material for the back – the Note 20‘s rear panel is plastic. Reinforced polycarbonate, as Samsung calls it, and while we’re not entirely opposed to plastic-backed phones, it does sound out of place on a $1000 phone.
Victus or polycarbonate, both phones have this satin matte finish so they ward off fingerprints nicely. We welcome that decision, glossy Galaxies are practically impossible to keep clean. Thankfully, the IP68 rating for dust and water protection is a common feature too as plastic is able to keep the elements out just as well as glass.
At launch, the handsets will be available in three colors each, the Mystic Bronze hero colorway shared between them. The Note 20 also gets Gray and Green, while the Ultra will be available in Black and White – all of them Mystic, as the official naming will have it. Mind you, color options will vary by region with most markets getting two of the three available at launch.
The camera assembly of the Note20 Ultra is quite the chunky one, though having seen the S20 Ultra, we knew it was coming. It feels like this one sticks out even more and that would make sense – after all, the Note20 Ultra is a good 0.7mm thinner than the S20 Ultra at 8.1mm vs. 8.8mm so the camera island gets more prominence. If anything, it’ll be even easier to support the handset by propping your index finger against the camera bump’s edge than it was on the S20U, thus saving your pinky some heavy lifting.
The Note 20 proper has a sizeable camera cluster too, but it’s simply not of the same scale. Both phones wobble on a flat surface, for what that’s worth.
Looking at the front, Galaxy Note20 Ultra follows in the footsteps of the Note10 Plus from last year – a large rectangular slab of a phone with sharp corners and a very technical, no-nonsense look. It’s, in fact, precisely as wide as the Note10 Plus, though a couple of millimeters taller. The S20 Ultra, in contrast, is two further millimeters taller, but a millimeter narrower – so the Note20 Ultra is more squarish.
The Ultra’s display is curved to the sides – ever so slightly, and only at the absolute edges, but it’s curved nonetheless. It’s got almost nonexistent bezels too and the tiniest of punch holes and that’s certainly the closest Samsung has come to a ‘full-screen display’. It will probably pose issues for handling, if you’re one to need extra space to rest your fingers and/or hate curved screens. That’ll be a task for the review to examine, but even in a quick hands-on session it’s clear that for sheer ‘wow’ factor the Note20 Ultra’s display is only bested by foldables.
The Note20 non-Ultra, meanwhile, has more ordinary appeal, to put it this way. Its display is flat, so there’s that, and it’s got a somewhat thicker black border all around. The punch hole in the display is also that extra bit bigger. It’s not bad-looking by any stretch, but it’s no Ultra.
We were particularly vocal last year when the Note10 and Note10 Plus arrived with the power button on the left side, as opposed to the right where it had always been. It was a one-off type of thing, never to be seen on other Galaxies since.
Starting with late 2019 models and continuing into 2020, the volume rocker got relocated to the right, joining the power button on those non-Note10 models – a decision much easier to live with. All of this is to serve as context for us to say that the Note20s have the power button on the right, where it should be, and we’re happy. Of course, our outrage last year was a bit overdramatic as you get used to where a button is in no time, but it’s nice that you won’t need to this time around.
But hear this – the S Pen slot on the Note 20 generation is on the left side of the phone when looking at the display – it’s either that or the Power button it seems.
The S Pen has always been on the right, and it’s a natural position for pulling the stylus out with the right hand, which you’ll then use for writing or drawing, or camera remote, or Air actions (unlikely as that last bit may be). On the other hand, if you’re left-handed, it may very well be the best Galaxy Note to date.
In all fairness, however, we didn’t experience any notable difficulties getting at the S Pen on the Note20 Ultra with either hand. We had a minor argument at the office whether the left-side button placement on the Note10 was related to the S Pen’s position inside the phone and if the internal design was unable to accommodate both on the same side. By the looks of it, that must have been the case.
Ambidextrous Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra
The S Pen itself is virtually identical to the one we got last year. It’s got the clicky top, the button on the side, and the capacitor, gyro, and accelerometer within to enable the remote actions. The stylus also matches the paintjob of the phone it comes out of, though we did enjoy the contrast of the blue S Pen on the Aura Glow Note10s – or as we call that one ‘motor oil in a puddle’ for its rainbow light effects.
Circling back to the Ultra vs. non-Ultra differences, only the ultimate S Pen-wielding Galaxy supports storage expansion via microSD, while the vanilla Note 20 has to make do with what it has from the box. It’s one of the easier downgrades to swallow given that it was the case with the smaller Note10 last year too – so in way, it was expected. Then there’s the matter that the Note 20 comes with decent 128GB storage in its base 5G version and you can bump that to 256GB, while the LTE variant is 256GB only. Still, if all three S20s could have expandable storage, maybe both Note20s could?
One difference on last year’s models that was also seen on the S20 family but is now gone is fast charging support. The Note10+ and the S20 Ultra could be charged faster with optional 45W bricks, while the plainer models only went as high as 25W. Well, the Note20 Ultra and the Note 20 both only go as high as 25 watts. It’s hardly a big deal since the 45W adapter had to be purchased separately and it didn’t bring the kind of speed advantage the numbers would suggest.
The charging situation may be a welcome bit of parity between the Note20s.
Display and S Pen
Displays have always been among the key selling points of Samsung phones – after all, it is a leading manufacturer of OLED panels in these sizes. The Galaxy Note20 pair is no different in this respect. Well, sort of.
Both panels boast a crazy high peak brightness of 1,500nits, a 25% increase over the S20s from just six months ago. That’s useful for displaying HDR10+ content, which they support, but will also be helpful for outdoor visibility – not that the previous ones weren’t great at that, it’s just that the Note20s will be better.
Of course, don’t expect to light up the entire screen with pure white and get all those nits – OLEDs scale brightness depending on the number of pixels being lit. We’ll certainly be doing our own testing, when we get a review unit in our office.
And that’s where the common traits of the two Notes’ displays end. You see, it’s only the Ultra that supports the 120Hz rate, and it’s only the Ultra that has a QHD resolution. Meanwhile, the vanilla Note 20‘s specsheet reads 60Hz and FullHD, and that’s… disappointing.
The Galaxy Note20 Ultra’s 6.9-inch display has a 1440x3088px resolution with 496ppi density in the somewhat unorthodox 19.3:9 aspect ratio. It’s branded as Dynamic AMOLED 2X, Samsung’s marketing speak for high refresh rate and the Note20 Ultra does go all the way up to 120Hz, complete with 240Hz touch sampling.
The HRR is done differently this time around than it was on the S20s, where you could pick between 60Hz and 120Hz and the phone would stay locked at those refresh rates regardless of what you’re doing on it.
Here, you get two options – Standard (60Hz) and Adaptive, and that Adaptive mode is what’s having us all excited. The Note20 Ultra will be able to dynamically adjust the refresh rate based on the activity you’re in and the content being displayed, thus striking an optimal balance between smoothness and battery life. We’ll be sure to examine it in more detail come review time.
What’s abundantly clear already, however, is that you still don’t get to the run the Note20 Ultra in its full resolution at its maximum refresh rate. Adaptive mode only works in 1080p, 1440p only works in 60Hz.
In more uplifting developments, the Note20 Ultra adopting a 120Hz screen enhances the S Pen experience. Samsung says it’s improved the latency with which the phone recognizes and displays your S Pen input and it’s now down to 9ms from the old Note’s 42ms, making for an even more paper-like feel.
The Note 20 doesn’t match that number, however – its latency stands at 26ms. It’s still an improvement over the outgoing model, but in what we feel is becoming a theme, it’s no Ultra. Samsung talked about ‘AI-based point prediction’ which aims to anticipate the trajectory in which you’ll be moving the S Pen, and that could be more at play here.
Both phones do get more Air actions, an S Pen functionality introduced with the ‘active’ stylus on the Note9. These are called Anywhere actions and work across the UI as opposed to the limited availability in the ones we had until now. Five new actions are introduced, and you’ll able to launch Smart Select and Screen write with two of them, while the other three serve for basic navigation – Back, Home, and Recent tasks. We’re not entirely sure someone would really use those, and in the limited time we had with the phones, we couldn’t get them to work reliably. Maybe we’ll give them another chance in the in-depth review. Solid maybe.
On a related topic to the S Pen, Samsung Notes has gotten an overhaul for this Note generation. It comes with improved handwriting recognition, straightening of already written text, new background colors and templates, PDF imports, audio-synced annotations, PowerPoint integration and syncing between different devices and platforms. If you do actually use your Note for keeping handwritten notes, this could offer a nice boost to your workflow.
The Note 20 pair comes with Android 10 and OneUI 2.5 out of the box. That’s a newer version of Samsung’s Android overlay than we’ve seen on previous Galaxies, and while there’s little immediately recognizable as new, we’re certain there will be small bits we notice when we delve deeper. Perhaps more importantly, the Notes are promised to get three major OS updates – so expect to see Android 13 on the Note 20 in 2022.
The Galaxy Note 20 and Note20 Ultra have finally arrived after much anticipation and the usual months-long stream of leaks. The S Pen flagships don’t bring massive surprises and will remain high on shortlists for Samsung fans, there’s no doubt about that.
What’s taking us longer to wrap our heads around is the significant segmentation between the Ultra and the non-Ultra – it wasn’t quite so prominent last year with the Note10 and Note10 Plus, and even the S20s from the spring had less of a gap in features. Is it Samsung trying to nudge you into buying the more expensive Ultra or is a way of getting the S Pen into more hands by offering two products that differ in more than just size?
We’ll try to answer this and many other questions once we get to properly review the two phones. For the time being, we can say that pre-orders will be made in this office, though seemingly not quite as many as last year.
This year, the Galaxy S21 series came earlier than expected, and it brought a slew of changes. The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus now feature lower-res OLEDs, no microSD expansion, and no chargers in the box. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is what the original Ultra should have been – jam-packed with high-end features, no asterisks, no fine print. Still no charger, though.
The original S20 Ultra was supposed to be the greatest Galaxy to date, but it fell short of that. You could enjoy a 120Hz refresh rate, but only at a lower 1080p resolution. The telephoto camera was advertised as 5x, but it was, in fact, 4x, and let’s not even start with the Space Zoom. The ultrawide camera had a great sensor, but it couldn’t do macro shots due to the lack of autofocus. The battery was large, but battery life was poor. You get the point.
Well, the Galaxy S21 Ultra makes up for everything. It has a large 1440p screen with native 120Hz support, adaptive at that. It also brings two dedicated telephoto snappers – one for 3x and another one for 10x optical zoom. Its ultrawide camera does feature autofocus, which works for macro shots. The new Ultra also offers ultrawide-band support, and surprise, surprise, S-Pen support as well. This has to be the first non-Note Galaxy phone to offer that – one for the history books.
There is no S-Pen socket on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and neither is there a bundled stylus. But you can use any S-Pen that’s been in circulation, as well as the newly announced S-Pen for S21 Ultra and the upcoming S-Pen Pro. Samsung has also opened the S-Pen to third-party companies that make Wacom-based styluses, so you can expect even more options in the upcoming months. Finally, you can store the stylus in your pocket or opt for some S21 Ultra cases with dedicated pen holders.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the only S21 model to come with a 1440p OLED screen, unlike the previous generation. And even better, it now supports 120Hz at that high resolution, so you don’t need to choose between high res and high refresh rate. This new Ultra screen also supports Adaptive Refresh Rate that can vary between 10Hz and 120Hz, just like the Note20 Ultra.
The latest Galaxy bears the latest chipset, of course. All international models use the new Exynos 2100 SoC by Samsung(like the one we are reviewing), while the USA and China will be getting devices running on the Snapdragon 888 instead. The RAM has been bumped to 12GB, and there is a limited 16GB model, too.
The camera has seen a welcome upgrade. The wide snappers remain relatively the same – a 108MP shooter with f/1.8 26mm lens and a 12MP cam with f/2.2 13mm optics, but now it features autofocus. The zoom system has been completely revamped, though – it now features two 10MP imagers, one for 3x optical zoom and another for 10x optical zoom via a 240mm periscopic lens.
Other flagship tidbits worth mentioning – a 40MP selfie eye with AF, stereo speakers, Wi-Fi 6e, 5G connectivity, ultrawide-band support short-range communication, fast wired and wireless charging for the large 5,000mAh battery.
This year isn’t off to a good start for the fans of the rich retail bundles, though. Like Apple and Xiaomi, Samsung has removed the chargers and headphones from the retail boxes and ships each Galaxy S21 only with a cable.
Let’s take a deep dive in the specs now.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G specs at a glance:
Body: 165.1×75.6×8.9mm, 227g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus), glass back (Gorilla Glass Victus), aluminum frame; IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins), Stylus support.
Front camera: 40 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/2.8″, 0.7µm, PDAF.
Video capture:Rear camera: 8K@24fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS; Front camera: 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30fps.
Battery: 5000mAh; Fast charging 25W, USB Power Delivery 3.0, Fast Qi/PMA wireless charging 15W, Reverse wireless charging 4.5W.
Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, ultrasonic); Stereo speakers; NFC; FM radio (Snapdragon model only; market/operator dependent); Samsung DeX, Samsung Wireless DeX (desktop experience support), ANT+, Bixby natural language commands and dictation, Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified), Ultra Wideband (UWB) support.
The Note10 was the one to retire the 3.5mm jack, and now the Galaxy S21 is retiring the microSD slot. Samsung makes up for that with a minor price difference between the 128GB and the 256GB models – just €50. It’s up to you to decide whether this compensation is enough, though.
There are some omissions, too, this time – inside the retail box.
Unboxing the Galaxy S21 Ultra
Well, well, well, how the tables have turned?! It was just last October when Samsung mocked Apple for not including chargers with the latest iPhones. And a mere two months later, Samsung was caught scrubbing these jabs off the internet in preparation for the launch of its own charger-less flagship.
It’s not the first time Samsung had done this, is it? We still remember how the audio jack mockeries disappeared overnight, foreshadowing the jack-less Galaxy Note 10.
So, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first Samsung phone to come without a charger or headphones. The maker joins Apple and Xiaomi in a quest to make the planet cleaner, and this ought to make a positive impact eventually. It just requires one small sacrifice from you, the user – you need to buy a USB-C charger if you don’t own one and keep it for the long haul.
The thin Galaxy S21 Ultra box contains a USB-C-to-C cable and the phone. That’s it.
The Galaxy S21 pre-orders do include various freebies such as a 25W charger, Galaxy Buds, and even a SmartTag, so you aren’t without options. Samsung switched to USB-C chargers since the Note10 and S20 generations, so the chance of you having one isn’t that big, and it’s a good thing you can now grab it for free.
Our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra also came with one very thin protector, almost invisible in fact, applied in the factory. It’s plastic and will be good only against scratches, but it’s still better than nothing.
The new Galaxy Ultra impresses with three key features, and it will be remembered for those novelties – the new 120Hz Quad HD OLED and its S-Pen support, and the versatile quad-camera on the back that relies on real optics instead of some hybrid trickery.
Yes, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the all-powerful Galaxy right now, and that alone is enough to sell it. It’s the Ultra model – meaning there is no better phone on the market today. Indeed, there isn’t.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Pro isn’t even official yet, Huawei is yet to unveil the P50, and we are yet to see recent Huawei devices with Google app integration. The OnePlus 9 is unannounced as well, while the next iPhones are far ahead in the future.
Speaking of iPhones, Samsung really outdid itself by dropping the charger immediately after Apple’s done it. It could have waited a year or announced it a year ahead to allow a transition period, but it’s Samsung – some things are done in the heat of the moment. Like saving the planet, for example.
And that’s the reason while the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max comes as our first suggestion. The Max costs as much as the Ultra, and subjectively, it’s the prettier and supposedly sturdier device. The iPhone also impresses with performance and LiDAR scanner if you have the use of it, that is. The camera performance is somewhat on par with the Galaxy as far as primary and ultrawide shooters are concerned. The iPhone cannot match the zoom capabilities of the Ultra, plus it runs on iOS, so if you’ve invested in Android apps, there are two major deal-breakers right there.
Thinking about the camera, we just can’t but mention the elusive Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra (about $950). It’s officially sold only in China, but if you value a complete package with an outstanding camera – this is the one, folks. It has a 120Hz 1080p OLED, Snapdragon 865 chip, and stereo speakers to get you started, but we found its quad-camera (0.5x + 1x + 2x + 5x) to be among the best on the market as far as photo quality is concerned. This Ultra also comes with a 120W adapter, which recharges its flat battery for 27 minutes, so there is that, too.
Another limited-edition phone that comes to mind is the Google-less Huawei P40 Pro+. It has a 1200p 90Hz OLED and one of the best camera configurations money can get you on a handset – 50MP primary, 8MP 3x, 8MP 10x, 40MP ultrawide, and 3D ToF. Indeed, that’s a similar setup to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and Huawei’s cameras save some incredible photos. The P40 Pro+ stock is scarce but not that hard to find. It costs about €800/£900 – meaning it is cheaper than the Ultra. Then again, no Google on it.
Back to more popular and easier to find choices – the OnePlus 8 Pro seems relevant even 10 months after its launch. It solved the 120Hz Quad HD OLED conundrum way before Samsung; it runs on a powerful Snapdragon 865 chip; and it offers a reasonably good quad-camera on the back with a 48MP primary, 8MP 3x tele, 48MP ultrawide, and a 5MP color filter cam intended for some artsy shots. The OnePlus 8 Pro runs on the especially smooth Oxygen launcher and is €500 cheaper than the Galaxy. Sure, it can’t offer 20% more powerful chip, 10x zoom and S-Pen support, but do these cost €500? You decide.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max • Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra • Huawei P40 Pro+ • OnePlus 8 Pro
If you’ve stayed with us that long, you’ve probably noticed we are conflicted about this Galaxy S21 Ultra. It is the perfect smartphone on paper, even without a microSD expansion and a bundled charger. But we’ve had ups and downs while using it for the past week. By the end of this review, we realized the good stuff far outweighs the bad, and most of what we didn’t like could be fixed with an upcoming update.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra absolutely deserves its Ultra insignia – it has the best OLED screen with Wacom layer at that, the most powerful hardware, one of the largest batteries, good stereo speakers, and pretty advanced camera system. We were thoroughly impressed by the screen performance and the battery endurance, like the UI and the S-Pen features, and saw many good photos and videos saved by the various snappers.
We aren’t huge fans of the new industrial design – mostly how the camera on the back was made. The phone is large and slippery, making it very uncomfortable to handle without a case. The photo quality wasn’t always flagship-grade – Samsung needs to tone down its image processing even if it results in some noise or lesser dynamic range. We’ve always preferred images with natural-looking processing, and so far, both Apple and Samsung have failed us. Here’s hoping that at least Samsung does something in this direction with a software update.
If you are after the best and newest phone on the market – look no further – that’s the Galaxy S21 Ultra. It has its issues, but the overwhelmingly good features elsewhere and a patch or two will make up for everything. Samsung is definitely off to a good start this year with its Ultra!
The best OLED screen, 1000+nits, 1440p, 120Hz, HDR10+, S-Pen.
Phenomenal fingerprint scanner performance.
Outstanding battery life, fast to top-up the 5,000mAh battery.
Stereo speakers with good loudness.
The fastest Android chipset, 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, Ultra-Wide Band.
OneUI is super smooth, clutter-free, S-Pen support.
The daylight photos are good across the board even if a bit overprocessed.
The selfies are excellent.
The 4K30 videos are great.
Somewhat bulky and slippery.
The image processing needs further refinements.
We don’t miss the microSD slot, but some of you might.
Almost as big as the Ultra, but not quite as camera-centric. Nearly identical to the vanilla, but with a plus-size screen, extra battery and a more premium touch. Yes, we’re talking about the middle option in the 2021 Samsung S-series roster, the Galaxy S21 Plus.
Plus stands for ‘more of it’, and the S21 Plus has a bigger display – at 6.7 inches in diagonal, it’s a lot closer to the Ultra’s 6.8 inches than it is to the S21 proper’s 6.2. Beyond the size, however, it’s more vanilla than it is Ultra – the resolution is 1080p, and the Adaptive refresh rate handling is the half-there variety, but Adaptive it is nonetheless.
There’s ‘more of it’ when it comes to battery capacity, and here, too, Plus aims for the Ultra – at 4,800mAh, it’s oh-so-close to the 5,000mAh of the top model. More importantly, perhaps, the middle option is the only one that’s gotten a battery upgrade this year.
The third area where the Galaxy S21 Plus differs from the S21 is the build. And here, from the vantage point of the S21 Plus, the choice of plastic for the S21’s back makes sense – this way, the Plus has one more thing going for it. Maybe.
Video capture:Rear camera: 8K@24fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS; Front camera: 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30fps.
Battery: 4800mAh; Fast charging 25W, USB Power Delivery 3.0, Fast Qi/PMA wireless charging 15W, Reverse wireless charging 4.5W.
Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, ultrasonic); NFC; FM radio (Snapdragon model only; market/operator dependent); Samsung DeX, Samsung Wireless DeX (desktop experience support), Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified), ANT+, Bixby natural language commands and dictation.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus unboxing
The Galaxy S21 Plus arrives in the same half-height box as the other high-end Galaxies for 2021 and, likely, from here on. When you don’t pack a charger and headphones, there’s no point in wasting cardboard, is there?
We’re not strictly against the disappearing chargers trend. There are charging stations in the office with QuickCharge 3.0 outputs, and those have been serving us well for several years now and will continue to do so. Additionally, between us, we’ve bought an assortment of USB Power Delivery adapters for personal use and the bulk of us likely fall in that group of people who won’t be needing new chargers with their next phone purchase. So there could be actual benefits to this, eventually. Perhaps the way the marketing teams have been sugarcoating the process is what’s been most annoying. Anyway, on to the design.
Samsung‘s early Galaxy release this year means the bulk of Android makers don’t have their 2021 offerings out yet. While the smaller S21 is more uniquely placed, for the Plus, it’s a bit harder to make comparisons in this transitional period since we can’t know how an upcoming Oppo Find X3 will perform, for example, plus its launch will lower the prices on the existing lineup. Same with the OnePlus 9/8 and Xiaomi Mi 11/10.
Still, we’ll try to figure out where the Galaxy S21 Plus stands in this current state of the market – say, you absolutely must buy a flagship smartphone by the end of the week.
At a cool $1000/€1050/£950, the Plus is anything but cheap. Next to it, the OnePlus 8 Pro looks almost like a bargain at $800/€800/£700. Sure, it may have last year’s chipset, but if you’re faced with an Exynos 2100 Galaxy, it’s not a massive leap over the OP’s SD865. Believe it or not, the 8 Pro has a better display in a more premium-looking body. Neither has industry-leading camera performance, but both will take great shots, battery life is a little better on the Galaxy, and charging is quicker on the OP. With Samsung dropping the expandable storage, the two are a tie, too. We wouldn’t get an OP8P today on account of the new generation being just around the corner, but it’s certainly looking a better deal than the S21 Plus right now.
The Zenfone 7 Pro isn’t as close to a replacement, and it’s great value at €700 – not available globally, though. Its unique rotating camera remains a central selling point, bringing main-camera-grade selfies, vlogging capabilities and whatnot. It’s plenty capable outside of the flipping mechanism, too – a large 90Hz OLED, one of the better implementations of the SD865+, solid battery life, and expandable storage. This would be tough to settle if they were the same price, but with the prospect of 30% savings, our money would be on the Zenfone. If you can get one where you reside, that is.
Normally more of an Ultra competitor, the Find X2 Pro’s approaching expiry date makes it a viable alternative to the S21 Plus, price-wise. It’ll get you a periscope for more reach than the Galaxy’s non-telephoto, but also a higher-res ultra-wide with AF – may be a better option for photography this one then. It’s got a better display, too, same as the OnePlus 8 Pro’s (don’t quote us on this one). The Find can’t match the Galaxy’s battery life, but it does charge twice as fast, so there’s that.
Seemingly the most obvious rival, however, and this is as up to date as it’s going to be, is the iPhone 12 Pro. Priced identically in the US and a bit more expensive in Europe $1000/€1150/£1000, the 12 Pro is in a similar position – one down from the best in the lineup. The Galaxy wins for battery life; the iPhone is a bit more compact and is rated to survive deeper water dives. Insert all the usual ecosystem considerations here.
OnePlus 8 Pro • Asus Zenfone 7 Pro ZS671KS • Oppo Find X2 Pro • Apple iPhone 12 Pro
But really, though – the Galaxy S21 Plus has so many rivals within the family that it doesn’t need outside competition. The smaller S21 is 20% cheaper and is essentially the same phone (well, smaller, which can be a good thing), only not quite the marathon runner in terms of battery life.
The S21 Ultra is bigger and more expensive but comes with a state-of-the-art camera setup and display. And if you’re dead set on the 6.7-inch diagonal, last year’s S20 Plus is in most ways as good as the S21 Plus and better in a bunch of areas (higher-res display, MicroSD slot, cheaper and lighter).
The extremes seem to make more sense than the middle option – S21 Plus between the S21 and the S21 Ultra
So you’ve probably figured out where this is leading us. The Galaxy S21 Plus is a great all-round package and has the smartphone pillars well propped up. Ultimately, however, it lacks a standout selling point. In our opinion, if you want a Galaxy, there are no less than three that each build a stronger case for themselves than the S21 Plus.
Nice color options, standout design, IP68 rating.
Bright AMOLED display with adaptive refresh rate handling.
Class-leading battery life.
Versatile triple camera setup (though essentially the same as last year’s).
Improved selfie camera performance.
Scant retail package – no charger or headphones.
Flat screen and thicker bezels lack a premium vibe, though some of you may find ergonomically nicer.
2021 chipsets aren’t meaningfully more powerful than last year’s.
No generational advancements in the camera department – lack of AF on the ultra wide stands out in particular, since the S21 Ultra has that.