Is the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra worth it?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra costs even more than the iPhone Pro Max 12, but is it worth it?

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The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is undeniably the biggest flagship smartphone launch of the year so far. The device is packed with power and lots of impressive hardware, but starting at $1200 is it worth its high price tag? Read on to find out, and in the process, we’re going to layout the best and worst aspects of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra for AT&T.

What we like

It has a killer display

The large 6.8-inch AMOLED display on the S21 Ultra is as good as it gets on a smartphone today. It offers a super smooth 120Hz refresh rate alongside a WQHD resolution. That means that both scrolling and playing games is going to be a super smooth experience. Heck, this display beats out the display on the iPhone Pro Max 12. Visuals are vibrant with colors that absolutely pop and it’s able to get super bright (up to 1,500 peak Nit brightness) which also means that it fares well under sunlight. That said, out of the box, Samsung has the phone set to an FHD+ resolution, so you’ll need to adjust its display settings WQHD+ if you want to really take more advantage of its prowess.

The camera is phenomenal

On paper, the 108MP camera of the S21 Ultra is very impressive, but we’ve never been impressed by a megapixel count. Fortunately, the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has proven to be phenomenal, so much so, that you can easily produce DSLR-like photos. In general, photos look great and natural. Portraits especially come out beautiful with a natural-looking bokeh – even when using the selfie camera. And it’s not just daylight photos that look great, low light and night shots are super impressive too and are way above what you’ll get from most other smartphone cameras.

When it comes to zoom, this S21 Ultra is the first phone we consider to truly deliver on its promises of offering great zoom. To that effect, the S21 Ultra offers dual telephoto lenses (3x and 10x optical zoom) along with a useful Zoom Lock that keeps shots steadier.

Video portraits are also supported as is 8K video. Ultimately, there’s nothing the Ultra’s camera really can’t do, and it does everything it does do, really well.

Long battery life

The 5,000 mAh battery inside of the S21 Ultra, coupled with software optimizations, has resulted in above-average battery life for a flagship phone. To that effect, we can’t get over how long the battery lasts on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ulta, even with 5G turned on. With 5G turned on, and the 60Hz display mode enabled, you’ll get over 11 hours with heavy use or several days on standby. It’s worth noting that if you charge the phone using a 25-watt charger, it’s able to reach 56% in 30 minutes and 31% in 15 minutes.

It can handle everything you throw at it

The S21 Ultra unit that we tested is AT&T’s model which is powered by the top of the line Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chipset. That said, there are alternate variants out there that are powered by the Samsung Exynos 990, which is fast but not as fast as the Snapdragon 888. In any case, performance is blazing fast with the S21 Ultra AT&T model. The phone scored a Geekbench single-core score of 1090 and a multi-core score of 3139 along with a 3DMark Wild Life score of 5393. Ultimately the Samsung Galaxy S21 can handle everything you throw at it – and it truly operates as a portable gaming console.

The Ultra also supports 5G, Wi-Fi 6E and UWB thanks to the Qualcomm X60 modem inside. That means that it’s as future proof as it gets when it comes to network connectivity. That said, when we tested in Manhattan, we saw download speeds of around 90 Mbps and 10 Mbps up, which isn’t great but we’re on a pretty congested network.

What we don’t like

It’s slippery and bulky

Measuring 0.35 inches thick and weighing 8.08 ounces, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is larger and heavier than the likes of the competing iPhone Pro Max 12. The phone sports a premium glass back which fortunately doesn’t show fingerprints that badly. Unfortunately, we’ve lost count for how many times the Ultra has nearly slipped out of our hands. Its heavy glass body is slippery to grip, and we suspect that because it’s pretty heavy, that it won’t fare well when dropped. Ultimately, you really need to have a case on this phone to get a better grip on it and to protect it, and that’s going to make it even bulkier.

Lack of bundled accessories

While we very much appreciate that Samsung has brought over S pen support to the Ultra, at this price, Samsung should’ve included an S pen in the box. Likewise, at this price, we think that a fast charger should’ve been included. It’s also worth noting that not all S Pen features will work with the Ultra – specifically the Bluetooth features that allow you to use the S Pen as a remote control, fortunately, we’re not missing those features very much.

The Price

Starting at $1200, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is pricey. That said, we actually think it’s worth it since it’s ultimately the best Android smartphone on the market right now. In essence, you’re not just getting a great smartphone but also a great camera, and that helps justify its relatively high price tag. We are however disappointed by the lack of inclusion of an S Pen at that price. Fortunately, the S21 Ultra is currently on sale at Amazon for just $999, which we consider to be quite a good deal. This unlocked model will also work on AT&T.

Verdict

Is the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra worth it?

Yes. When it comes down to it, thanks to its incredible camera, display, and feature set, the Samsung Galaxy S21Ultra is the best Android phone you can buy right now.

Pricing and availability

Pricing for the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra for AT&T retails for $1,199.99. It’s also available on an installment plan, starting at $40.00 per month for the 128GB model. AT&T is also offering a trade-in program where you can get up to $800 in credit towards the device.