Over the years, we've seen smartphone manufacturers release brand new smartphones that push the boundaries when it comes to features and capabilities.
Samsung and Apple remain as the kings of smartphones, but we've seen brands such as Huawei, OnePlus and even Google closing the gap and coming for the crown.
We don't know how much the competition has worried Samsung, but judging by the release of their brand new flagship smartphone, it is clear that they have upped their game.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
was released a couple of days after the year turned 2021, and it has quickly become the one to beat this year (we'll tell you why in a bit).
Same like last year's version, this year's Galaxy S21 series comes in three different sizes: the Samsung Galaxy S21 (6.2-inch), the Samsung Galaxy S21+ (6.7-inch) and the big boy, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (6.8-inch).
All three feature a brand new (and neater) camera cutout at the back, a gorgeous Infinity-O dynamic AMOLED screens with a speedy 120hz display.
You can find out more about the specs for the Galaxy S21 and the Galaxy S21+ here
, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra here
In this review, we will focus on the big daddy: the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (because go big or go home, right?).
Under the hood, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is powered by an Exynos 2100 (5 nm) chipset with 16GB of RAM, which Samsung claims will make everything snappier and speedier.
Over at the back, you'll find four cameras, led by the massive 108MP main shooter.
Sure, the numbers looks good on paper, but how does it perform in real life? Well, after using the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra for almost three weeks now, we've come to love it.
If looks could kill...
...then the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra will be charged with first degree murder.
We've said this in our first impression article, but we'll say it again: the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is one sexy piece of hardware.
Compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra's design (which we admit we're not really big fans of), the Galaxy S21 Ultra looks like what a flagship smartphone supposed to look and it definitely feels really premium to hold.
Despite being made using the same material as its predecessor -- Gorilla Glass back and aluminium frame -- the Galaxy S21 Ultra somehow feels better to the touch. It has a pretty nice weight to it, and holding it in your hand gives you a sense that you are indeed holding something really premium.
But speaking of the weight, the Galaxy S21 Ultra does feel really heavy. It weighs in at a hefty 227g, which is 5g heavier than the S20 Ultra, and you'll really feel that weight when you put it in your jeans pocket.
Now having said that, the sheer size of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is no joke: it is a huge
device. We often find ourselves struggling to reach the top part of the phone with our thumb while scrolling because of just how insanely big it is.
If you have short fingers, you may not like the size of the Galazy S21 Ultra.
The biggest change on this year's phone is that Samsung polished up the camera set up at the back real good.
We were not really a fan of the camera bump on the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra because it's big, it looks ugly, and when you put it down on the table, it rocks harder than Steven Tyler.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra managed to fix that. Instead of a huge protuding box located in the middle of nowehere on last year's Galaxy S20 Ultra, the five cameras on the Galaxy S21 Ultra is now clustered together in a 'casing' located on the top left hand corner of the phone.
We love how this camera casing bleeds into the aluminium side of the phone. It looks extremely classy, and we lay the phone flat on a surface, we also noticed that it doesn't rock as much as before.
To round off the aesthetic part of the phone, we are a big fan of the the colour of our unit. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra comes in two colours: Phantom Black and Phantom Silver.
While we have a feeling that most of you would go for the Phantom Black, we recommend that you pick up the Phantom Silver instead, just because it's so pretty to look at, especially under sunlight.
Unlike the muted colours of last year's phone, this one has a polished metal shine to it, and depending on the angle you look at the phone, the light that reflects on the surface gives the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra an iridescent colour scheme.
This will make you think long and hard whether to slap a casing on your Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or not.
Great to look at, a wonder to play around with
It is no secret that Samsung makes one of the best -- if not the best -- smartphone screens on the market, and that is on full display in the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Samsung has done away with the bleeding-over-the-edge screen design that was first introduced in the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, opting for a flat screen.
To be honest, we prefer the flat screen design, as we can finally say goodbye to the annoying accidental side screen touches when we were using our old Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus ages ago.
, edge-to-edge AMOLED screen is still really bright, really vibrant and really vivid, still gorgeous to look at, and the 120hz display makes everything on screen look so much smoother.
Compared to this writer's very own iPhone 11 Pro Max, you can see the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra's much more clearer under direct sunlight.
We absolutely love watching YouTube and Netflix videos using the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, just because everything looks sharper and more vibrant.
But it's when you load up your favourite mobile games such as 'Asphalt 9' and 'PUBG' that you can really feel the power and peformance of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The smartphone has no problem supporting the highest and most demanding settings on these games (if you've launched 'Asphalt' and 'PUBG' before, you'll know what we're talking about), and in instances where we need to pause and reply a message mid-game, there was no lag whatsoever switching between apps.
And the vibrancy of the display on those games sure make those games look ultra gorgeous, we have to add.
The only trade-off, we feel, is that the phone heats up quite a bit after just 20 minutes of game time, so you should consider investing in a phone case if you game a lot on your smartphone.
Another thing that Samsung did really well with the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the improvement with their battery effeciency.
It boasts a 5,000mAh
battery pack, so you know that you have a big enough power pack to last you an entire day. Plus, the Galaxy S21 Ultra also supports fast charging, so you can go from 0 to 50 per cent in just about 20 minutes or so.
In the three weeks we tested the phone, we tried our very best to kill the phone in one day but to no avail.
We're talking about setting it to the brightest, max resolution, keeping the refresh rate at 120hz and taking tonnes of photos and videos, and we're left with an impressive 30 to 35 per cent battery by the time we head to bed.
If you're not a heavy user, this could easily be a two-day phone.
Oh, we also need to point out that the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra does not have expendable memory anymore, so you're stuck with either 256GB or the 512GB (this one is coming soon, Samsung says) internal storage for now.
Remember to choose wisely, because there's no going back.
Cameras for days
The main talking point of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is, without a doubt, its cameras - just because it boasts four of them!
At the back, you'll find a 108MP main camera
, a 12MP ultrawide lens
and two 10MP telephoto cameras
, all complimented by a depth sensor
For the amount of cameras at the back (and the price they charge you for it), you'll expect great photos and thankfully, this Galaxy S21 Ultra delivers.
Focusing on a subject is accurate and speedy thanks to the laser autofocus sensor at the back, and there's not noticable delay when you click on the shutter.
When we took photos in broad daylight, they usually turn out very crisp and true to the colour.
Almost ten out of ten photos we took came out the way we expected it to: the colours are vibrant, the details are perfectly captured and everything is in place.
When you tap on a subject in the viewfinder, the camera automatically and very accurately focuses on it, blurring the background slightly if need be.
However, there's one thing that bothers us and it's that sometimes, some of the photos we took come out brighter than we would like. The system tends to overexpose some of our photos a little bit too much, resulting in them looking a little too bright and the colours a little less intense for our liking.
You'll still find Samsung's 'Space Zoom' in the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, a feature that lets you zoom in a whopping 100 times to a subject.
Compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra, its successor does a much better job at stabilising the shot when you're zooming in, thanks to the 'Zoom Lock' feature. The resulting image is also passable.
But to be honest, we feel that there's no instance in your daily life that you would utilise the 'Space Zoom' feature.
Any image you take with a 100x zoom is barely usable and usually turns out grainy, and even for the photos to be fairly passable, you'll need a very bright and sunny environment.
Do keep this in mind if you consider the 'Space Zoom' function as a tie-breaker for you.
As for night mode, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra takes pretty good pictures in the dark, as its night mode has improved by quite a fair bit.
Thanks to the Bright Night sensor, photos taken at night are now brighter, clearer and slightly less noisier. Sharpness of the photos are pretty good in general too.
However, do note that the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra do suffer from a bit of noise, especially when you're in an extremely dark area.
Overall, the night mode works pretty well, which is good news for when you want to take a picture of the hot girl you befriended in a pub and show off to your friends.
If you're someone who just loves taking photos with your smartphone and you don't care about all the tech or the numbers, then you'll find the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra the perfect companion for you.
The camera system is easy to use, and the photo quality will turn out great almost every other time. It's just a joy to use, really.
Buy it or forget it?
To be honest, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is very easy to recommend.
It screams 'flagship' in every angle: it looks really good, it works really well, the cameras are really awesome and overall, it's just a really great phone to have if you have the budget for it.
And that's where the biggest flaw with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra lies: its hefty price tag.
The 512GB version of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra retails for RM5,899
, which is a whopping RM700 more expensive than its older and supposedly more superior brother, the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra.
Now, does the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra justify its price tag? The verdict is still out, but for us personally, we feel the price is a little bit too steep.
But if you have the money and you're looking to upgrade to a more powerful flagship smartphone, we can honestly tell you that the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the best Android smartphone you can buy right now.