It’s been a full solid month now since we received the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G and we think we’ve spent enough time with it now to really know if everything we said in our review still holds up. What I mean by that is that sometimes we review things and later down the line, our opinion changes sometimes because something comes up that didn’t appear in our initial reviews. For instance, if something breaks after only 4 weeks of usage or if some fatal bug bricks a device. That’s something we’re sure you’d want to know about, which is why we have this 4-week review for the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G. Long-term usage usually brings up things we didn’t notice, so what about the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G has changed in our mind, and what has stayed the same? Read on to find out.
First up, you’re going to want to read our initial review here. When you’re done with that, head back over here and we’ll let you know if any of our opinions have changed over the last couple of weeks. If you just want to read what we don’t like, skip on down to the “WHAT WE DON’T LIKE” section.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is still as striking as ever and we still haven’t grown bored of the styling. The matte finish on the back glass was an excellent choice and keeps annoyances like scratches and fingerprints away. It is still a bit slippery to hold, however. Color choices aren’t great for this phone either, with it basically amounting to you buying a black phone or a white phone. Sure there are three other colors, but those are only available if you order direct from Samsung which I’m assuming many of you aren’t really going to do.
While I do overall love the design, I highly recommend picking up a case, whether it be a slim case or a slightly chunkier rugged case. Burga offers the unique design for Samsung cases This will help a lot with the slipperiness of the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G and it will help protect your investment because even though this phone is $200 less than the previous model, it’s still not cheap. The last thing you want to do is crack a screen because you weren’t using protection. If you’re worried about covering up the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G’s good looks, just note there are plenty of clear case options out there.
Lastly, I’m still not a big fan of having the expandable memory option removed. While in the long run, I’m sure I can get away with not really needing all that extra storage, but I’m just not a fan of having things taken away.
This is Samsung’s most powerful phone and the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G really shows that off. I honestly have no complaints in this department. The phone is incredibly fast, the screen is absolutely gorgeous, and the cameras have been amazing. There hasn’t been one app that I’ve installed that has given this phone any troubles at all. Games run so smoothly and are virtually lag-free.
These are true flagship specs for this gen and even though there are a lot of other phones coming out now with the same type of specs, I believe the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G will remain competitive with what it has this generation.
I should also mention that the addition of the S-Pen really helps differentiate the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G from other flagships right now.
Lastly, let’s talk about battery life. If you’re going to turn all the settings to full blast, meaning full resolution, 120hz, vibration levels set to high, etc. You’re barely going to get a full day of use. Gaming really takes a toll on the battery so the only way to optimize is to turn several settings down. That means FHD instead of QHD+, maybe 60Hz instead of adaptive, and using the gaming tools to limit game performance. Of course, that means not making full use of what the Galaxy S21 Ultra is capable of, which defeats the purpose. You’ll have to decide how best to maximize your usage. If you don’t game, you’ll have no issues with battery life.
Here’s where there are some issues, but much of it can be fixed with a few tweaks here and there. One of the biggest issues I’ve seen others complain about is the amount of advertising Samsung has on their platform. You get ads from many of the built in Samsung apps, such as their Galaxy Store, Samsung Pay, and Samsung Free. Every now and then you’ll get a random ad notification or pop up which can be very annoying. Of course this can be easily fixed by just disabling notifications for these and by not using some of these apps. I disabled notifications for many of them early on and haven’t had any more rogue ads popup from Samsung.
Number two, One UI 3.1 is very good despite the ads. I’ve been using LG’s launcher for more than 5-years and it was not very difficult to hop on Samsung’s launcher. Sure some things here and there were different, but for the most part, the little changes here and there from what I was used to were actually pretty good. The fact that the app tray actually sorts alphabetically when you want it to, or the fact that the UI is pretty stock Android like is a welcome change. I also like that the UI itself is pretty customizable as you can skin it with different themes, and there are tons of other options in the settings to make the phone your own. I like that you aren’t forced to really use any of Samsung’s included apps or even Bixby.
I do however like the free TV stuff in Samsung TV Plus and Samsung Free.
I’m also a big fan of some of the deals Samsung has made with Microsoft, which has made Samsung devices better integrate into Windows, much like how Apple’s iPhone is integrated with their Mac computers.
Samsung DeX is also incredibly cool and a neat way to extend the functionality of your Samsung Device. In essence, you’re carrying around a pretty powerful computer in your pocket. You just need a keyboard, mouse, and monitor.
Lastly, the integration with the S-Pen is very good. While it doesn’t quite have all the functionality as its Note counterpart, being able to use a stylus as accurate and intuitive as the S-Pen is refreshing. I’ve mainly been using it to sketch and doodle which is a far better experience than using a generic stylus on any other smartphone.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G really shines when gaming. I’m able to play pretty much any game at full speed without any slow downs. In Minecraft for instance, I can set the chunk level to the maximum amount and it’ll still run buttery smooth. Games like Call of Duty run lag free and my personal favorite, Brave Frontier, has no issues turning all the graphic elements to full.
This phone makes a good case for not needing a dedicated gaming smartphone and the gaming tools included allow you to customize your experience.
No complaints here. I’ve been perfectly happy with the results of the camera and while the 100x Space Zoom is definitely a gimmick, it does come in handy sometimes, like if I want to see something that’s far away or maybe read something I can’t read from where I am.
WHAT WE DON’T LIKE
I’ll just list the obvious which I already mentioned above. I’m not a fan of having the expandable storage removed and I’m still not 100% a fan of not having the AUX jack there. While I mainly use Bluetooth headphones anyways, it was still nice to have the AUX jack just in case I needed it. I can also understand Samsung not wanting to include a charger in the box, but for the price of the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, there should be one in there.
I mentioned this in the software section, but ads suck. Having ads in your stock apps is not cool, especially on a flagship phone and one that costs this much. I”m glad you can turn them off, but that shouldn’t even be something I have to do.
The under-display fingerprint reader is generally good and accurate. Though I’ve come across a few instances where it would not read my fingerprint right away and I had to try several times before it did. Not sure if this is because I had wet fingers, or if it was after I ate something, but whatever the case, once in a while you will have to try more than once.
Well that’s it really. A month into using the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, and most of my opinions about it haven’t changed. It’s still a fantastic flagship phone and despite the few annoyances, this is still one of the best phones I’ve ever used. The phone is fast, the screen is bright and gorgeous, and even the speakers are really good. The cameras as beyond anything I’ve used so far and will now be the standard that I’ll have to compare other cameras to now.
I do suggest picking up an unlocked Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G over a carrier-locked unit if you can go that route because you’ll just have a better experience in my opinion without all the carrier loaded bloatware. But if you’re trying to save a few bucks and have a trade-in that the carriers take, but Samsung doesn’t, then save the money and opt for the carrier unit. Either way, you’ll have yourself one heck of a phone that you will not be disappointed in.