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Samsung Galaxy S21: More of a refresh

[ PROMO ] You can get an additional Samsung ANC Type-C Earphones (worth RM299) for free when you pre-order the Galaxy S21 series with the promo code SCS21VIP via the Samsung online store.

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Samsung’s new Galaxy S smartphones are here and they’re called the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra. Much like last year, you get two “mainstream” flagship smartphones and one balls-to-the-wall device with all the bells and whistles. But, in an interesting turn of events, the S21 Ultra also supports S Pen input…?

Galaxy S21 Ultra

Let’s start with the balls-to-the-wall device, the Galaxy S21 Ultra. This smartphone features a 6.8″ Quad HD+ display up front with really slim bezels all around and a tiny punch hole at the top that houses the 40MP selfie shooter.

This screen is of course Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED 2X display that pushes a refresh rate of 120Hz. What’s improved this time is that this new screen can now do Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate at Quad HD+ resolution. Previously, this was limited to Full HD+, so now you don’t have to pick between high resolution and high refresh rate. You can have them both. The adaptive refresh rate now ranges from 10Hz to 120Hz, which means the screen can intelligently adapt to what’s being displayed on screen.

On the inside, Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra is powered by either a Snapdragon 888 processor or an Exynos 2100 processor. In Malaysia, we will be getting the Exynos variant. The S21 Ultra can be configured to feature either 12GB or 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, and either 128GB, 256GB or 512GB of internal storage. In Malaysia, we’re getting two configurations, one with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and another with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of internal storage. Finally, no 128GB variant locally.

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Keeping the lights on is a 5,000 mAh battery with support for 25W fast wired charging. It will also do fast wireless charging at up to 15W, and be able to reverse wireless charge other devices and accessories. However, you won’t be getting a charger/power adapter in the box.

For photography, the Galaxy S21 Ultra features a quad camera setup. You get a 108MP wide-angle camera with an f/1.8 aperture lens, a 12MP ultra-wide angle camera and two 10MP telephoto cameras–one at 3X optical zoom and the other at 10X optical zoom. Despite the new telephoto setup, Space Zoom still maxes out at 100X. To help with focusing, because the main sensor doesn’t have Dual Pixel AF, the S21 Ultra gets a laser AF module as well.

There are also a couple of updated software features including the ability to shoot 4K @ 60fps video on all the cameras now, while video quality can be maxed out at 8K with the main sensor. Super Steady now works in 4K @ 60fps, and there’s a new Director’s View shooting mode that lets you preview what each lens is looking at (and the framing) so you can easily swap between them mid-shoot.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Galaxy S21 Ultra is that Samsung has now added S Pen support to the smartphone. Unlike the Note series’ S Pen however, this one isn’t stored in the device. It’s sold as a separate accessory and comes with a case that you can use to stow the S Pen when you’re not using. This S Pen is also much more limited in functionality, as it doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity so it can’t function as a remote or use Air Gestures.

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Naturally, the S21 Ultra retains the premium flagship features from its predecessor including a really nice glass and metal build (with Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back), IP68 dust and water resistance, AKG stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos tuning, 5G, WiFi 6E and UWB tracking. Samsung has also increased the size on the in-display fingerprint scanner by 1.7x.

Galaxy S21 and S21+

Over on the two mainstream flagships, you’re getting quite a lot of the same stuff with a few tweaks. For starters, both phones feature the new Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 processors at their cores, but memory configuration is slightly different. You get 8GB of RAM on both phones instead, and either 128GB or 256GB of internal storage. In Malaysia, we’re getting one variant and that’s with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage.

Up front, you also get watered down displays. On the S21, there’s a 6.2″ Full HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display while the S21+ features a 6.7″ Full HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display. While both screens will still do Adaptive 120Hz (48Hz to 120Hz), they’re losing a lot of resolution. This means that their pixel density is now down to 421 and 394 pixels per inch respectively. This is a far cry from the 515 pixels per inch you’d find on the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

You still get really slim bezels and a tiny punch hole at the top, but the selfie cameras are now just 10MP shooters on the S21 and S21+. Around back, you’re getting triple camera systems instead with 12MP wide and 12MP ultra-wide cameras, alongside 64MP telephoto cameras on both devices. These new cameras also come with the same kind of software updates as the one on the S21 Ultra, so they should be pretty capable shooters. Only thing is that max zoom tops out at 30X instead.

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Keeping the S21 powered is a 4,000 mAh battery, which is the same capacity as the one on the S20. But, the S21+ sees a notable upgrade, now sporting 4,800 mAh instead. Coupled with the more efficient processors and lower resolution screens, you can expect an improvement in overall battery life. Charging is the same as the S21 Ultra, with 25W fast wired charging and 15W fast wireless plus reverse wireless charging support.

With the mainstream flagship duo, you’re also getting stereo speakers, IP68 dust and water resistance, as well as the whole host of Samsung ecosystem features like Knox security, Samsung Pay and Bixby. But, there is a difference when it comes to the build. Both phones feature Gorilla Glass Victus on the front, but on the Galaxy S21, you’re getting a Glasstic back. Yes, the same polycarbonate back that you’d find on the Galaxy Note 20.

Currently, we don’t have information on when the Galaxy S21 series will go on sale in Malaysia. But, stay tuned for that update because we’ll let you know as soon as we find out. In the meantime, let us know what you think of the Galaxy S21 series in the comments section below.