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Funmunke's Samsung S21 Ultra 5G Review

  1. funmunke
    Marshmallow Apr 8, 2021 at 12:47 AM

    funmunke , Apr 8, 2021 at 12:47 AM :
    I like to review phones. OnePlus has never had the...spine to let me into the lab. That's why I rarely review OnePlus phones, However, I review every phone I every get my hands on. Here is my S21 review.

    I’ve spent the last number of years using a slew of different phones from OnePlus, LG, Motorola, Huawei, Sony, and the last HTC. I haven’t used a Samsung since the S7. I’ve avoided them because while they were well built, they had software that was so bloated, it drove me nuts.

    So, what is it like going to Samsung after so long?

    HARDWARE

    Back in the day, only Apple rivaled Samsung when it came to the best hardware. Samsung can no longer make that claim. Granted, this phone is excellent, but OnePlus, LG, and Apple are all on the same level in terms of quality build.

    This phone feels heavy in your hand. I personally like that, but someone coming from an Apple might be very disappointed. Going light weight was not a big consideration here. It seems like they were more focused on packing as much as possible into this phone. That leads to a big issue.

    Samsung has been cowed into trying to be like Apple and removed both the headphones jack and sd card slot. I see no real reason for this beyond saving money. Apple and Samsung claim that they can’t fit it in, or that no one uses them anymore. Both of those are nothing but lame excuse. Both LG and Sony put both items into their last flagships. LG in fact released HD audio to go with the headphones jack. After using both phones, I REALLY miss both those items. They added a huge amount of functionality and made doing certain things so much easier.

    They did add the latest and greatest 5G and Wifi connectivity to this phone. That sounds great, but I haven’t noticed it all. I even live in an area where 5G is everywhere. There might be more speed, but everything in my area was already fast. It’s hard to really notice a difference unless you are running a speed test.

    So, this phone is S-Pen compatible. Great. It would be really good if it actually came with an S-Pen, but you’ll have to pay more for that. By more I mean $40 for an s-pen designed for the Ultra, that is missing some functionality. That’s right, you can’t do gestures. If that’s important to you, you need to wait for the S-Pen Pro to be released “later” in 2021. That one will have a BT connection.

    That really seems like a fumble on Samsung’s part. I can understand making the s-pen optional and not having a silo for it, like on the Note, but not having the full-blown version available at launch feels like they are missing an opportunity. If people get the regular s-pen, decide they don’t use it, what’s to motivate them into getting the pro version?

    The S-pen can be handy, but it only makes sense if you get a case that can hold. Thankfully Spigen makes one that is cheap and works well.

    On the plus side, this phone has the fastest, most accurate fingerprint reader I’ve ever used. It’s easily twice as fast as the one LG was using. The ultrasonic format really makes a difference.

    CAMERA

    When I first used the Huawei P20 Pro, I was blown away by how good that camera was. The things it did were unprecedented in a camera phone. I used a number of phones after that one, and none of them ever matched what Huawei could pull off.

    Samsung crushed it with this camera setup. The flexibility it offers is unmatched. From wide angle to super zoom, it’s all there. Some of the tricks they pull off with this camera are truly impressive. From how it combines photos for optimal exposure to the foolish 100x superzoom, the things you can do with this camera are insane. The 100x is nothing you’ll want to use a lot. It’s usable, but not overly clear. Still, the mere fact that you can take a usable 100x photo with this phone is mind blowing.

    When I say “usable” I mean a photo that is identifiable. It’s nothing I’m going to want to hang on a wall, but it might help trying to identify something.

    If there is one thing camera doesn’t do great, it’s exposure. It tends to over expose, but that’s it. That’s the only real issue I can find and it’s minor.

    You might see the 108MP sensor and think you can take some insane RAW photos with that. To a degree, that’s true, but with a sensor like that, you’d need a HUGE amount of light to be able to get good results. There is a reason why Samsung does pixel binning to get its incredible results. On its own 108MP in a sensor that size is not really usable, except in ideal conditions.

    I love a good wide-angle camera. LG was always a proponent of the wide-angle, and over the years, it’s really come in handy. It’s not something you use a lot, but when you need it, nothing beats it.

    You get two tele-photo lenses here. The 3X is great for framing your photos, and the 10x allows you to do things that no over phone I’ve ever used has allowed. The 10x really comes in handy for sunsets and times when you can’t get close to your subject.
    20210406_133947.jpg
    The 3X Zoom

    20210406_133951.jpg
    The 10x Zoom

    20210407_160421.jpg
    This is the regular lens. The next photo is the exact same using Samsung's 100x zoom.

    20210407_160403.jpg
    It's not great, but the fact it's usable is insane.

    photomode_26032021_164849.jpg
    Here is a photo I took in CyberPunk 2077, because why not.

    CHARGING

    I usually don’t do a write up on charging, but in this case, I think it’s needed. You have wired 25W or wireless 10W. I love that flexibility. It’s not all good though. You know what really stinks? Paying through the nose for a phone, opening the box, and not getting a charger. That’s right. No charger in the box. If you want one, you’ll be paying for it. It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that they charge you over $1,000, but couldn’t give you a charger. I can’t remember the last time I got a phone with no charger.

    SCREEN

    Till now, OnePlus had the best screen I’d seen in a phone. It makes sense that Samsung would beat them, considering OnePlus got their screens from Samsung. This screen is amazing. It’s not just it’s looks either. They did some impressive trickery here too. The adaptive refresh is amazing. The big issue with a 120 refresh rate is the battery it burns through. With adaptive turned on, it adjusts. Reading a book or something similar – it drops as low as 10. This saves a huge amount of battery life.

    BATTERY LIFE

    It’s good. It’s not LG V60 good, but it’s good. There have been times when the LG V60 lasted me for two days with normal use. This one has the same battery, but doesn’t last that long. It will easily make it through the day and night though.

    SOFTWARE

    Welcome to the worst part about this phone. I know why Samsung doesn’t fix it too. To be honest, I hate the Samsung apps, I hate the excessive bloatware, and Bixby is the worst virtual assistant I’ve ever used.

    The UI is the more frustrating of the issues here. The main reason is tied to the fact that this is an Android phone. Why do you want to be so different from stock when it’s actually hindering the experience instead of improving it?

    I understand what Samsung is trying to do. They want to be Apple. They want their own ecosystem, they control, and reap large profits off of. That’s why they have their own assistant, apps, and UI. I’d applaud them for that, if they grow a pair and divorce Android. The only way all the apps, bloatware, assistant, and UI make sense if they are on their own. Just do it already. Become the third option, because as it stands now, your software is awful. It’s trying to sit on a fence, which means it’s not as good as it could be on its own, and it’s NO WHERE as good as stock Android.

    Now, if you are a handy when it comes to Android, you can remove a lot of the junk off this phone, via ADB. But, stop and think about that for a moment. You just paid top dollar for a phone, and now, you have to waste a solid hour of your time stripping off all the garbage they piled on there. How is that acceptable?

    If this phone was running software close to stock and didn’t have the bloatware issue, we’d be talking about a legendary phone. One of the best phones ever made. Instead, we have some of the best hardware ever combined in a phone, with steaming pile of dung laid on top of it.

    Again, if Samsung finally broke free of Android, I think things would be very different. They might also be watching Huawei very closely to see how everything pans out for them. Huawei was forced off Android and now runs its own OS and ecosystem. If it goes well for Huawei, I would not be surprised to see Samsung finally pull the trigger. They already have the OS. It’s been in their Smart appliances for years.

    I know I’ve bashed Samsung a lot here, but there are some things that do that are excellent. The first one I’ll mention is something that falls into the useful category. It’s their side tabs. The default is your recent apps or apps you’ve pinned. This comes in handy since I don’t like either of Samsung’s default launcher options. You can also add more tabs like weather and select contacts. I first used this with the S6 Edge and I’m glad it’s still around.

    Now for the thing that Samsung does best, and by best, I mean no one is even close. A deep dive into the sound settings will take you to an EQ setting. This is not impressive on its own, since most other makers offer this. What Samsung does that no one else does, is it gives you a hearing test and creates a custom sound profile for you. As someone who has hearing loss, the impact this has is incredible. The only thing I don’t understand is why it’s so buried. I mean you need to dig to find this thing.

    I find it rather ironic that Samsung is more on board with Windows integration than any other maker I’ve used. Samsung imbedded the features needed and allows you to use apps in Windows. The others I’ve used require you to download an app and you cannot use apps in Windows. This is a handy feature to have for anyone using an Windows PC. They also support the cut and paste feature. Copy on your phone – paste on your PC and vice versa.

    I have to relate one final frustrating issue with Samsung’s software. The last three phones I used all were on board with Google’s autofill for apps. That made signing into a new phone an easy experience. Samsung has its own thing. I spent quite a while hunting down passwords that I hadn’t used in nearly two years.

    WILDCARD

    There is a factor to consider, if you’ve only used Apple or Samsung products. You’ve been spoiled. By buying the most popular phones, you’ve always had a massive selection of cases and accessories. As someone who’s been using the fringe players for years, I’ve been stuck with only a few choices when it comes to cases. Sometimes it was very difficult to find cases, or I had to pay more than I would have liked.

    Having a massive selection does add to the value, since you end up paying less for cases as everyone tries to undercut each other. On top of that, you can find the crazy cases that include extra battery, wallets, and added functionality. If you’re using a Sony or OnePlus, you can only dream about such a thing.

    This becomes even more of a value I you are one of the people in a program like Amazon Vine. I was able to get three cases for this phone, through Vine. Before this, only once was I able to find a case for my phone.

    Another factor is that there are also apps on the Play Store that are dedicated to tweaking the Samsung experience. Some of them are quite useful. This is something you don’t find when using the minor players.

    VALUE

    Is this phone a good value? No. I’m sorry at its retail price, it’s not. The LG V60 might have a weaker camera and older processor, but it’s a far better value. The OnePlus 9 Pro, is a slightly better value, if we are talking about a full priced phone. If you want this phone to be a value, you need to land this phone for $900 or less. Anything higher just isn’t worth it. If you’re going to pay full price for this phone, you might want to look at the iPhone. I do not like iOS, but they have an excellent build, great camera, no bloatware, and fast updates.

    SHOULD YOU BUY THIS PHONE

    If money is not an issue and you love Samsung – yes.

    If money is no issue and you want the best camera – yes.

    If money is no issue and you want the best Android phone – maybe.

    If money is an issue and you want a great Android phone – buy the LG V60.

    If you want a clean Android experience – buy the Pixel 5 or OnePlus 9 Pro.

    If money isn’t an issue and you want the best phone – buy the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

    If you need to have a sd card and headphones jack – buy the LG V60.

    If you need to have a sd card and headphones jack, but hate LGs software – buy the Sony Xperia 1 II.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021 at 1:28 AM

    #1
  2. Rusty NZ
    Marshmallow Apr 8, 2021 at 1:07 AM

    Rusty NZ , Apr 8, 2021 at 1:07 AM :
    Nice review, your best sentence in the review is:

    Instead, we have some of the best hardware ever combined in a phone, with steaming pile of dung laid on top of it.
     

    #2
    Mr. BG, sommersy and funmunke like this.
  3. funmunke
    Marshmallow Apr 8, 2021 at 1:14 AM

    funmunke , Apr 8, 2021 at 1:14 AM :
    :D:D:D
    Steaming Poo
     

    #3
  4. funmunke
    Marshmallow Apr 8, 2021 at 1:15 AM


    #4
    The1Lion, Mr. BG, TibiTibi and 2 others like this.
  5. Rusty NZ
    Marshmallow Apr 8, 2021 at 1:24 AM


    #5
    Mr. BG, SoniaB and funmunke like this.
  6. funmunke
    Marshmallow Apr 8, 2021 at 1:25 AM


    #6
    Mr. BG, McJader, SoniaB and 3 others like this.
  7. Rusty NZ
    Marshmallow Apr 8, 2021 at 1:29 AM

    Rusty NZ , Apr 8, 2021 at 1:29 AM :
    You will be fine, Sonia is a nice lady. It's not like you are unnecessarily tagging a Head Moderator who has the power to ban you.....Oh wait.......:eek::p:D
     

    #7
    Mr. BG, SoniaB and funmunke like this.
  8. funmunke
    Marshmallow Apr 8, 2021 at 1:35 AM

    funmunke , Apr 8, 2021 at 1:35 AM :
    I remember when she posted that photo. I feel old :(
     

    #8
    The1Lion, Mr. BG, SoniaB and 2 others like this.
  9. Rusty NZ
    Marshmallow Apr 8, 2021 at 1:49 AM

    Rusty NZ , Apr 8, 2021 at 1:49 AM :
    That photo was only posted six years ago. You will be allowed to feel old when you can't remember when that photo was posted
     

    #9
    Mr. BG, SoniaB, the_o2 and 1 other person like this.
  10. meatandy
    Oreo Apr 8, 2021 at 1:50 AM

    meatandy , Apr 8, 2021 at 1:50 AM :
    You seem to get excellent 5G coverage considering the cell towers on the hill are five miles away.
    Let's consult @sfomin on that.
    :D:rolleyes::p
     

    #10
  11. AntMunny
    KitKat Apr 8, 2021 at 1:53 AM

    AntMunny , Apr 8, 2021 at 1:53 AM :
    I have the S21 Ultra 5G and I like it a lot.

    Samsung bloat isn't really an issue for me anymore...it just sucks that you can't even diable the bloat apps in settings.

    I really do like the fact that it gets monthly security updates.

    but that camera, though....
     

    #11
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  12. Rusty NZ
    Marshmallow Apr 8, 2021 at 1:57 AM


    #12
    Mr. BG and funmunke like this.
  13. funmunke
    Marshmallow Apr 8, 2021 at 2:01 AM

    funmunke , Apr 8, 2021 at 2:01 AM :
    Once I dumped all the bloat into a folder I called "crap", it's not as bad.
     

    #13
  14. TheMystic
    Lollipop Apr 8, 2021 at 2:10 AM

    TheMystic , Apr 8, 2021 at 2:10 AM :
    You shouldn't be recommending LG phones now as they are officially exiting this business. It is sad and perplexing why LG failed as a smartphone maker. They had excellent products that the market just did not appreciate unfortunately.

    That said, I think Huawei is at par with Samsung when it comes to Camera. And probably the phone to get for those who are anti-Google.

    For absolute best and reliability in Camera, Gaming, and any processor intensive features, iPhone still is the King.
     

    #14
    Mr. BG, Rusty NZ and funmunke like this.
  15. funmunke
    Marshmallow Apr 8, 2021 at 3:01 AM

    funmunke , Apr 8, 2021 at 3:01 AM :
    LG is going to continue to sell abs support existing phones. It's sad to see them go.
     

    #15
    The1Lion, sfomin, TheMystic and 2 others like this.
  16. Rusty NZ
    Marshmallow Apr 8, 2021 at 4:53 AM

    Rusty NZ , Apr 8, 2021 at 4:53 AM :
    You should be consistent and you should call that folder "Steaming crap" :p
     

    #16
    funmunke and Mr. BG like this.
  17. SoniaB
    Head Moderator; Community Hero 2020 Head Moderator Apr 8, 2021 at 5:44 AM


    #17
  18. McJader
    Lollipop Apr 8, 2021 at 5:48 AM

    McJader , Apr 8, 2021 at 5:48 AM :
    Very interesting, impartial review.
    I'd heard OneUI had improved in terms of bloat but it still seems to be the sore point.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021 at 10:31 AM

    #18
  19. TibiTibi
    Photography Expert Apr 8, 2021 at 10:15 AM


    #19
  20. Mr. BG
    Community Hero 2020 Apr 8, 2021 at 10:52 AM


    #20
    The1Lion, meatandy, script and 5 others like this.