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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra VS Galaxy S20 Ultra: Is It A Major Improvement?
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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra VS Galaxy S20 Ultra: Is It A Major Improvement?

by Aiman MaulanaFebruary 11, 2021
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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra VS Galaxy S20 Ultra: Is It A Major Improvement? 24

With Samsung recently launching their newest flagship smartphone series, many are wondering how they compare to its predecessor. Today, we bring the best of the new series and the best of the predecessor in head to head combat as we pit the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra against the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Is the new one actually a major improvement? Let’s find out.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra VS Galaxy S20 Ultra: Is It A Major Improvement? 25

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra VS Galaxy S20 Ultra

Specifications

Smartphone Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Processor Exynos 2100, 5nm
1 x Cortex-X1 @ 2.9GHz + 3 x Cortex-A78 @2.8GHz + 4 x Cortex-A55 @ 2.2GHz
Exynos 990, 7nm EUV
2 x Mongoose M5 @ 2.73GHz + 2 x Cortex-A76 @2.5GHz + 4 x Cortex-A76 @ 2GHz
RAM 12GB 12GB
Storage 256GB UFS 3.1 128GB UFS 3.0
Display 6.8″ WQHD+ (3200 x 1440) Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display
Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
HDR10+
1500 nits
11Hz to 120Hz Adaptive Refresh Rate
6.9″ WQHD+ (3200 x 1440) Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display
Corning Gorilla Glass 6
HDR10+
1400 nits
120Hz High Refresh Rate
Rear Camera 108MP f/1.8 wide angle camera, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
10MP f/4.9 periscope telephoto camera, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom
10MP f/2.4 telephoto camera, 3x opitcal zoom, dual pixel PDAF, OIS
12MP f/2.2 120˚ ultra-wide, dual pixel PDAF, Super Steady video
LED flash, auto-HDR, panorama
[email protected], [email protected]/60fps, [email protected]/60/240fps, [email protected], HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS
108MP f/1.8 wide angle camera, PDAF, OIS
48MP f/3.5 periscope telephoto camera, PDAF, OIS, 4x optical zoom
12MP f/2.2 120˚ ultra-wide, Super Steady video
0.3MP f/1.0 TOF 3D camera
LED flash, auto-HDR, panorama
[email protected], [email protected]/60fps, [email protected]/60/240fps, [email protected], HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS
Selfie Camera 40MP f/2.2 wide-angle selfie cam, PDAF
Dual video call, Auto HDR
[email protected]/60fps, [email protected]
40MP f/2.2 wide-angle selfie cam, PDAF
Dual video call, Auto HDR
[email protected]/60fps, [email protected]
Battery 5000mAh
25W fast charging
USB-PD 3.0 fast charging
15W wireless fast charging
4.5W reverse wireless charging
5000mAh
45W fast charging
USB-PD 3.0 fast charging
15W wireless fast charging
4.5W reverse wireless charging
Dimensions 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm
227g
166.9 x 76 x 8.8 mm
222g
Ingress Protection IP68 IP68

To start things off, we’re not here to declare a winner in this section. After all, it makes sense that a successor would have better hardware compared to its predecessor. This is just here for your reference so you know the differences and similarities of both devices. Now onwards to the comparison.

Design

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra VS Galaxy S20 Ultra: Is It A Major Improvement?

When you look from the front, both flagship devices look essentially the same. As you turn it over to the back, you can instantly see some major differences here and there. For instance, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra’s quad-camera setup has that contour cut camera housing design whereas the Galaxy S20 Ultra isn’t all the way to the corner on the top-left side. It’s worth noting that both camera setups do have a notable bump still, but the newer device integrates the camera in a cleaner, better way.

Apart from that, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra opted for a matte finish for their back, whereas its predecessor went for a glossy look instead. Personally, I’m a fan on the matte finish as it’s not as susceptible to fingerprint stains and gives it a classier look. With that being said, this is subjective as some of you may prefer the glossy appearance instead. At the same time, if you’re gonna be using this with a case, this wouldn’t matter anyway.

As for colours, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has Phantom Black and Phantom Silver at the moment, but more colour options are expected to be on the way, including Phantom Navy and Phantom Titanium. The Galaxy S20 Ultra on the other hand is only available in Cosmic Black, Cosmic White, and Cosmic Gray, so there are lesser options here.

If you’re wondering about the size and weight difference, the newer flagship smartphone is 1.8mm shorter and 0.4mm narrower, but it is 0.1mm thicker. It’s also worth noting that it is 5g heavier. Realistically speaking, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two even if you put them side-by-side, so the difference is negligible.

Looking from an overall perspective for design, I would have to give it a draw as some of the point, while it may lean more in favour of the newer flagship, it’s still subjective and heavily dependent on a user’s preference.

Winner: Draw

Display

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review -

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra’s display has seen a very slight shrinkage as it is now 6.8-inches compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s 6.9 inches. However, the display is far from a downgrade as you get a bunch of new features that you can enjoy.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra VS Galaxy S20 Ultra: Is It A Major Improvement?

For starters, it can do 120Hz refresh rate on the higher QHD resolution, which wasn’t possible on the Galaxy S20 Ultra as 120Hz is only available in Full HD resolution. Furthermore, you have the adaptive refresh rate option thanks to the LTPO panel technology. It can go as low as 11Hz all the way to 120Hz, which makes it more efficient than the S20 Ultra as that will constantly run on 120Hz, using up more energy in the process.

Apart from that, you get higher peak brightness with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with 1,500 nits, 50% better contrast ratio, and Eye Comfort Shield to reduce eye fatigue when looking at the display. For this section, we have a clear winner.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Performance

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra VS Galaxy S20 Ultra: Is It A Major Improvement? 26

As many of you may know by now, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is powered by the new Exynos 2100 SoC whereas the Galaxy S20 Ultra is running the previous generation Exynos 990 SoC. How much better is the new chipset over the old one? We have the benchmarks to show that.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra VS Galaxy S20 Ultra: Is It A Major Improvement? 27 Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra VS Galaxy S20 Ultra: Is It A Major Improvement? 28 Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra VS Galaxy S20 Ultra: Is It A Major Improvement? 29

As you can see from the benchmark charts above, the Exynos 2100 easily outperforms the Exynos 990 in every area. It performed 28% better in Antutu v8, 34% better in PCMark, 10% to 20% better in 3DMark, and 172% to 201% better in Geekbench 5. This doesn’t mean that the Exynos 990 is terrible by any means as it is a powerful chipset, just that the Exynos 2100 is that much better overall.

On the memory side, the newer flagship comes with 256GB internal storage by default and 12GB RAM whereas the predecessor comes with 128GB internal storage with 12GB RAM. If that’s not enough, you can get up to 512GB for the former, and 256GB for the latter. However, do keep in mind that the former doesn’t have a microSD card slot whereas the latter does, so it’s something to keep in mind if you plan on using a device for years to come. Personally, 256GB is more than enough for me.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Battery Life

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra VS Galaxy S20 Ultra: Is It A Major Improvement? 30

Both flagship devices have the same battery capacity, which is 5,000mAh. However, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra does come with a more efficient chipset and has features that will further improve the battery efficiency. Looking at the endurance test chart above, it’s interesting to see that the newer flagship can outlast its predecessor by 5 minutes in the same resolution. In case you’re still unclear, that’s Full HD+ for both, except one is running adaptive refresh rate while the other is on 60Hz. Even on WQHD+ resolution with adaptive refresh rate, the difference isn’t much as it’s only shorter by 13 minutes compared to the predecessor at Full HD+ with 60Hz refresh rate.

With that being said, the endurance test doesn’t do the battery life justice as in real life usage, I have to charge the Galaxy S20 Ultra on a daily basis whereas I can go with a single charge for two days on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with the same usage over the course of a week. My usage consists of heavy social media and messaging use, light calls, constant Wi-Fi connection, adaptive brightness, and highest refresh rate setting at Full HD+ resolution.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Camera

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review -

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Rather than doing a camera shootout here, we’re gonna be focusing more on the technical aspects of both cameras. We feel like a camera shootout deserves a dedicated post on its own given how extensive it can get, and the pandemic situation limits my mobility to truly put them to the tests.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has seen the addition of a new laser focus sensor, which allows it to focus a lot faster. While it helps a lot for photos, it works exponentially better when shooting videos. However, that’s not the biggest upgrade in the camera setup here as it also has dual telephoto lenses which offer 3x and 10 x optical zoom. This is an improvement over the 4x optical zoom on the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s telephoto camera. That’s not the only improvement however, as the new Zoom Lock feature makes it easier to take zoomed in photos. Using AI technology, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra can intelligently identify the subject and keep it steadier, which will result in less shake.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra VS Galaxy S20 Ultra: Is It A Major Improvement?

Apart from that, the primary 108MP camera is now capable of capturing 12-bit HDR photos and is said to produce up richer colour up to 64-fold. For experts, you can also make use of the 12-bit RAW option for post-production. Furthermore, the Bright Night feature yields better results for low light and night shots. While this feature is also available in the Galaxy S20 Ultra, it works better on the newer flagship given that it can take in more light.

For those who are more into recording videos, the resolution and frame rates appear to be identical on both devices, up to 8K 24FPS. However, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra can actually capture 4K 60FPS videos not just with the primary shooter, but with any of the four cameras. You also have a new vlogger mode where you can record videos using both the front and rear cameras simultaneously. Not to forget, the new 8K Video Snap lets you take still images directly from the 8K video you recorded for added convenience.

It’s worth noting that when used with the Galaxy Buds Pro, you can access a feature called multi-mic recording, where the video will record audio captured on the microphone from both the smartphone and the Galaxy Buds Pro. 

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Miscellaneous

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review

As many of you may know by now, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first non-Galaxy Note device to officially support the S Pen You can use it to draw, take notes, sign documents, and generally have better precision compared to using your hands. However it will lack air gestures and other Bluetooth-related features, at least not until the S Pen Pro is launched later this year.

Unlike the Galaxy Note series, the S Pen is sold separately, but it can be bundled together with a protective case which comes with a special housing for it. Moreover, it’s larger than the one from the Galaxy Note series, making it easier to hold and use. The S Pen is not compatible with the Galaxy S20 Ultra as it lacks the necessary panel for it.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review -

Apart from that, the fingerprint reader has seen a size increase in the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, which is meant for it work better than its predecessor. From my own experience, it works noticeably faster and is less prone to failing to read my fingerprint. This I feel is a major improvement but if you don’t use this, then it doesn’t really matter.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

As we can see here, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a major improvement over its predecessor, the Galaxy S20 Ultra, overall. However, that doesn’t mean that the latter isn’t worth getting. Given what you get out of it, it’s still worth considering as you can get it at a more affordable price now, especially for used units. However, if money isn’t an issue, the latest premium offering here will definitely serve you well.

If you want to check out our in-depth review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, click right here. If you want to see the review for the Galaxy S20 Ultra, click here instead.

About The Author
Aiman Maulana
Jack of all trades, master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one. YouTuber, video editor, tech head, and a wizard of gaming. What's up? :)