Samsung is back, and to kick off the new year announced its newest additions to its Galaxy smartphone lineup and more.
On the final day of CES, Samsung held its first virtual unpacked event of the new year, but unlike previous years, the South Korean tech giant decided to hold the event a month earlier. Today (Jan.14), the company unveiled its cheaper Galaxy S21, S21+, and fully loaded S21 Ultra they hope will lure more buyers to its smartphones.
The Galaxy S21 & S21+
Kicking things off, Samsung announced the new Galaxy S21 ($799) and Galaxy S21+ ($1,000). Samsung faithful will be happy to see the company shaved $200 off the device, a huge plus in the world still in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic. How did they accomplish that? Well, thanks to the fact that Samsung has a high volume of components like 5G processors, displays, and camera modules in its devices, they now cost less. Samsung has also lowered the RAM amount in the S21 and S21+ to 8GB from 12GB.
Like last year’s models, both phones retain the display sizes, 6.2-inch (S21) and 6.7-inch (S21 Plus), BUT have ditched the curved design for a more flat panel look. There is also a noticeable step-down in resolution dropping from 3200 x 1440 panels on last year’s models to 2400 x 1080 resolution, another factor that helped Samsung lower the price. Even with the resolution drop, Samsung was still able to offer 120Hz refresh rates in both phones.
Another trade-off that contributed to the price cut is the S21 having a back panel that is made of polycarbonate plastic, not glass, and a lack of an ultra-wideband radio a feature the S21+ and Ultra that allows both devices to integrate with Samsung’s new Galaxy SmartTag and SmartTag Ultra devices that help you locate your lost devices or even your dog.
Underneath the hood, there are no downgrades to worry about. Both phones use Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 888 chipset that Samsung boasts will boost overall performance and deliver significant improvements to the user experience. Both phones are 5G ready and support mmWave and sub-6GHz networks. The fingerprint sensor gets an upgrade with Qualcomm’s new 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2, which Samsung promises will be faster and easier to use. Both phones offer BIG batteries, with the S21 sporting a 4,000mAh battery and the S21+ having a slightly larger 4,800mAh one.
The most important part of every smartphone is the camera. On the S21 and S21+, Samsung is embracing the “bump” but making it more attractive. Instead of sticking out like an eyesore, both phones’ triple-camera system is housed inside a new eye-catching design ditching the glass encasing. The camera bump now seamlessly fits with the phone design instead of sticking out. That is all made possible because Samsung opted to forego squeezing in bigger sensors to provide better lenses. So basically, it’s a more stylish look with a tough, more durable design.
With the S21 and S21+’s camera system, the updates are largely cosmetic as nothing has really changed from the previous model. Both phones have a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, and a 64-megapixel telephoto lens, along with a 10-megapixel selfie camera—basically the same offering from the S20 lineup of Galaxy smartphones. The software gets a minor improvement with the additions of a 30x “Space Zoom” mode, a new “Director’s View” mode that allows users to switch between lenses while filming. Samsung’s brilliant “Single Take” mode is also returning. Both phones both record 8K video.
Both phones come in a new line-up of colors Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, and Phantom White, including a new signature color called Phantom Violet with a haze finish that reduces fingerprints.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra
Of course, Samsung had to up the ante and offer an “Ultra” experience. For those who want to get more bang for their buck without any of the comprises of the S21 and S21+ when it comes to their smartphones, the new Galaxy S20 Ultra is the phone for you. BUT it’s going to cost you.
For the hefty price of $1,199, the follow-up to last year’s S20 Ultra comes with a 6.8-inch 3200 x 1440 OLED display, with refresh rates up to 120Hz. Under the hood, there 12GB of RAM, a massive 5,000mAh battery, Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 888 processor.
But that’s not all.
The S21 Ultra is also the first Galaxy phone that has support Samsung’s S Pen stylus. Unfortunately, the S Pen is not included, and for that price, it should be. But you can buy one for an additional $40 (Standard S-Pen) or $70( S-Pen Pro) in a bundle that comes with a case to house both the phone and stylus, but it is bulky.
With the S21 Ultra, Samsung promises to deliver a much better Pro-Grade camera system than the S20 Ultra’s technology that was groundbreaking thanks to features like 100x zoom mode and a 108-megapixel sensor but was plagued by numerous issues. The S21 Ultra now has a new focal length that delivers slightly wider shots, plus a new laser autofocus system that will address the focusing issues of last year’s model. It will also provide support for 12-bit color depth and an improved demosaicing process.
You will also have more control over photo enhancements that were AI-controlled. Now you can either adjust or turn off the smoothing effect many Samsung Galaxy users complained about. The S21 Ultra now features an additional three rear cameras. There is a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, of course, plus two separate 10-megapixel telephoto cameras. One sports a 3X zoom and one with a 10X zoom. The downside to a more powerful camera system is it takes away from the device’s elegance.
The S21 arrives in Phantom Silver color, and a new bold Phantom Black finish.
Galaxy Buds Pro
Samsung also used its first unpack event of the year to announce its answer to Apple AirPods Pro, the Galaxy Buds Pro. For $199, Samsung took the best of both the Galaxy Buds+ and Galaxy Buds Live and combined them into what is probably one of the best wearable devices out right now.
The Galaxy Buds Pro features a new in-ear design that “reduces the contact area between your ear and the bud, improving comfort and minimizing any clogged-up feeling,” Samsung boasts. According to Samsung, the Galaxy Buds Pro’s 11mm woofer and 6.5mm tweeter will allow the Galaxy Buds Pro to deliver the “best audio experience yet.” Thanks to the earbud’s ability to now create a full seal while wearing them, the active noise-cancellation has been improved greatly, Samsung says.
Another cool feature is the Galaxy Buds Pro’s ability to instantly recognize your voice and switch into the ambient sound mode and lower music volume allowing you to engage in a conversation without you having to take out the buds. We are currently testing them out right now. Our full review of Samsung’s newest wearable device will be coming soon.
The Galaxy Buds Pro comes in three colors Phantom Black and Phantom Silver, and Phantom Violet.
Pre-orders for the Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra began today at 11 a.m. ET. Each phone will be widely available through carriers and unlocked through Samsung on January 29. There are also pre-order deals on Samsung.com that will allow you to save up to $700, and you can get a free Galaxy Smart Tag. The Galaxy Buds Pro is available now.
Photo: Samsung/ Samsung Mobile