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(Pocket-lint) - Samsung has pulled the covers off its flagship model for 2021, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. Launched alongside the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+, it ushers in a range of new enhancements over the 2020 version.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra showcases Samsung's new design. It's not a huge shift overall and the major change was widely leaked so will come as no surprise - the frame expanding to spread over the camera on the rear. Rather than the camera being an island on the back, it's now better integrated into the edges of the device. That back is Gorilla Glass Victus, the toughest Gorilla Glass yet.

On the Ultra the camera expands with a new main sensor, a new telephoto lens as well as new skills. While the main camera is still 108-megapixels, there's a new sensor behind it, said to offer better colour and dynamic range than the previous version.

SamsungSamsung Galaxy S21 Ultra photo 3

While the ultra-wide angle persists, there's been a rethinking of the telephoto offering, adopting an approach we saw from Huawei on the P40 Pro+. There are now two 10-megapixel telephoto lenses, one offering 3x optical zoom and one offering 10x optical zoom.

The aim is to deliver that 100X Space Zoom but with greater skill, as the phone can use the 3x zoom up to 10x magnification and then switch to the other lens. This reduces the amount of digital zoom needed overall and should improve the results once you get out past 10x magnification.

There are new modes too (not unique to the Ultra) which include Single Take 2.0 adding highlight and slowmo sections for more options. There's now Director's View which will preview the shot from all the lenses so you can decide what to do, while Vlogger View will capture from both the front and rear cameras, so you can have your reaction in the video too.

Live Thumbnails will allow you to switch lenses in video without a jump, for a smooth transition, while all lenses will now let you capture 4K 60fps footage. There's still support for 8K video too, with the additional option to take a still from an 8K video.

SamsungSamsung Galaxy S21 Ultra photo 16

The display on the Ultra is the largest and most capable of the S21 family. It measures 6.8-inches on the diagonal and is Dynamic AMOLED X2, with the ability to switch the refresh rate between 10 and 120Hz depending on the content you're viewing. It's also rated to 1500 nits, making it Samsung brightest display yet.

The display also includes a Wacom digitising layer, so will support S Pen input, making for a more versatile device. While the phone won't accommodate the S Pen like the Galaxy Note traditionally does, there will be a range of accessories like cases that will.

There's also UWB - ultra wide-band - technology which will allow you to use your phone as a digital car key, among potential other future applications.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra will be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or the Exynos 2100 depending on the region, with Samsung claiming big performance gains over the previous generation for its new hardware. The Ultra gets 12GB RAM and 128GB storage, increasing to 16GB and 512GB.

There's a 5000mAh battery, broadly positioning the S21 Ultra in the same position as the S20 Ultra from 2020. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra will cost from £1149 in the UK and will be available from 29 January.


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Writing by Chris Hall. Originally published on 12 January 2021.