Like Galaxy S20, Samsung released 3 models of Galaxy S21: Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra. Many potential buyers are not sure which one to get when considering Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S21+ vs Galaxy S21 Ultra.
This Galaxy S21 guide explains the major differences of Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S21+ vs Galaxy S21 Ultra and explains which model is the right one for you.
Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S21+: the difference is on the size and material of the back cover.
Among the 3 models, Galaxy S21 and S21+ share almost identical components except for the size of the screen and the material used for the back cover.
Galaxy S21+ has a 6.7″ flat OLED screen. The screen of Galaxy S21 is noticeable smaller at 6.2″.
Except for the size, the displays on Galaxy S21 and S21+ are identical. The resolution is FHD+ (1080 x 2400, 20:9). The same Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel with brightness up to 1300nits is used. Both support a 120Hz refresh rate (adaptive refreshing 48-120Hz). HDR 10+ is also supported.
The biggest difference between the Galaxy S21 and S21+ is about the material of the back cover. Galaxy S21 has a plastic back cover and S21+ gets a glass back cover (like Galaxy S21 Ultra). When you hold them in your hands, it is hard to tell the difference. Both actually feel like highly polished metal.
Due to the bigger size of Galaxy S21+, you will find Galaxy S21+ has a bigger battery (4800mAh vs the 4000mAh in Galaxy S21). But the battery life, screen-on time, and charging time are similar.
An unnoticeable missing feature of Galaxy S21 is the Ultrawide Band (UWB) support. Both Galaxy S21+ and S21 Ultra support UWB. But most consumers probably even do not know what it is for.
Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S21+ vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Galaxy S21 Ultra is the only flagship
Galaxy S21 Ultra actually is the only flagship of the Galaxy S21 series. Compared to Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+, there are some significant upgrades in Galaxy S21 Ultra in the camera system, RAM, screen resolution, WiFi 6E support and S Pen support.
The curved screen is a drawback, not an advantage of Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The most advanced camera system
Galaxy S21 Ultra has the most (at least on paper) sophisticated and advanced camera system among all smartphones released so far.
The updated 108MP main camera sensor and two 10MP telephoto cameras offer 10x optical zoom. While Galaxy S21 and S21+ only have the old 12MP main camera with the old 64MP telephoto camera and can only offer 3x hybrid zoom. The details and clarity of the photos from Galaxy S21 Ultra put it in a totally different category from Galaxy S21 and S21+.
The autofocus issue of the 108MP camera widely reported in Galaxy S20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra was apparently solved in Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Galaxy S21 Ultra also spotted a better selfie camera sensor (40MP vs 10MP). But it is almost identical to that on Galaxy S20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
But the software features of the camera on all these 3 models are almost identical. You can also use camera quick launch on all Galaxy S21 models. The camera app on all these 3 phones is almost identical.
Samsung downgraded the RAM in Galaxy S21 and S21+ to 8GB. Last year’s Galaxy S20+ all has 12GB RAM. Galaxy S20 has two configurations: one with 8GB and the other with 12GB RAM.
While Galaxy S21 Ultra kept the configuration of Galaxy S20. 12GB RAM is paired with 128GB and 256GB storage. The 512GB version has 16GB RAM.
Higher screen resolution
Again, Samsung downgraded the screen resolution of Galaxy S21 and S21+ to Ful HD+. The last Galaxy S phone with such a low resolution is Galaxy S5. Although the resolution is enough for most users. But some owners of Galaxy S21 and S21+ will feel the screen is not so sharp if they get used to the 1440p screen.
Galaxy S21 Ultra retained the QHD+1440p screen resolution as in Galaxy S20.
WiFi 6E support
Galaxy S21 Ultra upped the ante by supporting WiFi 6E. Of course, most wireless routers supporting WiFi 6E were announced in CES 2021. So, it is hard to get a router with WiFi 6E support in the market now.
S Pen support
Oddly, Samsung added the S Pen support to Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Of course, the S Pen support is a bit limited compared to the S Pen in the Galaxy Note series. For example,
- No S Pen Bluetooth features supported. Since Galaxy Note 10, Samsung added Bluetooth support to the S Pen (explained in this guide). But Galaxy S21 Ultra can not use the new gimmicks of the S Pen.
- There is no S Pen detection because there is no S Pen slot on Galaxy S21 Ultra. Of course, you can hover an S Pen over the Galaxy S21 Ultra screen and Galaxy S21Ultra can recognize it. You can also use air commands by pressing the S Pen button.
The most annoying part of S Pen support is that there is no S Pen in the box. You have to recycle your old S pen from Note devices.
Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S21+ vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Galaxy S21+ should not exist at all
If you are considering which model of Galaxy S21 you should get, then you should eliminate Galaxy S21+ immediately.
It is hard to justify the $200 difference just for the glass back and a slightly larger screen (with identical technology and resolution).
So, you may just narrow the choice down to Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Ultra. Forget about Galaxy S21+, which should not exist at all.
Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S21+ vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: who should buy Galaxy S21?
The MSRP price of the Galaxy S21 starts from $799 (128GB). Galaxy S21 Ultra will be $400 (50%) more. So, you do your math.
If you are not willing to spend $1000 for a smartphone and you want a decent top-tier Samsung phone, Galaxy S21 probably is the best choice.
Please note, if Google Pixel phone is available in your region, very likely you can get a “better” (better camera at least) phone at a lower price.
But for heavy gamers with a tight budget, Galaxy S21 is a good choice. The combination of the latest mobile chips (Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100), UFS 3.1 storage, and the latest Android 11 makes Galaxy S21 stand out (and it will receive Android 12, 13, 14, and probably 15 updates). Of course, very few owners may complain about the 8GB RAM, which actually is enough for all games released in the Google Play store.
Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S21+ vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: who should buy Galaxy S21 Ultra?
As mentioned, Galaxy S21 Ultra is an incremental upgrade to Galaxy S20 Ultra in all aspects (except for the lack of micro SD card support).
Basically, you may consider Galaxy S21 Ultra:
- If you are willing to spend more than $1200 on a smartphone.
- If the smartphone camera is very important for you.
- If you are considering Galaxy Note 20 Ultra now.
Please note, the CPU (and GPU) on all these 3 models are identical. Snapdragon version is available in the USA (and a few North American markets) and China. All other regions get the Exynos 2100 chipset.
All these three Galaxy S21 phones support eSIM. In most regions except the USA and a few markets, Galaxy S21 also supports dual SIM (dual standby). You can use up to two physical SIM cards or one physical card and one eSIM simultaneously.
Do you have any questions on Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S21+ vs Galaxy S21 Ultra?
If you have any questions on Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S21+ vs Galaxy S21 Ultra, or need help to choose (or not to choose) a Galaxy S21 phone, please let us know in the comments.
The community will help you.
You may also share your thoughts on Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S21+ vs Galaxy S21 Ultra in the comment box.
If you have any questions on using Galaxy S21, you may check our detailed step-by-step Galaxy S21 guides:
- Galaxy S21 new features guides.
- Galaxy S21 how-to guides.
- Galaxy S21 camera guides.
- Galaxy S21 accessories guides.
You can also post questions or share your thoughts on our Facebook page.
The official Samsung Galaxy S21 user manual (PDF) in your local language can be read and download here.
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Enjoy your Galaxy S21.