We’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (see our full review) for more than a week and it’s pretty clear that this model is more than the typical consumer-facing S-series of the past. We also spent a month on the Note 20 Ultra and this phone topped our list for the best phone for business.
In the past, the Note series was introduced with the latest innovations from Samsung. However, last year the timing was shifted and the Note 20 Ultra became the S20 Ultra with support for the S Pen and compromises in the camera department. The future of the Note range still seems to be determined.
Launched with the best specs of any current Samsung smartphone, the Samsung S21 Ultra sets the bar for other Android phones launching in 2021. Critics across the mobile community generally praise the new phone with the greatest approval that it is the best that Apple has to offer with the iPhone 12 Pro Max, so the choice will depend primarily on an operating system and ecosystem preference. However, the question for Samsung users is whether or not to leave the Note 20 Ultra behind.
Also: Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review: Samsung’s best S series for $ 200 less than last year
Story from the tape
The specs do not provide a complete picture of what a smartphone is capable of, but are useful for comparison purposes and give you an indication of what each device offers.
|feature||Galaxy S21 Ultra||Galaxy Note 20 Ultra|
|Screen size||6.8 in||6.9 in|
|processor||Snapdragon 888||Snapdragon 865+|
|Dimensions||165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm||164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1 mm|
|Weight||229 g||208 g|
|R.A.M.||12 / 16GB||12 GB|
|Internal memory||128/256/512 GB||128/512 GB|
|Reversing cameras||Four: 10MP tele (10x), 10MP tele (3x), 108MP wide, 12MP ultra wide||Three: 12MP Tele, 108MP Wide, 12MP Ultra Wide|
|Front cameras||A 40MP||A 10MP|
|Other||WiFi 6E, larger ultrasonic fingerprint sensor||Micro SD card|
Both Samsung devices have an adaptive display with a refresh rate of 120 MHz, fast wireless charging, IP68 dust / water resistance, PowerShare wireless function, UWB and 5G so the differences in most of the specifications are small. The S21 Ultra contains the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.
Also: Samsung Galaxy S21 5G Review: Entry-level flagship drops $ 200 with few compromises
In the past, the main difference between the S series and the Note series has been the S Pen. This is no longer the case as the S21 Ultra 5G supports S Pen functionality. There is no S-pen and no integrated silo for storage. However, you can purchase accessory cases and an S-pen that can be used with the S21. You can also use S-pens from a Note phone or Samsung tablet.
The only current limitation to using the S Pen with the S21 concerns Bluetooth Air Actions. However, Samsung plans to release an S Pen with this support for the S21 in the future.
With the S21 Ultra now supporting the S Pen, it’s a better buy with upgraded cameras, the latest Qualcomm processor, Gorilla Glass Victus material in a matte finish, and Wi-Fi 6E. The only reason you should consider the Note 20 Ultra is for the microSD card slot, unless you’re actually using the Air Actions with the S Pen.
We will continue to use the S21 Ultra here at ZDNet in the coming weeks. So stay tuned to learn more about camera performance, the S Pen, and more.