The Samsung Galaxy S21 range was announced yesterday via a global livestream event, earlier than previous years. The trio of devices, the S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra are already open for pre-order in South Africa. They will be available in the country on 5 February 2021.

New colours by model L-R: S21 Ultra; S21+ and S21

Samsung also announced the Galaxy Buds Pro, S-Pen and S-Pen Pro, and the Galaxy Smart Tag. Pre-order offers include: A pair of Galaxy Buds Pro free with the S21 Ultra; and the Galaxy Buds Live with the S21+ and S21. All smartphones will come with a free Galaxy Smart Tag.

Prices are as follows:

S21 (128/256GB) From R17 999
S21+ (256GB) R21 499
S21 Ultra (256/512GB) From R27 999
Galaxy Buds Pro R3999
S-Pen for S21 Ultra R999
Galaxy Smart Tag R499

The new handsets come in various colours, including the custom colour option available to the South African market. A unique, limited edition brown shade will be available directly on the Samsung SA website. The new shade for this year is ‘phantom violet, also available on the Galaxy Buds Pro.

The new 2021 shade – phantom violet

I will be reviewing the Galaxy S21 Ultra but here’s a quick first look and what comes in the box. As you all know, there will be no plug in the box, a trend started by Apple with the iPhone 12 range. Samsung has followed suit, and the box is now half its usual size.

Inside the S21 Ultra, you get the phone, a USB-C to USB-C cable, SIM tool, warranty card and quick start guide. That is it. No plug, no earphones. Very minimal. I personally like this trend. I never use those freebie earphones in the box, have a bunch lying at home (with Lightning connector – so not really useful to most). Wireless earphones are growing in popularity so definitely no need for them.

As for the plug, you’d have to buy one if you don’t already have one. I have USB-C plugs for my laptop but I don’t like moving them around to the room I need, prefer having them at fixed spots in different rooms.

The S21 Ultra has a slightly curved edge display, and is large at 6.8-inches. You need two hands to use it but it is slim and elongated. As you can tell from the name on the box, it has 5G support. The base model I have on review is powered by Exynos 2100 chipset (5nm), 12GB of RAM and 256GB storage. It has a screen refresh rate of 120Hz, supports WiFi 6E, has wireless powershare on its 5000mAh battery, and an IP68 waterproof rating. I have the shade “phantom silver” which changes colour in the light.

Phantom Silver catching the light

The camera is 108MP and the 100x zoom is back with some improvements; 8K video recording; 40MP selfie cam – basically same as last year’s S20 Ultra.

I do like the new Director’s View feature – it is useful for journalists or content creators for interviews. It lets you use both front and back cameras at the same time; just pop it on a tripod and you’re good to go. You can also change the view to have the cameras appear side-by-side, or pic-in-pic (drag around the smaller camera). This is a brilliant feature and I love it.

The zoom feature – not a fan

The 8K video recording now supports 33MP stills. Also useful cos sometimes you have to choose between making videos or taking stills. Now you can get high res still while recording.

The S21 Ultra now has S-Pen support. I have no idea where you’d actually put it and not lose it but perhaps there will covers for it. There is an S-Pen pro version as well. I haven’t seen it yet.

I’ve only had the phone for a few hours but this is my quick first impression likes and dislikes:
– Speedy phone
– Director’s View is amazing
– Fingerprints already on the phone
– Not big on the 100x zoom (still)