Galaxy S21 Plus and Ultra vs. S20 Plus and Ultra: Samsung’s premium S phones compared

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Drew Evans/CNET

Samsung’s trio of phones that make up its flagship Galaxy S21 lineup have arrived — and the higher-end S21 Plus and S21 Ultra come packed with all the trappings you’d expect from a premium Android phone. All three are available to purchase now. If you’re in the market for something fancier than the base model, it’s probably a good time to take a closer look at how Samsung’s pro phones, the S21 Plus and the S21 Ultra, compare with each other, and how they differ from their predecessors.

The standout change to the S21 is the price tag. Following lackluster sales of the S20 family, the South Korean company slashed prices by $200 across the S21 line, with the S21 Plus and S21 Ultra starting at $1,000 (£949, AU$ 1,549) and $1,200 (£1,329, AU$1,849) respectively.

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The S21 Plus and S21 Ultra also have the expected incremental upgrades working in their favor: Processors are speedier, the displays have been upgraded and the cameras have been improved to take crisper photos and videos. The S21 Ultra now also supports Samsung’s stylus, the S Pen (sold separately), which blurs the line between the S series and the more professional Note series. 

Read more: The best phone to buy for 2021

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Samsung has also packed some refinements into the S21 Ultra’s camera system, but it hasn’t updated headline features such as 8K resolution and the phone’s 108-megapixel shooter. If you’re an avid photographer, you’ll likely care that the S21 Ultra comes equipped with two telephoto lenses (as opposed to one in the S20 Ultra) that offer 3x and 10x optical zoom, instead of digital zoom. Plus the main image sensor is apparently larger, which will allow it to capture photographs with improved dynamic range.

It’s also important to highlight the features Samsung removed to allow it to start at those lower prices. Because Samsung slashed prices of all three of S21 phones, it needed to save on costs by eliminating expandable storage entirely and ditching the in-box charger and earphones. The pricier S20 Plus and Ultra meanwhile, let you add up to 1TB storage and include those bundled accessories.

For more details on the differences between the S21 Ultra, S21 Plus, S20 Ultra and S20 Plus, take a look at our specs chart below.

Galaxy S21 Pro vs. S21 Ultra vs. S20 Pro vs. S20 Ultra

Galaxy S21 Plus

Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

Display size, resolution

6.7-inch Flat FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (2,400×1,080 pixels)

6.8-inch Edge WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (3,200×1,440 pixels),

6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X

6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X

Pixel density

394 ppi

515 ppi

525ppi

511ppi

Dimensions (Inches)

2.97×6.35×0.30 in

2.97×6.50×0.35 in

2.9×6.37×0.30 in

2.99×6.57×0.35 in

Dimensions (Millimeters)

75.6×161.5×7.8 mm

75.6×165.1×8.9 mm

73.7×161.9×7.8 mm

76.0×166.9×8.8 mm

Weight (Ounces, Grams)

7.12 oz; 202g

8.07 oz; 229 g

6.56 oz; 186g

7.76 oz; 220g

Mobile software

Android 11

Android 11

Android 10

Android 10

Camera

64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide)

108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 10-megapixel (telephoto), 10-megapixel (telephoto)

12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), time-of-flight camera

108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), time-of-flight camera

Front-facing camera

10-megapixel

40-megapixel

10-megapixel

40-megapixel

Video capture

8K

8K

8K

8K

Processor

Snapdragon 888 or 64-bit Octa-Core Processor 2.8GHz (Max 2.4GHz +1.8GHz)

Snapdragon 888 or 64-bit Octa-Core Processor 2.8GHz (Max 2.4GHz +1.8GHz)

64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz)

64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz)

Storage

128GB/256GB

128GB/256GB, 512GB

128GB, 512GB

128GB, 512GB

RAM

8GB

12GB, 16GB

12GB (5G), 8GB (LTE)

12GB, 16GB

Expandable storage

None

None

Up to 1TB

Up to 1TB

Battery

4,800 mAh

5,000 mAh

4,500 mAh

5,000 mAh

Fingerprint sensor

In-screen

In-screen

In-screen

In-screen

Headphone jack

No

No

No

No

Special features

IP68 rating, 5G-enabled, 30X Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging,

IP68 rating, 5G-enabled, 100X Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging, 10x optical zoom

5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; water resistant (IP68)

5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; 100X zoom; water resistant (IP68)

Price off-contract (USD)

$1,000 (128 GB) 

$1,200 (128 GB) 

$1,199 (128 GB) , $1,349 (512GB)

$1,399 (128GB), $1,599 (512GB)

Price (GBP)

£949

£1,329

£999 (5G)

£1,199 (128GB), £1,399 (512GB)

Price (AUD)

AU$1,549

AU$1,849

AU$1,499 (4G), AU$1,649 (128GB), AU$1,899 (512GB)

AU$1,999 (128GB), AU$2,249 (512GB)

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