Is the Galaxy S21 Ultra Still Worth Buying?

Close up of the Galaxy S21 Ultra cameras

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is an excellent bang for your buck in 2023, but it’s halfway through its update lifecycle, and you’ll probably have to buy it refurbished. 

There are a lot of great smartphones available right now or coming soon, from the Galaxy S23 Ultra to the Pixel 7. However, older phones like Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra still deliver a ton of value for around $450, even if it’s not the latest and greatest.

Before we begin, it’s important to mention that Samsung discontinued the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and most carriers no longer have it in stock. You can still find it new if you look hard enough, but for most listings, it’ll be “refurbished” or “renewed” by the retailer.

Table of Contents

The Galaxy S21 Ultra Is Still a Great Phone
Galaxy S21 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra
Updates and Long-Term Usability
Should You Buy the Galaxy S21 Ultra?

The Galaxy S21 Ultra Is Still a Great Phone

Galaxy S21 Ultra press image.

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra was one of the best phones of 2021 and almost in a league of its own thanks to the 108MP camera around the back, and it’s still an excellent option today.

This was Samsung’s second “Ultra” phone, and the company didn’t hold anything back. There’s a large 6.8-inch 120Hz display, a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset with 12GB of RAM, which is more than enough power for most apps and games, and it’s available in 128GB, 256GB, or even 512GB of storage.

Then, as many of you already know, four massive cameras are on the back, including a 108MP periscope lens with 100X telephoto zoom. If that all sounds familiar, it’s because those are still somewhat the same specs as last year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra and the new Galaxy S23 Ultra announced in early February.

All three phones have a big 6.8-inch screen, a slew of cameras, and tons of RAM and storage. Samsung’s older Ultra still takes fantastic photos, performs great, runs the latest Android 13 with One UI 5.0, supports fast charging, and does everything you’d want from a smartphone.

Sure, the processor is a bit older (and might be an Exynos depending on the region), and the camera system is a few years older, but that doesn’t make it bad. The screen actually has a slightly higher resolution than the new S23 Ultra and more pixels per inch. It even has the same 5,000 mAh battery inside. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is still an excellent phone.

Don’t get me wrong, this is one big, thick, and heavy phone, but so are all of Samsung’s Ultra devices.

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra

Person holding the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra in Green and taking a phone call
The new Galaxy S23 Ultra sure looks nice.

In case it wasn’t clear yet, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra isn’t drastically different from Samsung’s latest high-end smartphones. In fact, on paper, it’s still just as good or better than many current phones released by the competition.

Yes, it’s a little over two years old, but these days phones get minor refinements, not significant jumps in performance and hardware. Obviously, the all-new Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, with its crazy 200MP camera, is a better option. However, depending on what you want from a phone will determine if it’s right for you.

Without breaking down every specification, I’ll mention a few key differences between these two devices. The Galaxy S23 Ultra has the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, an S-Pen stylus, better cameras, a brighter Dynamic X2 AMOLED screen, and faster 45w wired charging. There are other differences, and we’ll know more once we review it, but there aren’t a lot of big changes.

As we said above, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has the same size 6.8-inch 120Hz AMOLED screen as the S22 Ultra and S23 Ultra. The screen is more rounded, as is the phone body, and there’s no S-Pen stylus hiding inside. Samsung’s new Ultra phones have squared edges and are wider to fit the S-Pen and stronger Victus 2 glass that’s more scratch-resistant.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra had a better camera than the aging S21 Ultra, and we’re assuming the S23 Ultra will be even better. However, the most notable improvements are the 3X, 10X, and 100X space zoom performance. If a crazy zoom isn’t a huge deal to you, the regular camera experience is still solid on the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Samsung’s newest model will likely take better pictures, get better battery life thanks to a more efficient processor, receive updates longer, and recharge far faster. But in terms of daily use, things aren’t radically different.

Updates and Long-Term Usability

Galaxy S21 Ultra in Black and Silver

Considering everything Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra still has to offer, it’s a premium phone anyone would love. Given the specs, there’s nothing not to like about this phone. However, the software side is where some buyers may have some hesitation.

See, Android smartphones stop receiving major OS updates after a few years, then eventually, won’t get security updates either. And as you probably know, that’s pretty important these days.

According to Samsung’s support page and announcement in September of 2022, most new Galaxy phones will get four major Android OS (One UI) updates and five years of security updates. This means the Galaxy S21 Ultra will get updated to Android 14 later this year, along with Android 15 in 2024. Then, owners will get monthly security patches for at least another year, well into 2025.

This means that in 2025 the Galaxy S21 Ultra will still run your favorite apps and games and will have up-to-date security measures. However, that’s the end of the road for this phone.

Honestly, though, whether you buy the Galaxy S21 Ultra or the new Galaxy S23 Ultra, most people update their phone every 2-3 years anyways. Meaning that by the time this older phone becomes a security risk, you’ll probably upgrade. Still, it’s something you’ll want to think about.

The software makes it a limited investment, and if you get something newer, you’re guaranteed updates for a little longer.

Should You Buy the Galaxy S21 Ultra?

Galaxy S21 Ultra in black.

So, should you buy the older Galaxy S21 Ultra instead of something new? That’s hard to say. If you can’t afford the $1,199 price tag of Samsung’s latest Galaxy S23 Ultra but still want a competent phone on a budget, you should consider the S21 Ultra.

This phone still offers a beautiful screen, excellent photos and videos, solid performance, and plenty of battery life. There’s even an optional S-Pen accessory for those who want that too. You can’t store the S-Pen inside the phone like on newer devices, but it will work if that’s important to you.

I think the only real drawbacks are that most models for sale are renewed, the zoom cameras aren’t quite as good, and it’ll stop getting software updates in a few years. That said, Amazon has brand new Galaxy S21 Ultra models for under $850, making it $350 less than Samsung’s newest model.

However, if you’re buying a phone that’s already two years old, you might want to look for a refurbished model to save some cash. If you’re ok with that, we’re finding several renewed S21 Ultras for under $500. That’s over 60% less than a brand-new Ultra, yet a similar experience.

If you’re concerned about security updates or want the latest and greatest camera technology, trade in your old phone and order the new Galaxy S23 Ultra.

 1,842 Posts 0 Comments 304618 Views

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *