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Samsung just announced the Galaxy S21 lineup, which includes the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus, and Galaxy S21 Ultra. All three phones have a new design with a matte finish and more striking camera module. The Ultra model is also getting some extra perks like a dual telephoto lens and the ability to maintain a high refresh rate along with high resolution. All told, it's a modest improvement over the S20 that brings upgrades to the design, performance, and camera at a better price. Check out our guide to the best smartphones.
It's only January but Samsung has already taken the wraps off its latest flagship smartphone lineup, the Galaxy S21 family, which includes the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus, and Galaxy S21 Ultra. Building on the direction Samsung has taken in recent years with its Galaxy phones, some of the biggest enhancements coming to the S21 involve the phones' camera and design. The Galaxy S21 doesn't seem like a huge leap over the S20, but rather an iterative improvement that addresses some of the S20 lineup's biggest shortcomings. But perhaps what's even more significant than the features mentioned below is Samsung's new pricing structure. The Galaxy S21 lineup is launching at an even cheaper price than Samsung's Galaxy S20 did last year, likely because this is the first major smartphone to launch at a time when 5G has become the standard and no longer requires a premium cost. The Galaxy S21 starts at $799.99, while the S21 Plus begins at $999.99, and the S21 Ultra costs $1,199.99. The Galaxy S20 lineup, by comparison, started at $999.99, $1,199.99, and $1,399.99 at launch last year. The Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, and S21 Ultra are launching on January 29 with preorders beginning on January 14. Here's a closer look at the most significant updates coming to the Galaxy S21 lineup.A new design with a matte finish
Samsung's Galaxy S21 lineup is getting an upgrade when it comes to how the phone looks and feels. The new phones will come with a matte finish that should make the devices less prone to fingerprint smudges, and a camera module on the back that looks more visually striking. The new S21 phones also seem to have flatter edges compared to the curved approach Samsung has taken in years past, which could make the devices easier to grip. And of course, they come with the same borderless design and hole-punch-shaped selfie camera as Samsung's Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S20 generation phones. Although we haven't had the chance to spend time with the phones yet, the new design generally seems like an upgrade that can help set the S21 lineup apart from its predecessors and other Android rivals. Dual telephoto zoom lens on the Galaxy S21 Ultra
When Samsung launched the Galaxy S20 Ultra with a 100x zoom last year, some reviewers found that level of zoom was often too blurry to be useful. Samsung hopes to address that limitation with the new dual telephoto lens on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which includes one optical 3X lens and another optical 10x lens. Samsung's Galaxy S21 Ultra can switch between these lenses as needed while zooming, which should hopefully result in crisper images when zooming at high levels. Samsung also says the Ultra model should be better at taking photos in low-light scenarios as well. The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus, meanwhile, will have a 30X zoom that should be better at minimizing blur from shaky hands, according to Samsung's claims. A new 5-nanometer processor for better performance
Samsung's Galaxy S21 family comes with a new 5-nanometer chip compared to the 7-nanometer processor in the Galaxy S20 lineup, which means Samsung was able to cram more transistors into the new chip. In plain English, that means phones running on the chip using the new 5-nanometer manufacturing process should offer longer battery life and better performance. Samsung started sampling 5-nanometer chips back in 2019, saying at the time that they could allow for a 10% boost in speed or a 20% increase in power savings. Apple also began putting 5-nanometer chips in products like the iPhone 12, new iPad Air, and M1 MacBook Pro in late 2020. Improvements to camera shooting modes like Single Take
Samsung is also making some updates to its shooting modes on the Galaxy S21 lineup. Single Take is the feature Samsung introduced last year that can take a bunch of photos in different modes with a single press of the shutter. On the S21, Samsung is adding new capture modes to Single Take like slow-mo and highlight videos. Samsung's new smartphones will also have a feature that allows you to use both the front and rear cameras at the same time, a capability it's pitching toward video bloggers and influencers. Portrait Mode is also getting an update that adds virtual studio lighting effects and improves the camera's ability to separate the subject from its background. A screen that can boost its refresh rate for smoother scrolling even at a high resolution
The ability to crank the screen's refresh rate up to 120Hz isn't a first for Samsung phones, but the company is making some improvements to this capability on the Ultra model. This time around, you can actually boost the refresh rate up to 120Hz without compromising on resolution, unlike the Galaxy S20. Samsung says you'll be able to keep the S21 Ultra's resolution at QuadHD+ even with increased refresh rate, adding that the phone will adjust the content you're viewing as needed so that battery life doesn't take a hit. That's especially helpful considering the Galaxy S21 Ultra's screen is compatible with Samsung's S Pen, which was previously exclusive to the Note lineup. An accessory like the S Pen probably works more fluidly when being used on a screen with a higher refresh rate, so it's great to see Samsung add some enhancements to this capability on the Ultra model. The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus also support 120Hz refresh rates, but Samsung has only specified the Ultra as being capable of maintaining that high resolution simultaneously. Samsung has improved the S21 Ultra's screen in other ways, too, saying that it should offer a 25% improvement in brightness and 50% boost in contrast ratio compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
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