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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Galaxy S24 Ultra: Should you upgrade?

The new phone is mostly superior, but there's a significant downgrade to be aware of.
By
January 19, 2024
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
MSRP: $1,299.99
Check price
Positives
Powerful, flexible cameras
Excellent update commitment
Brilliant flat display
Titanium build and Gorilla Armor durability
Loud, punchy speakers
Negatives
Expensive
Hit-or-miss on some AI features
Cameras struggle with motion
AI features only guaranteed to be free through 2025
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
MSRP: $999.99
Check price
Positives
Big, bright, 120Hz display
Great battery life
Versatile camera system
Excellent performance
Negatives
No expandable storage
No charger in the box

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Galaxy S24 Ultra: At a glance

  • The S24 Ultra is launching for $100 more than its predecessor.
  • The phone has a much faster Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor.
  • Camera tech is generally improved, but (genuine) optical zoom is capped at 5x versus the 10x on the S21 Ultra.
  • The S24 Ultra can charge at 45W, whereas the S21 Ultra is limited to 25W.
  • There's a new 1TB storage option for the S24 Ultra, but most people shouldn't buy it.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Galaxy S24 Ultra: Specs

Samsung Galaxy S21 UltraSamsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Display
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Curved WQHD+
3,200 x 1,440
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
6.8-inch Dynamix AMOLED 2X Display
3,120 x 1,440
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified

Processor
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
RAM
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
12 or 16GB
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
12GB
Storage
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
128, 256, or 512GB
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
Battery
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
5,000mAh
25W wired charging
15W wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
5,000mAh
45W wired charging
15W wireless
Wireless PowerShare

Cameras
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Rear:
- Wide-angle: 108MP, ƒ/1.8, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
- Telephoto: 10MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.22µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF, and 3x optical zoom
- Telephoto: 10MP, ƒ/4.9, 1.22µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF, and 10x optical zoom
- Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with dual-pixel AF and a 120-degree FoV
- Laser AF sensor

10x optical zoom
100x "Space Zoom"

Front:
- 40MP, ƒ/2.2, 0.7µm, with phase-detection AF
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Rear:
- Wide-angle: 200MP, ƒ/1.7, Super Quad Pixel AF, OIS
- Main telephoto: 50MP, ƒ/3.4, 5x optical zoom, Quad Pixel AF, OIS
- Second telephoto: 10MP, ƒ/2.4, 3x zoom, Dual Pixel AF, OIS
- Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, Dual Pixel AF, 120-degree FoV

Laser AF
100x Space Zoom

Front:
- 12MP, ƒ/2.2, Dual Pixel AF
Connectivity
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Bluetooth 5.2
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
4G LTE
5G (incl. sub-6GHz TDD/FDD)
Wi-Fi 7
Bluetooth 5.3

S Pen support
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Yes
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Yes
Operating system
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
One UI 3.1
Android 11
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
One UI 6.1
Android 14
Water resistance
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
IP68
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
IP68
Security
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, face unlock
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, face unlock
Colors
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
128 GB in Phantom Silver and Phantom Black

256 and 512GB in Phantom Black

Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, and Phantom Brown


Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Titanium Black, Titanium Yellow, Titanium Violet, and Titanium Gray
Dimensions and weight
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
75.6 x 165.1 x 8.9mm
229g
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
79 x 162.3 x 8.6mm
232g
MicroSD
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
No
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
No

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Galaxy S24 Ultra: Price and availability

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra homescreen
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Launched at $1,199.99, used starting at approx. $300

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: Starts at $1,299.99

The S21 Ultra has been discontinued for some time, as you’d imagine. Used units are floating around here and there. The more important thing to note is that the S24 Ultra is launching for $100 more than its predecessor did, and that’s before accounting for higher storage tiers. Samsung blames the price increase on “various reasons,” likely meaning inflation, supply chain issues, and/or increasingly advanced tech. Consumers were bound to feel the bite eventually.

Speaking of storage, let’s get this out there: you probably don’t need the 1TB version of the S24 Ultra. That’s more than some laptops have, and most of us now rely on streaming for music, movies, and TV. You might consider 1TB if you shoot a lot of 4K video, regularly cache a lot of media for trips, and/or plan to install multiple games with a lot of 3D art assets. Clearly, “a lot” is the operative term here.

The S24 Ultra is shipping worldwide on January 31, 2024.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Galaxy S24 Ultra: Should you upgrade?

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra 3
Lanh Nguyen / Android Authority

Possibly, but it’s not an urgent upgrade by any means. The S24 Ultra is faster, being equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor, yet the S21 Ultra should still keep up with most apps. You’re mostly going to notice the difference in high-end 3D games, assuming you play any on your phone. The S24 Ultra does have some unique AI functions — but some of those may eventually migrate to older devices. We’ll have to wait and see.

The S24 Ultra also incorporates newer camera tech, including a bump from 108 to 200 megapixels on its primary wide sensor, which is paired with an f/1.7 lens aperture allowing for better low-light shooting. Surprisingly, Samsung has radically altered its telephoto system, dropping max optical zoom from 10x to 5x while boosting megapixel count on one of the tele sensors from 10 to 50. Samsung argues it’s more important to improve zoom in the ranges customers normally use, but this will no doubt annoy people who used that 10x optical for scenery or concerts.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra sports faster charging at 45W.

One unambiguous upgrade is 45W wired charging. The S21 Ultra is capped at 25W, which is lackluster for any flagship phone. When the device was new, there were already rivals charging at 60 or even 120W. We wish the S24 Ultra was in that league too, of course, but you’ll certainly appreciate faster charging coming from other Samsung hardware. Just make sure you have a USB charger rated for 45W or higher.

Other changes are comparatively minor. Resolution on the S24 Ultra is decreased to 3,120 x 1,440, but you’re unlikely to notice given other display tweaks such as improved brightness. The same goes for its selfie camera, down from 40 megapixels to 12, but with what should be improved performance.

See price at Samsung
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Powerful, flexible cameras
Excellent update commitment
Brilliant flat display
See price at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
64%off
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Big, bright, 120Hz display
Great battery life
Versatile camera system
Excellent performance

Let’s boil it down this way — you’ll enjoy the S24 Ultra if you can get good trade-in or resale value for your S21. It’s just not a fundamental leap. You’ll get seven years of Android updates, all the way through Android 21, but that shouldn’t matter unless you’re planning to hold on for a phone that long.

If, after reading this article, you decide that the Ultra models are far too large for you, why not consider Samsung’s base models? The Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S24 is another worthwhile conversation worth having.

Would you upgrade from the S21 Ultra to the S24 Ultra?

626 votes

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Galaxy S24 Ultra: FAQ

Yes, they both share an IP68 rating. That means they can be submerged in fresh water to a depth of 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) for 30 minutes. You’ll be alright if they’re caught in the rain or dropped in the bathtub, in other words, but you shouldn’t intentionally swim with them or take a shower. Avoid exposing them to salt water or chlorine.

No. The last Ultra with a microSD slot was the S20 Ultra, unfortunately.

In some cases they may, but that could depend on the country in which you buy your phone. Check with the store you’re buying from.

Yes. They each have twin nano-SIM slots as well as eSIM support. You may want to doublecheck with the store you’re shopping at however, since phone makers often have regional variations.

No, they don’t. You’ll have to buy your own, preferably one rated at 45W or higher to achieve maximum charging speeds.