Display Measurement

We’ve noted many times now that the displays of the S21 series are relatively special, although for different reasons depending on the model.

The S21 Ultra’s new panel uses a new hybrid oxide pack panel technology along with a new OLED emitter generation that allows it offer seamless fine-grained refresh rate switching along with getting extremely bright while being much more power efficient. The smaller S21 doesn’t have any of the new display technologies, it is lower resolution, but still has software based adaptive frequency features. I did note that at least in terms of hardware build quality, the smaller S21 does seem to have advantages over the S20 series when it comes to its lamination, as I am seeing better viewing angles, and the panel being better glued to the glass.

When it comes to colour accuracy, we find Samsung’s usual display modes, limited to a “Vivid” setting that’s more saturated in terms of the colours, and allows you to fine-tune colour temperature to your taste, and the “Natural” screen mode that tries to adhere to sRGB and Display P3 colour gamuts and features near 6500K whites.

We move on to the display calibration and fundamental display measurements of the Galaxy S21 Ultra and S21 screens. As always, we thank X-Rite and SpecraCal, as our measurements are performed with an X-Rite i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer, with the exception of black levels which are measured with an i1Display Pro colorimeter. Data is collected and examined using Portrait Display's CalMAN software.

Display Measurement - Maximum Brightness

When it comes to screen brightness, the Galaxy S21 isn’t all much different to the S20 series, although it does allow for brighter manual brightness up to 393 nits on our unit. Peak full screen whites are still at around 700 nits when in auto-brightness mode under bright ambient conditions.

The S21 Ultra’s brightness is beyond any other OLED display on the market right now. Manual brightness is still limited by Samsung to only 462 nits, however when in auto-brightness, it goes to a staggering 942 nits – almost beating the superbly bright RGBW LCD display of the LG G7.

If you’re looking for a device which does excellently under sunlight, then the S21 Ultra is definitely the right choice.

Portrait Displays CalMAN
Galaxy S21 Ultra

In terms of greyscale accuracy, the good news for this generation is that it seems Samsung has done a better job than in past years. Whites fall in at 6423K on the S21 Ultra, much less red than the S20 series devices’ calibration, with general great colour balance at dEITP of only 1.2. Gamma curve also looks reasonable although it’s still hard to measure this accurately due to Samsung’s APL brightness adjustments, even with fixed 50 APL and 50% windows sizes during out measurements.

Portrait Displays CalMAN
Galaxy S21

The smaller Galaxy S21 also does very well, with great colour temperature out of the box .

Portrait Displays CalMAN
Galaxy S21 Ultra

Saturation accuracy on the S21 Ultra is great in all aspects except the reds, which for some reason are undersaturated at the maximum intensities.

Portrait Displays CalMAN
Galaxy S21

The smaller S21 doesn’t have the same issue, showcasing generally more accurate colours.

Portrait Displays CalMAN
Galaxy S21 Ultra

Portrait Displays CalMAN
Galaxy S21

Gretag MacBeth test patches with common colours such as skin tones fare well for both the S21 Ultra as well as the S21, although the latter does better, showcasing less luminosity errors.

Overall, Samsung did uncharacteristically well this year when it comes to colour accuracy. After a few years of glaring gamma issues and too warm whites, the S21 series seems to be able to achieve great results out of the box, early on in its firmware, which couldn’t be said of the S10 or S20 series.

The S21 Ultra’s display in terms of its fundamentals is outstanding – it gets extremely bright, more than any other phone in the market right now. Together with the 1440p resolution and 120Hz refresh rate, it represents the single best mobile display in the industry right now.

The smaller S21 display is good, although really not in the same class as the Ultra’s panel. There’s really nothing much to write home about here, as it’s very much similar to many other 1080p panels in the industry, with good brightness levels, good colour accuracy, and of course also featuring that 120Hz adaptive refresh rate mode. If the Ultra’s panel is an S-tier display, the baseline model’s display is A-tier.

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  • cosmotic - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    The edge of the bulge scratches everything it touches, no matter how brief. DO NOT BUY
  • bcronce - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    Inside the Otterbox, none of the phone touches a flat surface.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    If you need a case to prevent scratching of surfaces BY the phone, your phones design is rubbish
  • iphonebestgamephone - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    Lets just say its an extra, the main being drop protection.
  • sonny73n - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    And they keep making slippery phones. Add to them premium price tags. I'm taking about Apple and Samsung and the US market is flooded them.
  • bcronce - Wednesday, February 24, 2021 - link

    Welcome to a democracy. It's what the market demands. This is why the USA is actually a hybrid and doesn't directly let the people vote.
  • FunBunny2 - Wednesday, February 24, 2021 - link

    "It's what the market demands. "

    Not according to Steve: he decided what the market *needs*. Fortunately, he doesn't run the company any more. Along with a host of other decisions made by other 'markets', there is an endless supply of brain dead lemmings.
  • flyingpants265 - Wednesday, February 24, 2021 - link

    What the hell are you talking about? Democracy is in no way synonymous with the "free market".

    And as you well know, the market doesn't demand anything, people don't know what they want until you show/tell them. Don't blame consumers for Samsung and other companies making crap phones.
  • squariesfri - Friday, February 26, 2021 - link

  • sharath.naik - Saturday, April 3, 2021 - link

    This phone is classic example of designed for obsolescence approach. they got the number of cameras and zoom ranges right but the camera sensors completely wrong. Wide angle cannot be less than 24mp but they chose 12.. main camera should not go beyond 48mp if you have 3x zoom too , so what's the point of 108mp? 3x zoom can't be less than 48mp I but they gave 12mp. these are just bad sensor choices making the phones obsolete within months if not already because these are artificially limited in thru our uses,. then removal of sdcard for a camera focused phone . I hate manufacturers who play this game of designed obsolescence.

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