The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus do one thing better than the Ultra (Updated)

Update: Samsung has reportedly revealed a reason for the S21 Ultra lacking true 960fps support.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S21 Plus vs S21 Ultra 2 1

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority
  • Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra lacks true 960fps super slow-motion recording.
  • The firm’s cheaper S21 models offer this feature though.

Update: January 21 2021 (1 AM ET): After we discovered that Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra lacks native 960fps super slow-motion recording (see original article below), the Korean company has revealed a reason for the discrepancy.

Samsung told Android Police that the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 108MP sensor is the reason for the phone having software-enhanced 960fps support, saying that the sensor had a lower shutter speed when recording videos. Fortunately, the S21 and S21 Plus sensors are able to operate at the required shutter speeds to enable native support.

Samsung Semiconductor also confirmed to Android Authority that the HM3 sensor didn’t support native 960fps recording, but that the Exynos 2100 did support the standard.

Original article: January 19 2021 (2:45 AM ET): The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the most expensive model of the lot, and you’re gaining quite a few features over the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus. Between a QHD+ screen, two telephoto cameras, S-Pen support, and a 108MP camera, it certainly delivers a premium experience on paper.

There’s at least one area where the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus are superior to the S21 Ultra though, and that’s in the super slow-motion category. A quick look at the S21 family’s spec page reveals that while the base and middle models sport native 960fps super slow-motion recording, the Ultra relies on software to get to this mark.

“On Galaxy S21 5G and S21 Plus 5G, users can record approximately 0.5 seconds of video captured at 960 fps with approximately 16 seconds of playback,” reads an excerpt of the spec listing. “On Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, users can record approximately one second of video captured at 480 fps and digitally enhance the video to 960 fps with approximately 32 seconds of playback.”

In other words, half of all the frames captured by the S21 Ultra in this mode are essentially duplicates, which can potentially lead to ghosting and blur if Samsung’s video processing isn’t up to scratch.

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This isn’t a surprise though, as Samsung did the same thing with the S20 Ultra last year. Presumably, the OEM is relying on the S21 and S21 Plus’s 12MP cameras to enable native 960fps super slow-motion recording, as it did with the S20 and S20 Plus. These sensors typically come with fast DRAM memory, allowing the phone to capture all those frames in the first place. Meanwhile, the company’s 108MP sensors generally lack this hardware.

Nevertheless, it is an interesting omission given the impressive video capture capabilities seen in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 and Samsung Exynos 2100. In fact, the Qualcomm chipset specifically supports 960fps capture. We’ve asked Samsung to clarify chipset and sensor support in this regard and will update the article if/when they get back to us.

In any event, we’re guessing that few consumers regularly use super slow-motion recording, but it’s still worth noting for the few who frequently use the mode in the first place. Do you prefer 960fps slow mo or 8K recording on your phone? Let us know via the poll above!