Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Long-term Review: Great Combination of Durable Design, Productivity Features for Power Users

Foldables have been around for over three years now. They bring in good innovation by combining the smartphone and tablet experiences into one device. But still, questions like “Do we really need foldables?” and “Do foldables solve any problem that regular smartphones can’t?” continue to remain among the most asked when it comes to foldables. Well, the user needs and use cases are evolving. Consumers today are more demanding and look for productivity on the go. Samsung addressed this with the Galaxy Note and S-series flagship smartphones, and it is now doing the same with the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 shows how far foldables have improved in just three generations. The smartphone now has a more durable design, comes with ultra-thin glass on the main folding screen, and supports the S Pen stylus for taking notes and signing documents on the go. The folding smartphone also comes with an IP rating for water resistance.

We have been using the Galaxy Z Fold 3 for over nine months now, and Samsung has delivered on its promise of durability. Below is our detailed analysis of how the foldable smartphone has held up in the long term, its performance as a daily driver, and how the user experience has improved with consistent and timely software updates.

WATCH: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Long-Term Review

1) Sturdy Hinge: Unfolding Confidence

For any foldable smartphone, the hinge is the most crucial piece of hardware. The longevity and durability of the device are determined by the hinge design and mechanism. Even after eight months of using the Z Fold 3 as my primary driver, the hinge mechanism is still strong as it was when I first unboxed the smartphone.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3’s stable hinge shows off a solid engineering feat.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 are the only folding smartphones with an IPX8 rating for water resistance, allowing you to submerge the device under 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review water resistance

During my usage, I did put the Z Fold 3 through the water test – submerging it in a bucket full of water and using it for clicking photos and making calls when caught in unexpected rains – and it survived without a hitch. Do note that the smartphone does not come with dust resistance, so avoid taking it around the beach or dusty area and avoid dunking it in the pool or seawater.

Now, while the hinge is sturdy and all, there is still some gap left when the screen is folded. This results in making the crease easily visible, especially when viewed from different angles.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review hinge gap

You can feel the hinge gap when moving your fingers across the foldable screen. But it is not too intrusive during day-to-day use. We can expect Samsung to improve the hinge design for its next foldable smartphones to minimize the crease marks.

The crease is still visible on the folding screen, but it does not bother when the content is being played.

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Flex Mode: Folding Screen Unlocks New Use Cases

Samsung has designed the hinge in such a way that the screen can hold itself between 75 and 115 degrees. This is where the Flex Mode gets activated, enabling some interesting use cases for compatible apps. Basically, the app interface is split into two parts where the view is on the top and the controls are at the bottom.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review flex mode

In the case of the camera app, the viewfinder is on the top, whereas the shutter button, gallery, and camera modes are at the bottom half. This also allows you to use it as a tripod when clicking photos and videos. Similarly, on the Netflix app, the viewing area is on the top half and the bottom half has play/pause, volume, and screen brightness options.

The Flex Mode is an interesting feature, but more apps need to adopt it.

Durable Folding Display: Great for Multimedia Consumption & Productivity

One of the biggest changes to the Z Fold 3 display over the Z Fold 2 is that the screen is now 80% more durable, as per Samsung’s claim. It does feel more like glass than plastic like it used to feel in the previous generation, thanks to Samsung now using UTG (Ultra-Thin Glass).

The screen is also brighter at 1200 nits of peak brightness, making it readable under direct sunlight. It is a 7.6-inch foldable Dynamic AMOLED 2X LTPO panel that supports an adaptive refresh rate of 120Hz. Lastly, the screen also supports HDR10+, making it perfect for all types of content consumption, whether you are reading eBooks, surfing the internet, gaming, or watching your favorite movies or TV shows. Being an LTPO panel, it can adjust the refresh rate between 1Hz and 120Hz depending on the screen content.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review full screen

The Galaxy Z Fold 3’s folding screen has one more trick up its sleeve in the form of the under-display selfie camera. The Fold 3 is Samsung’s first smartphone to come with this solution, offering a great full-screen and uninterrupted viewing experience, be it while watching videos or gaming.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review under display camera

However, the technology is still in its nascent stage. Due to the low-pixel density covering the camera sensor, it is easily visible when the screen is off, or under light background. We will talk about the image quality of this under-display camera later in the camera section.

The folding screen now feels more like glass and offers a great multimedia experience.

Content like music videos and movies are shot in a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. However, the folding screen has an aspect ratio of 5:4, due to which there are thick black bars at the top and bottom while watching videos. There is an option to zoom in for full screen, but it ends up cropping a significant part of the video.

Cover Display: Traditional Smartphone Experience

Moving to the cover screen, you have a 6.2-inch AMOLED panel with HD+ resolution and a tall 25:9 aspect ratio. With a 120Hz refresh rate and vibrant color reproduction, the cover screen offers great viewing angles.

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With its traditional smartphone experience, the cover screen is good for most tasks such as scrolling through your social timeline, surfing the internet, replying to messages, and more. However, apps like Instagram are not optimized for this aspect ratio, resulting in a poor experience.

Also, the tall aspect ratio and narrow width make typing a little cumbersome, resulting in many typos. A slightly wider cover screen, like in the OPPO Find N or HONOR Magic V, will be a welcome change to see in the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

2) Cameras: Good Performance But Could be Better with High-Res Sensor

Unlike Samsung’s flagship S-series, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 does not come with a high-resolution 108MP camera sensor or a periscope zoom lens. However, it does pack powerful cameras that can click some great pictures. Color science is good, and photos clicked between different lenses offer consistent results. Hopefully, with the Galaxy Z Fold 4, we can see an even better camera system.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review cameras

There are a total of five cameras, including three 12MP sensors at the back, featuring ultrawide, wide and 2X telephoto lenses. Thanks to Samsung’s AI algorithms and post-processing expertise, you can capture some stunning photos, be it in daylight or low light. Portrait mode photos are also good with nice edge detection and proper separation of background from the foreground. Below are some samples:

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 cameras capture good photos under proper lighting conditions.

For selfies and video calling, there is a 10MP camera on the cover screen, which is good enough. There is also an under-display camera under the main folding screen. The quality is just decent for video calls on platforms like Zoom, Teams, or even WhatsApp.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review cover screen camera

Photos captured in bright outdoor settings may be passable on social media, but as the lighting gets dull, the under-display camera struggles to capture details. As it is a first-gen under-display solution, there is a lot of room for improvement. Below are some camera samples:

Day Light Camera Samples (Wide & Ultra wide Lens)






2X Telephoto Zoom


Close-up Camera Samples





Portrait Mode Camera Samples



Low Light Camera Samples




Selfie: Cover Camera vs Under-Display Camera

3) Smooth Performance: Thanks to Software & Hardware Optimizations

Under the hood is the Snapdragon 888 flagship SoC from Qualcomm paired with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. This hardware combination together with software optimizations does all the heavy lifting, making it a great productivity tool.

Whether you are playing the most demanding games or have three apps open in split-screen multitasking mode, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 handles all the difficult tasks without a hiccup.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review gaming

Battery life with the 4,400mAh unit is good enough to last a day with moderate to slightly heavy usage, offering a screen-on time of up to five hours. Like other Samsung smartphones, there is no support for crazy-fast charging speeds, but even at 25W, the Fold 3 fully charges in about 90-100 minutes.

Swift performance and good battery life make the Galaxy Z Fold 3 a good choice for power users.

WATCH: Why the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a Great Productivity Tool

Timely Software Updates and Bug Fixes

Samsung has upped its software update game – the Z Fold 3 will get four major Android upgrades, and five years of security updates. Shipped with Android 11 and One UI 3.1, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 got an Android 12 upgrade with One UI 4 skin within three months, which is faster than most OEMs. The smartphone has also been getting regular monthly security patches that bring bug fixes and stability improvements.

One UI 4: A Big Differentiator Among Competitor Foldables

The best part of the folding display smartphone is that you get more screen real estate to run multiple apps side by side. To take full advantage of the folding form factor, Samsung has baked in some interesting features in One UI 4. For instance, the lock screen and home screen wallpapers can be different for the cover screen, and the same goes with the apps, thus offering a different identity to both.

Pop-up View

Second, select apps can open in a floating pop-up window that remains on top of other apps, offering a multitasking experience. This floating app can also be moved around the screen.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review pop-up view

This feature comes in handy in scenarios like the one where you are surfing the internet on a browser and have a YouTube video playing in a floating pop-up window.

Multi-window Multitasking

There is also a multi-window, multitasking feature that allows you to run two apps side by side or one on top and the other at the bottom.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review multi tasking

You can also add a third app to the mix, allowing you to have one vertical app on the left and two apps on the right with one below the other, or you can have one horizontal app on the top/bottom and two at the top/bottom, depending on your preference.

Multi-window feature in the Galaxy Fold series offers the best multitasking experience compared to any other smartphone.

Pinned Taskbar

Then there is the taskbar which can be pinned on the side of the screen with your favorite apps. These apps are easily accessible from anywhere in the UI, as they remain pinned on the side. You can also drag and drop apps to open or run in multi-window mode.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review pinned taskbar

App Continuity

Another important feature is that apps on the cover screen can quickly scale to the big folding screen when you open it, offering an app continuity experience. The feature also works the other way where apps from the folding screen scale down to the cover screen when you close it.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review app continuity

This feature comes in handy when using apps like Google Maps on the cover screen. You get a full-screen experience when you open the folding screen, without having to open the app and search again. This also works on apps like Gmail, Chrome, LinkedIn and Netflix.

Microsoft Integration & DeX Mode

Besides these features, the integration with Microsoft apps takes the productivity and experience even further. For instance, the photos from the Gallery app can be synced with OneDrive. Even Samsung Notes can be synced with Microsoft OneNote, which is another good addition.

Samsung DeX mode is also included on the Z Fold 3, both wired and wireless, offering a desktop experience on your Galaxy smartphone. Simply connect to a TV or monitor using a keyboard and mouse, and you have a PC-like experience right from the smartphone. The DeX mode also works on Windows 10-powered PCs.

But there is more to Microsoft integration, one where Samsung Reminders can sync across the Microsoft To-Do app. On Windows 10 OS, Samsung smartphones have deeper integration with the YourPhone app, enabling cross-device continuity. The integration also allows users to access the notifications and messages, make or receive calls directly from the PC, and much more such as Xbox integration for cloud gaming.

Microsoft integration adds great value and differentiates the Galaxy Z Fold 3 from the competition.

4) S Pen Support: Galaxy Note with a Folding Display

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the first folding display smartphone to come with S Pen support, but this is sold as a separate accessory that consumers need to buy. Samsung has two different S Pen models – the first is a regular stylus called S Pen Fold Edition ($49) and the other is a Pro ($99) model with Bluetooth functionality that lets you remotely control the music/video playback, control slides, use it as a camera shutter to click photos, and much more.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review s pen fold edition

Unlike the Galaxy Note series, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 does not come with a slot to tuck the S Pen, and you need to buy a cover separately for that. While it does make the smartphone bulky, it does add good protection to it.

Low latency of S Pen offers a good writing and sketching experience.

Do note that the S Pen support is only for the main folding screen and not for the cover screen. It supports ultra-low latency of under 9ms, which makes the writing experience smoother and like you are writing on a paper. While the S Pen is thick and big as an actual pen, it offers a great in-hand feel when holding. The S Pen is good enough for signing documents on the go, taking notes, or just sketching on apps like Pen Up or Sketchbook.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review app s pen experience

The Samsung Notes app is very well optimized to use with the S Pen. It can also convert the handwriting to text, which is a good feature, and it works quite accurately, provided your handwriting is clear.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 review app s pen signature

Key Takeaways:

• The Galaxy Z Fold 3 comes with a durable design and IPX8 rating for water resistance.
• Both the cover and folding displays support 120Hz screen refresh rates and offer a good viewing experience, be it multimedia or gaming.
• The smartphone is equipped with capable cameras that let you capture beautiful photos in good lighting conditions.
• Performance-wise, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 does a lot of heavy lifting without any issues.
• Samsung has been consistent in delivering timely software updates with new features, bug fixes and security patches.
• Samsung has upped the software game by a notch by committing to four major Android upgrades and five years of security updates.
• Features like multi-window multitasking, app continuity, pinned taskbar and pop-up window add to the versatility of the folding smartphone.
• S Pen compatibility makes the Galaxy Z Fold 3 a great productivity tool, making it easier to take notes, sign documents on the go, or even sketch.

ALSO READ: Other Strategic Reviews on Smartphones, Smartwatches, TWS & More

Qualcomm Dominates Premium Android Smartphone Chip Market in Q1 2022

Both Qualcomm and MediaTek posted healthy growth in Q1 2022. MediaTek recorded an impressive set of numbers for the quarter with revenues growing 32% YoY and 10.2% QoQ to reach $4.8 billion. Qualcomm saw its third consecutive quarterly record revenue in Q1 2022 at $11.6 billion. Its business units recorded annual growth of between 28% and 61%.

MediaTek led the Android smartphone SoC market in 2021 with a 44% share, followed by Qualcomm with 35%, according to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Global Handset Model Sales Tracker.

Qualcomm’s focus on the premium smartphone segment (>$500) has helped it to grow revenues. Its Snapdragon 800 series and Snapdragon 700 series, notably the flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and Snapdragon 778G, are both key volume drivers. Furthermore, Qualcomm has gained a 75% share of Samsung’s Galaxy S22 series shipments. In previous Samsung flagship models, there was a more equitable split between Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered SKUs and Samsung Exynos-powered SKUs. Qualcomm is also driving more revenues with its RFFE (RF Front End), allowing it to capture a higher share in the BoM.

MediaTek dominates the low-mid tier wholesale price segment ($100-$299), driven by its Dimensity 700 and Dimensity 900 series. Also, the 4G SoC in the <$199 price band is driven by the P35, G80 and G35 chipset models. MediaTek has entered the premium segment with the Dimensity 9000 series, but the sales will only start to pick up in Q2 2022.

AP Chipset Share for Android Smartphones by Price Band, Q1 2022

SOC by smartphone price tier Counterpoint


  • Qualcomm is focusing on the premium (>$500) and mid-high ($300-$499) segments for revenue growth. Qualcomm is an industry benchmark when it comes to premium smartphones.
  • Qualcomm’s focus is on the 7 and 8 series Snapdragon chipsets, which drive higher revenue and profitability. Qualcomm acknowledged it has seen a slowdown in the low- and mid-price tiers. But this was more than offset by strong premium-tier sales.
  • Further, the design wins with 75% of sales of the Galaxy S22 family, up from 45% of the S21 family, helped Qualcomm strengthen its position in the premium Android segment in Q1 2022.
  • According to Counterpoint’s Global Smartphone AP-SoC Shipments and Forecast Tracker, the premium segment Qualcomm Snapdragon 700 and 800 series contributed around 68% of the AP/SoC shipments in Q1 2022.
  • Qualcomm’s share in the >$500 band increased from 47% in Q1 2020 to 71% in Q1 2022, growing 23% YoY in Q1 2022, owing to the launch of its Snapdragon 888 and Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipsets.
  • Focus on the premium segment will help Qualcomm ride out the slow China market, global macro-economic situation and high inventories.


  • MediaTek dominated the <$299 price tier and drove significant volumes both for 4G and 5G in this tier. Entry of the Dimensity 9000 enables MediaTek to capture share in the premium band (>$500). This is the first time MediaTek has entered this tier. MediaTek has already announced design wins with Chinese smartphone OEMs like OPPO, vivo, Xiaomi and HONOR. This opens more competition and opportunities for growth in the premium segment.
  • The volume in the ≤$99 price band was driven by LTE smartphones, where MediaTek captured a 47% share. LTE SoCs have been affected by the ongoing shortages and will be in short supply in 2022.
  • In the $100-$299 price band for Android, MediaTek captured a 60% share in Q1 2022 driven by its Dimensity 700 and 900 series.
  • MediaTek will continue to gain share in the $100-$299 price band as 5G penetrates markets like India, APAC others, LATAM and MEA. Smartphone OEMs like Xiaomi, Samsung, OPPO and vivo will likely launch affordable 5G smartphones under $200.
  • MediaTek has entered the premium segment with its Dimensity 9000 series. However, the sales are only expected to pick up in Q2 2022.
  • Overall, we forecast around an 8% share for MediaTek in the premium segment in 2022. MediaTek growth in Q2 2022 is expected to come from mid-high range phones due to the shifting of demand from LTEto 5G AP/SOCs. Further, with the launch of the Dimensity 8000 series, MediaTek wants to focus on and consolidate the $300-$499 price bands. This will also help MediaTek pivot volumes from the low-mid segment to mid-high to premium segments.


  • Samsung Exynos’ share declined in Q1 2022 due to the loss in share to Qualcomm in the Galaxy S22 series and also due to the low yields of the 4nm premium Exynos chipsets.
  • Share in the premium segment declined from 34% in Q1 2021 to 23% in Q1 2022.
  • Samsung has launched the Galaxy A33 and A53 with its Exynos 1280 SoCs. These are the volume drivers that will help it to regain share from MediaTek and Qualcomm through the rest of 2022.
  • In the low-mid segment ($100-$299), Samsung’s share declined to 7% in Q1 2022 from 10% in Q1 2021 due to outsourcing of its models (A, F and M series) to ODMs, which integrated mostly Qualcomm, MediaTek or UNISOC solutions in different models depending on the target price bands.
  • In the low tier, Samsung is using UNISOC SOCs in the Galaxy A03 smartphone. The share of Samsung smartphones is almost negligible in this segment.


  • UNISOC continues to gain share in the low bands (<$99) driven by the LTE portfolio. Its share in the <$99 band grew to 47% in Q1 2022 from 20% in Q1 2021.
  • With realme, HONOR, Motorola and Samsung launching phones with its Tiger series SoC, UNISOC has expanded its customer base with design wins at ZTE and TECNO and entry into the Samsung Galaxy A series.
  • It has also captured an 8% share in the $100-$199 price band with HONOR, realme and Samsung.
  • For 2022, we expect UNISOC to maintain the momentum with its portfolio catering to LTE smartphones, as MediaTek struggles with supply issues for 4G chipsets and Qualcomm focuses on 5G solutions. Also, a few design wins with 5G chipsets will add to its overall volumes and help support its value growth.


  • We expect HiSilicon volumes to decline in 2022 as the inventory is depleted. Huawei has already started using Qualcomm SoCs in its new launches, but these are limited to 4G due to the prevailing US sanctions.

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OPPO Find N Review: Small Wonder

The smartphone industry is going through a transition phase where form factors are evolving from regular candy-bar ones to foldables that promise different forms and designs. Samsung has been at the forefront of foldables, commanding nearly 84% market share in 2021. It is also driving the clamshell and book-type form factor, making them the industry standard for foldables. But the entry of Chinese smartphone brands should drive further adoption and healthy competition.

HONOR, Xiaomi, Huawei, and OPPO have all entered the foldable smartphone space. Even TCL being a vertically integrated player (display business) has showcased its foldable smartphone prototypes for years and is (finally) expected to launch some of them later this year. OPPO took its time to enter the space but ensured to address some concerns users had with other foldables. The Chinese smartphone maker first unveiled a prototype with a rollable display. However, getting the foldable hinge engineering, software optimization, and getting the form factor right has delayed most of the efforts from these upstart brands. Further, getting manufacturing scale and supply for the same is also challenging.

It has been a work in progress, for example, OPPO recently launched a book-type folding smartphone, the Find N, priced at around $1,400. Although it is currently only available in China, we got to test out the OPPO Find N for a few weeks, and here is our analysis of its potential from the form factor, hinge engineering, display, camera, and above all software perspective.

WATCH: OPPO Find N Review

Compact Design Winning Praises 

Whenever I meet my friends, cousins, and even colleagues, the common question they ask me is “so which new gadget did you bring today?” Everyone was excited to see and try out the Galaxy Z Fold 3 in person. But their reaction after seeing the OPPO Find N was completely different. One of them said, “Wow, this is so compact and perfectly sized. When are they launching this in India?” He was a little disappointed when I said it is not coming to India, and his next question was, “Can I import it from some other country?”

counterpoint oppo find n vs galaxy z fold 3 comparison

These reactions clearly show that OPPO put a lot of thought into designing the Find N and is winning the mindshare. In my case, switching to the OPPO Find N, after using the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 for over five months, felt different and refreshing. I instantly appreciated its compact form factor which makes it easy to hold, and it is pocketable too.

counterpoint oppo find n cover screen

The tall and narrow cover screen on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 isn’t the most intuitive to accurately type without errors unless you use the swipe-to-type feature. But that wasn’t the case with the Find N. The small, yet wider cover screen makes typing easier. Even single-handed use is quite easy.

counterpoint oppo find n camera typing expereince

OPPO found the right balance with a compact design while being powerful and functional.

Solid Hinge Mechanism with Gapless Design 

For any foldable smartphone, the hinge design is a crucial element as it has a lot of moving parts, and most of the engineering efforts go there. Unlike Samsung’s wedge-shaped design, OPPO has gone for a teardrop-style hinge that folds the center of the foldable screen in a curved manner. This type of engineering offers two major benefits – to ensure there is no visible crease on the folding screen and ensure there is no gap left when in the folded state.

counterpoint oppo find n review no gap construction

OPPO says that the hinge has over 136 components that ensure smooth functioning. Similar to Samsung, OPPO also employs the ultrathin glass (UTG) cover on the foldable display and is tested to bend over 200,000 times without causing any problems. During my usage, the hinge mechanism seemed quite robust.

counterpoint oppo find n review hinge

Gapless hinge design with less visible crease marks is a solid engineering feat from OPPO.

Similar to Galaxy Z Fold 3’s Flex Mode, the OPPO Find N also comes with a hinge mode of its own. For instance, in the camera app, where shutter button and other options appear on the bottom half whereas the top half has the viewfinder. The mode can come in handy when the phone is placed on a table, thus mimicking a mini tripod. More apps are expected to get support as foldable smartphones become more popular.

counterpoint oppo find n camera hinge mode

Superb Displays for Content Consumption, But… 

In terms of specifications, the OPPO Find N comes with:

  • The cover screen has a 5.49-inches OLED panel with a 60Hz refresh rate and 18:9 aspect ratio.
  • The folding screen is a 7.1-inch LTPO OLED with ultra-thin glass, a 120Hz refresh rate, and 1000 nits of peak brightness.

Let’s first talk about the cover screen. It’s got nice, rounded corners and a curved edge on the right. This design language adds to its looks and also offers an immersive viewing experience when watching videos on YouTube, Netflix, and other platforms.

counterpoint oppo find n review cover display

Even the app experience on Find N’s cover screen is good – be it scrolling the Instagram timeline, Twitter, or even reading news on Feedly or Flipboard apps. Viewing experience under direct sunlight was no problem either, and the screen offers a punchy color reproduction too, making the content look more lively. Viewing angles on both the inner and cover screen are good too.

When unfolded, the inner screen transforms itself into a mini-tablet. The variable refresh rate of the LTPO folding panel is between 1Hz to 120Hz. So, depending on the on-screen content, it can dynamically adjust the refresh rate to conserve battery life. The bright display, punchy colors, and fast refresh rate add to the great experience for content consumption such as reading e-books, internet browsing, and app multitasking.

But the same cannot be said for video consumption. The 8.4:9 screen aspect ratio means you have thick black bars along the top and bottom. This is also prominent on the Z Fold 3, but the bars aren’t as thick as on the Find N.

counterpoint oppo find n review folding display

Multitasking support means you can even have apps like Twitter on one side and a Gallery, Notes app, Video Player, or Calculator on the other side.

Capable Cameras, But Needs More Fine Tuning

Before we talk about the camera quality, let’s first look at the setup. There are a total of five cameras:

  • A 32MP camera sensor each, one on the cover screen and one on the folding screen for clicking selfies and for video calling.
  • There is a triple camera setup at the back having a 50MP primary camera with OIS, a 13MP camera sensor with a telephoto lens 2x optical zoom (52mm), and the third is a 16MP camera sensor with an ultrawide lens.

counterpoint oppo find n back and cameras

Talking about camera quality, the primary camera can click some good close-up and landscape shots with enough details and sharpness. Low-light photography is good as well, but it does not match the level of the flagship Find X-series. Here are some sample shots.




The ultrawide camera is also good enough to capture punchy colors and good details. For landscape shots, there is no visible distortion around the edges, but when clicking photos of buildings and structures, the fisheye effect is noticeable around the edges.



The 2x telephoto camera lets you zoom into the subject, and while it retains good details and structure, the color science is a little inconsistent when switching from main to tele camera.

Wide (1X)


Zoom (2X)


OPPO camera algorithms need more fine-tuning to offer more consistent results between lenses.

The OPPO Find N also supports 1080p and 4K video recording capabilities at up to 60fps. The OIS works well and even at 4K 60fps, the footage I shot was quite stable.

counterpoint oppo find n selfie camera

Selfies shot from both the cover screen and folding screen camera look detailed and retain skin tones. Portrait mode offers a good separation of background and foreground, but the AI also overexposes the clothes, especially outdoors, if you are wearing bright ones. It also makes the skin a little brighter. But other than that, it does a pretty good job.

Useful Software Features, Swift Performance 

  • Boots Android 11 with ColorOS 12 UI.
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G SoC, 8GB/12GB of RAM, 256GB/512GB storage.
  • 4,500mAh battery, 33W wired fast charging, 15W wireless fast charging. 

The Find N comes with Android 11 OS and ColorOS 12 UI on top. OPPO has added some features and optimizations to take advantage of the folding screen form factor like app floating windows and multitasking. There are also screen-off gestures where you draw “V” or “O” to quickly start the Flashlight or Camera app. Swiping down the middle of the screen with two fingers activates split-screen mode. There is also a smart sidebar that gives you quick access to apps like Calculator, Browser, and your choice of apps too.

counterpoint oppo find n android 11 coloros 12

Now, as the OPPO Find N is only available in China, our review unit did not come with Google Play Store. Instead, it came with the OPPO app store, but most apps like WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that we use were missing. I was able to download these apps from third-party app stores, but it seems like the OS is optimized for popular Chinese apps only. For instance, the Instagram app does not support floating windows or split-screen mode.

counterpoint oppo find n multitasking

ColorOS 12 on Find N has some neat and super useful gesture control features.

Talking about performance, the flagship 5nm Snapdragon 888 SoC can handle the processing needs without a hitch. Whether it is multitasking, gaming, binge-watching and just spending time on social networking apps, the Find N can handle all the stress. Though I had come across app crashes at times, those were the APKs downloaded from third-party apps that were likely not optimized for the Find N.

Gaming experience when playing Asphalt 9: Legends was good both on the cover and main screen. The back did get a little warm after 20 minutes, but not to an uncomfortable level.

Lastly, the battery life on the Find N was good too. My usage included watching videos on YouTube or Netflix for an hour, some music listening on Spotify using the phone’s stereo speakers, browsing through Feedly, and some gaming. With all this, I would still be left with a 30% battery at the end of the day, with a screen time of four hours (both using the cover and folding screen). So normally, the battery should be good to last a workday, depending on your usage. 

Key Takeaways:

  • OPPO has impressed us with the Find N’s compact form factor which finds the right balance between being too big and too small.
  • The compact design also offers a comfortable in-hand feel.
  • The hinge engineering and near-invisible crease promise a good future for foldables.
  • Gestures on ColorOS for supported apps make using the Find N a breeze. 

Wish-List for the Find N Successor:

  • IPXX rating for the Find N successor will be a good add-on.
  • ColorOS software needs more polishing and optimizations for apps to take full advantage of multitasking, floating window, and gesture support.
  • The cover screen should also feature a refresh rate of 90Hz or above.
  • Faster charging support for 66W or even 100W like other flagships would add more value.
  • Better cameras with more optical zoom capabilities, like periscope-style zoom, will be welcome.

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POCO F3 Long-term Review: Attractively Priced ‘Flagship Killer’, But Some User Experience Compromises

  • The POCO F3 is powered by the 7nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 SoC.
  • It features an AMOLED 6.67-inch screen with a 120Hz refresh rate.
  • Price starts at $350, making it the most expensive POCO model to date.

POCO was carved out of Xiaomi as an independent brand in early 2020. As Xiaomi seeks to expand its product coverage, it has now defined the Xiaomi (previously named Mi) series as the one meant for the high-end market. Then comes the Redmi series with its focus on budget options. POCO attempts to fill the gap between Xiaomi and Redmi series by offering ‘affordable premium’ models.

Similar to other smartphone manufacturers’ practices, POCO has its own management to deal with product development, P&L, sales and marketing. However, it shares resources with Xiaomi for R&D, supply chain, manufacturing and after-sales service. This reliance on Xiaomi for supply chain and manufacturing is especially important given the current industry-wide semiconductor shortages, as without the entire parent group’s weight, it would have been difficult and uneconomical for POCO to source ‘Tier 1’ components.Xiaomi Global Smartphone Sales by Sub-brand Share, 2020 & 2021 (Jan-Aug)

POCO now has four product series — F as the most premium, C and M for budget models and X for the gap between F and C-M. The POCO brand has always identified itself with one target audience – tech enthusiasts looking for premium specs at affordable prices. The POCO F3, which was launched in March 2021, is the most expensive POCO model to date. While cheaper variants are mainly being sold in India now, wider availability, along with more premium models, is expected in international markets in the coming days. The device is already one of the best-selling models in China, though, as a caveat, it is marketed there as the Redmi K40 along with two enhanced versions – Redmi K40 Pro and Redmi K40 Gaming.

POCO Smartphone Sales by Geographical Share, 2020 & 2021 (Jan-Aug)

According to Counterpoint Research’s Model Sales Tracker, sizeable market penetration has been witnessed for the POCO brand in APAC, Europe and MEA regions over the past year, reducing reliance on the India market at the same time. We think this move is meaningful and unlikely to be a blip because the increase in penetration in these regions coincides with Xiaomi’s overall strategy during the past year, which is to broaden both the portfolio and brand footprint. In fact, POCO has more than exceeded Xiaomi’s own lofty performances in the past year and half – with sales achieving a 123% increase in the first eight months of 2021, as compared to 73% for the entire group.

Looking at the price range and sales channel of POCO products, they were found to be closely matching Xiaomi’s overall numbers in different regions. As such, it is not difficult to imagine POCO actually following Xiaomi’s overall strategy, despite lower volumes as compared to the Mi and Redmi series. Notwithstanding the varying degrees of sophistication across markets, the POCO brand seems to have captured a sizeable niche market. Having four product series also helps the brand cover a wider range of price points and needs of customers.

POCO F3 Long-term Review

We have been using the POCO F3 for about five months, giving us a closer look at how the device would fare on a day-to-day basis and after systems updates.

Impressive specs

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 5G (7 nm) processor
  • Sub-6GHz 5G support but no mmWave
  • 6GB/8GB RAM, 128GB/256GB storage (no expandable storage)

Positioned in the tightly contested mid-range 5G segment, the POCO F3 is packed with noteworthy features at an equally eye-catching price point. This compares favorably with models in the range.Sub $400 Smartphone Comparisons

Looking at the POCO F3’s features, the one thing that stands out is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 5G chipset, which makes regular appearances in rival flagship models such as the vivo X60, OPPO Reno 6 Pro and Motorola Moto G100, all priced above $500. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 5G chipset has a prime core that can achieve up to 3.2GHz of clock speed. With the Adreno 650, it also packs one of the most powerful GPUs around. With a polished design, fast-charging battery and a 6.67-inch AMOLED display featuring 120Hz refresh rate, the POCO F3 appeals to tech enthusiasts looking for all-round entertainment, particularly gaming experience.

Slick, Mirror Finish but A Fingerprint Magnet

  • Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection on both front and back
  • IP53, dust and splash protection
  • Glossy finish

The most immediate first impression of the POCO F3 is the curved glossy back, which looks impeccable. It is clear that the design tries to woo tech-savvy and demanding gadget players. We obtained the Night Black version (Arctic White and Deep Ocean Blue are also available), and the strong reflection from the back almost makes it double up as a mirror when the surface is clean. However, this super-glossiness is a magnet for fingerprints and looks terrible when not clean. This also goes against the prevailing trend of major OEMs mostly opting for a matte finish.

POCO F3 BackPOCO F3 Back Fingerprint

The POCO F3 uses Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on both sides, with a not-so-thin curved plastic frame, sprayed with grippy paint that feels metallic. We were delighted with the side-mounted fingerprint sensor that is built into the power button. It is extremely fast compared to the mixed experiences we had with other models opting for under-display sensors (optical). These are mature designs, a clue that the device isn’t a premium flagship model. But it has a fairly pleasurable hold and manifests design character.

POCO F3 Side

Good camera performance for its price

  • Triple rear camera setting
    • 48MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/2″, 0.8µm, PDAF
    • 8 MP, f/2.2, 119˚ (ultrawide)
    • 5 MP, f/2.4, 50mm (macro), 1/5.0″, 1.12µm, AF
  • Selfie camera: 20 MP, f/2.5, (wide), 1/3.4″, 0.8µm

For a device in the sub-$400 range, the POCO F3 cameras perform fairly well. They can capture some stunning shots under the right conditions.

POCO F3 Camera

Below are some photos shot from the primary camera in daylight conditions. Overall, the sensor seems to have captured enough detail, and the contrast is also crisp. However, upon closer inspection, high-frequency detail such as the hair on the teddy bear and the pores on the fried chicken skin look sullied and over-processed.



The following photos were taken during strong daylight (around mid-day). No AI function was used (though the camera app comes with the AI function, which can automatically detect objects such as grass, flowers, trees and buildings). The photos look decent under the right settings, and qualify for most social media purposes.



We then took some close-up shots, with mixed results. In the samples below, while colors are well preserved, the same cannot be said of the details. In particular, edge detection looks weak. The algorithms that are supposed to separate the background from the foreground seem to be off.



Portrait selfies, however, do a much better job. The first shot had AI and HDR off while the second one had them on. Curiously, while the AI has smoothened the skin, details on facial hair and the shirt have become sharper. There were also no problems with recognizing the background from the foreground. Overall, the selfie quality is surprisingly good.

We then took photos at night. The pairs of photos below were taken with default settings and low-light mode. In short, the low-light mode is able to capture much more details without unnecessarily distorting the contrast. The quality of details takes a noticeable hit in the default mode, but no such issue is observed in the low-light mode.

Therefore, we conclude that the POCO F3 cameras perform as expected and are in line with similarly priced competitors. However, under the right conditions, they can take good photos, such as the one below, which was taken with default settings.


Superb display enables smooth gaming experience

  • 67-inch AMOLED, 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, 1300 nits (peak)
  • 1080 x 2400 pixels, 20:9 ratio (~395 ppi density)

The POCO F3’s display is probably the biggest selling point. At 6.67 inches, this AMOLED screen is huge but necessary these days for a prime gaming experience. At 1300 nits peak, the screen is very bright (sometimes too bright at night), and the color saturation is decent at all brightness levels. The screen resolution is the typical extended 1080p. But with better positioning of the punch-hole camera, the visual ‘real estate’ has not been compromised.

The POCO F3 supports 120Hz refresh rate and 360Hz touch sampling. The refresh rate does automatically adjust between these two frequencies depending on the app, but for the sake of saving battery, we manually had it on 60Hz default for most of the day except for games and videos.

POCO F3 - Refresh Rate Settings
In the video below, we played Honor of Kings under 90Hz refresh rate at 60fps frame rate – the top video quality available for this game. Overall, the quality of the video was great, able to reflect finer details such as the flapping movement of our character’s robe and the movement of the minions. Most encouragingly, video quality consistency is on display at the 0:35 mark, where our character performs a rushing move when multiple objects are in view, and the 0:45 mark, when multiple characters are performing dynamic actions. The performance was stable throughout the game as the display rarely deviated from the targeted 60fps frame rate (seen at the top right of the screen).

For comparison, we played Call of Duty: Mobile. The game was played under 60Hz as the higher 120Hz is only available on the Sony Xperia 5 II. While we did fairly well and killed four opponents in the sample, you can see that the smoothness of the video quality takes a dive compared to the previous sample, especially in near-field dynamic environments, such as nearby objects when moving the cursor and zooming in to shoot.

Another interesting gaming feature is the Game Turbo mode. It allows the device to automatically detect ongoing gaming sessions, and can stop notifications and calls. Additionally, one can slide open the menu the top left of the screen to see further features. Useful ones include GPU, CPU and FPS performances, as well as memory boost, screenshot and video recording. One can even access other apps through a pop-out screen – useful for filling moments of inactivity when playing ‘idle’ games. POCO F3 - Game Turbo Mode

POCO F3 - Game Turbo Mode, WhatsApp

Perhaps one drawback of the POCO F3 screen is that it can dim unexpectedly under very bright sunlight, probably due to overheating and subsequent thermal throttling. However, it can be fixed by manually adjusting the brightness. We experienced this issue 3-4 times in the first month but much more frequently in subsequent months.  This is consistent with the complaints seen on Xiaomi forums.

Dual speakers with Dolby Atmos add to entertainment value

The POCO F3 has a pair of decent speakers in the earpiece and at the bottom of the phone, with Dolby Atmos surround sound solution providing the loud audio experience of true stereo. While a hand may cover the speakers when playing a game or watching videos in the landscape mode, we found the speakers doing a good job at projecting sound. We tested the phone in the shower (tightly sealed of course as the phone comes only with an IP53 rating) and even received calls on the speaker in busy shopping malls – with positive results.

There is a range of equalizer options (see below) for those with particular tastes in audio experience. We streamed a range of music from Spotify and concluded that the POCO F3’s speakers projected a decent range, especially at mid-tones. However, the sound seems to be slightly distorted at the highest volume.

POCO F3 - Audio Settings

Reasonable battery and charging performance, more would be nice

  • 4520mAh battery
  • Fast charging 33W, 100% in 52 min (advertised)

The POCO F3 has a battery of 4520mAh, which is decent at its price range. We saw about eight hours of screen-on time on 60Hz and five hours on 120Hz on 4G connectivity (numbers based on the Screen Time App). However, the apps used were somewhat less ‘intensive’ than what one would find in a typical product review test, and more representative of one’s general daily usage. In our view, the battery will probably be just enough for a day’s average usage, but a power bank or charging wires are a must if one plays games or watches videos during the day.

POCO F3 - Battery

Luckily, the POCO F3 comes with a 33W adapter, which charges around 66% in 30 minutes and 100% within an hour. However, the slight drawback is that playing games on 120Hz while charging can lead to overheating, as seen below when the battery reached 44°C. Inevitably, we experienced some lags while using heavy payload apps like gaming or AI photography.

POCO F3 - Battery Temperature

Software is a huge drag on performance

Now we come to the biggest disappointment in the POCO F3. The device runs on Android 11 with the MIUI 12 skin. The customization is pretty thorough, and the POCO launcher uses a fairly distinct system theme, which can be changed. One of the key alterations is a redesigned app drawer, which has fewer rounded corners and automatically sorts apps into different categories. The first page still displays a vertical list of everything you have installed, but it takes a bit of getting used to. We have avoided navigating for apps in the categories view (Communication, Entertainment, Photography, etc.) as much as possible, due to the confusing sorting of some of the apps.

Compared with other Android competitors, the MIUI takes a fair amount of effort to get its settings sorted out. This may not be an issue for tech-savvy users or those with previous experience of using MIUI, but it is an unnecessarily high barrier for average users looking for a simpler experience. Furthermore, the range of bloatware is alarming. The POCO F3 also has its own clock, calculator, voice recorder and music player – none of which can be uninstalled. The system frequently pushes notifications to update these, which we strongly advise against.

Xiaomi users are fairly active on online forums, and MIUI bugs tend to be quite frequent. Disappointingly, this is a legacy issue that works hugely against the brand, which it seems unable to rectify. With the POCO F3, there is the possibility of upgrading to Android 12, but we do not expect a major boost to the phone’s performance.

In summary, while the hardware in the POCO F3 packs a punch, the bottom line is that software does not do the hardware justice, and the phone is powerful only on paper.

Conclusion: A value-for-money smartphone for tech-savvy users and gamers

The POCO F3 inherits the brand family DNA with top-notch design, excellent display and gaming performances, which will no doubt attract techy-savvy customers who know exactly what they are looking for. Its flagship chipset, the Snapdragon 870 5G, and the AMOLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate will be especially popular among its targeted buyers. While we have found the phone to be fairly reliable in terms of day-to-day general usage, the software weakness can be frustrating for the average user. Despite this, if one can bear with the fidgety initial setting-up processes, the phone is capable of doing its job.


Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Long-term Review: Smooth Performance, Refined Software Offer Best Android Experience

  • The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is the first S-series smartphone to support the S Pen stylus.
  • The smartphone has a 108MP primary camera with 100X space zoom capabilities.
  • It flaunts a stunning WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED display with refresh rate between 10Hz and 120Hz depending on the on-screen content.

Samsung launched the Galaxy S21 series in January 2021, which was well over a month earlier than its usual February launch schedule. The new smartphones bring key improvements like slightly brighter display, faster chipset and storage, and improved software. However, all this and more come at a starting price of $799 for the Galaxy S21, which is $200 lower than the Galaxy S20.

The flagship smartphone of the series, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, carries a price tag of $1,199, which is also $200 less than last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G. According to Counterpoint’s Component Practice Research, the S21 Ultra costs 7% less to produce compared to its predecessor. This cost reduction is also due to the removal of the charger and headphones from the box.

As Samsung is skipping the flagship Note series this year, the S21 Ultra gets support for the S Pen stylus (sold separately), which is coming to the S Series for the first time. With all these upgrades, has Samsung done enough to offer the absolute best of Android experience? Here is our long-term Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review after using it for over six months.

Elegant Design, Phantom Black Color Give it a Classic Look

  • Gorilla Glass Victus protection front and back.
  • IP68 water and dust resistant.

Samsung has always focused on the CMF (color, material, finishing) for both the Galaxy S and Note lines, and the new S21 line-up is no exception. At the launch event, Samsung spent some time explaining the lengthy process involved in creating the perfect black color finish. It finally settled on a black film with haze glass (Gorilla Glass Victus) on top.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review cmf

The result is a clean and smooth black finish which not only offers a good grip when holding the phone but also keeps smudges and fingerprints at bay. Even after six months of usage without a case or screen guard, Gorilla Glass Victus holds up well and there are no scratches so far.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review matte black

The camera module bump at the back still exists and the phone wobbles when kept face up on the table, but that is not a deal-breaker. The module perfectly curves into the phone’s body.

Phantom Black on the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the best black finish we have seen so far.

Display: One of the Best Smartphone Screens

  • 8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display, 120Hz refresh rate (LTPO), HDR10+, 1500 nits.
  • WQHD resolution (1440×3200 pixels, 515ppi).
  • Qualcomm second-generation ultrasonic fingerprint scanner.
  • 9ms latency for S Pen support.

Samsung has gone with a slightly brighter display (1500 nits) compared to the S20 Ultra (1400). Wide viewing angles and vibrant colors let you enjoy HD content with stunning clarity. Whether you are playing games or binge-watching content on Netflix or YouTube, the viewing experience is fantastic. There is a center-aligned hole-punch cutout on top of the display for the front camera, but that doesn’t cause much of a hindrance when watching videos or playing games.

Unlike the Galaxy S20 Ultra, you no longer need to choose between the highest resolution and highest refresh rate. Instead, you now get an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate at WQHD resolution. The interesting highlight of the display is that it uses LTPO (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxide) technology to ensure optimum battery usage. This allows the screen to intelligently switch between 10Hz and 120Hz depending on the screen content.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review screen

For instance, in the case of static wallpapers or when you are reading e-books, the refresh rate can go down to as low as 10Hz. When playing graphic-intensive games or watching videos and movies, the screen refresh rate automatically increases to reach a maximum of 120Hz. There is an option to lower the refresh rate to a constant 60Hz, but you won’t be able to force it to run at 120Hz all the time, and that is not a problem at all.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G comes with a gorgeous screen and quick-touch response time.

For security, Samsung is using Qualcomm’s second-generation ultrasonic under-display fingerprint scanner. It comes with a 1.7x more surface area, and over 50% faster recognition. In my six months of usage, I did find the scanner to be faster and accurate in recognizing the fingerprint and unlocking within a second.

Performance: Blazing Fast Yet Efficient

  • 5nm Snapdragon 888/Exynos 2100 (region dependent).
  • 5G support for both mmWave and Sub-6GHz.
  • 8GB/12GB/16GB RAM, 128GB/256GB/512GB storage (no expandable storage).
  • 5,000mAh battery; 25W wired, 15W wireless and 4.5W reverse wireless charging.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is the first smartphone to be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC in the US. The global variant (like my Indian review unit), on the other hand, is powered by the Exynos 2100 SoC. Both chipsets are fabricated on Samsung’s 5nm node. (We are reviewing the SKU with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage.)

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review front

Performance-wise, the smartphone is a powerhouse. During my long-term usage, I did not notice any stuttering or slowdown. Whether it is using everyday communication apps or web browsing or gaming, the apps do not feel sluggish at all. Samsung seems to have worked on improving memory management.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra does all the heavy lifting without breaking a sweat.

With a few apps minimized in the background, the system is not aggressive in killing background apps, even when running demanding games. It allocates enough resources for the game to run smoothly. Samsung clearly has done a good job optimizing the software and hardware.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review gaming

However, the thermal management could have been better. After playing graphic-intensive games like PUBG Mobile, the back of the phone gets considerably warm in just under 10 minutes. While this was at 120Hz, lowering the refresh rate to 60Hz did make the phone warm, though it took a little longer at about 25 minutes. Similarly, the thermal management is good when recording videos at 1080p, but the moment you switch to 4K 60fps, the phone gets too warm in about two minutes of recording.

Gaming experience is smooth, but the back of the smartphone gets warm when the refresh rate is set at 120Hz.

Another area of improvement could be the earpiece. The in-call volume is too low. I had to hold the earpiece too close to the ear to hear what the recipient was saying. But when playing media on stereo speakers (with the earpiece acting as the secondary speaker), the audio output was loud enough.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review battery life

Lastly, the battery life of the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is pretty good. With the refresh rate set at adaptive 120Hz and general daily usage including social media apps, listening to music over Bluetooth TWS, and smartwatch connected all the time, it lasts a workday. In terms of screen time, I got just a little over five hours. Switching to the standard 60Hz refresh rate, the battery life with the same usage came close to six hours.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra battery lasts a typical workday without breaking a sweat, but Samsung needs to catch up with competitors to offer faster charging capabilities.

Cameras: Excellent Shooter in Every Light Condition

  • Quad rear cameras, including two telephoto lenses.
  • 108MP wide (24mm), f/1.8, OIS, PDAF, Laser AF.
  • 10MP, f/4.9 periscope telephoto (240mm) with OIS for 10X optical zoom.
  • 10MP, f/2.4 telephoto (70mm) with OIS for 3X optical zoom.
  • 12MP, f/2.2 ultra-wide (13mm) with PDAF.
  • 40MP, f/2.2 wide (26mm) for selfies and video calling.

Samsung has made major improvements to the camera system on the Galaxy S21 Ultra over last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra. The primary camera now has the in-house 108MP ISOCELL HM3 image sensor (1/1.33″, 0.8µm) which brings improved auto-focus, low-light and HDR performance. It uses Nonapixel technology with 9×1 pixel-binning to produce 12MP photos by default. You can click full 108MP resolution photos too by turning on that feature in settings. Photos shot in full res are about 30MB in size, whereas pixel-binned images are around 7MB.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review cameras

The Pro Mode also lets you click RAW photos that you can edit later. These files are about 24MB in size. There are other interesting modes, such as the Single Take, which records a 5-15 second video clip. The AI then analyses the video clip and picks the best moments in the form of photos with filters, portrait mode, short video clips such as boomerang, dynamic slow motion, and more. I tried it a couple of times, and the results were impressive.

Talking about the quality, the camera captures some stunning photos with great details and a wide dynamic range. The photo below was clicked on a rainy day. It captures the clouds, greenery, the water in the lake, barbed wire and the stones very well.


Close-up shots look detailed. The photos below are able to capture the dust particles on the leaf, water droplets on the flower petals, or the cupid that is well in focus and the background is blurred.





Daylight and close-up shots from the Galaxy S21 Ultra look stunning and detailed.

If you want more clarity in close-up shots, there is a “Focus Enhancer” mode that switches to an ultra-wide lens. The whole frame is in focus now instead of just the subject with a blurred background.

The night mode sees major improvements where it takes advantage of the large 108MP sensor in which nine adjacent pixels are combined into one pixel to absorb more light. The AI can intelligently select appropriate ISO settings between high and low. The result is a bright image with less noise. The photos below were captured around midnight in a pitch-dark environment, and they showcase the AI capabilities of the smartphone.

Night mode has vastly improved, and the photos look bright and sharp.

Now, while the Galaxy S20 Ultra featured 10X hybrid zoom using a 48MP telephoto lens, the new Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with two telephoto lenses with each sensor having 10MP resolution but different focal lengths (70mm to 240mm equivalent). This allows for 10X optical zoom, and up to 100X Space Zoom. Photos clicked with 10X zoom are sharp and detailed.

Even at 30X, the text on the trucks parked some 800 meters away was readable. The 100X ones are decent and usable, but that’s about it. What Samsung has done with the zooming capabilities of its S and Note series smartphones is commendable. Some shots are posted below (ultrawide, 10X, 30X, 100X).





The zooming capabilities are much improved now, with text readable even at 30X.

In the photo below, the parrots are sitting on a hanging cable about 100 meters away from me, and even at 10X zoom, the details are brilliant. The eyes look sharp, and the feather pattern and colors look crisp and clear too.



Samsung has had a lot of competition with the likes of Xiaomi, OPPO and vivo introducing smartphones with a periscope-style zoom. But one impressive thing that I have noticed about Samsung after also using the competitor devices, is the color consistency between ultra-wide, wide and zoom lenses. Below are three photos – in ultrawide, 1X and 10X – to show how good the camera system on Samsung is.




The space zoom works at night as well and I was able to capture some good shots of the moon. Below are some shots at 30X and 100X.



Lastly, the 40MP front camera is also able to capture good selfies. The skin tones look natural, and the AI is not too aggressive in smoothening the skin. Portrait mode is good too, and the edge detection works well in separating the foreground from the background.

The S21 Ultra also supports up to 8K (24fps) video and 4K (60fps) video recording. The 8K video quality is good, and it also lets you take high-resolution 33MP snaps from the video itself. Our Apple MacBook Air M1 first impressions video was shot in 8K on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and the photos used in the blog are still screenshots taken from the video. 4K videos are quite stable. Below is a small cinematic footage to show how good the recording quality is.

S Pen Support: Great Add-on, Less Functionality

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first S-series smartphone to support S Pen functionality, and it makes sense as there will be no Note series this year. The move was inevitable as the screen size difference between the S and Note series has narrowed down. The novelty factor of the Note series has lost its sheen, with the only big difference between the S and Note series being the S Pen support.

However, the S Pen for the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a few things missing when compared to the Note series:

  • It does not come bundled with the smartphone.
  • No dedicated slot for keeping the S Pen.
  • No support for Bluetooth functionality.

Before I talk more about the S Pen features, I would like to recall the first iPhone launch in 2007, where Steve Jobs shared his thoughts on phones with styluses: “Who wants a stylus? You have to get ’em, put ’em away, you lose ’em. Yuck!” Four years later, Samsung addressed this concern by introducing the Galaxy Note with a dedicated slot for the S Pen stylus. Since then, Note smartphones have been popular among power users. Now, in the current scenario, you need to buy the S Pen separately. To ensure you don’t lose it, you will have to buy Samsung-built or third-party cases.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review s pen

The S21 Ultra display comes with the same 9ms latency as the Note 20 Ultra for the S Pen to work smoothly. Air Command features work perfectly, and the note-taking experience is like the Galaxy Note series. But you miss out on the Bluetooth feature that lets you remotely control the camera shutter, media, presentations, and more. These also include gesture controls to increase/decrease the volume or to zoom in and zoom out.

The S Pen works fine, but you will miss the gesture control features from the Note series.

Software: Closer Integration with Microsoft Services and Galaxy Ecosystem

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G boots Android 11 with One UI 3.1 skin on top. The new One UI skin heavily focuses on optimizations and bringing the connected ecosystem within Samsung devices even closer. It is also closely integrated with Microsoft services.

Samsung has been promptly pushing out monthly security updates, which is a good thing. But it could improve the experience by adding support for seamless updates which Google introduced with Pixel devices in 2016. Some Nokia, OnePlus, Sony and Sharp smartphones also support this feature. The benefit of this feature is that updates are installed on a secondary partition while the system is still running. This eliminates the downtime while updates are installed, especially the annoying “Optimizing Apps” process that takes a little longer.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra review ui ads

Moving on, the other complaint is “Ads in UI”, which is not something you would expect in a top-of-the-line premium Android smartphone. Although it is not as bad and aggressive as seen in some affordable smartphones, these ads are visible in the weather app. You also get push notifications from the Galaxy Store about offers and deals on Samsung products.

Samsung offers timely security updates, but ads in UI are a little intriguing.

There is the DeX mode which lets you transform your phone into a PC by connecting it to a monitor or a TV using the HDMI cable, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. You can view and edit your Word and Excel files, run presentations, browse the internet, access emails, and more.

Connected Ecosystem Makes Handoff Between Devices Easier

Major smartphone brands are now heavily focusing on the 1+x+n connected ecosystem strategy. But unlike other brands, Samsung has a big advantage with its wide range of portfolio, which includes smart home appliances, TVs, audio products, laptops, and much more. SmartThings, which is baked right within One UI, makes using these devices easier.

For instance, I can easily control my Samsung Smart TV and Wi-Fi-enabled soundbar from the smartphone itself. You can do all this from an iPhone app or any Android smartphone too, but the close integration with Samsung smartphones means these features are available right within the Quick Settings and Notification Shade as a part of the UI.

counterpoint samsung galaxy s21 ultra connected ecosystem

Devices such as Galaxy Buds series TWS, Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Tab models are all closely integrated too. Say you are watching a video or listening to music on your Galaxy Tab and you get a phone call, the video/music will pause, and once the call has ended, it will resume playback. All this happens in a hassle-free manner.

Microsoft Integration Allows Running Android Apps on Windows PC, and More

The YourPhone companion app enables seamless and wireless connection between the PC and smartphone. For this to work, both the phone and PC need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. This integration allows replying to notifications right from the PC. You can also see your text messages and reply to them from the PC. But that’s not all, you can also access the photo gallery to wirelessly export photos to the PC and delete them as well. Sadly, you can only download one at a time.

counterpoint - galaxy s21 ultra your phone notifications

But the most interesting aspect of the YourPhone app is that you can access and run Android apps on the PC. You can browse your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook feed, or even order food from delivery apps. You can also run games, but there is too much lag.

counterpoint - galaxy s21 ultra your phone apps

YourPhone companion app allows you to check and reply to notifications from PC, rather than constantly unlocking the phone to do so.

Besides YourPhone, other integrations include the ability to sync photos from your Gallery to OneDrive, and sync and back up reminders from Samsung Reminders to Microsoft To Do. You can also sync Samsung Notes to the OneNote app. Outlook emails and calendars can also be synced with the Samsung Calendar app and vice-versa.

The Xbox integration allows you to stream and play games from your console to your Galaxy phone using the Xbox controller. This feature is offered in those countries where the Microsoft XCloud cloud gaming service is available.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Galaxy S21 Ultra offers the best premium Android experience, thanks to powerful hardware and a more refined software that closely integrates Microsoft services and the connected ecosystem experience.
  • The high-resolution primary camera, coupled with an ultra-wide lens and two telephoto lenses for zoom, offers a versatile photography and videography experience.
  • Elegant design, classic black finish, stellar display and a battery that lasts a day, all make the Galaxy S21 Ultra a fully loaded smartphone for power users.

Also Read: Strategic Reviews and Insights on Latest Smartphones

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Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited


In order to access Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited (Company or We hereafter) Web sites, you may be asked to complete a registration form. You are required to provide contact information which is used to enhance the user experience and determine whether you are a paid subscriber or not.
Personal Information When you register on we ask you for personal information. We use this information to provide you with the best advice and highest-quality service as well as with offers that we think are relevant to you. We may also contact you regarding a Web site problem or other customer service-related issues. We do not sell, share or rent personal information about you collected on Company Web sites.

How to unsubscribe and Termination

You may request to terminate your account or unsubscribe to any email subscriptions or mailing lists at any time. In accessing and using this Website, User agrees to comply with all applicable laws and agrees not to take any action that would compromise the security or viability of this Website. The Company may terminate User’s access to this Website at any time for any reason. The terms hereunder regarding Accuracy of Information and Third Party Rights shall survive termination.

Website Content and Copyright

This Website is the property of Counterpoint and is protected by international copyright law and conventions. We grant users the right to access and use the Website, so long as such use is for internal information purposes, and User does not alter, copy, disseminate, redistribute or republish any content or feature of this Website. User acknowledges that access to and use of this Website is subject to these TERMS OF USE and any expanded access or use must be approved in writing by the Company.
– Passwords are for user’s individual use
– Passwords may not be shared with others
– Users may not store documents in shared folders.
– Users may not redistribute documents to non-users unless otherwise stated in their contract terms.

Changes or Updates to the Website

The Company reserves the right to change, update or discontinue any aspect of this Website at any time without notice. Your continued use of the Website after any such change constitutes your agreement to these TERMS OF USE, as modified.
Accuracy of Information: While the information contained on this Website has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, We disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. User assumes sole responsibility for the use it makes of this Website to achieve his/her intended results.

Third Party Links: This Website may contain links to other third party websites, which are provided as additional resources for the convenience of Users. We do not endorse, sponsor or accept any responsibility for these third party websites, User agrees to direct any concerns relating to these third party websites to the relevant website administrator.

Cookies and Tracking

We may monitor how you use our Web sites. It is used solely for purposes of enabling us to provide you with a personalized Web site experience.
This data may also be used in the aggregate, to identify appropriate product offerings and subscription plans.
Cookies may be set in order to identify you and determine your access privileges. Cookies are simply identifiers. You have the ability to delete cookie files from your hard disk drive.