Is The S21 Ultra Good For Gaming? Samsung’s massive, muscle-bound S21 Ultra is so overwhelmed that it feels like asking the ’80s Schwarzenegger to open a tight glass lid when doing everyday chores. I almost feel bad using it for my really boring day-to-day procrastination tasks like hating every second of scrolling through Twitter. Even when gaming, the handset is a bright green $ 5,000 liquid-cooled gaming rig that runs a Super Nintendo emulator.
This is part of the problem with Android gaming. Even most phones, like the $ 139 Teracube 2e, run almost any game available on the Google Play Store. For a long time, I wanted more games to push premium phones (the S21 Ultra has a QHD + display, 5nm octa-core chip, and up to 16GB RAM) to see what’s technically possible and close the skill gap between different products. You should check our list of top Samsung Gaming phones in 2021.
Impressive Gaming Performance, If Not Perfect
The excellent Genshin Impact could be the benchmark game that can be used to measure the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s gaming skills. It is a massive open-ended Zelda-style RPG for phones, which Android has lacked until now. Considering the size and scope of the game, this is an impressive technical achievement.
Visually it is breathtaking on the S21 Ultra. The game’s vibrant colors are enhanced by the power of Samsung’s OLED technology, even at average graphics settings. At the maximum settings, it is hard to believe that this is a game played on a mobile phone. The setting and the character details – such as grass, shade, and how clothes blow in the wind – are really impressive. The 120Hz refresh rate means movement and responsiveness are smooth.
It works fine most of the time, but I’ve had some stuttering and frame rate issues at medium and high graphics settings. I also noticed that when the graphics were at maximum, the phone warmed up to a moderate level, even though the game had warned me that the “power load” was too high.
This is one of the most powerful phones out there. So I don’t know if it is a hardware issue or if it has something to do with the game itself. Samsung’s Game Launcher helps with this. Enabling “priority mode” (which disables background activity for a performance boost) improved things, but the weird stuttering still occurred.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Game Launcher app
The Game Launcher app is really smart complementary software. It is an overlay that can be accessed during a game. This option allows you to switch the above priority mode, take screenshots, estimate remaining battery power, view screen recording, monitor memory, and monitor temperature. It’s smart and gives the phone the look and feel of a real gaming rig.
For games less ambitious than Genshin, the temperature doesn’t matter. The phone heated up while running Call of Duty Mobile and downloading a major Genshin Impact update, but after the download and installation was complete, the phone remained fairly cool during a two-hour COD session.
This is doubly good news as my S21 Ultra device has the dreaded Exynos chip. Longtime Samsung viewers will know that Exynos has a sketchy history when it comes to overheating and battery efficiency, but Samsung seems to have addressed previous weaknesses. In terms of battery power, my last Genshin session drained 15% of the battery in 40 minutes – that’s about four hours of solid play, which is about what I’d expect for a game of this size and scope.
Call of Duty Mobile (COD for short) also worked flawlessly, and the large 6.8-inch display really helps manage screen controls. Smaller screens lose when 30% of the screen is covered by your thumbs. However, the S21 Ultra solves this by just being massive. I’m pretty good at cash on delivery and I’m not sure if Samsung’s fast refresh rate gives me an edge over gamers with less powerful phones, but I’ll take every advantage I can get.
Android Controller Support Is Still Inconsistent
What is lacking, however, is controller support for many games. I understand why it’s easier to focus on touchscreen controls, given that that’s how most people play mobile games – and titles like COD Mobile have a really smart input system that makes complex controls simple without losing too much interactivity – but a controller option would be very welcome.
Some games have this option, such as Dead Cells, but the game crashes when I use the correct joystick on my Razer Kishi. The buttons work fine, but the game abruptly stops when I turn the joystick left or right or use the D-Pad, eventually rendering the controller useless.
Likewise, I had trouble mapping controls for Dead Trigger 2. The game often didn’t recognize my inputs, even though they were mapped correctly. I don’t know if any of these issues are related to the S21 Ultra, the controller, or the games themselves.
The controllers I currently own – the Razer Kishi and the Moga XP5-X – come in handy with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. I’m a big fan of the streaming service as it gives me access to titles that I wouldn’t normally play or games I’m not sure I’m going to buy, while still having the mobility of the smartphone Improved gaming experience. It’s wise.
But initially, I had problems with Game Pass on the S21 Ultra. As you can see in the picture below, the games weren’t the right size and I lost about 10% of the right and bottom of the playable area. It looks bad when enlarged.
It wasn’t that playable. I found a workaround that lowered the screen resolution to 1080p (from QHD +). I contacted Samsung about this and a good solution was available a few days later. Game Pass has resized the display to fit the screen properly when QHD is on, although there is still a large black area on the right side of the screen and therefore not symmetrical.
Besides troubleshooting, Game Pass is excellent. Games respond with manageable latency (not what you’d expect from a streaming service) and look great on the high-spec screen. My only other complaint is that parts of the screen on either side of the game are sacrificed to make it work so you can’t get the full effect of the elongated screen.
The third-party controllers I own are a pleasure to use. I prefer the Moga XP5-X because of the familiar shape of the Xbox controller. The Razer Kishi attaches to the back of the phone and places the controls on both ends of the handset. This feels a bit unnatural as your hands cannot be too animated.
I still play as a 10-year-old so my hands and arms start to throb when something dramatic happens on the screen. This is fine if your display is stationary and you are holding a separate controller less if the controller and display are one. The Moga XP5-X doesn’t need to be physically connected to your phone to function, so you have your hands free for aggressive jerky movements.
Top 5 Game Controller For Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Razer Kishi Mobile Game Controller / Gamepad for Android USB-C: Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, xCloud, Stadia, GeForce NOW, Luna – Passthrough Charging – Low Latency Phone Controller Grip – Samsung, Pixel
- Universal Mobile Gaming Controller: Designed to bring console-level control to your phone for gaming anywhere
- Cloud and Mobile Gaming: Compatible with leading cloud gaming services including Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, Stadia, Amazon Luna, GeForce NOW, & Steam Link; & hundreds of popular mobile games including Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox, Brawlhalla, Asphalt 9: Legends, Black Desert Mobile, emulators, & many more.
- Refine Your Aim and Execution: Clickable analog thumbsticks provide greater accuracy and tactile feedback, and the performance buttons and d-pad deliver precision input
- Latency-Free Gameplay: Unlike Bluetooth controllers which produce lag, the controller has zero latency by directly connecting to the device’s charging port
- USB Type C Charging Port: For pass-through charging of your phone or tablet while using the controller
- Ergonomic, Flexible Design for a Comfortable Handheld Grip: Designed for long gaming sessions, the controller feels great to hold and can be stretched and clamped on most Android phones, providing a secure hold that won’t come loose during gaming
PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus Bluetooth Controller for Mobile And Cloud Gaming On Android And PC, Gamepad, Phone Clip, Gaming Controller
- Control your compatible Xbox games from the cloud on mobile
- Play Controller enabled games on Android and PC
- Enjoy the precision of Controller inputs for mobile gameplay vs. Touchscreen
- Charge your phone while you play or between sessions with an integrated power bank
- Gain a competitive advantage with two mappable advanced gaming Buttons
GameSir X2 Type-C Mobile Gaming Controller, Game Controller for Android, Plug and Play Gaming Controller Grip for Samsung Support Xbox Game Pass, xCloud, Stadia, and Vortex and More
- Cloud Gaming & Native Gaming: GameSir X2 is compatible with most cloud gaming platforms including Xbox / Shadow Cloud Gaming, Google Stadia, and Vortex, etc. This Android controller also supports native games such as Fortnite, Modern Combat 5, Implosion, and more.
- DURABLE STRETCH DESIGN: The mobile game controller rack allows you to mount a mobile phone with a maximum length of 167mm and a maximum thickness of 1cm. The innerspring is durable and can withstand prolonged expansion and numerous stretching exercises.
- Type-C Connector: GameSir X2 is different from another mobile controller, the adjustable Type-C connector. The adjustable range is up to 51 °, so you can easily insert and remove your mobile phone and protect it from damage.
- Screenshot & air circulation: X2 has a screenshot button. Just press this button for the best gaming moments at any time. An opening has been made between the phone and the X2 to allow air to circulate so that the phone can maintain good heat dissipation.
- Microswitch Buttons: Built-in microswitch buttons with 3 million times life and a soft rubber grip that gives a comfortable hand feel.
iPEGA PG-9118 Wireless Mobile Smart Gamepad Controller PUBG for Galaxy S21/S21ultra S20/S20+ /S10 10+Note 10 /M40 P40 LG Oppo Smart Android Smartphone Tablet (Android 6.0 Higher System)
- Suitable for ios11.0 / ios12 / ios13 system, BUT NOT for IOS 13.4 system, due to the latest Apple upgrade, suitable for iPhone6 / iPhone7 / iPhone8 / iPhone / iPhone XR / XS iPhone11, iOS tablet, but the system has to be higher than 11.0, please update your phone to the above version.
- Compatible with Android 6.0 and above, compatible with mobile phone models such as Samsung Galaxy S9 / S9 + S10 / S10 + NOTE 10 Galaxy S20 Galaxy Z / Huawei Mate 20 / 20plus / P30, OPPO R17, see X / VIVO X23 X27 X30 X30 PRO / xiaomi 10 / 10pro wind 7 8 10 pc smartphones and tablets (Please make sure your system is Android 6.0 or above before buying). Phones that do not support MediaTek chips.
- There are three boot modes: iosV3 direct mode: Press and hold the Y + HOMT buttons for 2 seconds to enter IOS direct play mode. Android V3 direct mode: Press and hold the A + HOMT buttons for 2 seconds to switch to direct play mode. Android Currently, Android’s default game mode: Press and hold the x + HOMT buttons for 2 seconds to switch to direct play mode. Android
- PG-9118 uses a 4.0 wireless connection, no complicated settings, no additional app download, the device can be played immediately, “Peace Elite”, “Glory of the King” and “Wilderness Action” are compatible with popular mobile Phones. The structure is ergonomic, easy to use. Comfortable, accurate positioning, stretch 75mm. Built-in 380mAh high-capacity lithium battery that can be used continuously for more than 15 hours and can be fully charged for up to 30 days
Taste Of The Future
The S21 Ultra feels ready for the next generation of Android games. It handles almost everything with serenity apart from a few minor performance issues with Genshin and the Game Pass fix issue, both of which can be resolved.
I’d love to see more developers keep improving the hardware and making certain games for phones that are ridiculously overwhelmed just to see what’s possible. However, right now Android gamers are getting the best viewing experience possible on Samsung’s most expensive phone.