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Galaxy S21 and everything Samsung announced today: Galaxy Buds Pro, SmartTag

CNET logo CNET 1/15/2021 Lori Grunin
a close up of a phone: Samsung © Provided by CNET Samsung

We're at the tail end of CES 2021 and Samsung decided to launch its new flagship Galaxy S21 line, comprised of the S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra, with an Unpacked event during the same busy week; they start at $800 (£769) and are available for preorder now. The launch, which comes about a month earlier than usual, included the Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds and SmartTag object tracker.

The new Galaxy S21 is all metal and has tougher glass for better durability, with a screen that supports adaptive refresh between 48 and 120Hz and improved blue light protection. And naturally, there's a trio of better cameras, and new photo processing hardware with AI. Better bokeh! Pet-specific mode! It adds multishot processing and skin-optimized white balance to your selfie options. 

For video, you'll be able to pull 8K photos from videos and shoot photos and videos simultaneously, plus a best shot mode. It adds a multicamera view for video as well, with quick switching among them -- that sounds very cool.

The phone has an updated processor for faster processing, too, with updated security hardware. Samsung worked with Unity, maker of game developer tools, to optimize gaming.

Here's everything Samsung announced at its Galaxy Unpacked event:

The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a better processor, display and cameras compared to its smaller siblings. It's got a new 108-megapixel image sensor which gives it extra pixels for binning to make better low-light images. "Nona-binning!" "Space Zoom!" That's a new algorithm, taking advantage of the new folded lens to deliver better zoom between wide and telephoto and lock feature to reduce camera shake.

Samsung has improved compatibility with third-party services. It now uses Android messages rather than rerouting through its own messaging system, for example. There's more support for Google's Android APIs, such as Android Auto and the Nest, within the SmartThings app.

a close up of electronics: Andrew Hoyle/CNET © Provided by CNET Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Ultra comes in black... phantom black. The new display requires lower power and shifts between 10 and 120Hz on the fly to save battery, but it's brighter with a broader gamut. The S Pen Pro is new, with Bluetooth actions, and the new S Pen was created in conjunction with Wacom.

Samsung's brings its Internet of Things technology to the Galaxy SmartTag and SmartTag Plus (with ultrawideband wireless), small portable devices for tracking anything (or anyone) you can put it on, with a SmartThings Find app on your phone.

graphical user interface: Samsung will hold its first Unpacked event of the year on Jan. 14.  © Samsung

Samsung will hold its first Unpacked event of the year on Jan. 14. 

Read moreNew Samsung SmartTags find your lost Galaxy S21, keys and more

It's not just phones, though. The company debuted its Galaxy Buds Pro as well, with improved sound -- they add a tiny woofer for better bass. They have motion tracking sensors and Dolby audio for 360 surround, as well as active noise canceling. And they look very different.

Read moreSamsung Galaxy Buds Pro are out now for $200

The mic has been improved as well to be more directional and has a more closed fit with tweaks to minimize wind noise. The Galaxy Buds Pro cost $200 in the US, and a bafflingly more expensive £219 in the UK.

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