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Which phone should you buy?


Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy S21 series has been around since early 2021, and it has enjoyed plenty of time among the best Android phones on the market. Now, it faces tough new competition from Google in the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. You might be having a tough time deciding which device is best for you, but fear not. We’re here to help you decide in our Google Pixel 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 showdown.

We’ll take you through most of the key elements, from the design to the price of each phone, before we ultimately deliver our verdict. Ready to grab a new phone? Let’s get started.

Our thoughts: Google Pixel 6 Pro hands-on | Google Pixel 6 hands-on


Google Pixel 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S21


Specs

Google Pixel 6 Google Pixel 6 Pro Samsung Galaxy S21 Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Display

Google Pixel 6:

6.4-inch OLED
20:9 aspect ratio
FHD+ resolution
2,400 x 1,080
411ppi
90Hz refresh rate
HDR support
24-bit depth

Gorilla Glass Victus front
Gorilla Glass 6 back

Google Pixel 6 Pro:

6.7-inch OLED
19.5:9 aspect ratio
QHD+ resolution
3,120 x 1,440
512ppi
120Hz adaptive refresh rate
HDR support
24-bit depth

Gorilla Glass Victus front and back

Samsung Galaxy S21:

6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Flat FHD+
2,400 x 1,080 at 421ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:

6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Flat FHD+
2,400 x 1,080 at 394ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Curved WQHD+
3,200 x 1,440 at 515ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified

Processor

Google Pixel 6:

Google Tensor
Titan M2 security

Google Pixel 6 Pro:

Google Tensor
Titan M2 security

Samsung Galaxy S21:

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100

RAM

Google Pixel 6:

8GB LPDDR5

Google Pixel 6 Pro:

12GB LPDDR5

Samsung Galaxy S21:

8GB

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:

8GB

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

12 or 16GB

Internal storage

Google Pixel 6:

128GB or 256GB
UFS 3.1

Google Pixel 6 Pro:

128, 256, or 512GB
UFS 3.1

Samsung Galaxy S21:

128 or 256GB

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:

128 or 256GB

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

128, 256, or 512GB

Battery and power

Google Pixel 6:

4,600mAh (typical)
30W wired charging
USB-PD 3.0 (PPS)
21W wireless charging (w/ Pixel Stand)
12W Qi wireless charging
Battery share

No charger in box

Google Pixel 6 Pro:

5,000mAh (typical)
30W wired charging
USB-PD 3.0 (PPS)
23W wireless charging (w/ Pixel Stand)
12W Qi wireless charging
Battery share

No charger in box

Samsung Galaxy S21:

4,000mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:

4,800mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

5,000mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging

Cameras

Google Pixel 6:

Rear:
– 50MP main
1.2 μm, ƒ/1.85, 82-degree FoV
1/1.31-inch sensor
LDAF, OIS, and EIS
– 12MP ultra-wide
1.25 μm, ƒ/2.2, 114-degree FoV
– Laser AF

Front:
– 8MP single
1.12 μm, ƒ/2.0, 84-degree FoV

Google Pixel 6 Pro:

Rear:
– 50MP main
1.2 μm, ƒ/1.85, 82-degree FoV
1/1.31-inch sensor
OIS and EIS
– 12MP ultra-wide
1.25 μm, ƒ/2.2, 114-degree FoV
– 48MP telephoto
0.8 μm, ƒ/3.5, 23.5-degree FoV
1/2-inch sensor
4x optical zoom
OIS and EIS
– Laser AF

Front:
– 11.1MP single
1.22 μm, ƒ/2.2, 94-degree FoV

Samsung Galaxy S21:

Rear:
– Wide-angle: 12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.8µm with OIS and dual-pixel AF
– Telephoto: 64MP, ƒ/2.0, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
– Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with 120-degree FoV

3x hybrid optical/digital zoom
30x “Space Zoom”

Front:
– 10MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.22µm, with dual-pixel AF

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:

Rear:
– Wide-angle: 12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.8µm with OIS and dual-pixel AF
– Telephoto: 64MP, ƒ/2.0, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
– Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with 120-degree FoV

3x hybrid optical/digital zoom
30x “Space Zoom”

Front:
– 10MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.22µm, with dual-pixel AF

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

Rear:
– Wide-angle: 108MP, ƒ/1.8, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
– Telephoto: 10MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.22µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF, and 3x optical zoom
– Telephoto: 10MP, ƒ/4.9, 1.22µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF, and 10x optical zoom
– Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with dual-pixel AF and a 120-degree FoV
– Laser AF sensor

10x optical zoom
100x “Space Zoom”

Front:
– 40MP, ƒ/2.2, 0.7µm, with phase-detection AF

Audio

Google Pixel 6:

Stereo speakers
Triple mics
Bluetooth 5.2
No 3.5mm port

Google Pixel 6 Pro:

Stereo speakers
Triple mics
Bluetooth 5.2
No 3.5mm port

Samsung Galaxy S21:

Stereo speakers
Bluetooth 5.0
AKG tuning
No 3.5mm port

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:

Stereo speakers
Bluetooth 5.0
AKG tuning
No 3.5mm port

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

Stereo speakers
Bluetooth 5.2
AKG tuning
No 3.5mm port

Security

Google Pixel 6:

In-display fingerprint
Titan M2 chip
5 years security updates

IP68-rated

Google Pixel 6 Pro:

In-display fingerprint
Titan M2 chip
5 years security updates

IP68-rated

Samsung Galaxy S21:

In-display fingerprint
4 years security updates

IP68

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:

In-display fingerprint
4 years security updates

IP68

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

In-display fingerprint
4 years security updates

IP68

Buttons and ports

Google Pixel 6:

USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
Power button
Volume rocker
Dual SIM (single nano and eSIM)

No expandable storage
No 3.5mm port

Google Pixel 6 Pro:

USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
Power button
Volume rocker
Dual SIM (single nano and eSIM)

No expandable storage
No 3.5mm port

Samsung Galaxy S21:

USB-C 3.2
Power button
Volume rocker
Dual SIM (single nano and eSIM)

No expandable storage
No 3.5mm port

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:

USB-C 3.2
Power button
Volume rocker
Dual SIM (single nano and eSIM)

No expandable storage
No 3.5mm port

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

USB-C 3.2
Power button
Volume rocker
Dual SIM (single nano and eSIM)

No expandable storage
No 3.5mm port

Connectivity

Google Pixel 6:

Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax)
Bluetooth 5.2
NFC support

Google Pixel 6 Pro:

Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax)
Bluetooth 5.2
NFC support
UWB chip

Samsung Galaxy S21:

Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:

Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

Wi-Fi 6E
Bluetooth 5.2

Software

Google Pixel 6:

Android 12
Pixel UI

Google Pixel 6 Pro:

Android 12
Pixel UI

Samsung Galaxy S21:

Android 11
One UI 3.1

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:

Android 11
One UI 3.1

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

Android 11
One UI 3.1

Dimensions and weight

Google Pixel 6:

158.6 x 74.8 x 8.9mm
207g

Google Pixel 6 Pro:

163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9mm
210g

Samsung Galaxy S21:

151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm
171g

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:

161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8mm
202g

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm
229g

Colors

Google Pixel 6:

Stormy Black, Kinda Coral, Sorta Seafoam

Google Pixel 6 Pro:

Stormy Black, Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny

Samsung Galaxy S21:

Phantom Violet, Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, Phantom White

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:

Phantom Violet, Phantom Black, Phantom Silver

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

Phantom Black, Phantom Silver


Design

Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro perpendicular

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Both the Pixel 6 series and Galaxy S21 series take a similar approach to the display. You’ll find OLED panels across the board, as well as central punch-hole selfie cameras. Google and Samsung also reserved their sharpest Quad HD+ resolutions for the premium models — the Pixel 6 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra. The premium pair also sports curved displays, while the vanilla Google Pixel 6 and the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus opt for flat panels.

Once you move around to the back of each phone, you really start to notice some changes. Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series sticks to a familiar corner cutout for the camera arrays as well as a satin finish. It’s far more resistant to fingerprints than Galaxy devices of years past, and the Phantom colors look great when the light hits them.

The Galaxy S21 features a less-premium glasstic back.

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 is the smallest of the bunch at 6.2-inches, while the Galaxy S21 Plus and the Galaxy S21 Ultra are nearly twins at 6.7-inches and 6.8-inches. You’ll also find that the Galaxy S21 features a “glasstic” back panel with a metal frame. Don’t worry, you can still tap into wireless charging, but you’ll have to splurge for the Galaxy S21 Plus or Ultra if you want a glass device.

Google’s Pixel 6 devices come with glass on the front and back. That does make for a glossier finish, but it’s worth the fingerprints to show off the return of Google’s two-toned designs. The Pixel 6 series also shares metal side rails, though you’re looking at matte black aluminum on the Pixel 6 compared to stainless steel on the Pixel 6 Pro.

Of course, the camera bar is the feature you’re bound to notice above all else on the Pixel 6 series. It’s the first move away from a corner-mounted camera since the days of the Nexus 6P, as well as the dominant design element on Google’s new flagships. The camera bar is located slightly higher on the Pixel 6 than the 6 Pro, but the lenses themselves make all the difference.

You won’t find a headphone jack on either the Samsung Galaxy S21 series or the Google Pixel 6 series, though both offer stereo speakers. As for buttons, both series offer a power button and a volume rocker, and that’s about it.


Cameras

Google Pixel 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 camera

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

We teased the cameras briefly above, but now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. The Pixel 6 series offers Google’s largest camera leap since the Pixel 4 series added a second lens. Both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro come with a 50MP main lens and a 12MP ultra-wide lens housed in the hefty camera bar. However, if you go for the Pixel 6 Pro, you’ll also get a 48MP telephoto lens to work with that’s capable of 4x optical zoom and up to 20x Super Res zoom.

See also: The best camera phones you can get

The Pixel 6 carries a fairly standard 8MP lens on the front, while the Pixel 6 Pro comes with an 11.1MP option. Ironically, the Pixel duo relies on Samsung’s GN1 camera sensors, which the Korean OEM hasn’t even used in its own Galaxy S21 series.

On the other hand, Samsung left its cameras unchanged on the Galaxy S21 and the Galaxy S21 Plus. They offer 12MP wide lenses, 12MP ultra-wide lenses, and 64MP telephoto lenses to round out the back panel, followed by 10MP selfie cameras on the front. Once again, the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with Samsung’s very best. It trades the 12MP wide lens for a 108MP option and swaps the single telephoto lens for a 10MP telephoto and a 10MP periscope telephoto. Samsung’s fourth lens is a 12MP ultra-wide shooter, and the 40MP selfie camera is by far the sharpest of the bunch.

It’s hard to declare a winner in this category, especially since we haven’t fully tested out the Pixel 6 cameras yet. But we are confident in saying that you’ll be more than happy with the camera capabilities on either of the Pixel 6 or Galaxy S21 phones.


Battery

Google Pixel 6 in box retail contents

C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Google hasn’t always packed the largest batteries into its Pixel devices. That was particularly a problem with the Pixel 4 and its much-maligned weak battery life. Now, those days seem to be in the past. We heaped praise on the Pixel 5a for its 4,680mAh battery as the largest in any Pixel to date, and now the Pixel 6 Pro has outdone it. Google’s premium flagship packs a 5,003mAh cell that’s now the largest in any Pixel.

The adoption of USB PD PPS makes the Pixel 6 series Google’s fastest ever with 30W charging.

You can also make the most of 30W wired charging to regain up to 50% of your battery life in just 30 minutes. As for wireless charging, the Pixel 6 Pro supports up to 23W with the new Pixel stand. Over on the more affordable Pixel 6, you’ll find a 4,614mAh cell and up to 21W wireless charging. The 30W wired option is the same, and both phones rely on USB Power Delivery PPS for their fastest speeds.

Samsung’s trio uses the same USB PD PPS standard for charging, though only up to 25W speeds. You’ll also top out at 15W wireless charging speeds across all three models. The Galaxy S21 packs the smallest cell at 4,000mAh, while the Galaxy S21 Plus and S21 Ultra are nearly equal at 4,800mAh and 5,000mAh, respectively.


Colors

Google Pixel 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 colors

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Samsung’s Phantom colorways for the Galaxy S21 series are some of its best in years. The Phantom Violet, as seen above, sports a violet back panel with a rose gold camera housing that’s unlike Samsung’s usual approach. It also comes in Phantom Pink, which swaps violet for pink and hangs onto the rose gold.

Each version of Samsung’s 2021 flagship comes with the same satin finish, which should be good to keep fingerprints at bay. If you’re not looking for as bright of a color, Samsung also offers Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Gray, and Phantom White. There are a few Samsung-exclusive colorways for the premium Galaxy S21 Ultra, such as Phantom Navy and Phantom Brown.

The Pixel 6 series has a two-tone finish that adds a bit of contrast to the devices.

Over on the Pixel side, Google has finally resurrected its two-tone finishes. The options differ between the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro, with the vanilla model coming in Kinda Coral, Sorta Seafoam, and Stormy Black. If you go for the more expensive Pixel 6 Pro, you can choose from Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny, and Stormy Black.

Kinda Coral blends a pink body with a slightly red section above the camera bar, while Sorta Seafoam offers a green and yellow finish. Stormy Black comes with a combo of black and gray across both models, with Sorta Sunny and Cloudy White filling in as gold and silver options.

Opinion: The Pixel 6 design is amazing, actually


Price

Google Pixel 6 on green pillow

C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

  • Samsung Galaxy S21: $799 / £769 / €849
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: $999 / £949 / €1,049
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: $1,199 / £1,149 / €1,249
  • Google Pixel 6: $599 / £599 / €649
  • Google Pixel 6 Pro: $899 / £849 / €849

Both the Samsung Galaxy S21 series and the Google Pixel 6 series represent a return to lower prices in 2021. The entire Galaxy S21 range received a $100 price cut compared to the previous Galaxy S20 lineup. Samsung’s most affordable Galaxy S21 kicks off at $799 — right in line with the vanilla iPhone 13. Each model jumps by $200 from there, giving the S21 Plus a $999 starting point and the S21 Ultra a $1,199 price tag.

However, those prices are for the 128GB Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, and S21 Ultra. Raising your storage to 256GB will cost an extra $50 on average, or you can go up to 512GB on the Galaxy S21 Ultra for $1,379.

Save some money: The best Pixel deals | The best Samsung Galaxy deals

While Samsung went for a slightly more affordable approach, the standard Pixel 6 now costs $599. It comes with 128GB of storage on board, or you can get the 256GB version for $699. Google’s Pixel 6 Pro launched at $899 for 128GB, $999 for 256GB, or $1,099 for the maximum 512GB version.

Check out our widgets below if you’re ready to make your decision:

google pixel 6 press image sorta seafoam

Google Pixel 6

The more affordable Pixel

The Google Pixel 6 features a 6.4-inch FHD+ display and runs on the all-new Google Tensor SoC. The rear camera array is made up of main and ultra-wide sensors.

google pixel 6 pro camera

Google Pixel 6 Pro

The Pixel 6 Pro outshines its little brother with a 6.7-inch QHD+ display and 120Hz refresh rate. It has the same two rear cameras as the Pixel 6 but with an additional 4x optical telephoto lens.


Google Pixel 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: Which should you buy?

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Now we’ve reached the hardest question of all: which phone should you actually buy? Well, it’s tough to say. Google’s pricing is more competitive, and the Pixel 6 series finally offers some serious upgrades in the camera department. But the Galaxy S21 series offers more in other areas, so it really depends on which features you value more.

Learn more: Which Samsung Galaxy S21 phone is right for you?

Both series are tried and true flagships, and it’s hard to go wrong with either one. If you want to save the most money, go for the Pixel 6. If you want the best Android experience around, it just might be a toss-up between the Pixel 6 Pro and the Galaxy S21 Ultra. You’ll have to decide whether you want Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 processor in the Galaxy S21 series or the brand-new Google Tensor chip that the Pixel 6 series packs under the hood.

The Pixel phones come with less bloatware.

Then there’s the software. The Pixel phones run a clean yet Google-ified version of Android, while Galaxy S21 handsets have Samsung’s One UI on board. Both have their pros and cons, with one of the biggest differences being that you get less bloatware with Google’s flagships. The software of the Pixel phones is a bit less feature-packed, but it’s also a lot cleaner at the same time.

Both the Pixel and Galaxy devices will get three major OS updates, but keep in mind that the Pixel 6 series launched with Android 12 on board, while the Galaxy S21 phones launched with Android 11. That means the Pixels will get Android 13, 14, and 15, while the road for the Galaxies will end with Android 14. The Pixel 6 series also pushes security updates to four years over the three years you get with Samsung’s phones.

Made up your mind? Let us know which one you think comes out on top in the Google Pixel 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 battle below.



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