In recent years, arguably the two most popular Android phone manufacturers on the US market were Samsung and Google. This year, we have their latest models - S21 Ultra and Pixel 5 respectively, and people will definitely think twice about which one to buy. Bearing that in mind, here is what you need to know before buying your new flagship phone in 2021.
Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra overview
The Galaxy S21 Ultra offers the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon hardware along with a sublime 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED 2X display, cameras that take great photos in any lighting scenario, and global 5G connectivity. You'll still find all the extras, but the phone misses a microSD slot this year and there's no charger in the box.
Google Pixel 5 overview
The Pixel 5 is unrivaled when it comes to the camera, and the phone offers truly exceptional photos. In addition, the full package includes wireless and reverse wireless charging, a 90Hz OLED display, and Sub-6, as well as mmWave 5G. Despite its shortcoming compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, overall it gets great value.
Galaxy S21 Ultra vs. Google Pixel 5 head-to-head
On the surface, the Galaxy S21 Ultra includes incremental updates. The biggest change is that it is powered by Qualcomm's new 5nm Snapdragon 888 platform, which unlocks a new level of performance. There's a new design on the back of the cameras too, but otherwise, you're getting a device that hasn't changed much from its predecessor.
As for the Pixel 5, Google opted for the mid-range Snapdragon 765G to keep costs down. This budget-friendly option sells the phone for $700 while keeping up with the best flagship phones on the market. The strategy was smart, with Pixel 5 outperforming some of its rivals and becoming one of the best Android phones available today.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra stands out a bit more from S20 Ultra in terms of design thanks to the new camera housing on the back that is made of metal. The back panel itself is glass, and the phone still weighs 80g more than the Pixel 5 even.
I'm a fan of Google's minimal design aesthetic and I like what the Pixel 5 offers. There is a plastic cutout for the wireless charging coil right on the metal back, which bothers me a bit. But the design seems much nicer with Pixel 5 overall.
As for the screen, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel, while the Pixel 5 has a 6.0-inch OLED screen. The S21 Ultra wins thanks to its 120Hz refresh rate technology, with Pixel 5 at 90Hz. While Pixel 5 provides the FHD+ resolution (2400×1080), S21 Ultra provides UHD+ resolution (3200x1440) with a maximum of 1500 nits. Both phones deliver HDR10 + content on Netflix and other streaming services. You also get stereo speakers as standard on both phones.
Chipset and memory
When switching to internal hardware, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has the obvious advantage thanks to the Snapdragon 888. Google chose the Snapdragon 765G, and while the chipset has a lot to offer, it doesn't quite measure up to the Snapdragon 888. Having said that, you don't really notice any deficiency with the Pixel 5 in everyday use, and the phone holds up well for scrolling through social media or gaming.
While Pixel 5 has 8GB of RAM with 128GB of storage only, S21 Ultra has 3 options – 12GB RAM and 128GB storage, 12GB RAM and 256GB storage, and 16GB RAM and 512GB storage. Obviously, in this segment as well, S21 Ultra has a much bigger advantage.
On the camera side, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a 108MP f/1.8 lens that is unchanged from last year, and it also has a 10MP periscope telephoto, 10MP telephoto, and 12 MP ultrawide. Meanwhile, the Pixel 5 has a 12.2MP f/1.7 lens that is basically the same module as the Pixel 2, and this time it includes a new 16MP wide-angle lens.
Be that as it may, Google's machine learning abilities to take better photos still make this phone on top of the camera quality list, despite its "poor" hardware. Google built its Pixel brand around offering the best camera in a phone, and that's still the case with the Pixel 5. The phone takes beautiful photos in any lighting scenario, but its low-light prowess gives it a distinct advantage over other flagships, such as S21 Ultra.
Both phones have Sub-6 and mmWave 5G as standard, which is a move in the right direction as 5G becomes more common. You don't miss any of the extras either - Both the Pixel 5 and Galaxy S21 Ultra have IP68 water and dust resistance, 15W wireless charging, and out-of-the-box reverse wireless charging.
Both phones have an all-day battery life, but S21 Ultra has a battery capacity of 5000 mAh, while Pixel 5 provides a 4080 mAh battery, which is much better battery life. The Galaxy S21 Ultra has 25W fast charging, while the Pixel 5 relies on 18W USB PD cable charging. Samsung doesn't include a charger or headphones in the box, but the Pixel 5 doesn't include headphones either, though it does include an 18W USB PD charger and USB-C to USB-C cable.
Now an interesting omission with the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the microSD slot. Samsung ditched the port with this year's flagships, and if you were relying on a microSD slot on your previous Galaxy phone, you’ll have to find some other way to transfer those files into your new S21 Ultra. Be that as it may, 128/256/512 GB of storage space is more than enough.
So if you're looking for the best flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is your best Android option. For a much cheaper option that will do the job almost as well, the Pixel 5 is what you seek. At $700, it's twice as affordable as the S21 Ultra, and while the Snapdragon 765G doesn't quite measure up to the Snapdragon 888, it's more than adequate for most gaming and everyday use cases.
The Pixel 5 has a better camera and the addition of a wide-angle lens on the back makes it a much more versatile shooter. I prefer Google software and the Pixel 5 will get updates faster. The 90Hz OLED panel is as vibrant as what you're getting with Samsung (although not as smooth), you also get Sub-6 and mmWave 5G with the Pixel 5, and the phone has IP68 resistance, 15W wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging as well. Not bad for half a price. But it’s still inferior to S21 Ultra overall.You can still add more power to your Pixel 5 for little money – check out this smart case from i-Blades and add more storage, more battery juice, and much more.