Google Pixel 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: Which flagship to buy?
Google’s Pixel line of phones has been quite underwhelming in the past few years. The Pixel 5 had a mid-range chip, the Pixel 4 had poor battery life, and the Pixel 3XL had a bathtub notch. While they had their own positives, they weren’t really THE phone to recommend for most people. Google is trying to change that with the Pixel 6 series. The new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro make a strong case for a flagship phone that can compete against rival brands. It also starts at a pretty affordable price of $699 for the standard Pixel 6. On the other hand, we have Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series which is widely regarded as the best flagship phone series. In fact, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is our pick for one of the best smartphones out there.
While the Galaxy S21 Ultra is quite expensive, the middle child — Galaxy S21 Plus — was initially launched for $999 but since it’s been a while since the phone is out, you can find a good deal on it bringing the price down by a couple of hundred bucks. This begs the question — which phone should you buy? The new Google Pixel 6 or the Galaxy S21 Plus which is soon about to be replaced by the Galaxy S22? Let’s find out.
Here’s a comparison of the Google Pixel 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus to help you decide which one’s better for you!
Google Pixel 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: Specifications
|Google Pixel 6||Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus|
|CPU||Google Tensor||Snapdragon 888 (US/China)/Exynos 2100 (EU, UK, Asia)|
|Sensors||Fingerprint sensor (under-display), Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro sensor, Proximity sensor, Light sensor||Fingerprint sensor (under-display), Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro sensor, Proximity sensor, Light sensor, Compass|
|OS||Android 12||Android 12 (One UI 4.0)|
|Colors||Sorta Seaform, Kinda Coral, Stormy Black||Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Violet, Phantom Pink, Phantom Gold, Phantom Red|
|Price||Starts at $699||$799 (New)/$599 (Renewed)|
There’s not a lot separating the Pixel 6 from the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus in terms of build quality and the materials used in the construction of the two phones. Both phones have an aluminum frame which feels quite premium and gives the phones a solid chassis. The Pixel 6 and the Galaxy S21 Plus have Gorilla Glass Victus on the front so there’s no real difference with regards to display protection either. While both phones have glass on the back, the Galaxy S21 Plus gets the same Gorilla Glass Victus while the Pixel 6 gets the slightly older Gorilla Glass 6.
The Galaxy S21 Plus is thinner but also taller and wider than the Pixel 6 owing to the larger display. This might make it slightly uncomfortable to hold and use for long periods of time, especially for people with small hands or those who prefer compact phones. The Pixel 6 is slightly easier to handle given that it has a smaller display. Both phones are also IP68 dust and water-resistant. You shouldn’t be worried about picking up either device since they’re both solid. It all comes down to the preference in size in this department.
While the way both phones are built is similar, they look quite different from one another. Samsung gave the S21 series a design overhaul this year. They moved the camera bump to the corner and merged it with the frame of the phone to give it a unique look. As a result, the Galaxy S21 Plus does look quite different from most other smartphones in the market. The back glass has a matte finish too which a lot of people prefer over a glossy look. The Pixel 6 also takes a different approach to design. Google has given the phone a two-tone finish with a large camera bar separating the two colors.
The colors are nice and playful and the camera bar really adds character to the phone. It spans across the entire width of the phone similar to what we saw on the Nexus 6P from a few years back. This sort of look is quite unique which makes the Pixel 6 score high in terms of design. The back here is glossy, though, so expect to see a lot of fingerprints if you use your phone without a case. Looks and design are extremely subjective so the winner in this department should ideally be chosen by you. Some may like the more conventional-looking design of the Galaxy S21 Plus while some may prefer the bolder look of the Pixel 6.
When it comes to the display, the main differences between the two phones are to do with size and refresher rate and not the quality of the panel itself. The Pixel 6 has a 90Hz display which is still faster than the conventional 60Hz panels. However, the Galaxy S21 Plus takes it up a notch with a 120Hz display. Some people, like myself, cannot differentiate between 90Hz and 120Hz so it doesn’t really matter to me. Some people claim that the difference is evident so your mileage may vary. Of course, 120Hz is going to be smoother and will result in a better experience if you play games on your phone. It’s also going to look better while scrolling through lists and social media feeds.
Both displays are OLED panels with the same Full HD+ resolution. In terms of display quality, you wouldn’t really be able to tell the two phones apart. The displays used on both devices are of top quality and you will enjoy watching content on them regardless of which device you pick. OLED panels are generally vibrant and display poppy colors with inky blacks resulting in a better contrast ratio. Of course, the Galaxy S21 Plus has a larger display at 6.7-inches as opposed to the 6.4-inch display on the Pixel 6. The extra real estate can be handy if you watch a lot of movies and shows on your phone or play a lot of games.
There’s a hole-punch cutout on both devices at the center to house the front-facing camera. The Pixel 6 has slightly thicker bezels all around whereas the Galaxy S21 Plus has a more immersive display with slimmer bezels. You get an under-display fingerprint scanner on both phones. To highlight the main differences in this department, the Galaxy S21 Plus has a larger display with a higher refresh rate whereas the Pixel 6 has a more compact form factor due to the smaller display and is hence slightly more one-hand friendly. It’s up to you now to pick which one is more important to you.
Performance and Software
Since both the Galaxy S21 Plus and the Pixel 6 are flagship phones, they have top-of-the-line internals to power them. The Galaxy S21 Plus runs on the Snapdragon 888 in the US and China while the rest of the world gets Samsung’s in-house Exynos 2100 SoC. The Pixel 6 runs on Google’s brand new Tensor chip — which as a matter of fact, is a slightly tweaked version of the Exynos 2100 itself. If you’re going to be comparing the Snapdragon 888 version of the Galaxy S21 Plus, it would be more powerful than the Pixel 6 in terms of CPU and GPU performance. If you play more games and run heavier tasks on your phone, the Galaxy S21 Plus would fair better, provided it has the Snapdragon 888 chip.
If you’re comparing the Exynos 2100 variant of the Galaxy S21 Plus with the Pixel 6, there’s not going to be a lot of difference in terms of performance. Both chipsets perform similarly which means while the two phones are good at handling day-to-day tasks, they tend to struggle slightly when tasked with heavy, graphic-intensive games. Since Google has tuned Tensor specifically for the Pixel line of phones, it’s got better capabilities in terms of processing computation algorithms.
While the raw performance of the chipsets might be similar, the software on both phones is quite different. The Pixel 6 has a flavor of Android 12 that’s directly coming from Google. The Pixel experience is essentially AOSP — more commonly known as stock Android with some additional Pixel-exclusive features and tweaks. It’s arguably the best vanilla Android experience that you can get on a smartphone with updates being handled directly by Google. You get all the new Android 12 features including Material You and all the Pixel-exclusive goodies like live translate, face unblur, magic eraser, etc.
On the other hand, the Galaxy S21 Plus comes with Samsung’s One UI skin on top of Android. One UI is one of the best custom skins out there with an ample amount of features and customization options. You also get additional features like Dex which turns your smartphone into a computer when plugged into a display. Samsung has also had a good track record with updates recently. The Galaxy S21 Plus is going to receive three years of Android updates which is as good as the Pixel 6. However, the S21 Plus came with Android 11 out of the box so it’s going to get one update lesser than the Pixel 6 that came with Android 12.
This is an area where the Pixel 6 absolutely shines. While the Galaxy S21 Plus does click some good pictures, the Pixel 6 just does better. The Pixel 6 has a higher resolution primary sensor which captures more details. It’s also better at low-light photography compared to the Galaxy S21 Plus. Google’s Night Sight mode is quite magical and captures more light than the night mode on the Galaxy S21 Plus. The still images clicked by the Pixel 6 in almost all scenarios are better. The same applies to the ultra-wide camera. The Galaxy S21 Plus has a wider FoV but the Pixel 6 clicks better images.
That’s not saying the Galaxy S21 Plus is bad by any means. It’s still got a good set of cameras that produce photos with eye-catchy colors. The colors look slightly boosted on the images shot by the Galaxy S21 Plus and the dynamic range looks great. In fact, the Galaxy S21 Plus even has a slight hardware advantage here in the form of a dedicated 64MP zoom lens that the Pixel 6 lacks. However, it’s just a 3X hybrid zoom lens which isn’t that useful anyhow except while capturing portrait mode shots.
The Pixel 6 also outputs images with slightly boosted colors and contrast, but it looks more pleasing to the eyes compared to the shots from the Galaxy S21 Plus. Selfies are good on both phones with no clear winner. In terms of images, the Pixel 6 captures photos that are pleasing to look at which probably makes it a better pick for the average consumer, despite the Galaxy S21 Plus having an extra lens.
In terms of videos, both phones are similar with not a lot to tell them apart. The Pixel 6 has improved considerably in terms of video recording over the Pixel 5 and all other previous-gen Pixel phones. The videos shot using both phones are crisp, stable, and the colors look great too. The Galaxy S21 Plus offers more software features here though like the ability to shoot from multiple lenses at the same time which makes it a slightly more versatile option in terms of video recording.
Overall, we would suggest picking up the Pixel 6 if cameras are your priority. The Pixel 6 produces photos that can be readily posted to social media.
Battery Life and Charging
The Pixel 6 has a 4,614mAh battery whereas the Galaxy S21 Plus has a marginally larger 4,800mAh battery. However, the Galaxy S21 Plus also has a considerably larger display with a higher refresh rate to offset the advantage it gains with a larger capacity battery. If you’re considering the Snapdragon 888 version of the Galaxy S21 Plus, you are going to get a slightly better battery life when compared to the Exynos 2100. In between the Exynos 2100 variant of the S21 Plus and the Pixel 6, the battery life would mostly be similar. Both phones aren’t battery champs so expect to be looking for a charger by the end of the day with both phones.
Speaking of charging, the Galaxy S21 Plus supports fast charging up to 25W while the Pixel 6 can go up to 23W. Not a lot of difference here. Both phones have wireless charging too with the S21 Plus capping out at 15W and the Pixel 6 going till 21W.
Pixel 6 vs Galaxy S21 Plus: Which one should you buy?
The Pixel 6 starts at $699 in the US, while the Galaxy S21 Plus can cost the same or be more expensive depending on where you get it from and in what condition. Considering that, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pick up the Galaxy S21 Plus unless you really want a larger display, or you’re getting the Snapdragon 888 variant of the phone which helps with better gaming performance. Other than that, the Pixel 6 is a more practical choice since it’s a newer device that has better cameras, a refreshing design, and all the software goodness that you get with a Pixel smartphone — all for a lesser or equal price.
You can take a look at our Pixel 6 review to know more about the device before making a buying decision.
Which one are you going to buy — the Pixel 6 or the Galaxy S21 Plus? Let us know in the comments below! You can check out the best Pixel 6 deals if you plan to buy the phone and also the best Pixel 6 cases or the best Galaxy S21 Plus cases to protect either of the two devices.