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

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

Samsung has established itself as one of the leaders of the Android smartphone space. Barring an occasional misfire, the company has consistently produced some fantastic flagship smartphones. So whenever another Android manufacturer produces a flagship, it gets compared to the Samsung flagship. As a part of the same tradition, now it’s the turn of Pixel 6 to get this treatment with the Galaxy S21.

This article will pit the Google Pixel 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 to see how the two flagships stack up against each other.

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Google Pixel 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: Specifications

Specification Google Pixel 6 Samsung Galaxy S21
Dimensions and Weight
  • 158.6 x 74.8 x 8.9 mm
  • 207g
  • 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm
  • 171g
Display
  • 6.4-inch AMOLED
  • FHD+ (1080 x 2340)
  • Centered hole-punch
  • 90Hz display refresh rate
  • HDR10+ support
  • High brightness mode
  • Full 24-bit depth for 16 million colors
  • Gorilla Glass Victus
  • 6.2-inch AMOLED
  • FHD+ (1080 x 2400)
  • Centered hole-punch
  • 120Hz display refresh rate
  • HDR10+ support
  • Full 24-bit depth for 16 million colors
  • Gorilla Glass Victus
SoC
  • Google Tensor octa-core chipset
    • Titan M2 security chip
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC
RAM and Storage
  • 8GB LPDDR5 RAM
  • 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 flash storage
  • 8GB LPDDR5 RAM
  • 128GB/ 256GB UFS 3.1 flash storage
Battery & Charging
  • 4,600mAh battery
  • 30W fast charging
  • 21W fast wireless charging
  • 4,000mAh battery
  • 25W fast charging
  • 15W fast wireless charging
Rear Cameras
  • Primary: 50MP f/1.8 Samsung GN1 primary camera
  • Secondary: 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera, 114-degree FOV
  • Primary: 12MP f/1.8 primary camera, OIS
  • Secondary: 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera
  • Tertiary: 64MP telephoto
Front Camera 8MP f/2.0 10MP f/2.2
Ports USB Type-C port
  • USB Type-C port
Connectivity
  • 5G NR (Sub-6GHz, mmWave)
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • Type-C port
  • WiFi 802.11.b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz + 5GHz)
  • 5G NR (Sub-6GHz and mmWave)
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • Type-C port
  • WiFi 802.11.b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4GHz + 5GHz)
Software
  • Android 12
  • Three years of OS updates
  • Five years of security updates
  • Android 11
  • Three years of OS updates
  • Four years of security updates
Other features
  • Optical under-display fingerprint reader
  • Stereo speakers
  • IP68 dust and water resistance
  • Under-display fingerprint reader
  • IP68 water and dust resistance
  • Stereo speakers

Design and Display

Pixel 6 display

Google Pixel 6

There is nothing extraordinary about the design of either Pixel 6 or Galaxy S21. But both smartphones look great and have a premium look. While the Pixel 6 is a glass sandwich, Samsung has opted for a plastic back on the S21, unlike other S21 series phones.

The plastic back of the S21 has a matte finish and doesn’t look cheap. While glass certainly looks better, plastic has an advantage in terms of durability. And as most people use a case with their phone, the back is anyway going to be hidden. While we are on the topic of cases, make sure to check out our handpicked best Pixel 6 cases and Galaxy S21 cases if you end up buying one of these phones.

Although the Pixel 6 is the smaller phone in the Pixel 6 series, it’s still a massive phone with a 6.4-inch screen. On the other hand, the S21 feels reasonably smaller with its 6.2-inch screen and better screen-to-body ratio. Thanks to its plastic back and smaller overall footprint, the Samsung phone is also over 35 grams lighter than the Pixel.

While both the Pixel 6 and the Galaxy S21 use AMOLED panels, Samsung has gone with a 120Hz screen, whereas the Pixel 6 has a 90Hz display. In addition, the S21 screen gets slightly brighter than the Pixel 6.

Overall, the Galaxy S21 has a slight advantage on the display front with its higher refresh rate screen and brightness. That said, most people won’t be able to tell the difference between a 90Hz panel and a 120Hz panel.

Processor, RAM, and Storage

Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21

Instead of relying on Qualcomm for a smartphone chip, Google developed its own chip this year based on Samsung Exynos 2100. This Tensor chip powers the Pixel 6, and it’s a pretty good first attempt. Like all flagship-grade chips, it can handle everything with ease, and you won’t have to worry about lag or stuttering. The chip also helps Google offer several machine learning and artificial intelligence-backed features right on the device, which won’t be possible on other smartphone chips.

Samsung has gone with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC in the US, and other markets get the Exynos 2100 SoC. Snapdragon 888 is a top-notch processor, and we have already seen its excellent performance in several phones this year.

In addition, both phones have 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of onboard storage.

Google Pixel 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: Cameras

Pixel 6 battery

Google Pixel 6

The Pixel phones are known for their prowess, but Samsung flagships aren’t slackers either in this department. As a result, both the Pixel 6 and Galaxy S21 take amazing photos, and picking between them depends on which aesthetic you prefer. For example, the Pixel 6 photos have high contrast and a cooler white balance, whereas the Galaxy S21 photos have an oversaturated look and high brightness.

In terms of raw camera specifications, you get a 50MP primary shooter (takes 12.5MP photos), a 12MP wide-angle camera, and an 8MP selfie shooter. The Galaxy S21 has a 12MP primary camera, a 12MP wide-angle shooter, a 64MP telephoto shooter, and a 10MP selfie camera.

All in all, S21’s telephoto shooter gives the phone one advantage over the Pixel 6, which, unlike the Pixel 6 Pro, doesn’t have a telephoto camera. So if you like to take a lot of photos with the telephoto camera, you are better off with the Samsung phone.

Battery, Connectivity, and OS

Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21

The Pixel 6 houses a 4,614mAh battery, whereas you get a 4,000mAh battery with the S21. This difference in the battery size impacts how long the two phones last. While both phones will easily power through an entire day on a single charge, the moderate user will be able to steal another half day on the Pixel 6, which is harder on the S21.

The Galaxy S21 has a slight edge in fast charging capabilities as the phone supports 25W fast charging. While the Pixel 6 comes with an advertised fast charging speed of 30W, the phone can only charge up to at 21W. Meaning the S21 will charge quicker than the Pixel 6 with a compatible fast charger.

In terms of connectivity, the S21 supports both mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G on all three major operators—AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon—in the US. On the other hand, Pixel 6 supports mmWave 5G only on AT&T and Verizon, T-Mobile users get stuck with sub-6GHz 5G support.

On the software front, the Pixel 6 runs stock Android 12 out of the box. The Galaxy S21 comes with Android 11 with One UI. But it is already receiving the Android 12 and One UI 4.0 update.

In addition, the Pixel 6 and the S21 will both get three years of Android updates. But the Galaxy S21 will only get four years of security patches, compared to five years for the Pixel 6.

Pricing and Color Options

Pixel 6 vs iPhone 13

Google Pixel 6

Google has priced the Pixel 6 quite aggressively. It starts at $599 for the 128GB version. On the other hand, the S21 retails beginning at $799. This difference in pricing gives Pixel a significant edge over the Samsung phone.

There are three color options for the Pixel 6—Stormy Black, Kinda Coral, and Sorta Seafoam—whereas the S21 comes in four colors—Phantom Violet, Phantom Gray, Phantom White, and Phantom Pink.

Google Pixel 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: Verdict

Given the price difference between the Galaxy S21 and Pixel 6, the Google phone certainly seems like a better purchase. But if you prefer a 120Hz display or telephoto shooter and can snag the Samsung phone for cheap during a sale, it’s also an excellent buy. On the other hand, if you don’t care for these two things, the Pixel 6 is a pretty well-rounded package at a great price.

Which of the two phones are you planning to buy? Let us know in the comments section. Meanwhile, don’t forget to check the best deals on the Pixel 6 and the Galaxy S21 to save some money. We’ve also picked the best screen protectors for the Pixel 6 and the Galaxy S21, which can help you safeguard those AMOLED displays from scratches.

    The Pixel 6 comes with Google's new Tensor chip, a modern design, and flagship cameras.
    The Samsung Galaxy S21 is the starting point of the new 2021 flagship series, packing in a flagship SoC, along with a decent display and camera setup.

About author

Gaurav Shukla
Gaurav Shukla

Gaurav has been covering technology for over a decade now. He has done everything from blogging about Android to reporting the latest from the world of Internet giants. When he is not writing about the tech companies, he can be found binge-watching new TV series on the web. You can reach Gaurav at [email protected]

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