Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Google Pixel 5 cameras
Adam Molina / Android Authority

Samsung unveiled its first 2021 flagship earlier than usual, taking the wraps off of the Galaxy S21 series at an event in January. Once again, three devices make up the series. The Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus, and Galaxy S21 Ultra will be vying for your attention and dollars. Of course, the first question on many people’s minds is how the phones stack up against the best phones you can buy, which includes Google’s Pixel 5. Here’s a quick look at the Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Google Pixel 5!

Our verdict: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review


Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Google Pixel 5


Specs

Google Pixel 5Samsung Galaxy S21Samsung Galaxy S21 PlusSamsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Display
Google Pixel 5:
6-inch OLED
FHD+
2,340 x 1,080 at 432ppi
90Hz refresh rate
19.5:9 aspect ratio
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 5:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
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 5:
8GB
Samsung Galaxy S21:
8GB
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
8GB
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
12 or 16GB
Storage
Google Pixel 5:
128GB
Samsung Galaxy S21:
128 or 256GB
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
128 or 256GB
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
128, 256, or 512GB
MicroSD
Google Pixel 5:
No
Samsung Galaxy S21:
No
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
No
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
No
Battery
Google Pixel 5:
4,080mAh
Fast wired charging
Wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
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 5:
Rear:
-12.2MP, f/1.7 aperture, 1.4µm pixels, optical + electronic image stabilization
- 16MP, f/2.2 aperture, 1 micron pixel, ultra-wide (107-degree FoV)
4K at 60fps/30fps
Front:
8MP sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 1.12µm pixels, fixed focus, 83-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
Connectivity
Google Pixel 5:
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Samsung Galaxy S21:
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Operating System
Google Pixel 5:
Android 11
Samsung Galaxy S21:
One UI 3.1
Android 11
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
One UI 3.1
Android 11
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
One UI 3.1
Android 11
Water resistance
Google Pixel 5:
IP68
Samsung Galaxy S21:
IP68
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
IP68
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
IP68
Color
Google Pixel 5:
Just Black, Sorta Sage
Samsung Galaxy S21:
128GB in Phantom Violet, Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, and Phantom White
256GB only in Phantom Gray
Future colors: Phantom Gold and Phantom Red
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
128GB in Phantom Violet, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Black
256GB only in Phantom Black
Future colors: Phantom Gold and Phantom Red
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
128 GB in Phantom Silver and Phantom Black
256 and 512GB in Phantom Black
Future colors: Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, and Phantom Brown
Dimensions and weight
Google Pixel 5:
144.7 x 70.4 x 8mm
151g
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

Design

Samsung continues to refine the Galaxy S series design, with a particular focus on the rear camera housing. The “contour cut” camera looks sleeker and more aesthetically pleasing, especially with the options that offer contrasting colors. There’s still a significant camera bump, but it looks a lot better at first glance.

The regular Galaxy S21 comes with a “glasstic” build that is less premium but more durable than the all-glass bodies of the Plus and Ultra. A punch-hole to house the front-facing camera is the only blemish on the near bezel-less front. These are all good-looking devices, offering an improvement over their predecessors.

Our first impressions: Samsung Galaxy S21 series — cheaper, but are they better?

On the other hand, the Pixel 5’s design is a dramatic overhaul compared to previous generations. A punch-hole notch is tucked away in the corner, and the thin bezels are welcome. However, the physical fingerprint scanner and dual rear camera setup give the phone an old-school feel, which is furthered by the feel of the textured aluminum chassis.

The Sorta Sage colorway is the standout, but the Pixel 5’s design is a lot more muted than what you get with the Samsung Galaxy S21 devices.


Features

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Google Pixel 5 2
Adam Molina / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus are quite similar. The major difference is the display’s size — 6.2-inch vs 6.7-inch — and the battery capacity. You get flat displays with a Full HD+ resolution with the two. Additionally, both have the same Snapdragon 888 processing package (Exynos 2100 in global markets), 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of storage, and an identical camera setup.

See also: Which Samsung Galaxy S21 phone is right for you?

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the one you want if you want to kick things up a notch. The display is curved, a touch larger at 6.8-inch, and with a higher QHD+ resolution. However, all three come with an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate. While the processor is the same, you can go up to a whopping 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage as well.

Additionally, the Galaxy S21 Ultra stands apart from its siblings by being the first Galaxy S phone to feature S Pen support. Nevertheless, you won’t get a built-in slot for the stylus and unlike the Galaxy Note series, you’ll have to buy it separately.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Google Pixel 5 1
Adam Molina / Android Authority

Unfortunately, the Pixel 5 is at a lower level compared to the new Galaxy S21 range where raw power is concerned. You get the Snapdragon 765G under the hood, backed by 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The 6-inch Full HD display’s 90Hz refresh rate and stock Android contribute to smooth performance. Even so, the Pixel 5 is not going to win any performance races against the Galaxy S21 series phones.

The Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, and S21 Ultra come with 4,000mAh, 4,800mAh, and 5,000mAh batteries respectively. The Galaxy S21 devices offer exceptional battery life, with the phones comfortably providing more than a day of use, and even longer with the S21 Ultra. Even with a comparatively smaller battery, the S21 offers around 8.2 hours of screen-on time. The Pixel 5’s 4,080mAh offers impressive battery life, with Android Authority’s own David Imel enjoying up to eight hours of screen-on time in his review.

The Galaxy S21 and Pixel 5 are comparable flagships, but Samsung's phones smash Google's for raw power.

All four phones feature high-end staples like an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, fast charging, and wireless charging. You can also use them to charge other phones and peripherals, like smartwatches and wireless earbuds, with their reverse wireless charging feature.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus come with a 12MP wide-angle lens, a 12MP ultra-wide angle shooter, and a 64MP telephoto lens. In contrast, the Galaxy S21 Ultra bumps the primary telephoto to 108MP and tacks on a second 10MP telephoto as well. Unsurprisingly, the phones can shoot excellent photos and videos. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the most versatile of the lot and its 108MP telephoto lens is truly impressive. The cameras run into usual issues with low-light photography, but overall, these are among the best camera phones around.

The Pixel 5 falls behind on the spec sheet in this regard as well, with “just” a dual rear camera setup, comprising a 12.2MP primary shooter and 16MP ultra-wide lens. However, Google relies on software to bolster camera performance, and it’s no surprise that the Pixel 5 is one of the best camera phones you can get.


Price

The Samsung Galaxy S21, Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra start at $799.99, $999.99, and $1,199, respectively. In the UK and Europe, the series is priced at £769/€849, £949/€1,049, and £1,149/€1,249, respectively.

On the other hand, you can get the Pixel 5 for $699/£599/€629.

Google Pixel 5 taking a photo 4 1
Google Pixel 5
Google's first 5G smartphone
The Google Pixel 5 may not be the high-end Pixel we were expecting, but it's a pretty compelling mid-range option. Google is going back to basics with the Pixel 5, ditching higher-end features like face recognition and the quirky Motion Sense gestures.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Google Pixel 5: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Google Pixel 5 2
Adam Molina / Android Authority

It’s flagship vs upper mid-ranger, and the flagship unsurprisingly takes the win if you value performance over all else. Of course, the Galaxy S21 Plus and S21 Ultra are far more expensive as well.

The most interesting comparison is between the Pixel 5 and Galaxy S21 though. Samsung is carrying forward the lessons from the Galaxy S20 FE, with the Galaxy S21’s $799 making for a very enticing option. It brings flagship performance, a flashier design, and a more feature-packed camera for $100 more.

The Pixel 5 is slightly smaller, understated, comes with the promise of timely updates, and takes fantastic photos. The Google phone is one of the best in this price range the Galaxy S21 offers more bang for your buck. While far more expensive, if you want the most feature-packed of the lot, one of the best you can get is the Galaxy S21 Ultra.