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Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: Which uber flagship should you buy?

By Nadeem Sarwar January 22, 2021, 7:00 am
galaxy s21 ultra vs iphone 12 pro max

Samsung has lifted the covers from its latest-and-greatest, the Galaxy S21 Ultra. As the name makes it abundantly clear, this device is the best that Samsung has to offer, especially in terms of camera capabilities. And it doesn’t take much of a wild guess to determine its biggest rival – the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The Apple offering has received widespread praise for its camera prowess, in addition to its design and the firepower it brings to the table. Not one to back off, Samsung is also offering cutting-edge smartphone hardware and some neat camera tricks with its crown jewel. Here’s our detailed Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max comparison to help you pick the device that meets your requirements.


Design and build quality

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra has a glass and metal build, but it has a curvier profile. As for the iPhone 12 Pro Max, it also employs stainless steel and glass on both sides, but the rails are flat and the edges are much sharper here. Both the devices are huge, and they’re quite hefty as well. But then, you already know what you’re getting into here.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

You get IP68 certification on both devices, which means you won’t have to worry about accidental liquid splashes damaging your pricey purchase. However, we advise putting a case on your phone to avoid the exorbitant repair costs charged by Apple and Samsung. And to save you the hassle of searching endless Amazon and BestBuy pages, we’ve rounded up the best Galaxy S21 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro max protective cases that you can read on the Pocketnow website.


Coming to the internals, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra draws power from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC, but some markets will get the Exynos 2100 powered model. There is a copious 12GB of RAM and up to 512GB of onboard storage. Notably, there is also a MicroSD slot for storage expansion up to 1TB.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max, on the other hand, comes equipped with the A14 Bionic chipset, which is also based on the 5nm process, just like the Snapdragon 888 and the Exynos 2100 SoC.  While Apple has not disclosed the amount of RAM, you can choose from 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB storage options.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

When it comes to raw performance, both the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro are blazing fast, and they’ll continue to handle even the most demanding tasks and games with ease, for at least the next couple of years.

Both are fast, but you really have to choose the ecosystem here

What you really have to choose here is the software ecosystem, with both iOS and Android offering their own set of unique advantages and disadvantages. If you’re already heavily invested in Apple’s software and hardware ecosystem, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is what you should look at. But if the endless scope for customization and an open ecosystem offered by Android is something you value, the Galaxy S21 Ultra running Android 11-based OneUI 3.1 skin will serve you just fine.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra comes equipped with a 5,000 mAh battery that supports fast wired charging, wireless charging as well as the ability to wirelessly charge other accessories. Apple has not revealed the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s battery capacity in mAh figures but claims that the phone can last up to 20 hours of local video playback and up to 12 hours of streaming video playback. There is support for 20W wired fast charging, wireless charging peaks at 15W using the in-house MagSafe charger, while Qi-chargers bring down the charging output to 7.5W.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Both the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro Max are 5G-ready, with support for both mmWave and Sub-6GHz bands. Wireless connectivity is handled by Wi-Fi 802.11ax and NFC on the Samsung as well as Apple offerings.


Display quality is one key area where the Galaxy S21 Ultra reigns supreme over the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The Samsung flagship rocks a 6.8-inch Infinity-O Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with WQHD + (3200 x 1440 pixels) resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 515PPI. The brightness output is capped at 1600 nits, while a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass Victus is there to protect it from abrasive forces and mechanical damage.

Yes, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a better display

Notably, the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s display offers a peak refresh rate of 120Hz. However, the refresh rate value can fall as low as 11Hz depending on the on-screen content. In comparison, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is still limited to a 60Hz OLED panel, which is quite disappointing given the phone’s asking price.

iPhone 12 Pro Max display

The Apple device comes equipped with a 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display with True Tone calibration, wide P3 color gamut support, and a contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1. The resolution is 2778×1284 pixels, which translates to a pixel density of 458PPI. There is an oleophobic coating on top, while the Ceramic Shield layer is there for protection.


The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra’s imaging hardware is headlined by a 108MP primary camera, a 12MP ultra-wide angle shooter, a 10MP telephoto lens with 3X optical zoom output, and another 10MP telephoto camera that relies on a periscope system and offers 10x hybrid optical zoom output. There’s a massive 40MP sensor on the front to handle selfies and video calls. The Galaxy S21 Ultra can capture 4K videos at up to 60FPS, 1080p videos at a peak frame rate of 120FPS, while super slo-mo HD videos go up to 960FPS.

Samsung is truly taking the fight to Apple in the camera department

Coming to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, you get three 12MP cameras at the back – a wide sensor, an ultra-wide-angle snapper, and a telephoto camera with 5x optical zoom output. There is also a LiDAR sensor that Apple says will come in handy when it comes to handling low-light photography and some AR applications as well. On the front, there is a 12MP selfie snapper that is a part of the Face ID system for authentication. Talking about the security aspect though, the Galaxy S21 Ultra employs the second-gen Ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor by Qualcomm.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Cameras

Now, the camera hardware is only half the story when it comes to actual imaging performance. And this is one area where Apple appears to have the upper hand in terms of camera-centric features, but only if you are serious about pro-grade camera features. The iPhone 12 Pro Max allows Dolby Vision HDR video capture, and also the ability to natively play and edit them. 

Additionally, you also get access to the Apple ProRAW mode that amalgamates the advantages of RAW capture and Apple’s own computational techniques to offer photography enthusiasts more editing controls. Additionally, the iPhone 12 Pro Max also allows users to capture low-light portrait shots, and the front camera has also gained support for Night Mode as well as Deep Fusion too.

Samsung’s answer to Apple’s camera tricks is the ability to capture HDR and RAW shots in 12-bit, which essentially means better color transition and lesser color noise in images. While telling the difference between 10-bit and 12-bit images with naked eyes is tough, it is something that matters to professionals.

Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with a ton of impressive camera tricks and upgrades

Other camera features include the render an image in 8K resolution with 8K snap, improved portrait and night mode, a dual-telephoto lens that offers a much higher 10x optical zoom, and the class-leading 100x Space Zoom. Notably, the 100X Space Zoom capability with the new Zoom lock trick makes the feature way more useful as it fixes some well-known issues with panning and focusing at high zoom levels. Then there is Director’s View, Vlogger View, and multi-mic recording.

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: Pricing 

Let’s talk about the pricing now. The Galaxy S21 Ultra starts at an eye-watering $1,299.99 and comes in Phantom Grey and Phantom Silver color options. Coming to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, it starts at $1,099 and goes all the way up to $1,400 for the 512GB storage configuration.

Samsung Galaxy S21 UltraiPhone 12 Pro Max
6.8-inch Infinity-O
Dynamic AMOLED 2X
WQHD + (3200 x 1440 pixels)
120Hz refresh rate
1600 nit peak brightness
515 PPI pixel density
Gorilla Glass Victus
6.7‑inch OLED
Super Retina XDR display
458PPI pixel density
1200 nits peak brightness
Ceramic Shield
2,000,000:1 contrast ratio
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Exynos 2100
A14 Bionic
128GB / 256GB / 512GB128GB / 256GB / 512GB
108MP primary camera
(f/1.8, 1/1.33-inch, 0.8µm, OIS)
12MP ultra-wide camera
(f/2.2, 120°, 1/2.55-inch, 1.4µm)
10 MP telephoto camera
(f/2.4, 1/3.24-inch, 1.22 µm, OIS)
3x hybrid optical zoom
10 MP telephoto camera
(f/4.9, 1/3.24-inch, 1.22 µm, OIS)
10x hybrid optical zoom
12MP primary camera
(ƒ/1.6 aperture)
12MP ultra-wide camera
(ƒ/2.4 aperture)
12MP telephoto camera
(ƒ/2.2 aperture)
5x optical zoom range
4K at 30/60 FPS
8K at 30 FPS
FHD at 30/60/120 FPS
Slo-mo HD at 960 FPS
4K at 24/25/30/60FPS
1080p at 25/30/60/120/240 FPS
40 MP front camera
(f/2.2, 80°, 1/2.8-inch,
0.7 µm)
12MP front camera
(ƒ/2.2 aperture)
5,000 mAh
Silver, BlackSilver, Graphite, Gold, Pacific Blue
IP68 certified
Wireless PowerShare
Dual-SIM (Nano + e-SIM)
IP68 certified
Wireless Charging
MagSafe Charging
Dual SIM (nano‑SIM and eSIM)
165.1×75.6×8.9 mm160.8×78.1×7.4  mm
228 grams228 grams
5G, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC,
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax
5G, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax
stock samsung galaxy s21 ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung nade justice to the Ultra moniker this year, and also brought down the price by $200. The device comes equipped with four rear cameras, two of which are telephoto lenses that offer up to 10x optical zoom range. Plus, the camera features are truly impressive on this device.

iphone 12 pro max stock

iPhone 12 Pro Max

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is an embodiment of the best that Apple has to offer, and then some more. The phone is blazing fast and looks terrific, but it’s the camera hardware and tricks such as Dolby Vision HDR and Apple ProRAW that set it above others.


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