Samsung Galaxy S21 is finally here. One of the most highly anticipated Android flagships of the year, the Galaxy S21 arrives rocking a new design, blazing-fast internals, better imaging capabilities, and of course, a host of new software tricks. Starting at $800, the Galaxy S21 goes up against a venerable opponent that has received a ton of acclaim  – the Google Pixel 5. The Pixel smartphones come with our own unique set of advantages, and Pixel 5 is no exception. Torn between the two new Samsung flagship and Google’s offering? This Galaxy S21 vs Pixel 5 comparison will certainly help answer some of your questions:

Design

The Galaxy S21 flaunts a fresh new design, thanks to a redesigned rear camera island that appears to meet the metallic sides seamlessly. The new approach looks fresh and makes the Galaxy S21 stand out, especially the dual-tone approach taken by the purple color option. The build is again IP68-certified, which means the handle dunking in a bucket of water without any issues.

Galaxy S21 series

Authentication on the Galaxy S21 is handled by an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor under the display. However, Samsung has made a cost-cutting decision here that will leave many buyers who’ve spent north of $800 on the Samsung flagship. The company has decided to use plastic for making the Galaxy S21, while its pricier Plus and Ultra siblings stick with metal and glass.

Drawbacks aside, the Galaxy S21 comes equipped with AKG-tuned stereo speakers to provide an immersive audio output. Another aesthetic change is that the Galaxy S21 rocks a flat panel, unlike the curved screen on its predecessor. The bezels, on the other hand, have shrunk further, giving the Galaxy S21 an even more appealing look. As for color options, you can choose between Phantom Grey, Phantom White, Phantom Violet, and Phantom Pink color options. 

pocketnow google pixel 5

Coming to Google Pixel 5, it is made out of plastic with a grippy matte texture on the rear panel. The bezels on the Google flagship are uniformly thin and give it a clean look, while the front camera hole-punch is located on the left corner unlike the top-center approach taken by the Galaxy S21. As for color options, you can choose between Just Black and Sorta Sage tricks, but the former is the one you should pick. Trust me, it looks stunning!

And just like the Galaxy S21, the Google Pixel 5 also comes with an IP68 dust and water resistance certification. However, there are is another difference between the Samsung and Google offerings. The Pixel 5 has a rear-mounted physical fingerprint sensor which can also be used to see the notifications with a downward swipe gesture. 

Display

Galaxy S21 Ultra display

Samsung has equipped the Galaxy S21 with a 6.7-inch FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels) Dynamic AMOLED 2x display with a peak brightness of 1300 nits. There is a layer of Gorilla Glass 7 on the front for protection. The display offers a 120Hz refresh rate, however, the refresh rate value can go as low as 48Hz depending on the content you’re watching. Samsung is sticking with the Infinity-O design language, which means the selfie camera hole-punch is located in the middle alongside the top edge. 

As for Pixel 5, it features a smaller 6-inch FHD+ (1080 x 2340) display that translates to a slightly higher pixel density of 421PPI. The display, however, offers a lower refresh rate of 90Hz. However, I can say from personal experience that the difference between 90Hz and 120Hz is hard to notice with the naked eyes, unlike the discernible gap between the experience on a 60Hz vs 90Hz screen. The hole punch cutout on Google’s offering is located in the top-left corner. 

Internals

Now, this is one area where the Galaxy S21 is miles ahead of the Pixel 5 in terms of on-paper firepower. Samsung has equipped its latest flagship with Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC that ticks in tandem with 8 gigs of RAM and 128GB / 256GB of onboard storage. Unfortunately, there is no scope for storage expansion. However, in some regions, Samsung will offer an Exynos 2100-powered model that is also based on the 5nm process and offers 5G support.

Google Pixel 5 rear pocketnow

Switching over to the Pixel 5, Google has armed with the octa-core Snapdragon 765G processor. It is paired with a healthy 8GB RAM and 128GB of non-expandable internal storage. There is also the in-house Titan M security chip inside for handling and storing sensitive data. 

Now, the Snapdragon 888 SoC powering the Galaxy S121 is far ahead of the Snapdragon 765G chip inside the Pixel 5. Even the most demanding games will run at their peak graphics settings on the Samsung device and will continue to do so for at least the next couple of years.

The Snapdragon 765G inside the Google offering is quite capable on its own, but it does face a performance bottleneck when it comes to graphics-intensive that push the graphics prowess of a smartphone chip to its limits. For day-to-day activities though, the Pixel 5 will run as smoothly as any other Android flagship chip out there. 

Here’s a detailed specs comparison of the Galaxy S21 against the Google Pixel 5:

Samsung Galaxy S21Google Pixel 5
6.2-inch Infinity-O
Dynamic AMOLED 2X
FHD + (2400 x 1080 pixels)
120Hz refresh rate
1300 nit peak brightness
421 PPI pixel density
Gorilla Glass 7
6.0-inch
FHD+ (1080 x 2340) Flexible OLED
19.5:9 aspect ratio
432 ppi pixel density
HDR support
90Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Exynos 2100
Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
8GB RAM8 GB LPDDR4x RAM
128GB / 256GB storage128 GB storage
12MP primary camera
(f/1.8, 1/1.76-inch, 1.8µm, OIS)
12MP ultra-wide camera
(f/2.2, 120°, 1/2.55-inch, 1.4µm)
64MP telephoto camera
(f/2.0, 1/1.76-inch, 0.8µm,
OIS)
3x hybrid optical zoom
12.2MP primary camera
(f/1.7, OIS, 77° FOV, 1.4μm)
16MP ultra-wide camera
(f/2.2, 107° FOV, 1.0μm)
4K at 30/60 FPS
8K at 30 FPS
FHD at 30/60/120 FPS
Slo-mo HD at 960 FPS
4K at 30/60 FPS
FHD at 30/60/120 FPS
Slo-mo HD at 240 FPS
10 MP front camera
(f/2.2, 80°, 1/3.24-inch, 1.22µm)
8MP front camera
(f/2.0, 1.12μm, 83° FOV)
4,000 mAh4080 mAh
Grey, Pink, Purple, WhiteJust Black, Sorta Sage
IP68 certified
Wireless PowerShare
Dual-SIM (Nano + e-SIM)
IP68 certified
18W fast charging (USB-PD 2.0)
Qi wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
151.7×71.2×7.9 mm144.7×70.4×8.0 mm
171 grams151 grams
5G, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC,
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax
5G, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC,
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
(Note: This table is best viewed in landscape mode on mobile)

Cameras

Cameras of Galaxy S21

The camera department is where the Galaxy S21 overshadows the Pixel 5 in terms of versatility and raw capabilities. The Samsung flagship comes equipped with an optically-stabilized 12MP primary camera, sitting alongside a 12MP ultra-wide-angle camera, and a 64MP telephoto camera that provides 3x optical zoom output. On the front, is a 10MP selfie snapper. The device can capture 8K videos and slo-mo HD clips at 960fps frame rate. 

Pixel 5, on the other hand, only has two cameras at the back. You get an optically-stabilized 12.2MP primary camera that sits alongside a 16MP wide-angle snapper. Selfie and video calling duties are handled by an 8MP camera. On the Google offering, video capture is capped at 60FPS ay 4K resolution, while slo-mo HD videos can only go up to 240FPS. 

It goes without saying that camera hardware is only half the picture, as the actual performance also depends on how well the camera sensor has been optimized and the imaging software behind it. The Pixel 5 has been praised for its photography prowess, but it would be too early to pass a verdict right now. We’ll soon be doing an in-depth Galaxy S21 review to see how well its cameras perform and whether it can top the Pixel 5. So, stay tuned for that!

Battery

Samsung Galaxy S21 Phantom Black

The Galaxy S21 comes with a 4,000mAh battery that supports wired fast charging as well as wireless charging. And thanks to Reverse Power Share, you can also use the phone to charge other devices as well. Pixel 5 features a 4,080mAh battery that supports 18W fast charging, wireless charging as well as reverse wireless charging for juicing up other accessories.  

Software

Now, this is another major deciding factor for those looking to buy a premium feature. The Galaxy S21 runs Android 11-based One UI 3.1 skin that offers a deep level of customization and a ton of useful features. The Pixel 5, on the other hand, boots the purest form of Android 11 with a host of Pixel-exclusive tricks in tow. 

A major advantage of going with the Pixel 5 is that you will receive three assured Android upgrades and monthly security updates as well as feature drops for adding new tricks on a regular basis. However, One UI 3.1 offers its own set of additional features that you’ll miss out on stock Android. But do keep in mind that the update situation with Samsung phones often comes with its own fair share of delays. 

Pricing

As for the pricing part, the Samsung Galaxy S21 starts at $799.99, while the Google Pixel 5 will set you back by a minimum of $649.99 a pop. Given their asking price, both the phones offer a terrific value for your money. So, it would ultimately boil down to how much firepower you want (in which case the Galaxy S21 wins), or if you desire a perfectly capable phone without spending too much, then the Pixel 5 is just about the best choice in that segment.

    Samsung Galaxy S21
      Bringing down the entry point for its Galaxy S flagship by a massive $200 is an excellent strategy. The device still rocks a fire-breathing processor, powerful cameras with a ton of tricks, a beautiful design, and feature-laden software.
      Google Pixel 5
        Google decided to skip a flagship processor this year in favor of bringing down the asking price for the Pixel 5, and this strategy actually works. You get a beautiful design, impressive cameras with the signature Pixel imaging experience, and an unparalleled software experience.
      I’ve been writing about consumer technology for over three years now, having worked with names such as NDTV and Beebom in the past. Aside from covering the latest news, I’ve reviewed my fair share of devices ranging from smartphones and laptops to smart home devices. I also have interviewed tech execs and appeared as a host in YouTube videos talking about the latest and greatest gadgets out there.
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