Google Pixel 6 Pro destroyed by Samsung Galaxy S21 in 5G testing

Pixel 6 Pro vs Galaxy S21 Ultra
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are excellent phones, both have been hit with bizarre glitches and setbacks that have detracted from an otherwise well-received launch. And now a new report confirms previously reported fears about Google's phones: 5G performance lags behind other flagships.

According to a report from PCMag, the Pixel 6 Pro's 5G performance fails to match that of the Samsung Galaxy S21. As we noted last month, the Pixel 6 uses Samsung's Exynos 5123b modem, along with its custom Tensor processor. The problem is that Samsung's model is from last year, and when looking at other phones that used the chip, it couldn't match the 5G speed recorded by phones using this year's Qualcomm X60 modem. 

The latest report adds more concrete numbers to what we suspected. When testing on Verizon's excellent, if finicky, millimeter-wave (mmWave) 5G network, PCMag pulled in speeds that broke 2Gbps on the Galaxy S21. The Pixel 6, by comparison, struggled to go above 1Gbps. 

It was the same situation on T-Mobile and that carrier's more extensive, but slower, mid-band 5G network. There, the S21 won in six out of the seven speed tests. 

US consumers who buy the Pixel 6 Pro get a phone that supports mmWave in addition to all the frequency bands used by Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T. But as PCMag notes, there's not necessarily support for combinations of low- to midband 5G, which is how carriers are expanding their 5G coverage in the near term. That could put the Pixel 6 Pro at more of a disadvantage going forward.

PCMag's testing on Net Monitor and Ookla Speedtest found the Pixel 6 Pro would throw out bad signal numbers. When using Net Monitor, which measures signal samples every second, the Galaxy S21 did a much better job of detecting and capturing 4G LTE. Granted, for whatever reason, the Pixel 6 Pro stuck to 5G, and could not capture 4G signal strength properly. The Pixel 6 did report better signal strength on T-Mobile's 5G network over the S21. 

Either way, this means when choosing between the Google Pixel 6 Pro vs the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, 5G performance might be another reason for some to consider Samsung over Google. Not only that, while the Pixel 6 launched with Android 12, Samsung is rolling out its Android 12 with One UI 4 (Samsung's skin over Android) right now making it a more attractive option, though it might be better to wait a few months for the Samsung Galaxy S22 launch, as that phone will ship with Android 12 and doubtlessly feature improvements over this year's S21. 

Imad Khan

Imad is currently Senior Google and Internet Culture reporter for CNET, but until recently was News Editor at Tom's Guide. Hailing from Texas, Imad started his journalism career in 2013 and has amassed bylines with the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN, Wired and Men's Health Magazine, among others. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.