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Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Which Android phone wins?

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

A Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Galaxy S21 Ultra comparison is just what you need if you’re trying to decide which is the best Android phone for you — especially if you prefer a big screen.

As you’ll see in our Google Pixel 6 Pro review, this $899 flagship is all about value. The 6.7-inch Pixel 6 Pro also delivers stellar cameras, thanks in part to its Tensor chip. And you get special features like Magic Eraser and new Google Assistant powers.

Meanwhile, our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review shows that this $1,199 big-screen phone is an absolute beast. This 6.8-inch flagship is for the person who wants it all, including S Pen support, dual telephoto lenses and extra-long battery life.

So which phone wins? As you’ll see in this face-off, declaring a winner is not easy. Here’s how the Google Pixel 6 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra stack up. 

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs. Galaxy S21 Ultra: Specs

Google Pixel 6 ProSamsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Starting price$899$1,199
Screen size6.71-inch OLED (3120 x 1440)6.8-inch AMOLED (3200 x 1400)
Refresh rate10-120Hz10-120Hz
CPUGoogle TensorSnapdragon 888
RAM12GB12GB, 16GB
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Rear cameras50MP (f/1.85) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 48MP (f/3.5) telephoto with 4x optical zoom108MP wide (f/1.8), 12MP ultra wide (f/2.2), 10MP telephoto (3x zoom, f/2.4), 10MP telephoto (10x zoom, f/4.9), laser AF sensor
Front camera11MP (f/2.2)40MP (f/2.2)
Battery size5,000 mAh5,000 mAh
Battery life (Hrs:Mins)7:4911:25
Charging speed30W wired (charger not included), 23W wireless (Pixel Stand), 12W Qi25W wired (charger not included), 15W wireless
Size6.5 x 3.0 x 0.4 inches6.5 x 2.97 x 0.35 inches
Weight7.4 ounces8.1 ounces

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Price

The Google Pixel 6 Pro easily wins on price and overall value. It starts at just $899, compared to $1,199 for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. A $300 delta is a pretty big deal when you're talking about two fairly evenly matched flagship phones.

The Pixel 6 starts at 128GB of storage but you can get 256GB for $999 and 512GB for $1,099. The Galaxy S21 Ultra also starts at 128GB, and it costs $12,49 for 256GB and $1,379 for 512GB.

Winner: Google Pixel 6 Pro

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Design

The Google Pixel 6 Pro wins in the looks department with a new camera bar that stretches across the top of the display. It just has a more friendly and modern vibe than the industrial-chic look of the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s oversized camera patch in the upper left corner.

Pixel 6 pro back in hand

Pixel 6 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy S21 Ultra gains some points back with its matte back, which does a much better job of resisting fingerprint smudges than the glossy Pixel 6 Pro. 

The Pixel 6 Pro comes in three colors: Stormy Black, Cloudy White and Sorta Sunny, and I like how there’s two color blocks on the back separated by the camera bar. The Galaxy S21 Ultra comes in Phantom Black, Phantom Silver and Navy, and you can also get Phantom Titanium and Phantom Brown on Samsung’s online store.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

Galaxy S21 Ultra (Image credit: Future)

The Pixel 6 Pro is a bit easier to carry, as it’s a lighter 7.4 ounces, compared to 8.08 ounces for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. And the phones have similar dimensions. 

Winner: Google Pixel 6 Pro

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Display

Both the Google Pixel 6 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra offer 120Hz OLED displays, but Samsung’s panel is slightly larger at 6.8 inches vs 6.7 inches for Google. 

Pixel 6 Pro vs Galaxy S21 Ultra displays

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In our lab testing with adaptive brightness turned on, the Google Pixel 6 Pro turned in a slightly higher reading of 842 nits, compared to 821 nits for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. However, when I viewed each screen side by side outdoors in direct sunlight, the S21 Ultra’s panel appeared brighter.

In terms of color reproduction, the Pixel 6 Pro registered 104% of the sRGB color gamut and 73.8% of the DCI-P3 color space. And its Delta-E color accuracy reading of 0.3 is quite good (where 0 is perfect).

By comparison, the Galaxy S21 Ultra hit 110.9% of the sRGB and 81.4% of DCI-P, which is higher than the Pixel 6 Pro. But its color accuracy was a bit behind at 0.35.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Cameras

The Google Pixel 6 Pro offers a triple camera system that consists of a 50MP wide camera that’s designed to capture 150% more light than the Pixel 5, a 12MP ultra-wide camera and a 48MP telephoto sensor capable of 4x optical zoom and 20x SuperRes zoom.

Pixel 6 Pro vs Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy S21 Ultra starts with a 108MP camera that’s complemented by a 12MP ultra-wide lens and dual telephoto lenses of 3x and 10x. And with Samsung’s 120x Space Zoom you can get really close to subjects from far away.

In our photo comparison, the Pixel 6 Pro won a number of head-to-head scenarios, but the Galaxy S21 Ultra won some rounds as well. The Pixel does a better job of rendering detail and depth in the petals, but there's yellowish cast to the image. The Galaxy S21 Ultra's colors look more realistic.

However, in this close-up on a mum plant the S21 Ultra delivers a clearer and brighter photo. This is partially because the Pixel 6 Pro can’t really do macro shots; in fact, the phone warns you to back up if you get too close to a subject.

In this photo of a fountain, the Pixel 6 Pro delivers a crisper image, with more detail in the water and in the surrounding rocks. The S21 Ultra’s shot looks a bit hazy by comparison. 

The Pixel 6 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra were neck and neck in this Night mode photo. The Samsung delivers a brighter image, especially with the stone in the foreground, but the Pixel is close behind. And the boxwoods come out a richer green with the Pixel.

The Pixel 6 Pro pulls ahead in this ultra-wide comparison, as there’s more detail in the leaves and grass. The S21 Ultra’s picture is pleasant and I like the puncher colors, but it feels flatter like a painting. 

Both the Pixel 6 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra do a remarkable job with this portrait. I slightly prefer the Pixel's shot because of the detail on my arm and the fabric in my shirt. The S21 Ultra's pic is brighter but a bit smoothed out looking. 

Turning to the selfie cameras, the 11MP front camera on the Pixel 6 Pro does a good job rendering my red and blue hoodie, complete with the texture of the fuzzy inside. And my face and hair look pretty sharp. The S21 Ultra’s selfie looks pretty good but a bit overly warm in this case, and the sweatshirt pops a bit less.

Last but not least, we used both phones to shoot this sign across a highway. The Galaxy S21 Ultra offers a longer zoom overall but in this 20x zoom comparison the Pixel 6 Pro's image is brighter and clearer. 

Winner: Google Pixel 6

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Performance

The Google Pixel 6 Pro packs Google’s own Tensor chip along with 12GB of RAM, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra features the Snapdragon 888 processor and 12GB of RAM. The 512GB version of the S21 Ultra ups that to 16GB of RAM.

On Geekbench, which measures overall performance, the Galaxy S21 Ultra beat the Pixel 6 Pro with a single-core score of 1,123 to 1,027 and a multicore score of 3,440 to 2,760.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

Galaxy S21 Ultra (Image credit: Future)

However, the Pixel 6 Pro fared better in the 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited graphics test, turning in a score of 6,682 and 40 frames per second, compared to 5,739 and 34.4 fps for the S21 Ultra.

The Pixel 6 Pro also finished ahead of the S21 Ultra on our video encoding test using the Adobe Premiere Rush app. It took Google’s phone 48 seconds to transcode a 4K clip to 1080p, versus 1:03 for the Ultra. 

pixel 6 pro in hand with display on

Pixel 5 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The one thing that drags down the Pixel 6 Pro’s everyday performance is its slower fingerprint sensor. While the S21 Ultra’s in-display reader unlocks your phone instantly, the Pixel 6 Pro has a noticeable delay. 

Winner: Galaxy S21 Ultra

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Special features 

The Google Pixel 6 Pro offers a wide range of special features, thanks to its Tensor chip. In the camera, you’ll find a handy Magic Eraser feature that can take photo bombers and other unwanted objects out of your pics. And we like the new Action mode, which lets you take action pans that blur out the background as well as artful looking long exposures.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra S Pen

(Image credit: Future)

The Pixel 6 Pro also benefits from major Google Assistant upgrades. For example, you can now voice type emojis and perform various commands using just your voice (like “Clear” and “Send”). Google Assistant can also tell you how long your wait is going to be when you dial a toll-free number and even hold on the line for you, as well as translate foreign language signs in real time.

pixel 6 pro call wait times

Pixel 6 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s top special feature is its S Pen support. If you’re willing to pay extra for a stylus, you can take notes on the display, draw and more. However, there's nowhere to put the S Pen, so you'll want to invest in a Galaxy S21 Ultra case with a holster built in. 

Samsung's big-screen has lots of handy camera features as well. The Single Take 2.0 feature on the S21 Ultra takes a bunch of stills and photos at once for easy sharing, and there's Director's view for shooting video using the front and back cameras at the same time. In addition, the S21 Ultra captures 8K video, while the Pixel 6 Pro is limited to 4K. 

Winner: Draw

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Battery life and charging

This is where the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a major advantage based on our testing. Despite packing a 5,000 mAh battery, the Pixel 6 Pro lated only 7 hours and 55 minutes on the Tom's Guide Battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over 5G at 150 nits of screen brightness.

Samsung's Galaxy S21 Ultra lasted a much longer 11 hours and 25 minutes with its 5,000 mAh battery. That time was reached when we set the display refresh rate to 60Hz, but even the 10 hour, 7 minute time we got when the adaptive display feature was enable handily beats the Pixel 6 Pro. We expect that this difference is due to Google using an older 5G modem. You can get longer endurance out the Pixel 6 Pro by turning off 4G, but that's not a trade-off you should have to make.

Using a 30W charger, the Google Pixel 6 Pro reached 40% battery capacity in 30 minutes. The Galaxy S21 Ultra hit 56% in the same amount of time.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Verdict

Pixel 6 Pro vs Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This is one of the closest phone face-offs we've ever seen, as the Google Pixel 6 Pro wins this contest by a single point. The Pixel 6 Pro gives you a colorful and responsive 120Hz display, strong performance from its Tensor chip and plenty of AI smarts. But the biggest victory comes in the price and value round, and its cameras delivered better image quality in our side-by-side camera testing.  

Google Pixel 6 ProSamsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Price and value (15 points)1511
Design (10 points)98
Display (15 points)1314
Cameras (20 points)1917
Performance (15 points)1314
Special features (10 points)88
Battery life and charging (15 points)1014
Overall8786

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the premium Android phone to get if you prefer longer battery life, and we much prefer its faster fingerprint sensor for unlocking the phone. While our lab testing of the displays were evenly matched, the S21 Ultra's OLED panel appeared brighter outdoors. The optional S Pen is a nice bonus for power users. 

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a great phone, but it's not $300 better than the Pixel 6 Pro. Google's new phone isn't just great, it's a warning shot for the rest of the phone industry.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for nearly 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • lennart.borgman
    You didn't mention Live Captions at all in the comparison. That is an area where I would expect Google (with the Tensor processor) to beat Samsung by a big amount, but I'm not sure.

    I would be glad if you could test and add this to the article. 🧡🌿
    Reply
  • premodeja
    On a completely bias counter, having an s9+ for 2+ years, then an s21 ultra for about 4 months, Would love to "try" a pixel, but Samsung has the right direction. The only weak point is no dedicated fingerprint sensor on the back as opposed to the s9+. Using the screen makes it weak and unreliable. Directors view in the camera app is incredible.
    Reply