Google Pixel 6 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Which is the best?

Comparing Google's Pixel 6 Pro to the Galaxy S21 Ultra might just be the toughest comparison to make. Both of these devices are incredible, but let's take a deeper dive to determine which one is right for you.

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Neck and neck

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Google's Pixel 6 Pro on a fence with Autumn trees in the background

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Looking at the specs between the Pixel 6 Pro vs. Galaxy S21 Ultra, there are quite a few similarities. Both devices offer 120Hz displays, both are available with 12GB of RAM and up to 512GB of storage, and we have a 5,000mAh battery across the board. Wireless charging is also available, along with support for Sub-6 and mmWave 5G, along with IP68 water and dust resistance.

Where the differences begin appearing are in areas that you might, or might not, care all that much about. For one, the Pixel 6 Pro's display is slightly smaller, resulting in a lighter device overall and more manageable to use with one hand. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S21 Ultra and its 6.8-inch display is an absolute beast, and even with the curved edges, it might be a bit too unwieldy for some.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Google Pixel 6 ProSamsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Operating SystemAndroid 12 with Pixel featuresAndroid 12 with One UI 4
Display6.71 inches (19.5:9)3120x1440 (512 PPI) OLED120HzHDR10+6.8 inches (20:9)3200x1440 (515 PPI) Dynamic AMOLED 2X120HzHDR10+
ProcessorGoogle Tensor2 ARM Cortex-X1 cores (2.8 GHz), 2 A76 (2.25GHz), 4 A55; Arm Mali-G78 GPU; Titan M2 securitySnapdragon 8881 ARM Cortex X1 core (2.84GHz), 3 A78 (2.42GHz), 4 Cortex A55 (1.80GHz); Adreno 660 GPU
Storage128/256/512GBNo microSD slot128/256/512GBNo microSD slot
Rear camera50MP, ƒ/1.9, 1.2μm (wide-angle)108MP, ƒ/1.8, 0.8μm (wide)
Rear camera 212MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.25μm (ultra-wide)12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4μm (ultra-wide)
Rear camera 348MP, ƒ/3.5, 0.8μm (telephoto)10MP, ƒ/4.9, 1.22μm (10x periscope telephoto)
Rear camera 4N/A10MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.22μm (3x telephoto)
Front camera11.1MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.22μm40MP, ƒ/2.2, 0.7μm
Charging30W Fast Charging12-23W Wireless Charging5W Reverse Wireless Charging25W USB PD 3.0 (PPS)15W Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
Water resistanceIP68IP68
5GSub-6; Verizon/mmWave model costs $100 extraSub-6; mmWave
Dimensions6.45 x 2.99 x 0.35 inches210g/7.41oz6.5 x 2.98 x 0.35 inches,227g/8.01oz
ColorsStormy BlackSorta SunnyCloudy WhitePhantom GrayPhantom WhitePhantom VioletPhantom PinkPhantom BlackPhantom SilverPhantom NavyPhantom Brown

The camera module of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: Android Central)

One area when comparing the Pixel 6 Pro vs. Galaxy S21 Ultra is pretty much a coin flip. The camera systems on both devices are simply incredible, as Google finally updated its camera hardware while pairing it with the Google Tensor chip for better image processing. By many accounts, Google's image processing is second to none, which has sparked modders to begin porting the GCam app to other devices.

But the Galaxy S21 Ultra remains one of the best camera phones out there, with its quad-camera array headlined by a 108MP wide-angle lens. This is paired with a 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP 10x periscope telephoto lens, and a 10MP traditional telephoto camera complete with 3x optical zoom. The inclusion of dual telephoto lenses enabled Samsung to include its Moon Shot feature, a gimmick. Still, it just goes to show how powerful our smartphone cameras have become.

Another area that the Galaxy S21 Ultra reigns supreme is the embedded fingerprint scanner. Samsung uses Qualcomm's latest ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, larger than the original version, while also offering better performance. Meanwhile, Google has ditched the rear-mounted scanner in favor of an in-display fingerprint reader of its own.

Setting up the in-display fingerprint scanner on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: Android Central)

However, this has been met with mixed results, as readings tend to be slower and less accurate. Google claims this is intentional as it requires more data points for better security, so sacrifices had to be made to meet those standards. Google has already released a surprise software update that aims to improve the readings, so hopefully, this provides better results in the future.

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Which is best for you?

Moving past the specs and the hardware comparisons, Google has an "ace in the hole" with the Pixel 6 Pro, and that's pricing. The Pixel 6 Pro starts at just $899, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes in at $1,199. Of course, Samsung is known for some pretty great trade-in offers, but the fact remains that the device is still $300 more expensive. Perhaps this could force Samsung to make changes to the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the rest of the best Android phones, but for the time being, Google's phone offers the best value on the market.

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Andrew Myrick
Senior Editor - Chromebooks, tablets, and wearables

Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.