Samsung Galaxy S21 vs. Google Pixel 5: customizability vs. stock Android. Who wins? Galaxy S21 and Pixel 5 are two trendy smartphones among Android users. Both phones are part of the flagship lineups for their companies, and Samsung and Google have made sure to load both these smartphones with the best specs on paper.
But how does each phone perform in the real world? Samsung might have an advantage here, judging by the impressive specs and remarkable display. But has the Pixel 5 won hearts with its stock Android experience and optimization, or has the S21 captivated people with its brilliant display and vibrant camera?
Let’s find out as we compare these phones on paper, as well as in real life.
Samsung S21 vs. Google Pixel 5: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Spec||Pixel 5||Galaxy S21|
|Broadband||2G, 3G, 4G, 5G||2G, 3G, 4G, 5G|
|Operating system||Android 11, upgradable to Android 13||Android 11, upgradable to Android 13One UI 5|
|Storage||128 GB 8GB RAM||128 GB 8GB RAM256GB, 8GB RAM|
|Processor||Snapdragon 765G 5G (7nm)||Snapdragon 888 (5nm) (China/USA)Exynos 2100 (5nm) – The rest of the world|
|Display||Size:6 inches (85.9% screen-to-body ratio)|
Resolution:1080 x 2340 (432 PPI)
Refresh rate: Up to 90Hz
Protection: Gorilla Glass 6
Type: OLED, HDR10+
|Size:6.2 inches (87.2% screen-to-body ratio)|
Resolution:1080 x 2400 (421ppi)
Refresh rate: Up to 120Hz (Adaptive Refresh Rate)
Protection: Gorilla Glass Victus
Type: Dynamic AMOLED 2X, HDR10+
|Cameras||Back cameras:12.2 MP primary lens16MP ultrawide lens|
Front camera:8 MP primary lens
|Back cameras:12.2 MP primary lens64MP telephoto lens12MP ultrawide lens|
Front camera:10MP primary lens
|Battery capacity||4,080 mAh Li-Po||4,000 mAh Li-Ion|
|Video||1080p @ 30fps||Up to 4k @30/60fps|
Samsung S21 vs. Google Pixel 5: What’s the Difference?
Galaxy S21 and Pixel 5 are two flagship phones that provide smooth performance. Still, there are distinct differences, both in software and hardware. Samsung has shown its professional approach by consolidating all the top-notch specs in the S21 by providing a beautiful and impressive display, a triple camera setup for capturing aesthetic pictures, and One UI to offer a customizable android experience.
Google, on the other hand, has gone with a safer approach. They have not loaded the phone with the best specs, but they have improved the areas they think matter more to the customers. Surprisingly, they have made a downgrade in the chipset domain. Let’s analyze how this change translates into real-world performance.
- Pro Grade Camera
- Sharp 8K Video
- Multi-cam recording and automatic professional-style effects
- Bluetooth v5.0
- 30 Space Zoom: with Zoom Lock
- Higher Resolution: 64 MP camera system
Both phones are pretty distinct, and it is relatively easy to tell them apart. If we move to the front, both have edge-to-edge, almost bezel-less displays. However, these bezels on the S21 are slightly thinner than those on the Pixel 5.
Moreover, Samsung has placed the camera punchout in the top center, and Samsung calls this arrangement an “Infinity-O” display. Pixel 5 has the camera punchout in the top left corner.
Differences become more pronounced as we move toward the back. Samsung has a rectangular elongated triple camera module compared to a square double camera module for the Pixel 5. Moreover, Samsung has implemented a two-color tone with the back and camera modules having different colors.
If we talk about the build quality, Google has used aluminum for the frame and given a matte finish to the back. This finish is not as smooth as on the S21. It does not feel like metal—instead, it is more like cardboard. In contrast, Samsung has used a combination of glass and plastic called “Glastic.” But having a matte finish on both smartphones means they won’t be fingerprint magnets.
Pixel 5 is available in two colors only: Black and Sage Green. In contrast, Galaxy S21 is available in multiple colors, including phantom purple, pink, white, and black. Pixel 5 is IPX8 rated, which means it is water-resistant but not dust resistant. S21 is IP68 rated, so it is both dust and water-resistant.
Pixel 5 also has a fingerprint sensor built into the smartphone’s frame. It is present on the upper half of the back of the phone. This arrangement is similar to what we saw in the Pixel 4. But, the compact size of the Pixel 5 makes it relatively easy to reach the sensor, and due to the design and the placement, the fingers naturally fall into the same place where the sensor is.
There are no vast differences between these smartphones’ display quality and technology, but even the subtle differences are so significant that they can swing the customers from one phone to the other. Both displays are more or less similar in size, with the S21 housing a 6.2” display and the Pixel 5 having a 6” display.
Both screens are top-notch in quality. Samsung has installed a Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen which produces sharper colors and deep blacks and increases the bracket of viewing angles.
Pixels 5 uses an OLED display which is a bit downgraded compared to the S21, but it is still an excellent display, even better than the one on comparable iPhones. Both smartphones offer more than 400 pixels per inch. The human eye cannot differentiate such subtle differences, but it’s still a terrific aspect.
Now we move to the refresh rate. This is where things start to get interesting. S21 is the first phone in the Samsung Galaxy lineup to have an Adaptive Refresh Rate. This means the phone adjusts how many times the screen refreshes per second, depending on the usage patterns.
The current technology limits this control from 10-120Hz, but the latest Samsung models can provide precision from 1-120Hz. Pixel 5, on the other hand, provides a refresh rate of up to 90Hz.
One unique aspect that emphasizes the display superiority of the S21 is the fingerprint sensor buried under the display. An ultrasonic fingerprint sensor uses invisible ultrasonic waves to create a 3D impression of the fingerprint. It is pretty fast, as secure as the side or rear-mounted physical fingerprint sensors, and can be further improved as Qualcomm or Samsung introduce advanced chips.
S21 uses a tri-camera setup on the back with a 12MP primary, 64MP telephoto, and another 12MP ultrawide lens. Samsung has always upped its number game when it comes to cameras. But this time, they have supplemented it with efficient software too. The portrait mode produces beautiful pictures at 1x and 2x zoom, and tech reviewers believe that the edge detection on the S21 might be the best on any smartphone.
The Google Pixel 5 has a dual camera setup on the back, and there is no telephoto camera. But Google has never impressed customers with its “number game” regarding megapixels. They have always advertised how efficient their software is regarding image processing.
The colors on the image are good, and portrait mode takes good photos. But still, S21 wins in this domain. Front cameras are the same on both smartphones and take bright, sharp selfies. Videography is better on the S21 and supports up to 4k resolution with 30 or 60fps, whereas Pixel 5 can only shoot in 1080p.
- New, unlocked Android phone gives you the flexibility to change carriers and choose your own data plan; unlocked smartphone works with T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, and other major carriers
- 5G capable  smartphone gives you an extra boost of speed so you can download a movie in seconds,  enjoy smooth streaming in ultra clear HD, play games at home and on the go,  and even share...
- Charge your cell phone wirelessly  or use it to wirelessly charge other Qi-certified devices 
- The all day battery can last up to 48 hours with Extreme Battery Saver 
- Your phone will automatically receive the latest OS and security updates for at least 3 years;  the custom-made Titan M chip helps secure the operating system and sensitive data, like passwords
While Android powers both of these smartphones, they each provide a strikingly distinct user experience. Both these flagship phones come with pre-installed Android 11, which is upgradable to Android 13.
The only difference between each operating system is that Google provides more regular and quick updates for Pixel users. In comparison, Samsung delays the update for a year or two due to the need for extra customization and the introduction of the new version of their One Ui.
Pixel 5 comes with the stock version of Android, whereas S21 has One UI 3.1 superimposed on the stock version to give a typical “Samsung” touch to the software, with more customization and accessibility options.
S21 offers the “One-Handed Use” feature, which shrinks the screen from all three sides and makes it easier to use the phone with a single hand while still displaying the same amount of information as a complete display.
Samsung has introduced the “Samsung DEX” feature, which essentially allows customers to convert their smartphone into a desktop computer. One UI 5, which comes with Android 13, offers a ton of new features as well, such as the dark mode, better notification assembly, smooth screenshot animation, scroll capture, built-in screen recorder, and more. The Always on Display is available on both smartphones.
S21 comes pre-installed with many Samsung apps, which the users might not find helpful. These include the Samsung browser in addition to Google Chrome, Samsung Pay in addition to Google Pay, and Bixby in addition to Google Assistant.
This is where Galaxy S21 starts to take the apparent lead. S21 comes with Snapdragon 888 for the China/USA version, and Pixel 5 has employed the 765G chipset to power the flagship. Snapdragon 888 has 2.1x better AnTuTu scores, 2x better GeekBench multi-core scores, and performs 2.5x better in computations. Let’s see how the difference in stats affects real-life usage.
Pixel 5 will not hinder your day-to-day smartphone experience. Still, it is always better to have that extra power reserved for bursts of heavy usage, i.e., gaming, videography, and multitasking.
S21 is the winner when it comes to handling day-to-day tasks along with intense usage. Additionally, Snapdragon 888 is based on the 5nm technology compared to the 7nm of the Snapdragon 765G.
Here is how the power of each mobile chip affects the game performance of different games available on the android platform:
|Game||Snapdragon 888: S21||Snapdragon 765G: Pixel 5|
|PUBG Mobile||83 FPS+||57 FPS+|
|Fortnite||26 FPS+||29 FPS+|
|Call of Duty (Mobile)||60 FPS+||38 FPS+|
|Mobile Legends||57 FPS+||55 FPS+|
|World of Tanks Blitz||112 FPS+||60 FPS+|
Google’s Pixel 5 has a 4,080 mAh battery, and the S21 has a 4,000 mAh battery. In contrast, S21 lags behind the Pixel 5 regarding battery life. Continuous video streaming drains the battery at approximately 10% per hour, compared to 9% per hour for Pixel 5. Therefore, Pixel 5 offers more video streaming for one and a half hours.
The Pixel 5 easily lasts a day, even though you might not have enough battery. But, with the S21, you may have to charge your phone for the rest of the day. This is due to a high-powered chipset that consumes more battery than the efficient chipset on Pixel 5, which tends to save battery.
Samsung S21 vs. Google Pixel 5: 5 Must-Know Facts
- Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S21 on January 14, 2021, and it went on sale on January 29, 2021. Google launched the Pixel 5 on September 30, 2020, and it entered the market on October 15, 2020.
- Both smartphones come with a slightly upgraded design over their predecessors, the most noticeable being the better camera module integration within the phone’s body.
- Galaxy S21 comes with Samsung’s One UI, while Pixel 5 still runs on Google’s Stock Android.
- Galaxy S21 has a triple camera setup on the back, while Google has equipped the Pixel 2 with a dual camera setup on the back.
- Galaxy S21 starts at $799, with Pixel 5 available for $699.
Samsung S21 vs. Google Pixel 5: Which One Is Better?
S21 and Pixel 5 are Android phones with considerable differences in the chipset, cameras, and user experience. The Samsung Galaxy S21 wins the camera, performance, display, and charging domains due to the more robust chipset. Camera results are flagship quality, with deep colors, sharp edge detection, and good foreground and background separation. Video quality is also better on the S21.
Additionally, Snapdragon 888 on the S21 outclasses the Snapdragon 765G on the Pixel 5 in all the domains, with up to 100% better results. The display on the S21 is brighter, sharper, and more responsive.
The Google Pixel 5 provides a mid-range smartphone experience with its chipset and overall feel. The cameras are good, but videography is limited to 1080p only. Also, the display responsiveness is slower, the gaming experience is average, and there is no face detection. While both companies have newer phones, such as the Pixel 7 Pro and S22 Ultra, these two models are still competitive.
Overall, S21 is the clear winner because of its better performance, fast charging, more security features, great customization, accessibility features, second-to-none camera quality, and better value for money. However, if you want a slightly improved battery life and the stock Android experience, then the Pixel 5 should be your first choice.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Framesira/Shutterstock.com.