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Pixel 6 vs. Galaxy S21: Which should you buy?

Pixel 6 vs. Galaxy S21
(Image credit: Google/Samsung)

Google just unveiled the Pixel 6, but how does it stack up against the Samsung Galaxy S21? Right from the start, the price should catch your attention, with the Pixel 6 starting at $599 and the Galaxy S21 coming in at $799.

Of course, if you're trying to stick to the most affordable option, go with the Pixel 6, but if you have enough cash to weigh your options, you'd be surprised by which offers the most value.

This is a brief look at what a Pixel 6 vs. Galaxy S21 face-off looks like without hands-on impressions of the Pixel 6. Don't worry, though, we'll update this preview face-off once our full Pixel 6 review goes live in the coming days. For now, he's a sneak peek at how these phones compare. 

Pixel 6 vs. Galaxy S21
Pixel 6Galaxy S21
Display6.4-inch, 1080 x 2400 OLED, 90Hz6.2-inch Super AMOLED FHD+ Adaptive 120Hz
CPUGoogle TensorQualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM8GB8GB
StorageStarts at 128GBStarts at 128GB
Rear cameras12MP f/2.2 (ultrawide), 50MP f/1.8512.2MP f/1.8 (Wide-angle), 12MP f/2.2 (Ultra-wide), 64MP f/2.0 (Telephoto)
Front camera8MP, f/2.010MP f/2.2 (Wide-angle)
Battery size4,524 mAh4,000 mAh
Water resistanceYes, IP68Yes, IP68
ColorsStormy Black, Kinda Coral, Sorta SeafoamPhantom Grey, Phantom White, Phantom Violet and Phantom Pink
Dimensions6.2 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches6 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches
Weight7.3 ounces6.03 ounces

Pixel 6 vs. Galaxy S21: price and value

The Pixel 6 starts at $599 for the 128GB model with 8GB of RAM. You can also configure it with 256GB of storage, but we're not 100% sure about pricing on that just yet.

The Galaxy S21 starts at $799, but the base model includes 128GB of storage with 8GB of RAM. You can bump that up to 256GB for $849.

This one is an easy win for the Pixel 6. It offers the same storage and RAM, a bigger display, and a bigger battery for $200 less than the Galaxy S21.

Winner: Pixel 6

Pixel 6 vs. Galaxy S21: design

Smartphones all have a slate-esque design nowadays, but what really makes them stand out are the colors, and of course, the camera placement.

The Pixel 6 comes in Stormy Black, Kinda Coral and Sorta Seafoam, while the Samsung Galaxy S21 is available in Phantom Grey, Phantom White, Phantom Violet and Phantom Pink.

That violet on the Galaxy S21 is nice, but I can't over the Pixel 6's Seafoam color since it hits my affinity for the ocean. When it comes to the cameras, Samsung is a little more discreet with its three lenses lined up on the side, while the Pixel 6 has a large camera bar stretching across the chassis. It's bulky, but it also looks great and keeps the phone from rocking when you place it on a flat surface.

However, the Pixel 6 is larger, coming in at 6.2 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches and 7.3 ounces, while the Galaxy S21 slides in at 6 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches and 6.03 ounces. Of course, the Pixel 6's display is slightly bigger, at 6.4 inches versus the Galaxy S21's 6.2 inches.

Winner: Draw

Pixel 6 vs. Galaxy S21: display

The Pixel 6 and Galaxy S21 have similar displays, but with varying advantages depending on your needs.

The Pixel 6 is rocking a 6.4-inch, FHD+ OLED, 90Hz display, while the Samsung Galaxy S21 features a 6.2-inch Super AMOLED FHD+ Adaptive 120Hz display. If you want a bigger display, go with the Pixel 6, but if you want a higher refresh rate for gaming or other apps, then the Galaxy S21 might be for you.

Winner: Draw.

Pixel 6 vs. Galaxy S21: performance

The Pixel 6 features Google's first custom processor, Google Tensor. According to Google, it'll provide up to 80% faster performance than Pixel 5. Apparently, the Pixel 6 will also run smoother, apps will launch faster, and gaming will be more responsive.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy S21 has a Snapdragon 888 processor. It offers a number of advantages over last year's Snapdragon 865, including a 20% increase in CPU performance, a 25% boost to graphics, and double the AI processing speed.

Of course, we don't know which will be stronger until we can test and compare both. So for now, we'll just call it a draw, since the power might be comparable.

Winner: N/A

Pixel 6 vs. Galaxy S21: battery life

We haven't gotten the chance to run either the Pixel 6 or the Galaxy S21 through their paces on our battery test, but we can get some inkling of which would win thanks to their respective battery capacities.

The Pixel 6 is rocking a 4,524 mAh battery, while the Galaxy S21 holds a 4,000 mAh battery pack. The Pixel 6 has a bigger battery, but that's not the only reason why we think it might win this bout.

Google Tensor is designed to adapt to a person's phone usage and optimize battery life based on that information. We're excited to see how that works in real life. For now, we'll give this to the Pixel 6 based on its battery size alone. But again, this could change after we run the phone through our labs.

Winner: Pixel 6

Pixel 6 vs. Galaxy S21: cameras

The Pixel 6 sports a 12MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide lens, a 50MP (f/1.85) wide-lens, and an 8MP (f/2.0) front-facing camera. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S21 features a wide array of cameras, including a 12MP (f/1.8) primary wide-angle lens, a 12MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide lens, a 64MP telephoto (ƒ/2.2) and a 10MP (f/2.4) front-facing camera.

In pure specs alone, the Galaxy S21 not only rocks more cameras and also features higher megapixel cameras. The Galaxy S21's Snapdragon 888 is also supposed to improve camera performance for Samsung.

However, Google's Pixel phones have been at the top of the camera game for a long time because of the company's computational algorithms. The main sensor now captures 150% more light, and the Magic Eraser tool in Google Photos removes people or distractions from the background.

Again, this round is too close to call for now, but we're more excited about the Pixel 6's new cameras than what we've seen from the Galaxy.

Winner: Draw

Outlook

Your choice of phone is dependent on your needs, and while we haven't fully tested both devices, the Pixel 6 is shaping up to be a strong competitor against the Galaxy S21.

For $200 less, you're getting most of the same features that the Galaxy S21 has along with a slightly bigger display. If you're thinking about getting the Galaxy S21, you might as well spend an extra $100 to get the Pixel 6 Pro, which has an even larger display, a bigger battery, more RAM and an additional camera.

Overall, the Pixel 6 is great for the price, but we'll have a more definitive face-off coming your way soon.

Rami Tabari

Rami Tabari is a Senior Writer for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.