Galaxy S21 vs. Pixel 5: Which Android phone should you buy?
Samsung and Google have each dropped prices of their latest flagships, but which is right for you? Here's how the Pixel 5 and S21 stack up.
Sareena DayaramSenior Editor
Sareena is a senior editor for CNET covering the mobile beat including device reviews. She is a seasoned multimedia journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience producing stories for television and digital publications across Asia's financial capitals including Singapore, Hong Kong, and Mumbai. Prior to CNET, Sareena worked at CNN as a news writer and Reuters as a producer.
Samsung's Galaxy S21 is here, and it's a solid all-round
device. But the S21 is isn't the only phone around with excellent cameras, a crisp display and dependable batteries. The S21 has joined the likes of the iPhone 12, Mi 11, and the Pixel 5 in an increasingly crowded playing field.
For the purposes of this article, I'll pit the S21 against the Pixel, but you can read CNET's comparisons between the S21 and iPhone 12 and our coverage of Xiaomi's Mi 11, if you're interested. Here are the key differences to factor into your buying decision if you've been eyeing the Pixel 5 and the S21.
Samsung and Google dropped prices of their phones
Samsung and Google have both figured out that selling $1,000 phones is more challenging in this pandemic-ravaged global economy. And both companies have rightly slashed prices.
The Galaxy S21 starts at $800 (£769, about AU$1,030), allowing you to buy into the popular Galaxy S line at $300 less than last year's S20 line. Google, for its part, dropped the Pixel 5's price by $100 to $699 (£599, AU$999). It also scaled back on some features, marking a departure from the pricier Pixel phones of years past.
Samsung's Galaxy S21 is sleek with a new wraparound metal design
Does the S21 have a better camera than the Pixel 5?
I can't make an outright call on which device has the better camera since CNET hasn't done a shootout comparing the two. What I can say is that you'll get a more versatile range of shots with the S21. That's because the S21 has three lenses: a telephoto lens for zooming in to faraway subjects, an ultrawide lens for capturing sweeping landscapes and a third standard lens for pretty much everything else.
Google got rid of the telephoto lens that we saw on the Pixel 4, replacing it with an ultrawide camera on the Pixel 5, which is accompanied by a standard lens. Because of that, the 21 lacks optical zoom, and instead depends on digital zoom that maxes out at 7x. For specific numbers on the camera, scroll down to the specs chart.
Does the S21 have a faster processor than the Pixel 5?
Yes. The S21 runs on
's newest and fastest Snapdragon 888, which features a 5G modem on the same chip as the brains along with blazing-fast performance. As mentioned earlier, Google took a midrange approach to 2020's Pixel 5, and one way it did that was via the chipset. The Pixel 5 runs on a midrange chipset known as the Snapdragon 765G (the G stands for gaming). Last year's fastest Qualcomm processor is the Snapdragon 865. Although you might notice a difference in performance between the two processors, the Snapdragon 765G is still powerful enough that'll you'll sail through everyday tasks without a hitch.
Pixel 5's subtly natural looks offer a 90Hz display
The Pixel 5 is a lighter phone and it has a USB-C connector, a feature that's absent on the S21. The S21 no longer has a charging brick either, as Samsung urges its customers to reuse older accessories in the name of the environment. For the rest of the specs, take a look at the chart below.