Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: Full Comparison

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro Max are two most premium smartphones that one can buy. But what are the differences between them and which is the righ choice for you? Let’s find out in this Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max comparison.

SpecsGalaxy S21 UltraiPhone 12 Pro Max
Display6.7 inches, QHD+, 120Hz
Dynamic AMOLED 2X
6.7 inches, FHD+, 60Hz
Super Retina XDR OLED
SoftwareAndroid 11, One UI 3.1iOS 14.1, upgradable to iOS 14.4
RAM12GB, 16GB6GB
ROM128GB, 256GB, 512GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB
SoCExynos 2100
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Apple A14 Bionic
GPUMali-G78 MP14
Adreno 660
Apple GPU 
Front camera40 MP, f/2.212 MP, f/2.2
Rear cameras 108 MP, f/1.8 (wide)
10 MP, f/4.9 (periscope telephoto)
10 MP, f/2.4 (telephoto)
12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide)
12 MP, f/1.6 (wide)
12 MP, f/2.2 (telephoto)
12 MP, f/2.4 (ultrawide)
TOF 3D LiDAR scanner (depth)
Video Features8K@24fps,
4K@30/60fps,
1080p@30/60/240fps,
720p@960fps,
HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS
4K@24/30/60fps,
1080p@30/60/120/240fps,
10‑bit HDR,
Dolby Vision HDR (up to 60fps), stereo sound rec.
BatteryLi-Ion 5000 mAh, non-removableLi-Ion 3687 mAh, non-removable
ChargingFast charging 25W
Fast Qi wireless charging 15W
Reverse wireless charging 4.5W
Fast charging 20W
50% in 30 min (advertised)
Qi fast wireless charging 15W
SensorsFingerprint (under display, ultrasonic), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometerFace ID, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer

Design and Build Quality

Both of these look really, really good but the S21 Ultra looks more unique. There’s really not much else out there like this, and if we compare this to the S20 Ultra, there is a big difference. On the iPhone 12 Pro Max, we do have those flat edges which look really good, but if you look at the camera module, it does look very similar to the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max Design and Build Quality
Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: Design and Build Quality

Both of these are big phones, and they both weigh about the same as well. The S21 Ultra is a little bit taller and a little bit thicker but the iPhone 12 Pro Max is wider. That width with the flatter edges does make the iPhone 12 Pro Max not as comfortable to hold as the S21 Ultra which is narrower with curved sides.

Moving onto the build materials, both of these are very premium. We’ve got glass backs, we’ve got an aluminum frame on the S21 Ultra and we do have a more durable stainless steel frame on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Both of these have a glossy finish but I can definitely notice more fingerprints on the iPhone 12 Pro Max compared to the S21 Ultra. There is also IP68 water and dust resistance on both devices but the iPhone 12 Pro Max can be submerged in water up to six meters compared to 1.5 meters of the S21 Ultra. I’m not sure how much this is going to matter to most people. I just liked the fact that we’ve got IP68 on both.

Also Read: iPhone 12 Pro Max Review

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: Display

Now let’s move over onto the front, and I think it’s a very easy win for the S21 Ultra, we have a larger 6.8-inch display but we’ve got minimal bezel smaller than that of the iPhone 12 Pro Max. You’ve also got a small punch out rather than the notch that we’ve got on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Although both devices are based on OLED technology which gives them deep blacks and amazing colors.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: Display
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: Display

The S21 Ultra does get some more advantages, it has a high resolution giving you a higher pixel density which makes things that little bit sharper. It’s also a brighter display, one of the brightest displays out there at 1500 nits.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max also has a pretty bright display. If you’re somebody who uses your phone outdoors a lot, then you really going to appreciate that extra brightness on the S21 Ultra. But I think most importantly, the S21 Ultra does have the higher refresh rate of 120Hz. It just makes everything feel a lot smoother compared it to the 60Hz on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

We’ve got Gorilla Glass Victus on the S21 Ultra and we’ve got ceramic shield on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Both of these are very durable but I think the iPhone 12 Pro Max just gets that edge because of the ceramic shield. Neither of them are going to be any more scratch resistant but from the drop tests, the iPhone 12 Pro Max does seem to be more durable.

iPhone 12 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max

Although we do have a notch on the iPhone 12 Pro Max within that notch is face ID, and face ID is really good, it’s super fast, and one of the most secure unlocking methods for your smartphone. However, in the day and age of masks it has been a bit of a struggle.

The S21 Ultra has an in display fingerprint scanner which works really, really well and it is the first device with Qualcomm 2nd Gen 3D Sonic Sensor which has a larger sensor area compared to the previous generation, and it’s also faster. Of course, it’s going to come down to personal preference, whether you prefer face ID or the fingerprint sensor, but I do prefer the fingerprint sensor.

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: Cameras

Now let’s move on to the cameras.

Front camera

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max Front camera comparison

For the front facing cameras, the S21 Ultra does have a high resolution but generally you will be shooting at around 10-megapixels any way to get the best out of the sensor. I did find that you have better dynamic range for images as well as overall better colors which is quite surprising because traditionally Samsung devices tend to brighten up your face. The iPhone 12 Pro Max does give you sharper results overall, and it does give you a little bit better edge detection when it comes to portraits.

Rear Cameras

Moving onto the rear facing cameras we’ve got lots of cameras here to work with. We’ve got ultra-wide, primary, as well as telephoto. The iPhone 12 Pro Max also has a LiDAR scanner. This not only gives you better also focus in low light but also can be used for AR.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max Rear camera comparison

The S21 Ultra does have two telephoto cameras, 3x as well as 10x. Of course, if zoom is your thing then the S21 Ultra will clearly be the choice for you. It has some excellent zoom. Even up to 30x you get some really good results. You can go all the way up to a 100x, but that’s something that’s a little bit too much for my liking. I don’t think you get great results although they are better than pretty much anything else out there on a smartphone.

It’s still not something that I would use every day. However, the iPhone 12 Pro Max gives you much better portraits because it uses that telephoto lens for portrait photography. The S21 Ultra just uses the primary camera and crops in which isn’t the best solution because it does give you soft results.

For the primary cameras, honestly speaking, it is neck and neck. I think you can’t go wrong with either of these. They both also take great shots in low light, and for the ultra wide cameras, I do prefer the iPhone 12 Pro Max because it does give you more natural colors without so much obvious processing, but the S21 Ultra does give you better low-light results with the old white camera, and it also has dual pixel auto-focus, which means the ultra-wide camera can also be used as a macro camera.

Video

For video, although both of these take great quality video, but my overall choice is still the iPhone 12 Pro Max. I just think it gives you more consistent results overall, and it also has HDR with Dolby vision across all of the cameras, which gives you much better dynamic range.

The S21 Ultra does have the ability to shoot 8K, that does crop in and it doesn’t give you stabilization but it’s nice to have the option. You also have a pro video mode built in. So you can start using the straightaway and tweaking your settings. On the iPhone 12 Pro Max, if you do want pro video settings you will have to get a third party app.

Now I do want to emphasize that both of these have excellent cameras, some of the best out there right now. I think it’s just going to come down to your personal preference.

iPhone 12 Pro Max vs Galaxy S21 Ultra: Performance

Moving on to performance, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is powered by Apple’s A14 Bionic, the S21 Ultra, it’s a little bit more complicated, depending on your region, you will have the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100. All of these chips all based on a 5nm process. Both of these have been absolutely great. Performance has been top-notch on both of these.

iPhone 12 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
iPhone 12 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

I’m not somebody who does speed tests to find out exactly how many microseconds of difference is opening apps and things like that between these two. But generally speaking to my usage anything that I’ve thrown at them has been absolutely fine.

We do have some differences for RAM. The iPhone 12 Pro Max comes with 6GB of RAM, the S21 Ultra comes with double that as a base, 12GB, but you can get up to 16GB. And you may not notice it all the time but there have been certain situations where I have noticed the advantage of RAM.

For example, if I am trying to upload a story on Instagram and I close down the app on my iPhone and move on to something else, then that video will not carry on uploading in the background. I’ll have to open Instagram and wait for it to fully upload. The S21 Ultra, I can just upload it and then leave, and it will carry on uploading in the background. I’m not sure if this is specifically because of the RAM, it might also have to do with some software.

Software

We do have different software on both of these, we’ve got iOS on the iPhone and Android with OneUI on the S21 Ultra. You guys know I don’t go into battles. It does come down to personal preference. I like both for different reasons. I think it’s come to a point where both operating systems do offer a lot and it really just comes down to what you like.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Other Features

Both devices have stereo speakers, we’ve got one in the earpiece and one bottom firing. I am not an audio expert, but Indistinct, who is an audio expert, he has done a detailed video. Based on what he said, the S21 Ultra is louder but the iPhone 12 Pro Max can get more basey. I don’t think you can go wrong with either.

Both devices also have ultra-wideband technology, and as support rolls out for more and more products you will be able to do things like use your smartphone as a touchless key for your car.

The S21 Ultra does come with some more additional features as well. You do have HyperFast Wi-Fi 6E which can give you up to four times fastest speeds over Wi-Fi. You will need a specific router for this. The S21 Ultra does also have support for the S Pen. Now, this is something that you will have to buy separately but it’s definitely nice to have.

If you are somebody that’s coming from a previous note device and you’re interested in the S21 ultra but you’re thinking maybe you’ll still need the S Pen. Well, the good news is you will be able to get this here on the S21 Ultra.

Battery and Charging

Now let’s talk about the batteries and battery life. The S21 Ultra does have a much larger battery compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max but remember size does not matter. Both have been very good and have given similar battery life. I’m not somebody who does a battery drain test because real life usage can vary. I would say that the S21 Ultra does get the slight edge however.

Now this is result of Exynos version, I’ve not tested out the Qualcomm Snapdragon version which might give you better battery life. But generally speaking I think both of these will get most people through the day absolutely fine.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra supports wireless PowerShare
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra supports Wireless PowerShare

When it comes to charging, neither of these come with a charger out of the box. It’s a trend that Apple started last year, Samsung made fun of, and have now copied. The S21 Ultra can support up to 25W while charging, the 12 Pro Max up to 20W. In the day-to-day, I don’t really think that difference of speed is really going to matter.

Both of these can charge pretty fast and we do have support for Qi wireless charging. With the S21 Ultra, you do have support for up to 15W Qi wireless charging. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is a bit of a catch, it’s 7.5W on standard Qi wireless chargers but if you do use Apple’s MagSafe charging then you can it’s up to 15W.

iPhone 12 Pro Max comes with MagSafe Technology
iPhone 12 Pro Max comes with MagSafe Technology

MagSafe is something that I really do like, it just snaps on. The S21 Ultra does have wireless PowerShare. So you can charge other devices, say some ear buds on the back of the S21 Ultra, which is not something that you will use all the time but it can be an advantage.

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 pro Max: Price in India

RAM / ROMGalaxy S21 UltraiPhone12 Pro Max
6GB + 128GBN/A₹127,302
6GB + 256GBN/A₹136,900
6GB + 512GBN/A₹159,900
12GB + 256 GB₹94,690N/A
16GB + 512GB₹114,990N/A

Finally, let’s talk about the price. Both of these come in the same storage options, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB. The S21 Ultra’s base model does start at lower price compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The 512GB version of S21 Ultra is also cheaper compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Overall, the price of Galaxy S21 Ultra is significantly less than that of iPhone 12 Pro Max (in India).

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: Conclusion

That is the Samsung galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max. I think both of these are great devices. But which one is the one that’s right to you? Well, of course, if a display is more important to you then the S21 Ultra will be the better option as well as the versatility when it comes to all of those cameras.

iPhone 12 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max

But in my opinion, the iPhone 12 Pro Max does have better video overall. It also has great cameras with the Apple ecosystem. And I think most of it will come down to which operating system is the one for you. Is it Android or iOS? Because in my opinion both of these are excellent, excellent smartphones.

That’s what I think anyway, what do you guys think? Do drop me a comment below, let me know which one of these you would pick. I hope you enjoyed this comparison and find it useful. If you did, then do share this Samsung galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max comparison.

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