Samsung galaxy s21 ultra vs iPhone 12 pro max: it is time for the full in-depth hands-on comparison of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra versus the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
We’ve got the best from Samsung and the best from Apple.
And as always, we’ll be breaking down all of the key differences between these two to give you guys a better idea of which one be right for you.
So I want to kick things off by looking at the design.
I think both of these look really, really good but the S21 Ultra, I would say looks more unique.
There’s really not much else out there like this.
And if we compare this to the S20 Ultra last year, there is a big difference.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max, we do have those flat edges which I think look really good.
But if you look at the camera module, for example, it does look very similar to the iPhone 11 Pro Max last year.
Now both of these are big phones, some of the biggest smartphones out right now 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.
Now 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.
Now 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 but we do have a more durable stainless steel frame on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Both the frames do have a glossy finish but I can definitely notice more fingerprints on the iPhone 12 Pro Max compared to the S21 Ultra.
And this is something that I keep finding myself having to wipe down.
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So if you want to pick some up for your iPhone 12 Pro Max or your Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra then I will be leaving a link down in the description below.
Now we do have 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.
Now, honestly speaking, 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.
Now let’s move over onto the front.
And I think it’s a very easy win for the S21 Ultra, you firstly have a larger 6.8-inch display but we’ve got a 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.
And although both devices are based on OLED technology which gives them deep blacks and amazing colors.
The S21 Ultra does get some more advantages.
It does have 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, 1500 nits.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max also has a pretty bright display.
It’s just the S21 Ultra is brighter.
And especially if you’re somebody like me who always wears sunglasses and 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 a higher refresh rate, 120 hertz.
And this really doesn’t make a difference.
It just makes everything feel a lot smoother compared to the 60 hertz on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
We’ve got Gorilla Glass Victus on the S21 Ultra and we’ve got a 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 is going to be any more scratch-resistant but from the drop test that we’ve seen the iPhone 12, Pro Max does seem to be more durable for drops.
Now, 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 for me personally.
The S21 Ultra has an in-display fingerprint scanner which works really, really well.
And it is the first device with Qualcomm’s second Gen 3D Sonic Sensor which has a larger sensor area compared to the previous generation, and it’s also faster.
Now, of course, it’s going to come down to personal preference, whether you prefer face ID or the fingerprint sensor, but I think right now when we have to wear masks everywhere I personally do prefer the fingerprint sensor.
Now let’s move on to my favorite part, and that is of course the cameras.
Before I tell you all about the cameras just to let you know, I have done an in-depth detailed super sass style camera comparison between these two.
It’s actually 30 minutes long, and I’ve gone through pretty much every single feature.
But to give you a brief summary, 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.
And I did find that you have a better dynamic range for images as well as overall better colors which are quite surprising because traditionally Samsung devices tend to brighten up your face.
However, this year Samsung does allow you to completely switch this off.
So thank you Samsung for listening.
But the iPhone 12 Pro Max does give you sharper results overall, and in my testing, it does give you a little bit better edge detection when it comes to portraits.
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 S21 Ultra does have two telephoto cameras, three times as well as 10 times.
Now, 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 30 times you get some really, really good results.
You can go all the way up to a hundred times, but that’s something that’s a little bit too much for my liking.
And 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 he actually 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 autofocus, which means the ultra-wide camera can also be used as a macro camera and really get up close results.
I really do like this feature here on the S21 Ultra.
For video, although both of these take great quality video 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 a much better dynamic range.
Now, the S21 Ultra does have the ability to shoot 8K, which does crop in and it doesn’t give you stabilization but it’s nice to have the option.
And you also have a pro video mode built-in.
So you can start using the straightaway and tweaking your settings.
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.
Once again, all of the different features have been covered in that detailed camera comparison which I will link in the cards and down in the description.
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.
Now all of these chips all based on a five-nanometer process.
And honestly speaking in my day-to-day, both of these have been absolutely great.
Performance has been top-notch on both of these.
I currently have the Exynos version because I’m based in the UK.
I will be getting a hold of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 version very soon.
Now, you guys know 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.
But we do have some differences for RAM.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max comes with six gigabytes of RAM, the S21 Ultra comes with double that as a base,12 gigabytes, but you can
get up to 16 gigabytes.
And you may not notice it all the time but there have been certain situations where I have noticed the advantage of RAM.
Say, 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.
Now I’m not sure if this is specifically because of the RAM, it might also have to do with some software.
And we do have of course different software on both of these, we’ve got iOS on the iPhone and we’ve got Android with One UI on the S21 Ultra.
And now, you guys know I don’t go into battles.
It does come down to personal preference.
I genuinely use both, and 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.
Now, both devices have stereo speakers, we’ve got one in the earpiece and one bottom-firing.
I am not an audio expert, but speaking to my friend (indistinct) who is an audio expert, he has done a detailed video.
But based on what he said, the S21 Ultra is louder but the iPhone 12 Pro Max can get more basey.
Now, personally speaking, I don’t think you can go wrong with either.
I think both have great stereo speakers.
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 using your smartphone as a touchless key for your car.
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.
The S21 Ultra does come with some more additional features as well.
You do have HyperFast WiFi 6E which can give you up to four times the fastest speeds over wifi.
Now you will need a specific router for this.
And the S21 Ultra does also has 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.
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.
That’s not what she said.
Now in my usage, both have been very good and have given me 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 the Exynos version that I’m using here.
I’ve not tested out the Qualcomm Snapdragon version which might give me better battery life.
But generally speaking, I think both of these will get most people through the day absolutely fine.
Now, 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 has now copied.
So yeah, there’s that.
The S21 Ultra can support up to 25 Watts while charging, the iPhone 12 Pro Max up to 20 Watts.
Now 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 cheap wireless charging.
Now with the S21 Ultra, you do have support for up to 15 Watts Qi wireless charging.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max is a bit of a catch, it’s 7.5 watts on standard Qi wireless chargers but if you do use Apple’s MagSafe charging then you can it’s up to 50 Watts.
Now, MagSafe is something that I really do like, it just snaps on.
The S21 Ultra, however, does have wireless PowerShare.
So you can charge other devices, say some earbuds on the back of the S21 Ultra.
This is not something that you will use all the time but it can be an advantage.
And finally, let’s talk about the price.
Both of these come in the same storage options, 128, 256, and 512 gigabytes.
The S21 Ultra, the base model does start higher compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
The 256-gigabyte option is pretty much the same, and the 512-gigabyte version is actually cheaper compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
So, generally speaking, these are on the premium tier of flagships.
And one of the interesting things here in the UK anyway is the fact that both of these coming in at a lower price compared to what the previous generation devices came in at the year before.
And that is the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
I think both of these are great devices and they will be both of my daily drivers going forward.
I will have one of each in my pocket because I do use both Android and iOS.
But which one is the one that’s right for 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.
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 is it 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, let me know which one of these you would pick.
I hope you enjoyed this articles and find it useful.