Which one should you buy?
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max are currently among the best flagship phones on the market. They represent the best of what Samsung and Apple offer, with the latest technology available and high resolution cameras.
Read our comparison below if you want to buy the Galaxy S21 Ultra or iPhone 13 Pro Max but aren’t sure which one is right for you.
Dimensions and build quality
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm; 227 grams; IP68 dust and water resistant
- iPhone 13 Pro Max: 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.65 mm; 240 grams; IP68 dust and water resistant
Both phones feature super premium construction, with the iPhone 13 Pro Max featuring a stainless steel chassis and the Galaxy S21 Ultra using an aluminum frame. On the front and back, they both use durable tempered glass to prevent them from easily cracking or breaking. Samsung’s and Apple’s offerings are also IP68 dust and water resistant.
The only problem with the iPhone 13 Pro Max is that it has a Lightning connector, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra has the most common USB-C port. Both phones are loaded in terms of connectivity, with 5G, Wi-Fi 6 / 6E, Ultra-Wideband, etc.
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: 6.8 inch 2x dynamic AMOLED; 1440 x 3200 resolution; 515 IPP; Maximum brightness of 1500 nits; 120Hz dynamic refresh rate; HDR10 +; Gorilla Glass Victus; Permanent display
- iPhone 13 Pro Max: 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display; 2778 x 1284 resolution; 458 PPI; 1000 nits typical brightness / 1200 nits maximum brightness; HDR; Ceramic protective shield; Promotion 120 Hz; True Tone Display
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the iPhone 13 Pro Max have nearly identical screens: 6.8 inches versus 6.7 inches.
They are both high-resolution LTPO OLED panels with a dynamic refresh rate of 120Hz, which means they can automatically adjust the refresh rate based on the content displayed. You can’t go wrong with the screens on both phones as they are some of the best around.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s display only has one advantage: the Always-on display, which Apple continues to omit on iPhones.
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Snapdragon 888 / Exynos 2100; Fabulous 5nm; Adreno 660 / Arm Mali-G78 MP14
- iPhone 13 Pro Max: A15 bionic; Fabulous 5nm; new 16-core neural motor; 5-core GPU
The A15 Bionic inside the iPhone 13 Pro Max is two to three generations faster than the Snapdragon 888 / Exynos 2100 inside the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The latter’s chip is among the fastest in the Android ecosystem, but it just can’t hold its own against the A15 Bionic in terms of power and efficiency.
The A15 Bionic’s 5-core GPU is also noticeably faster than the Adreno / Mali GPU found inside the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Samsung’s offering may be among the best performing Android smartphones, but it pales in comparison to Apple’s chip prowess.
RAM and storage
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: 12/16 GB of RAM; 256 GB / 512 GB storage
- iPhone 13 Pro Max: 6 GB of RAM; 128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB storage
The Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with twice as much RAM (12GB) and storage (256GB) as the base variant of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, although you can configure the latter with up to 1TB of storage. The base variant of the iPhone 13 Pro Max will only let you record ProRes videos in Full HD resolution. You need one of the higher storage variants if you want to shoot in 4K.
While the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with twice the RAM, it isn’t significantly better than the iPhone 13 Pro Max when it comes to multitasking and keeping apps in its memory. The two devices are pretty much the same in this regard, with the iPhone once again making do with its limited hardware thanks to Apple’s software optimizations.
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: 108MP f / 1.8 primary, 0.8 µm large pixels, OIS and PDAF; 12MP f / 2.2 ultra-wide (FoV 120 degrees); 10MP f / 2.4 3x optical zoom sensor with OIS; 10MP f / 4.9 10x optical zoom with OIS; 100x digital zoom; Front: 40MP f / 2.2 with autofocus
- iPhone 13 Pro Max: 12MP f / 1.5 primary, dual pixel PDAF, sensor shift stabilization; 12MP f / 2.8 telephoto lens, 3x digital zoom, OIS; 12MP ultra-wide camera with f / 1.8 aperture (FoV 120 degrees), macro photography; Front: 12MP f / 2.2 camera
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra may have a significantly higher resolution main camera than the iPhone 13 Pro Max, but their overall image quality is largely the same. The image resolution is also the same, as the S21 Ultra produces 12MP pixel photos.
Both phones offer arguably the best camera experience on smartphones, and you can’t go wrong with either.
The sensor shift stabilization on the iPhone 13 Pro Max gives it a slight edge, as it can deliver longer handheld exposure times in low-light shots than the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a more versatile zoom camera setup. Along with a 3x optical zoom, it also has a 10x telephoto lens, which allows it to capture crisp, usable photos even at higher zoom levels. In fact, Samsung offers 100x digital zoom on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, although the results at such zoom levels are barely usable.
The front camera for both devices is also essentially the same despite Samsung offering a 40 MP higher resolution. The iPhone can capture loud selfies in low light situations, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra tends to accentuate them.
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: 5000mAh battery; 25W fast wired charging; 15W wireless charging; 4.5W reverse wireless charging
- iPhone 13 Pro Max: 4352mAh battery; Support 15W MagSafe wireless charging; 7.5 W with Qi wireless chargers; 50% charge in 35 minutes with 20W wired adapter
On paper, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a significantly bigger battery than the iPhone 13 Pro Max. However, actual testing has shown the iPhone 13 Pro Max to last a few hours longer than Samsung’s offerings in almost any situation.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the most durable smartphone in numerous online tests. This is due to Apple’s tight integration between hardware and software which allows it to optimize its iPhones for the best possible battery life despite a relatively small battery.
While not mentioned, the iPhone 13 Pro Max supports wired charging speeds of up to 27W, although both phones take 30 minutes to go from zero to 50%. The iPhone takes longer to reach full capacity because Apple tends to charge the battery after around 70% to increase its lifespan.
Both phones support 15W wireless charging speeds, but the iPhone 13 Pro Max can only achieve these speeds when used with a MagSafe charger. It also lacks reverse wireless charging, which can be useful for charging your wireless headphones or other wireless accessories while you’re on the go.
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: from $ 1,199
- iPhone 13 Pro Max: from $ 1,099
The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a higher starting price than the iPhone 13 Pro Max. However, this is only on paper, as the device is often reduced to less than $ 1,000 by various retailers. The iPhone 13 Pro Max, on the other hand, is rarely discounted, especially if you plan to purchase the unlocked variant.
Despite the slight price difference, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a more attractive phone as software updates mean it can easily last around 5+ years, an area where the Galaxy S21 Ultra will struggle. Samsung will give it three years of operating system updates.
Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: which one should you buy?
Besides the hardware differences, the most significant difference between the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the iPhone 13 Pro Max is the operating system they are running: Android vs. iOS. Which choice is right for you will depend on your use case and what you expect from your phones.
Whichever device you choose, however, both phones represent the best of their ecosystems, and you can’t go wrong with them. However, if you value battery life and a consistent experience, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is the more tempting option.
Can’t decide between an Apple or a Samsung phone? We put the two face to face to see which one is the best.
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