iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Which One Is For You?

To keep things nice and simple, and because we know some of you are likely in a hurry, let’s first take a look at the overall specs of both the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the Samsung S21 Ultra side by side, as well as the pros and cons of each.

 iPhone 13 Pro MaxSamsung S21 Ultra
Display/resolution6.7-inch OLED. 2,778×1,284 pixels6.8-inch AMOLED, 1440×3200 pixels
Dimensions6.33 x 3.07 x  0.3in 161 x 78 x 7.65 mm6.5 x 2.98 x 0.35 im 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm
Weight240g227g
SoftwareiOS 15Android 11
Camera12MP Wide, 12MP Ultra-wide, 12MP telephoto10MP Wide, 10MP telephoto, 12MP Ultrawide
ProcessorApple A15 BionicQualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 5G
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB

Samsung S21 Ultra

Pros:

  • Nice variety of color options
  • A compact, high-end device, which can be hard to come by
  • Incredible battery life
  • Super bright AMOLED display
  • Adaptive refresh rate
  • Versatile triple camera as well as selfie camera setup

Cons:

  • No charger or headphones with standard retail package
  • Plastic back
  • Chipset is not the best on the market
  • Flat screen and thicker bezels is a bit of a turnoff for us
  • The camera, although good, is essentially the same as last years offering

iPhone 13 Pro Max

Pros:

  • The fastest phone on the market
  • Enhanced battery life
  • Gorgeous color options
  • 1200 nits brightness
  • Robust, scratch-resistant glass
  • 4K video recording with Dolby Vision and Stereo
  • 15W Magsafe 7.5W Qi magnetic

Cons:

  • Identical design to the iPhone 12
  • No charger in the retail package
  • Lack of secondary storage
  • No high refresh rate

Display and Design

S21 vs iPhone 13 Pro Max display

Okay, so you’ve seen the basic stats on paper, but how do these two phones compare against one another? We’ll start off by comparing what is arguably the most important aspect of any mobile phone, the display, and design. After all, you want it to look nice if you’re going to be seeing it a lot over the next few years.

As you may already be aware, Samsung has been the market leader for a number of years when it comes to the display quality of their mobile phones. But did you also know the iPhone also uses a Samsung-made OLED display panel? With the iPhone 13 Pro Max, Apple is beginning to pick up their heels and redeem themselves, boasting an impressive 120HZ refresh rate. What does that mean? Well to put it simply, both of these phones will now have matched scrolling experiences.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s screen is the same size and resolution as we saw with the iPhone 12’s (6.7-inch OLED, 1284 x 2778 pixel resolution) which could be seen as advantageous, as they haven’t taken any risks here in changing things that don’t require it. The Samsung S21 Ultra offers a slightly higher resolution, despite coming out earlier, at 1440 pixels.

If the weight of your mobile device is something you like to take into consideration, you’ll find the iPhone 12 Pro Max is actually slightly heavier than the Samsung S21 Ultra, with the iPhone weighing 240g, and the Samsung weighing 229g. Not too much, perhaps, but it is noticeable when you have hands-on both.

Design-wise, the iPhone is fairly wide, which may be okay for most, but can be a little harder to use effectively if you have smaller hands. The Samsung on the other hand is narrow and offers curved sides which sit more comfortably in the hand.

Biometrics

Biometrics

Who doesn’t love some biometrics? It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago we never had this kind of technology in our mobile devices, yet these days we couldn’t live without it.

With the iPhone 13 Pro Max, you are of course getting their Face ID tech. This has been improved by making the notch where the tech is stored on the front of the phone 10% smaller. The iPhone does not have a fingerprint scanner, but Samsung uses a fingerprint scanner and 2D image-based face recognition. The fingerprint scanner is a faster, ultrasonic scanner, which the earlier Galaxy devices used and was always reliable.

Cameras

Cameras

There’s no doubt that the iPhone 13 Pro Max has an improved camera and setup, but it still cannot match the quality of the Samsung.

Both devices offer main and ultra-wide lenses. The iPhone offers a single 3X zoom lens, and the Samsung comes with a 3X zoom and also a 10X zoom, which is of course better.

The iPhone camera has also been improved for the night, having a better sensor and wider aperture and ultra-wide lens means it allows more light into the camera and in turn makes it more versatile in every situation. With the iPhone, you will be getting Photographic Styles (which are essentially enhanced filters), which allow you to create a filter and apply it to either all of your pictures or just one. Both the iPhone and the Samsung support Macro mode, which is an improvement as Apple never used to have this.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has Portrait Video mode, which is great but is potentially not as good as the iPhone’s new Cinematic Mode. Cinematic Mode enables the user to change the focus on any photo or video with precision, even existing recordings!

On top of all this, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is equipped with a LiDAR scanner. The Samsung Galaxy does not have this. The inclusion of a LiDAR scanner means the iPhone will be able to focus easier at night and is helpful for anything that may utilize augmented reality.

Performance

As you may have come to expect when it comes to the performance category, Apple once again takes the field by storm with its new A15 Bionic Chip. Delivering unrivaled processing speed and performance, there really isn’t anything bad to be said for the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Samsung’s S21 Galaxy Ultra is equipped with their own top-of-the-line chip, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 (in US models). Internationally, the same phone will be equipped with a slightly less impressive Exynos 2100 processor. As for RAM? Well, this is where Samsung takes the lead. The S21 Ultra comes with 12GB RAM, whereas the iPhone 13 Pro Max comes with 6GB RAM.

Benchmark scores (Note: The higher score is better)

iPhone 13 Pro Max: Single Core – 1734

                                   Multi-Core – 4818

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Single Core – 1081

                                   Multi-Core – 3463

As you can see, Apple’s A15 is unrivaled. The A15 Bionic Chip uses the same 5nm tech as the previous A14 but has had its CPU speed increased as well as increasing its cache. According to Apple themselves, the A15 boasts a faster CPU speed of 50 percent and a faster GPU of 30% than the rest of its rivals.

Now let’s quickly touch on storage. Both the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra come with a base storage of 128GB. This can also be increased to either 256GB or 512GB depending on how much cash you’re willing to part with. The iPhone 13 Pro Max will also be available in a staggering 1TB model.

Battery

Battery

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Neither the iPhone 13 Pro Max nor the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with a charger. This may or may not be an issue for you, but we imagine both companies assume you will already have a charger at this point. If you’re like us, you probably have a handful of the things lying around. If not, you’re going to find yourself shelling out additional bucks just getting one.

Although Apple hasn’t officially announced the 12 Pro Max’s battery capacity, it is rumored to have a 4,373mAh battery. Samsung’s comes with a 5,000mAh battery. Although these numbers alone are not enough to draw any solid conclusions, the iPhone’s battery is said to be improved from the previous models.

Charging times: The iPhone will have you waiting approximately two hours for a full charge, whereas the S21 Ultra will take about an hour. Not bad, perhaps, but not like the charging speeds we’re seeing from companies such as OnePlus.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, this article has helped clear up some of the big questions surrounding the rivalry between the two models. Although the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is an impressive beast that takes the lead in a couple of categories, it’s still not quite enough to knock Apple’s iPhone 13, Pro Max, off its pedestal.

Winner: iPhone 13 Pro Max

About S. Santos

I am a tech columnist and blogger by trade, but I'm also an avid tennis player. In my spare time, I enjoy reviewing gadgets and gizmos from the world of tech. A lot has changed in the field since I started out as a writer back in 2009, so it's always exciting to keep up with all that's new. To me, there's nothing quite like getting my hands on a brand-new gadget or piece of software for the first time -- it's like Christmas morning every day!

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