The battle between top flagship smartphones over the years has traditionally been an Apple vs Samsung affair. The Cupertino-based company introduced the iPhone 12 Pro Max to the world in September 2020 as part of their latest iPhone 12 line-up. Less than five months later, Samsung unleashed their Galaxy S21 Ultra—the top-end model out of the trio of Galaxy S21 phones. If you are in the market for the ultimate flagship smartphone today, there is absolutely no debate outside of these two. But does one trump over the other?
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, here’s a specs comparison overview between the two flagship phones.
|Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
|Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
|165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm
|160.8 x 78.1 x 7.4mm
|6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 120Hz display (3200×1440 pixels)
|6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display (2778×1284 pixels)
|Samsung Exynos 2100/Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
|Apple A14 Bionic
|108MP wide-angle lens
12MP ultra wide lens
10MP telephoto lens (3x)
10MP telephoto lens (10x)
|12MP wide-angle lens
12MP ultra wide lens
TOF 3D LiDAR scanner
12MP telephoto lens
|5,000mAh (with 25W fast charging)
Qi wireless charging 15W
USB Power Delivery 3.0
Reverse wireless charging 4.5W
|3,687mAh (with 20W fast charging)
Qi wireless charging 15W
USB Power Delivery 2.0
|RM5,299 (12GB RAM + 256GB storage)
RM5,899 (16GB RAM + 512GB storage)
Build & Design
There is no mistaking it, these are two giant phones. Put side-by-side, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is not only taller but also much thicker than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which has a wider body. Despite the disparity, there is little separating the two in terms of heaviness. Both devices weigh almost exactly the same.
Major design changes are apparent on both devices over their predecessors. The iPhone 12 Pro Max sports a much flatter and more industrial design. Meanwhile, the S21 Ultra’s big change comes on the back of the phone with its new camera bump design which blends seamlessly to the side metal rail.
Both devices gravitate away from the glossy glass back of yesteryears and instead embrace a more matte finish. The results are fewer fingerprints!
In terms of size, the S21 Ultra gives you a massive 6.8-inch AMOLED display while the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s OLED screen is just a tad smaller at 6.7 inches. You aren’t going to find a more gorgeous-looking screen than what these two have to offer, but the Samsung flagship trumps the iPhone by boasting a 120Hz high refresh rate, more pixels, and a brighter screen that goes all the way up to 1,500 nits.
Apple fortifies the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s display with the all-new Ceramic Shield glass, which offers four times better drop performance. Not to be left behind, the S21 Ultra’s display is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus, its toughest glass yet.
It is a straight fight between Apple’s A14 Bionic chipset and Samsung’s Exynos 2100 (for Malaysian units) or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888.
Benchmark tests show that the A14 Bionic still holds the lead as far as overall performance goes, although the Samsung phone is not that far behind. However, there is zero doubt that you will get exceptional performance no matter which phone you end up with, with the higher benchmark numbers negligible at best.
If more features equal a better phone in your book, the S21 Ultra would be the better pick. It has things like an in-display fingerprint scanner, Samsung DeX, and reverse wireless charging, all of which are absent on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
What the iPhone 12 Pro Max has that its competitor doesn’t is a magnet system inside the phone. MagSafe, as it is called, not only lets you charge the device with compatible MagSafe chargers but also allows you to attach a variety of accessories to it, ranging from car mounts to a wallet.
Apple has been a consistent performer in the camera department year after year, although the company is content to let other smartphone manufacturers take the lead in camera hardware innovations.
With the iPhone 12 Pro Max bringing features like Apple ProRAW, Dolby Vision, and LiDAR scanner to the table, Apple is once again far ahead of the competition. But Samsung is able to trim the lead and come ever so closer with the S21 Ultra. It has four camera lenses (alongside a laser autofocus) at the back including not one but two telephoto cameras, which will allow you to take better zoomed-in shots. On the front, it has a whopping 40 megapixels selfie camera, versus the 12MP shooter on the iPhone.
No matter which device you pick up, it’s safe to say that these two take the best pictures among all other smartphones in the market right now.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the clear winner here with its massive 5,000mAh battery, far larger than the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s 3,687mAh unit. Not just that, the former also supports faster charging (25W vs 20W) and has the newer USB Power Delivery 3.0 standard. Additionally, it boasts reverse wireless charging, which enables the S21 Ultra to wirelessly charge other devices like other smartphones or wireless earbuds.
Which Phone Should You Go For?
While there isn’t an overwhelming winner, choosing which one to get is not all that hard. If you want a top flagship smartphone that offers a better display, has more features out of the box, and gives you longer usage time in-between charges, go for the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. If software experience and overall quality that ages well is your number one priority, nothing beats what the iPhone 12 Pro Max delivers. Whichever phone wins your heart, you will get the best experience that their respective platforms have to offer.
Get all the details on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra‘s price and availability in Malaysia here.
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