Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max

Samsung recently unveiled its latest flagship smartphones – the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+, and Galaxy S21 Ultra.

While many users would be very happy to own either of the two former smartphones, those looking for the ultimate in performance and features will want to opt for the Ultra model.

In the premium price segment, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is taking on Apple’s most recent top-end flagship – the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

We’ve compared the specifications of these two top-tier smartphones to see which one’s extensive arsenal of components and features is the best.

Premium designs

When it comes to design, the Galaxy S21 features an aluminium frame with super-strong Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back.

One of its most distinguishable features is the Contour Cut camera bump, which appears to blend over and into the side of the smartphone.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max, meanwhile, offers a Gorilla Glass front and back set in a stainless steel frame.

What sets its look apart from most other smartphones is the flat edges along its frame, reminiscent of earlier iPhones and Apple’s latest iPads.

Although the phones weigh nearly the same, the S21 Ultra is slightly taller and thicker, whereas the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a wider body, but slimmer thickness.

For those who are picky about their colour options, the S21 Ultra comes in Black, Silver, Titanium, Navy, and Brown, whereas the iPhone 12 Pro Max is offered in Apple’s Silver, Gold, Graphite, and Pacific Blue colours.

Displays and performance

In the display department, the S21 Ultra certainly has the iPhone 12 Pro Max beat.

It boasts a 6.8-inch OLED display with 3,200 x 1,440 resolution making for a 515 pixel-per-inch (ppi) density, while Apple’s contender offers a 6.7-inch 2,778 x 1,284 OLED hitting 458 ppi.

On top of that, Samsung’s smartphone boasts an adaptive refresh rate that can go up to 120Hz, while Apple sticks to the conventional 60Hz.

The iPhone 12 Pro also loses in terms of peak brightness – going up to 1,200 nits compared with the 1,500 nits of the S21 Ultra.

The A14 Bionic processor in the iPhone 12 Pro Max has performed very well in benchmarks and currently sits at the top of Notebookcheck’s ranking for smartphone processors.

In South Africa, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is sold with Samsung’s Exynos 2100 processor, which is ranked fourth, just behind the Snapdragon 888 which comes in the same phone in the US and South Korean markets.

As opposed to its predecessor – the Exynos 990 – early impressions of the Exynos 2100 have impressed reviewers, showing that its performance is nearly equal or better than the Snapdragon variant.


One area of importance for content creators and bloggers will be the main camera systems.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max comes with a quad-camera setup that includes three 12MP lenses for its main, ultrawide, and telephoto lenses, in addition to the 3D depth of field sensor.

The phone has scored highly on reputed camera review site DxOMark, ranking in 5th position behind the camera heavyweights of Huawei and Xiaomi.

While the Galaxy S21 Ultra is still to be scored, there are several reasons to be excited about its offering.

It boasts a 108MP 1/1.33-inch lens with an updated remosaicing algorithm to compute RGB for each pixel, which means it should offer levels of colour accuracy so close to perfect its differences from real life will be indistinguishable to the human eye.

Furthermore, its 10MP dual-telephoto setup includes a 70 mm and 240mm lenses for high-quality medium and long-range zooming at up to 100x.

The new ultrawide 12MP unit also offers autofocus support.

Battery and charging

The S21 Ultra’s 5,000mAh battery is larger than the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s 3,687mAh pack.

However, given that they use completely different software, this should not be a direct reflection of their overall battery life.

According to tests by Tom’s Guide, the iPhone 12 Pro Max manages almost 11 hours with 5G turned on, which was roughly the same as the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Assuming that the S21 Ultra’s battery life improvements over its predecessor live up to Samsung’s claims, it should last comfortably for more than a day’s typical use.

The S21 Ultra supports wired fast charging at 25W, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max peaks at 20W.

Since the latter’s battery is smaller, both get a 50% charge in around 30 minutes.


The Galaxy S21 Ultra starts at R27,999 for the 256GB model, identical to the price of the iPhone 12 Pro Max in the same storage configuration.

The latter is also available for R2,000 less with 128GB storage.

Early buyers of Samsung’s smartphone get a complimentary pair of Galaxy Buds Pro wireless earbuds and a Galaxy SmartTag worth R5,999.

Below are images and specifications of the Galaxy S21 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Specifications Galaxy S21 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max
OS Android 11 iOS 14
Display 6.8-inch 3,200 x 1,440 OLED 120Hz 6.7-inch 2,778 x 1,284 OLED 60Hz
Processor Exynos 2100 A14 Bionic
RAM 12GB / 16GB 6GB
Storage 256GB / 512GB 128GB / 256GB / 512GB
Rear Camera 108MP + 12MP + 10MP + 10MP 12MP + 12MP + 12MP + 3D TOF
Front Camera 40MP 12MP + SL 3D
Network 5G 5G
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6e Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6
Biometrics In-display fingerprint reader Face ID
Protection level IP68 IP68
Battery and charging 5,000mAh
25W wired
15W wireless
20W wired
15W wireless
Dimensions 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm (227g) 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.4 mm (228g)
Price R27,999 / R29,999 R25,999 / R27,999 / R32,999

Galaxy S21 Ultra

iPhone 12 Pro Max

Now read: The next iPhone could get an in-display fingerprint reader

Latest news

Partner Content

Show comments


Share this article
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max