Even before the Galaxy S21 FE was introduced, the speculation began ramping about how it would stack up against Google’s Pixel 6. When the Galaxy S20 FE launched, the phone was touted as one of the best values on the market. It offered a flagship experience while being priced substantially lower than the standard Galaxy S20. But with Samsung dropping the retail price of the Galaxy S21 lineup, could the company come back and impress, especially when the Pixel 6 has already been available?
Galaxy S21 FE vs Pixel 6: Spec Comparison
|Google Pixel 6||Samsung Galaxy S21 FE|
|Price||$599 / $699||$699 / $769|
|Resolution||2400 x 1080||1080 x 2400|
|Density||411 ppi||411 ppi|
|Processor||Google Tensor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888|
|RAM||8 GB||6 / 8 GB|
|Storage||128 / 256 GB||128 / 256 GB|
|Battery||4614 mAh||4500 mAh|
|OS||Android 12||Android 12 (One UI 4)|
|Rear camera||Dual cameras:
50MP, f/1.9, 1.2 μm, OIS (main)
12MP, f/2.2, 114-degrees, 1.25 μm (ultra-wide)
12MP, f/1.8, 1.8 μm, OIS (main),
8MP, f/2.4, 76mm, 1.0 μm (telephoto),
12MP, f2.2, 123 degrees, 1.12 μm (ultrawide)
|Front camera||8MP, f/2.0, 1.12 μm||32MP, f/2.2, 0.8 μm|
|Dimensions||158.6 x 74.8 x 8.9mm||155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9mm|
|Special features||30W fast charging, 21W Qi wireless charging, Reverse wireless charging, In-display fingerprint sensor,
|25W fast charging, 15W Qi wireless charging, Reverse wireless charging, in-display fingerprint sensor, 120Hz display|
Galaxy S21 FE vs Pixel 6: Breaking it down
Admittedly, the Galaxy S21 FE is in a weird spot. The phone was continuously delayed for unknown reasons, allowing Google to swoop in with the ultra-affordable Pixel 6 and capture some of the market that was waiting for a Galaxy S20 FE successor. On paper, the Galaxy S21 FE looks like it’s a home run for anyone looking for a near-flagship experience without breaking the bank.
Comparing the two, there are enough differences that might help sway you one way or the other. The S21 FE features a larger 6.7-inch display, complete with an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate compared to the 6.4-inch / 90Hz display found on the Pixel 6. Both devices have configurations with 8GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of storage, but the Galaxy S21 FE comes in with 6GB / 128GB in its base configuration.
Battery life is negligible with the S21 FE sporting a 4,500mAh cell, compared to the Pixel 6’s 4,614mAh battery. Both devices offer “fast” charging, with Google getting the leg up thanks to its 30W fast wired charging and 21W fast wireless charging. Samsung is playing the conservative role for the time being, including the same 25W wired and 15W wireless charging speeds found on pretty much every Galaxy phone released in the last two years.
Where the Galaxy S21 FE might be more enticing to some, comes down to the camera hardware. Samsung packed a triple camera array into its latest phone, with a 12MP main lens, an 8MP telephoto sensor with 3x optical zoom, and a 12MP ultra-wide camera. The Pixel 6 is “limited” to just two cameras, with a 50MP main camera and a 12MP ultra-wide lens, so it will really come down to whether you use a telephoto lens on a regular basis or not.
Software is another area of contention, especially given the recent events surrounding the December Security Patch. Google has pulled the December patch entirely, stating that the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro won’t get its next update until the end of January. This is a surprise and frustration, as we expect to get the latest versions of Android, even security patches, before the rest of the Android devices. Instead, this conundrum has let Samsung take a bit of a lead in the security patch department, as the company has become the 2nd-best phone maker in terms of software updates. Both of these phones will get at least three years of major OS updates, thanks to the Galaxy S21 FE being the first Galaxy phone to launch with Android 12 (via One UI 4.0).
Galaxy S21 FE vs Pixel 6: Picking a winner
When you look at the specs on paper, it looks like the Galaxy S21 FE should be a no-brainer. Google’s software prowess definitely has an advantage for most, as not everyone will want to wait for, and then download, the GCam mod for the Galaxy S21 FE. And the Pixel 6 takes some incredible pictures thanks to the on-device image processing that has gotten even better with Google’s Tensor chip. Of course, the Galaxy S21 FE won’t be a slouch and is a bit more versatile thanks to the added lens.
But the reason why we still recommend that you pick up the Pixel 6 over the Galaxy S21 FE is all about price. Samsung stuck to its guns for some reason with the Galaxy S21 FE, offering the device with a retail price of $699 in its base configuration. If you want to double the storage and add two more GB of RAM, then you’ll need to shell out an extra $100.
The Pixel 6, with its 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage comes in at $100 lower than the Galaxy S21 FE. Even with the ongoing issues in the software department, the Pixel 6 still offers a better value, as it gives you about 90% of what the Pixel 6 Pro has to offer, while being substantially less expensive.
If Samsung had released the Galaxy S21 FE when it originally intended, back around the time of the Galaxy Z Fold 3, this could be a different conversation. And while it’s true that you can save big by trading in your old phone through Samsung’s website, chances are that your carrier is offering something similar for the Pixel 6.
Unless you really need that third camera, or are just a big fan of the Galaxy FE lineup, then we still recommend going with the Pixel 6.