Which one’s the better deal?

by Jeremy


OnePlus 9 is out now. And from what the company is asking for the hardware on the table, it looks like one impressive budget flagship. Fresh design, massive improvements in the camera department, faster chipset, and support for wireless charging – all these make it quite a compelling option. However, the Galaxy S21 – following its first price cut – falls in almost the same territory as the OnePlus 9. So, how do these two phones stack up? And more importantly, which one should you buy? Here’s a comparison to help you pick the right one:

OnePlus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 spec comparison

OnePlus 9 Samsung Galaxy S21
Display 6.55-inch AMOLED
2400 x 1080 pixels resolution
402 PPI pixel density
120Hz refresh rate
20:9 aspect ratio
Corning Gorilla Glass
6.2-inch (Galaxy S21)
6.7-inch (Galaxy S21+)
Dynamic AMOLED 2X
2400×1080 pixels resolution
421 PPI pixel density
120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Exynos 2100
RAM 8GB / 12 GB LPDDR5 8GB LPDDR5
Storage 128GB / 256GB UFS 3.1 128GB / 256GB
Rear Cameras 48MP primary camera
Sony IMX689 sensor
1/1.43-inch, f/1.8, EIS, 7P50MP ultra-wide camera
Sony IMX766 sensor
1/1.56-inch f/2.2. 7P lens2MP monochrome camera8K video at 30fps
4K video at 30/60fps
Slo-mo 720p at 480fps, 1080p at 240fps
Time-Lapse 1080p at 30fps and 4K at 30fps
12MP primary camera
Dual Pixel AF, OIS, 1.8μm, f/1.8, 79˚ FOV, 1/1.76-inch sensor12MP ultra-wide camera
1.4μm, 120˚ FOV, f/2.264MP telephoto Camera
0.8μm, f/2.0, 76˚ FOV, 1/1.72-inch
3x hybrid optical and 30x digital zoom8K video at 24fps
4K video at 60 fps
Slo-mo 1080p at 60fps / 240fps
Slo-mo 720p at 960fps
Front Camera 16MP
Sony IMX471 sensor
f/2.4, fixed focus, EIS
10MP
Dual Pixel AF, 1.22μm
80˚ FOV, f/2.2
Battery 4500 mAh
Warp Charge 65T
15W Qi wireless charging (North America & Europe)
4000 mAh (Galaxy S21)
4,800mAh (Galaxy S21+)
25W USB PD 3.0
Wireless Charging
Reverse Wireless Charging
Colors Winter Mist
Arctic Sky
Astral Black
Phantom Violet
Phantom Black
Phantom Silver
Phantom Pink
Audio Dual stereo speakers
Noise cancellation support
Dolby Atmos
Stereo speakers by AKG
Dolby Atmos
Dolby Digital & Dolby Digital Plus
Connectivity 5G
Wi-Fi 802.11(a/b/g/n/ac/ax)
Bluetooth 5.2
NFC
5G
Wi-Fi 802.11(a/b/g/n/ac/ax)
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC
Software OxygenOS 11 based on Android 11 One UI 3.1
Android 11
Security In-display fingerprint sensor
Face Unlock
In-display fingerprint sensor
Face Unlock

Design

OnePlus 9 title

Both the OnePlus and Samsung phones rock a brand new design, and employ a polycarbonate build. However, the Galaxy S21 opts for a matte finish that mimics the texture of frosted glass, while the OnePlus 9 goes with the glossy side of aesthetics. Coming to the Galaxy S21+, this one will offer you a more premium glass-and-metal build.

Neither phone offers a 3.5mm headphone jack, but the OnePlus offering retains the signature alert slider that I’ve grown to love. Both the phones rely on an in-display fingerprint sensor, and thankfully, have a flat panel.

POCKETNOW ADVISORY: Whichever device you end up picking among the OnePlus 9 and Galaxy S21, we strongly advise putting a case on it, unless you like scratches ruining the look of your phone or costing you hundreds of dollars for a screen replacement. To save you the hassle, we’ve rounded up this great list of the best Galaxy S21 cases and Galaxy S21 Plus cases, and will soon share a similar one for the OnePlus 9 too.

galaxy s21 back angled pocketnow

The hole-punch cutout is a shared design trait here, but the OnePlus 9 has it positioned in the top-left corner, while the Galaxy S21 goes for the centered approach in accordance with Samsung’s Infinity-O design language. Coming to the color options, the OnePlus device is up for grabs in a trio of shades – Winter Mist, Arctic Sky, and Astral Black. As for the Samsung device, you can choose between four shades – Phantom Violet, Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Pink.

Display

There is not much of a difference here. Both the phones offer an FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels) display with a 120Hz refresh rate that is HDR10+ certified as well. The only difference is in the size. OnePlus 9 comes equipped with a 6.55-inch panel, while the Galaxy S21 employs a slightly smaller 6.2-inch display.

oneplus 9 front

However, if you prefer the color profile of Samsung’s AMOLED panels, but want a slightly bigger display, the 6.7-inch screen on the Galaxy S21+ will suit you well. The rest of the display attributes remain the same as the vanilla Galaxy S21.

Internals

Again, not much to differentiate here in terms of brute power. All three phones rely on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC ticking alongside 8 gigs of LPDDR5 RAM and 128/256 GB of onboard storage without any scope for expansion. However, the OnePlus 9 does come in a 12GB RAM model as well. Samsung Galaxy S21 and its Plus-sized sibling, on the other hand, rock the Exynos 2100 SoC in some markets.

galaxy s21 shot from below rear panel pocketnow

Coming to the battery and charging department though, OnePlus 9 takes a clear lead here. The OnePlus device has been equipped with a bigger 4,500mAh battery that supports blazing-fast 65W wired fast charging. Plus, you also get 15W wireless charging facility as well. Turning over to the Galaxy S21, there is a 4,000mAh battery under the hood (4,800mAh inside the Galaxy S21+), but the charging speed is much slower at 25W peak wattage. Thankfully, you get support for wireless and reverse wireless charging on this one too.

Cameras

The two phones rock a triple rear camera system, but the approach they take to sensor and lens selection is quite different. For example, the OnePlus 9 doesn’t offer a telephoto camera and goes for a monochrome lens, while the Galaxy S21 and S21+ stick with the tried-and-tested wide + ultra-wide + telephoto formula.

oneplus 9 black

On the OnePlus 9, you’ll find a 48MP (Sony IMX789 sensor), assisted by a massive 50MP (Sony IMX766) sensor and a 2MP monochrome camera. Due to the lack of a telephoto camera, you don’t get perks such as lossless zoom, but on the bright side, the ultra-wide camera on this one doubles as a macro snapper by going as close as 4cm to a subject. On the front, you’ll find a 16MP selfie shooter. The phone can capture 8K videos at 30FPS and 4K clips at up to 60FPS.

Coming to the Galaxy S21 duo, you get an optically stabilized 12MP main camera, a 12MP ultra-wide shooter, and a powerful 64MP telephoto camera that delivers 3x hybrid zoom and 30x digital zoom output. For selfie and video calling duties, there is a 10MP camera on the front. Talking about camera capabilities, you get support for 8K video capture at 24fps and 4K at up to 60fps.

Best Galaxy S21 Plus

But when it comes to slo-mo video capture, the Samsung flagship takes the crown. OnePlus 9 maxes out at 480p slo-mo clips at 720p resolution, while the Samsung Galaxy S21 goes all the way up to 960fps. Following is a list comparing the camera tricks each phone offers:

OnePlus 9 Samsung Galaxy S21 / S21+
Nightscape, Super Macro, UltraShot HDR, Smart Scene Recognition, Portrait mode, Pro mode, Panorama, Tilt-shift mode, Focus Peaking, Cat/Dog Face Focus, Raw file, Filters, Super Stable, Video Nightscape, Video HDR, Video Portrait, Focus Tracking, Timelapse, and Hyperlapse Scene Optimizer, Single Take, Panorama, Night mode, Portrait Video, Pro Video, Hyperlapse, Director’s View, Super Steady, Motion photo, Format and advanced options (HEIF/Raw copies/UW shape correction) Selfie color tone, Advanced recording options (HEVC/HDR10+/Zoom-in MIC), Auto HDR, Tracking auto-focus, AR Doodle, Quick Measure

Heading into the connectivity department, you get 5G, Wi-Fi 6, and NFC support on all three devices. However, the OnePlus 9 goes for the more recent Bluetooth v5.2 standard, while the Galaxy S21 / S21+ is stuck on Bluetooth v5.0. For multimedia consumption, you get Dolby Atmos-ready stereo speakers on all three phones.

Pricing

oneplus 9 blue

Now, let’s talk about the most crucial part – the pricing. The OnePlus 9 will set you back by $729 for the base variant, while the Galaxy S21 starts at $699. The Galaxy S21+, on the other hand, carries a price tag of $799 for the base configuration. All three phones are neck and neck when it comes to raw performance, and have a display with almost identical traits. At the end of the day, it would boil down between the design and the software experience – whether you prefer Samsung’s One UI 3.1 or OnePlus’ well-regarded OxygenOS 11 skin, both of which are based on Android 11.

However, the OnePlus 9 races ahead with its blazing-fast 65W wired fast charging support, and a slightly bigger 4,500mAh battery. Additionally, it has a significantly more powerful 50MP ultra-wide-angle camera that also pulls the duty of a macro snapper. On the flip side, the 2MP macro snapper does not offer much in terms of practical usage. The Galaxy S21 and S21+ duo, on the other hand, offers a more versatile camera setup that includes a powerful 64MP telephoto camera that delivers 3x hybrid optic and 30x digital zoom.

Galaxy S21 inhand pocketnow

So ultimately, you’ll have to make the decision based on the camera hardware versatility, how important fast charging is to you, and the preference of Android skin. On the update front though, you can rest assured of at least two major Android version upgrades on the OnePlus 9 as well as Samsung Galaxy S21.

Need some expert opinion? Watch our video review of the Galaxy S21 (above) and how good the OnePlus 9 is in the video below:


View Galaxy S21 at Amazon

 


Nadeem Sarwar

I’ve been writing about consumer technology for over three years now, having worked with names such as NDTV and Beebom in the past. Aside from covering the latest news, I’ve reviewed my fair share of devices ranging from smartphones and laptops to smart home devices. I also have interviewed tech execs and appeared as a host in YouTube videos talking about the latest and greatest gadgets out there.





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