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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Google Pixel 6: Which one is the best Android phone?

The Pixel 6 was one of 2021’s best smartphones, but, with the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE having arrived you may be wondering if it eclipse the Google’s mid-range champion? Here’s our head-to-head comparison so you can find out.

The Pixel 6 showcased a near-perfect marriage of software and hardware when it launched last year. In our review we found it’s THE best phone Google’s made to date, offering a brilliant rear camera, innovative software and powerful AI features. As a result, it’s going to be hard to topple it – especially in the camera department – but has the newly-unveiled Samsung Galaxy S21 FE managed to do the job? Read our early analysis to find what we think so far, based on our first impressions using the new Samsung phone.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Google Pixel 6: Camera

Google’s smartphones, in our experience, have offered brilliant camera performance since the first generation Pixel, and the Pixel 6 is no different. It has a dual sensor system, including a 50-megapixel main camera and a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens, and the results are enhanced by excellent post-processing techniques.

Google Pixel 6 camera in use
Google Pixel 6 camera in use

We loved the images produced by the Pixel 6, which pack in vivid colours and incredible detail even in lowlight condititions, and handy tools such as Magic Eraser (which remove unwanted objects from your photos) were also a huge boost. The only real downside was the lack of a telephoto lens for optical zoom, which made it hard to get good distance shots during testing.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE packs a versatile camera set-up that is quite similar to that of the main Galaxy S21; however a key difference is that the telephoto sensor in the newest device is just 8-megapixels rather than 64-megapixels. Along with this snapper it has also got a 12-megapixel main camera and a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens, which seem to be the exact same ones you’d find on the Galaxy S21. As for the 32-megapixel front-facing camera, it is claimed to be Samsung’s best selfie experience yet. We’ve only had a brief amount of time with the new FE, but our initial findings are positive. From what we’ve seen it offers that classic “Samsung look”, with shots universally coming out vividly, with punchy colors and decent post shot sharpening. The only downside is that, based on this, they’re not quite as realistic looking as those taken on the Pixel.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Google Pixel 6: Screen

The Pixel 6’s display – a 6.4-inch HDR OLED panel – gets the job done but is by no means exceptional. In our review we described it as merely “adequate”. A particular disappointment is that the adaptive refresh rate maxes out at 90Hz rather than the 120Hz offered by other premium counterparts. This means it’s not as smooth to use generally and not quite as fast as the best gaming phones on the market.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE front and screen
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE screen

By contrast, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE does pack a 120Hz refresh rate (along with an equally impressive 240Hz touch sampling rate), so you should be able to see the difference in smoothness whether you’re gaming or just scrolling down a social media feed – however it doesn’t change its refresh rate adaptively, so you’ll have to fiddle about in the settings every time you want to tweak it. This could impact its battery, based on our experience with other high refresh rate phones that aren’t variable. All in all in measures 6.4 inches, with a Full HD+ resolution, which ensures it is sharp enough to comfortably read and watch movies on.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Google Pixel 6: Performance

One key selling points of the Pixel 6 was that it was the first device to run on Google’s own-brand chipset (named Tensor). It worked well in practice, posting similar scores to other top-end Android devices, and no drawbacks were found in our daily use.

According to Samsung, the Galaxy S21 FE will offer “the same experience used in the S21 series” as far as the processor is concerned. We were seriously impressed by this series’ performance, which was powerful, fast, and ideal for gaming, so if this rings true during our benchmarking test we’ll be seriously impressed.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Google Pixel 6: Battery

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE packs a large 4500mAh battery which supports 25W wired charging and 15W wireless charging.

On the other hand, the Pixel 6 boasted a slightly larger cell (4600mAh) and supports 30W wired charging and 21W wireless charging (as long as you splash out on Google’s own-brand charging hardware, that is). In our experience, the Pixel 6 got us through a busy day with 5-10% battery life to spare, though it wasn’t all that speedy when you wanted to juice it up again.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Google Pixel 6: Price

The new Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is available to buy from 11 January, in two different variants; the base 128GB storage model will be sold for £699, while the 256GB version will set you back by £749.

The Google Pixel 6 is significantly cheaper, with its starting price being £599 (128GB), which rises to £699 if you bump the storage up to 256GB. We’ll update this page with US and Euro pricing when we get it.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Google Pixel 6: Early Verdict

It’s still early days to choose between these two handsets, and you’ll have to wait for our upcoming Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review for the full lowdown, but from what we’ve seen so far we’d probably plump for the Google Pixel 6 over it. That’s primarily because we have been particularly impressed with its camera, and it retails at a significantly lower price point.

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