Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro: The Android Prizefight

So, this is the battle of 2 of the best Android smartphones in the market today. On one hand, we have the freshly launched Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra while on the other side is last year’s performance champ, the OnePlus 8 Pro. There is a lot to cover here so without further ado, let’s get right into the comparison!

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro: Build Quality and Design

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro Build Quality and Design

There are completely different hardware choices behind the design language of the S21 Ultra and the OnePlus 8 Pro. Just look at the cameras. The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a unique, never seen before camera design where the entire module is integrated with the frame of the phone. It looks unique and unlike anything in the market today. In comparison, the OnePlus 8 Pro has a somewhat forgettable, mainstream-looking camera module placement. 
Both phones have curved glass on the front and the back with an aluminium frame in the middle but again, there is a difference in implementation. The glass is more curved on the OnePlus 8 Pro which means that the metal frame is narrower, making it slightly harder to grip the phone in comparison. The S21 Ultra has a thicker frame which leads to better grip.
One thing that I believe both the phones have done right is the matte texture on the glass backs. It looks beautiful, feels great in-hand and does an excellent job of hiding smudges and fingerprints. A small but significant plus point in the OnePlus 8 Pro is the inclusion of that Mute Slider. 

Even though, both these phones feel amazing in hand, you will need a case for both of them to make sure the fragile curved glass does not shatter when dropped. Check out our lineup of the best Galaxy S21 Ultra Cases!
If you’re considering the OnePlus 8 Pro instead, here’s a link to check out the Best Cases for the OnePlus 8 Pro


Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro: Display

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro Display Comparison

Flip over and we have 2 beautiful curved displays, without a doubt 2 of the best in the industry. But there is a difference. FIrst up, when it comes to the core display quality, both the Galaxy S21 Ultra and OnePlus 8 Pro pack extremely beautiful displays in a vacuum. However, put them side by side and the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the clear winner. It has more vibrant colours, richer saturation and just looks a notch above the panel on the OnePlus 8 Pro. But again, we are comparing excellent vs excellent here, so both displays will be just fine for all users.
I do have two points to talk about though. First up, the OnePlus 8 Pro has a widespread display problem ranging from green tint to black crush to even smearing. My unit had this too and I made a video all about it so check it out for more details. The Samsung Galaxy S21 is free of all these issues.  
Secondly, the curve on the display of the OnePlus 8 Pro is more aggressively curved compared to the curve on the S21 Ultra, which means that the OnePlus tends to have a lot more unwanted glare and accidental touches in comparison. I hate how OnePlus has implemented it because it significantly hampers the experience for me. It is not a dealbreaker by any means but is definitely an annoyance.

Even though the Galaxy S21 Ultra has the harder Gorilla Glass Victus on the front, you will need a good screen protector, so check out our lineup of the best Galaxy S21 Ultra Screen Protectors!
If you decide to go the OnePlus 8 Pro route, we got you covered! Here is our lineup of the best OnePlus 8 Pro Screen Protectors

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro: Software Experience

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro Software Experience

Let’s talk about the software experience now. This is a very, very close call because both Samsung’s OneUI and OnePlus’ Oxygen OS are two of the most well-loved and usable Android skins today. With OxygenOS, the name of the game is speed. Everything is just so smooth on OxygenOS. And the best part is that it stays smooth for long periods of time. OnePlus phones are the best phones on the Android camp if you want a phone that performs well for many years. OxygenOS also comes with minimal bloatware, which I really appreciate.
When we talk about OneUI, the word that comes to mind is loaded. Samsung’s OneUI is filled to the brim with features. And unlike Samsung’s TouchWiz days, the features are well-implemented and bug free now. However, it’s still a long, long list of features and can get overwhelming for many users. Samsung also puts an alternate Samsung App for every Google service like Samsung Internet for Chrome, Samsung Mail for Gmail and Bixby for Google Assistant. OneUI is also extremely smooth but the overall feel is a bit more relaxed compared to Oxygen OS, which just races ahead to open everything as quickly as possible. 
When it comes to Software Updates, I think Samsung has a better track record for supporting older devices. The 2 year old Galaxy S10 got the Android 11 update, the 2 year old OnePlus 7 Pro, has not. 


Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro: Performance

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro Performance Comparison

The Performance Comparison is actually quite interesting because on paper, the Samsung S21 has a newer generation processor, be it the Exynos 2100 or the Snapdragon 888 and so it should have better performance. Well, yeah it should but I just cannot see it. Smartphone CPUs, especially the flagship ones, have gotten so good that beyond a certain point, users just won’t notice the extra power. As a result, when it comes to the day to day usage, both the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the OnePlus 8 Pro feel extremely smooth and fast. I have not seen any lags or frame drops or crashes of any sort on either of the 2 phones. 

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro: Gaming

But let’s talk gaming. Gaming is a twisted story. Even though the OnePlus 8 Pro has the last generation Snapdragon 865 CPU, it supports higher graphic settings in most games compared to the more powerful Exynos S21 Ultra. This happens because of 2 reasons. Firstly, the Exynos 2100 is a brand new platform and developers will take some time to optimise their games accordingly.

Second is that since Snapdragon processors are present on more phones, developers optimise for Snapdragon first leading to better performance. Since Exynos is not as popular, developers optimise for it later or don’t bother at all. That’s why benchmarks only tell half the story.


But with all that being said, I will go ahead and confirm that the Exynos 2100 is not the mess that last year’s Exynos 990 was. For the uninitiated, last year’s flagship Exynos 990 CPU was found in the Galaxy S20 and Note 20 series. That chipset was clearly, significantly and distinctly inferior to the Snapdragon 865 variants of the Galaxy devices sold in some regions. This year, however, the Exynos 2100 is a very capable chipset and compares very favourably to the Snapdragon 888. 

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro: Cameras

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro Camera Comparison

In terms of optics, both smartphones have 4 cameras on the rear. The Galaxy S21 Ultra sports a 108MP f1.8 primary camera with laser autofocus, a 12MP f2.2 ultrawide camera and two 10MP telephoto cameras with focal lengths that offer 3x and 10x optical zoom. 

On the other hand, the OnePlus 8 Pro sports a 48MP f1.8 primary camera with laser autofocus, a 48MP f2.2 ultrawide, a f2.4 8MP telephoto camera with a 3x optical zoom and a 5MP f2.4 color filter camera. 


Let’s find out how these high resolution cameras perform in real life.

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro: Camera Photos Comparison

  • Primary camera performance is good on both devices. The Galaxy S21 captures pictures with high dynamic range and more accurate colors. On the other hand, the OnePlus 8 Pro shoots sharper and warmer pictures with the OnePlus’s contrasty look. 
  • The Ultrawide camera on the Galaxy S21 shoots pictures with a wider FOV and high dynamic range. OnePlus 8 Pro does an excellent job at reducing noise and captures pictures with more details. 
  • Both devices have a dedicated Macro mode. Considering how the devices managed to pull these off with an ultra-wide camera, the pictures are actually good. 
  • Thanks to the two telephoto cameras and Samsung’s color science, the Galaxy S21 is the obvious winner in the telephoto camera department. OnePlus 8 Pro’s 3x telephoto camera lags behind when it comes to noise processing and dynamic range.
  • Subject separation is good on portraits shot with both devices. The Galaxy S21 Ultra shoots portraits with significantly better skin tones and color accuracy than the OnePlus 8 Pro.
  • S21 Ultra’s 40MP front camera shoots better selfies with more accurate colors and high dynamic range. The selfies shot on the 8 Pro’s 16MP front snapper are sharp and slightly overprocessed.
  • Low light performance is good on both devices. The S21 Ultra has an edge with better stabilization, more accurate colors and night mode support on all cameras. On the other hand, the 8 Pro is fast when it comes to processing long exposures and takes sharper & brighter pictures.   

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro: Camera Video Comparison

  • The S21 Ultra is the winner in the resolution and frame rates round as it can shoot videos in 8K at up to 24fps from the rear cameras. The OnePlus 8 Pro tops at 4K@60fps. Similarly, when it comes to the front facing cameras, the S21 Ultra can shoot videos in 4K@60fps while the 8 Pro can only do FullHD@30fps.
  • In terms of video quality, the S21 Ultra captures videos with a higher dynamic range and more accurate colors. On the other hand, the OnePlus 8 Pro shoots sharper videos with a contrasty look. 
  • Both devices offer a fast camera user experience with a feature rich camera app which includes RAW and HDR shooting capabilities. 

To conclude, even though both smartphones pack excellent cameras by themselves, the Galaxy S21 Ultra definitely is the better shooter in this comparison. If you’re looking for a smartphone camera that gives you the absolute best quality of any phone camera today, definitely pick the Galaxy S21 Ultra. It is incredibly versatile and suitable for all kinds of users

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a smartphone camera which is snappy and delivers not the best, but still really high quality media, the OnePlus 8 Pro will be the better and more value choice for you. But when we’re talking about flagship phone cameras in 2021, it goes without saying that both phones’ camera systems will be more than enough for all kinds of users.

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro: Battery Life and Charging

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro Battery Life Comparison

When it comes to battery life, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is just better. I got around 6 to 6 and a half hours of SOT on the S21 Ultra compared to 5 hours of SOT on the 8 Pro. Both phones can easily last a day, but you can stretch the S21 Ultra to 2 days by using some battery saving measures.


Both phones also support fast charging, although the OnePlus 8 Pro charges faster. Both support Fast Wireless Charging and Reverse Wireless Charging as well. A major difference is that even though the OnePlus 8 Pro is significantly cheaper, it comes with a Power Adapter in the box. The S21 Ultra comes with just the cable. 

So, with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, you will either have to buy an adapter or a wireless charger. Check out our coverage of The Best Wireless Chargers for the Galaxy S21 Ultra if you decide to go the Wireless route! If you want the traditional, yet faster and more energy efficient Wired Charging instead, we tested a bunch of Chargers and Cables for the Galaxy S21 and you should definitely check it out!

Conversely, if you want to enjoy wireless charging on the OnePlus 8 Pro, which is the only OnePlus smartphone to support wireless charging, check out our coverage on the OnePlus’ own Warp Charge 30 Wireless Charger for the OnePlus 8 Pro!


Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro: Highlights

Now for a  few random highlights from my experience before we conclude. The fingerprint sensor on the S21 is better because it works without having to wake up the screen first. The stereo speakers are great on both but slightly better on the S21 Ultra. The Mute Slider on the OnePlus 8 Pro is a simple but significant hardware feature missing on the S21. Lastly, the phone call experience is significantly better on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. It sounds clearer and catches signal reception better.

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro: Conclusion

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs OnePlus 8 Pro Which one should you buy
Which one should you buy?

Now, the conclusion. See, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is of  course the overall better phone. It has a better display, better cameras, similar performance and better battery life. But this was obvious, wasn’t it, given the massive price difference? What impressed me more was that even though the OnePlus 8 Pro is significantly cheaper, it’s almost as good as the S21 Ultra in most areas. It makes you wonder whether the extra you’re going to pay for the S21 Ultra is even worth it? Ponder a bit and let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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Rohan Bhateja
Rohan Bhateja

Vagabond who loves technology, ranting and brooding.