Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus vs. OnePlus 8 Pro

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus is a big, powerful flagship that doesn’t quite break the bank, given that it’s priced at $1,000. It takes everything good about this year’s S21 and offers a generous 6.7-inch screen, as well as a very capacious 4,800mAh battery. It’s a fantastic all-round Android phone, but 2020 was an extremely busy year when it came to great Android all-rounders, with the OnePlus 8 Pro being another stronger contender in the field.

To find out which of these two devices is the best, we compare them in a thorough head-to-head comparison test. We look at their specs, displays, designs, performance, cameras, and special features, and in the end, we reach a verdict as to which is the best sub-$1,000 Android overall.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
OnePlus 8 Pro
Size 161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8 mm (6.36 x 2.98 x 0.31 inches) 165.3 x 74.4 x 8.5 mm (6.51 x 2.93 x 0.33 inches)
Weight 202 grams (7.05 ounces) 199 grams (7.02 ounces)
Screen size 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.78-inch Fluid AMOLED
Screen resolution 2400 x 1080 pixels (394 pixels per inch) 3168 x 1440 pixels (513 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 11; One UI 3 Android 11; OxygenOS 11
Storage 128GB, 256GB 128GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay, Samsung Pay Google Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
RAM 8GB 12GB
Camera 12-megapixel wide, 64MP telephoto, 12MP ultrawide, 10 MP front 48MP wide, 8MP telephoto, 48MP ultrawide, 5MP color filter, 16MP front
Video 8K at 30 fps, 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps, HDR10+ 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, HDR 10+
Bluetooth version 5.0 5.1
Ports USB 3.2, USB-C USB 3.1, USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in-display Yes, in-display
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 4,700mAh

Fast charging (25W)

Qi wireless charging (15W)

4,510mAh

Fast charging (30W)

Qi wireless charging (30W)

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support All carriers Verizon, T-Mobile
Colors Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Violet, Phantom Pink, Phantom Gold, Phantom Red Glacial Green, Ultramarine Blue, Onyx Black
Prices $1,000 $899
Buy from Samsung, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart OnePlus, T-Mobile, Verizon, Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart
Review score 3.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

OnePlus 8 Pro Pocket
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends.com

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus (like the other two S21 models) is arguably the best-looking phone Samsung has ever released. Flaunting an edge-to-edge screen with a punch-hole selfie camera at the top, it also incorporates even narrower bezels, meaning that its front is pretty much all display. To top this off, it also includes a redesigned camera bump, the side of which merges seamlessly into its frame. It looks stunning, and while the OnePlus 8 Pro is certainly no pig, it falls just a little short, even if it’s a touch lighter to hold.

On the other hand, the OnePlus 8 Pro has a noticeably better screen. With a resolution of 3168 x 1440 pixels, its 6.78-inch Fluid AMOLED screen packs 513 pixels per inch, providing a great level of detail, color, and clarity. The S21 Plus’ 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED display doesn’t really measure up to this, housing 2400 x 1080 pixels, which makes for only 394 ppi. Both phones also boast a very impressive 120Hz refresh rate, which really pushes the OnePlus 8 Pro’s screen over the edge as far as quality is concerned.

Both phones are IP68 certified, indicating that they can stand immersion in shallow water for up to 30 minutes. The S21 Plus also uses Gorilla Glass Victus for its screen, making it a little more durable than the 8 Pro’s screen, which uses Gorilla Glass 5. Still, with a superior display, OnePlus’ device swings things back in its favor, so this opening round is a tie.

Winner: Tie

Performance, battery life, and charging

Galaxy S21 Plus side-on

The S21 Plus contains the very new and very powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, which in benchmark tests has comfortably outdone the OnePlus 8 Pro’s Snapdragon 865. Unfortunately, S21 Plus comes with only 8GB of RAM, while the OnePlus 8 Pro provides you with 12GB if you buy the version with 256GB of storage. However, the impact on performance should be fairly minimal, and you’ll generally only see the difference if you’re juggling resource apps a lot.

As stated above, you can buy the OnePlus 8 Pro with 256GB of internal memory, although it does come with 128GB as standard. The same goes for the S21 Plus, although its 256GB version will cost you $1,049, whereas we’ve seen the 256GB OnePlus 8 Pro for close to $900 on sites such as Amazon. Neither phone comes with a MicroSD card slot, so you’ll need to be somewhat economical with your usage of storage space.

The Galaxy S21 Plus comes with a beefy 4,800mAh battery, which should see you into a second day with relative ease. That said, our review of the OnePlus 8 Pro found that its 4,510mAh is incredibly long-lasting, losing only 25% of its capacity after a day of moderate use. As such, we think the two phones will be more or less equal in terms of daily lifespan.

While the OnePlus’s specs are impressive, the newer Galaxy S21 Plus pulls ahead with a strong processor.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

Camera

Samsung Galaxy S21+
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus features a 12-megapixel wide lens, a 64MP telephoto, and a 12MP ultrawide. As for the OnePlus 8 Pro, it comes with a 48MP wide lens, an 8MP telephoto, a 48MP ultrawide, and a 5MP color filter lens.

Wait, a “color filter” lens: What’s that? Well, it’s pretty much a gimmick, letting you invert the color scheme of your photos, giving them a kind of dusty sepia hue. You may enjoy it for a few minutes, but it’s unlikely you’ll use it repeatedly. Nonetheless, the rest of the 8 Pro’s setup is excellent, with its main camera enabling an impressive dynamic range and an ideal balance of color saturation. Meanwhile, its night mode does a good job of brightening low-light scenes.

As with the S20 Plus, the S21 Plus is a very good all-around camera phone. It will almost certainly let you take nice photos in most environments, while its telephoto lens should be better for zoomed shots than the 8 Pro’s. However, its low-light shots are a touch inconsistent, while edge-detection in portrait mode was sometimes inaccurate. This shouldn’t be particularly surprising: it has exactly the same camera specs as the S20 Plus, which had similar issues.

In other words, the S21 Plus is slightly disappointing as far as its camera goes. To be fair, it does include some new functionality, such as Vlogger View and Director View, which open up some new creative possibilities by letting you shoot with rear and front cameras simultaneously or switch more seamlessly between different rear lenses. This just about keeps things even.

Winner: Tie

Software and updates

OnePlus 8 Pro
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends.com

The Galaxy S21 Plus runs on One UI 3, which is Samsung’s very own skin of Android 11. The OnePlus 8 Pro also runs on Android 11, although in this case it’s overlaid with OxygenOS 11. Both mods are highly usable and practical, with One UI providing a very high level of customizability and OxygenOS providing a very fast and uncomplicated experience. Each has its own strengths, so we wouldn’t want to decide in favor of one or the other.

When it comes to updates, you’re likely to find that the OnePlus 8 Pro may receive new Android versions a little quicker than the S21 Plus. It received Android 11 in October, around a month after Google released it, whereas the S20 Plus received the new OS in December. As such, we’re giving a narrow win to the OnePlus 8 Pro.

Winner: OnePlus 8 Pro

Special features

5g feature image
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Galaxy S21 Plus and OnePlus 8 Pro both support 5G. Unfortunately, the OnePlus 8 Pro doesn’t support the faster mmWave band, while the S21 Plus does. 5G is hardly ubiquitous at the moment though, so this difference may not be especially consequential for a while yet.

Aside from that, both phones aren’t overflowing with truly notable special features. The OnePlus 8 Pro does feature two gaming modes, including a Fnatic mode for more enthusiastic gamers which raises available CPU, GPU, and RAM by turning off unnecessary applications. It also comes with OnePlus’ Zen Mode, which disables all of the phone’s functions, save for the ability to make or receive calls and take photos.

However, because it lacks full 5G support, these welcome modes are canceled out. This round is another tie.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus starts at $1,000 and is now available from Samsung. It’s supported by all major carriers and sold by most major retailers.

The OnePlus 8 Pro starts at $899, while its 256GB version (with 12GB of RAM) is officially priced at $999. However, you will likely find it online at places such as Amazon and Best Buy for less.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

The categories are pretty much tied, but as we think most people will value performance over update speed, the Galaxy S21 Plus wins — just. The OnePlus 8 Pro offers a superior screen, faster updates, similar performance, a great all-around camera, and helpful special features, and when you add in the $200 price difference, it could be that you decide to pick the OnePlus phone. The only exception to this would be if you prize 5G, and in particular mmWave 5G, since only the S21 Plus offers this. It’s such a close fight, but the Samsung phone just squeaks ahead for us.

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