Samsung Galaxy S21 vs OnePlus 9 Pro: which 5G phone is better?

We compare the excellent Samsung Galaxy S21 and OnePlus 9 Pro 5G smartphones

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs OnePlus 9 Pro
(Image credit: Samsung)

Choosing the right new smartphone can be a bit of a challenge at the best of times. To help, we've tried lots of different models to find the best 5G phones for all budgets and today we're comparing the Samsung Galaxy S21 and OnePlus 9 Pro, two of the best Android smartphones on the market.

Both Samsung and OnePlus have made a name for themselves as makers of exceptionally high-quality devices, packed full of features, power, and storage. The S21 and 9 Pro are no different, representing the high-end of their lineups and both toting next-generation 5G connectivity.

A few years ago, 5G wasn't a major deal, but with the introduction of the new Samsung Galaxy S21 range and iPhone 12 range, mobile networks have bulked up their service with promises of extremely fast speeds almost anywhere. Things are still maturing and evolving, but you'll likely notice the difference over 4G.

If you're an Android fan, you can't really go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy S21 and OnePlus 9 Pro, so let's jump into our comparison of the best 5G phones.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: OnePlus)

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs OnePlus 9 Pro: features and specifications

There's a lot to like about both of these handsets, starting with Android. Both of them support the latest and greatest, Android 11, and will get a pretty instant upgrade to Android 12 when the time comes. Both of them include their own unique skin, on top of the OS itself, adding various useful (and useless) features.

Beyond that, the best way to describe these two handsets is beastly.

No expense has been spared on the specs and that's clear from the huge displays, 6.7-inch on the S21 and 6.2-inch on the 9 Pro; latest Snapdragon 888 processors; triple cameras on the S21 and quad cameras on the 9 Pro (designed in partnership with camera experts Hasselblad); up to 256GB storage; and an enormous 4,000mAh battery in the S21 and 4,500mAh in the 9 Pro.

If that meant nothing to you, don't worry: These are incredibly well-featured smartphones that include basically everything you could possibly ever want, from DSLR-level cameras to all-day battery life to internals capable of playing games while watching Netflix and video calling.

As we mentioned, Android 11 is onboard, albeit with their own skins, and that means access to everything from the Play Store to Google services, plus security updates, and the power of these two means nothing ever – ever – feels slow.

Oh, and if you hadn't guessed, both of them come with 5G connectivity.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs OnePlus 9 Pro: design and use

Adored with enormous edge-to-edge displays, these are two very handsome smartphones. Both of them have an all-screen display, with basically no visible bezels and pin-hole front camera, making for a really sleek look and, more importantly, giving lots of space for whatever you're doing in that moment.

On the back, things are slightly different. The enormous camera systems on both take up quite a bit of room, although Samsung has managed to keep this more under control with the S21 than in other models, perhaps because it "only" features three sensors.

Both come in several colours: grey, white, violet, and pink for the S21; grey, green, and black for the 9 Pro. We think the softer tones of the S21's violet and pink models are really, really nice, but there's nothing wrong with any of the others.

In our testing, both of these 5G smartphones are blazingly fast, never missing a beat even under pretty intense workloads juggling multiple apps over a mobile connection. The S21 could maybe use a slightly bigger battery, as we found it drained pretty quickly, but apart from that we have zero gripes.

The camera systems on both are exceptional, too, taking pictures that a few years ago would've been the preserve of DSLR and other professional cameras. (Videos, up to 8K on both, look amazing, too.) Having a camera of their quality in your pocket or bag at all times is a real asset for capturing life's spontaneous moments.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: OnePlus)

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs OnePlus 9 Pro: verdict 

Choosing between the Samsung Galaxy S21 and OnePlus 9 Pro is tough. Both of them are exceptional Android smartphones and also exceptional 5G smartphones with incredibly powerful internals, attractive designs, and amazing cameras.

If we had to pick, we'd plump for the Samsung Galaxy S21, just because the quality of Samsung smartphones in recent years has been extremely, extremely high. You're also likely to find a fantastic deal on the S21.

But that doesn't detract from how good the OnePlus 9 Pro is and we think anyone choosing this fantastic 5G smartphone will not be disappointed, now or a few years down the line.

Max Slater-Robins

Max Slater-Robins has written for T3 now on and off for over half a decade, with him fitting in serious study at university in between. Max is a tech expert and as such you'll find his words throughout, appearing in everything from reviews and features, to news and deals. Max is specifically a veteran when it comes round to deal hunting, with him seeing out multiple Black Friday campaigns to date.