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Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max: Is The Pro Max Good Enough?

author Luis Silva (November 2020 Updated: August 2021 - 6 min. reading time)

You'll spend more on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, but it also is the better device of the two considering their specs.

It has better performance (+57%) and more OS updates (3 additional years). But the Galaxy S20 Ultra brings external storage.

Are there other things worth mentioning?

The iPhone 12 Pro Max also has a cleaner user interface. But the Galaxy S20 Ultra also brings a higher refresh rate, Always-On, larger (+0.2") display, a telephoto lens (+38 mm), faster-charging speeds (45w vs. 20w), reverse wireless charging, and more RAM (12GB vs. 6GB).

Having said that, none of them truly stood out because they almost share the same score.

How much more will the iPhone 12 Pro Max cost me?

If you're considering a new and unlocked smartphone, it'll cost you around $225 more.

Is the Galaxy S20 Ultra still worth buying in 2021?

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is clearly worth buying in 2021, even if there are better phones out there. You can consider the Oppo Find X2 Pro, but we should acknowledge this device, as it has good cameras, good battery life, excellent glass protection, optical zoom, and fast charging.

Is it still worth buying the iPhone 12 Pro Max in 2021?

For a phone introduced in 2020, the iPhone 12 Pro Max still has good performance, good cameras, and excellent glass protection. It holds up pretty well in 2021, but don't just ignore the iPhone 12 Pro.

Keep reading for answers to all your questions about their differences, how they compare to similarly priced rivals, and you'll know what the industry thinks about their specs.

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Click here or scroll down to check prices on eBay, BestBuy, and Walmart.

I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases. It doesn't affect the price you pay nor my opinions.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Photo by Jane Palash on Unsplash

CONTENTS

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Introduction

If you don't care that much about the Note 20 Ultra, the S20 Ultra is still a pretty good device on the Android ecosystem. But how well does it fare against one of the best iPhone out there?

Let's check them out.

In November of 2020, Apple launched its iPhone 12 Pro Max. The Galaxy S20 Ultra, however, saw the light of day in March 2020.

With this article, you'll be able to compare every feature of the Galaxy S20 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Then, you can decide what model better suits your needs. Let's start.

The weight of each section

For additional information regarding our smartphone comparisons, check this FAQ.

to check who their rivals are.

Price*
vs.
Device Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max
Release Date 2020, March 2020, November 0y.
OS Updates 3 years 6 years 3y.
Security Updates 4 years 6 years 2y.

*Reference: 100: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

Which One Has The Best Performance?

About performance: Geekbench 5 (IOS)(Android) scores the iPhone 12 Pro Max 57% ahead of its rival in the multi-core ranking. If you're a gamer, this should be an easy pick. The iPhone is a bit more responsive to tasks like rotating the phone to landscape mode because Apple did their work to keep it fit.

Are you looking for the quickest phone around? The iPhone 12 Pro Max is clearly above the average if you consider related-priced phones. It got a score of 4240, compared to the usual 3376, or close to that.

One can entitle the Galaxy S20 Ultra as a lower high-end and the iPhone 12 Pro Max as high-end.

PS: The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (with the Adreno 650 GPU) and the Exynos 990 (with the Mali-G77) are market-dependent. Click here for more info.

There's a performance increase of about 15% on the 865 for the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Performance*
vs.
Features Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max
SoC Exynos 990 Apple A14
Graphics Mali-G77 MP11 Apple GPU
Geekbench 5 Score 2698
4240
1542
OS Android 10 and OneUI iOS 14.1
Tek-Score
6.5
9.1
2.6

*Reference: 100: Apple iPhone 12.

Which Phone Has The Best Display?

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra front transparent png Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max front transparent png

The Galaxy S20 Ultra's display does stand out, and the difference is considerable.

If you prefer a smartphone with a big display, there aren't many devices to consider besides the Galaxy S20 Ultra. At least it's enormous when compared to the average phone for its price range.

If you favor small notches, then at least you still have a choice here.

Bearing in mind the Galaxy S20 Ultra, you should know that 96% of its rivals can play HDR content. Plus, all have an AMOLED screen, 88% have an Always-On display, and 76% have Gorilla Glass 6 or better.

Considering the iPhone 12 Pro Max, as a reference, 89% of its rivals can play HDR content, offer you more than 60hz of refresh rate, and have an Always-On display, and all have an AMOLED screen.

Display Density (DPIs)*
vs.
Features Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max
Size 6.9
6.7
-0.2
Screen Type AMOLED AMOLED
Resolution (px) 1440x3200
1284x2778
-1041048
Refresh Rate 120hz 60hz -60
Dots per Inch 508.56
456.77
-51.79
Always-On-Display Yes No
Notch Hole Wedge
Peak Brightness 894 nits
822 nits
-72
HDR HDR10+ HDR10
Sub Tek-Score
9.8
3.2
-6.6
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 6 Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
Tek-Score
8.3
7.6
-0.7

*Reference: 100: Sony Xperia 1 II.

Which Phone Has The Best Cameras?

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra back transparent png Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max back transparent png

You should note that the iPhone 12 Pro Max is in the neighborhood of 51 points above its rivals at about this price tag. And that's enough to beat the Galaxy S20 Ultra too.

Despite only having an optical zoom of 4x, thanks to its AI, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is also known for its impressive 100x hybrid Space Zoom. While better than a digital zoom, that's still far from a pure optical zoom.

About the Galaxy S20 Ultra: DXOMARK has rated this camera with a score of 128. And if you take into account the telephoto and wide-angle lenses, it'll get 144 points. If you want to know more about it, click here.

To put things in perspective: all of its rivals can record videos in 4K or more, have an ultra-wide-angle lens, and feature Optical Image Stabilization, and 76% feature a telephoto lens. Yet, only 4% of them feature a macro lens.

About the iPhone 12 Pro Max: On DXOMARK's reviewing article, they gave this shooter 138 points. And if we consider the telephoto and wide-angle lenses, we get a score of 150 points. For an out-and-out review, check their article.

Furthermore, just so you know, just like the other device, all of its rivals can record videos in 4 or 8K, feature a telephoto lens, have an ultra-wide-angle lens, and feature Optical Image Stabilization. That said, only 11% of them feature a macro lens.

Considering this score, we can classify these two as high-end.

Additionally, the iPhone 12 Pro Max telescopic lens is 35mm below the rest in its class.

Picture Quality*
vs.
Primary Camera Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max
Megapixels 108
12
-96
Aperture 1.8
1.6
-0.2
Lens 26mm
26mm
0
Lens Type Wide-Angle Wide-Angle
Flash 1 2 1
HDR Yes Yes
OIS Yes Yes
Video 4320 2160 -2160
Score 144
150
6

*Reference: 100: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra.

Extra Camera(s) Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max vs.
Megapixels 48
12
-36
Aperture 3.5
2.2
-1.3
Lens 103mm (4x zoom)
65mm (2x zoom)
-38
Lens Type Telephoto lens Telephoto lens
Megapixels 12 12 0
Aperture 2.2 2.4 0.2
Lens 13mm 13mm 0
Lens Type Ultra-wide-Angle Ultra-wide-Angle
Megapixels 0.3 -
Lens Type Depth Sensor Depth Sensor
Score 16 12 -4
Selfie Camera Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max vs.
Megapixels 40
12
-28
Aperture 2.2
2.2
0.0
Lens 26mm 23mm -3
Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max vs.
Tek-Score
8.5
8.8
0.4

Who has the best frame?

None of them stands out, so just pick one.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is a little bit heavier: About 6 g. (0.24 oz). But because screen size also matters, the "weight to display size" score of the Galaxy S20 Ultra is 3.1, showing it's kind of weighty for its screen size. In the meantime, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has 2.1, which indicates it's oddly heavy.

The Galaxy S20 Ultra truly is water-resistant. It can be submerged 1 to 3 meters deep, just like the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Remember that it shouldn't be for over half an hour, on standby, and freshwater only.

Looks*
vs.
Body Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max
Size 166 x 76 x 8 mm
(5.86 x 2.68 x 0.28 in)
160 x 78 x 7 mm
(5.64 x 2.75 x 0.25 in)
-13568
Weight 222 g. (7.83 oz)
228 g. (8.04 oz)
6
Build Front and back glass Front and back glass
Colors Cosmic Grey and Cosmic Black Silver, Gold, Graphite, and Pacific Blue
Screen To Body Ratio 91.11%
88.38%
-2.73
Disp.Size To Weight Score 3.1 2.1 -1.0
Looks 9.1/10
10.0/10
0.8
Waterproof IP68 IP68
Biometrics Under Display Fingerprint Face ID
Tek-Score
6.4
6.4
0.0

*100% = 4+ colors + front and back glass + S2BR: 86+%.

Which has the best battery?

At 5000 mAh, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is the owner of the biggest battery, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max only features 3687 mAh. But GSMArena did test them out, and you shouldn't expect notable differences here.

Alright, that's not a reason to make the Galaxy S20 Ultra shine. Samsung should've opted for a larger battery, just like their equally sized rivals. Its "battery to device size" rate is 2.3.

Wireless charging is magnetic on the new iPhones. That's handy if you do have the charger nearby.

Fast charging on the Galaxy S20 Ultra does stand out. Its competitors frequently max out at about 33w.

The Snapdragon 865 also has better battery efficiency (about 10% more screen-on-time) when you compare it to the Exynos 990.

Battery*
vs.
Features Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max
Capacity (mAh) 5000 3687 -1313
1h Talk + 1h Web + 1h Video 82% left
82% left
0
1h Talk + 3h Web + 1h Video 65% left
67% left
2
1h Talk + 1h Web + 3h Video 70% left
69% left
-1
Bat. To Phone Size Score 2.3 2.6 0.3
Sub Tek-Score
7.2
7.3
0.0
Fast Charging 45w
20w
-25
Wireless Charging 15w
15w
0
Reverse Charging 9w
No -9
Tek-Score
7.2
6.7
-0.5

*Reference: 90: Samsung Galaxy A31.

Which has more storage?

None of them.

In its turn, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of integrated storage. Also, you'll get the majority of its rivals with more RAM and more storage. 9Gb of RAM and 199Gb of storage: that's the average, not the best you can find.

Storage*
vs.
Features Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max
RAM (GB) 12GB
6GB
-6
Internal (GB) 128GB
128GB
0
Micro SD microSDXC (shared SIM slot) No
Tek-Score
7.5
6.0
-1.5

*Internal Storage + 256GB Memory Card (Max: 512GB).

Which is the most connectivity-friendly?

They also do have a resemblance here.

About the 3.5mm jack: Now may be the time to consider moving to wireless earbuds. You can try an adapter if you want, but the wireless buds are the way to go here. You can also check other devices if you're not really leaning towards any of these. You can get that with the Sony Xperia 1 II.

You can connect the Galaxy S20 Ultra to LTE or (LTE and) 5G networks.

Connectivity
vs.
Features Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max
Network 5G (also available in LTE) 5G
Bluetooth 5.0
5.0
NFC Yes Yes
3.5mm jack No No
Tek-Score
4.6
4.6
0.0

Which is more affordable?

Here's what we've found out:

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

Reference: $955

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Reference: $1,180

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases. It doesn't affect the price you pay nor my opinions, but it will mean a lot if you click on one of these buttons before purchasing your next phone (or whatever else you end up buying). You'll be helping to take this to the next level.

Prices on eBay are in $US but Europe-based. You can click to check the prices in your country.

Prices marked with ! are from renewed/refurbished/carrier-locked phones (except eBay prices that, as a last resort, can be from bids or used devices).

How much of a "phone" can your money buy?
That's how much "score" you can get with $100 based on the global score that you'll see in the next section (higher is better).

Have you found better prices elsewhere? The formula is simple: score/price*100.

Value for money Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max VS
Amazon - - ! -
eBay 0.91 0.62 -0.29
Best Buy - - ! -
Walmart - - -

Also, don't forget to check the latest deals from these four stores, and the state of the art on mobile technology, if you don't want to overpay on your next smartphone.


Related articles:


Best smartphone deals


The Best Unbiased Smartphones For All Budgets


Smartphone Specs Statistics: The State Of The Art (Q1 2021)

So, what about that global score? We'll get there. But first, let's see where its rivals are. The Galaxy S20 Ultra class is at 7.2, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max 7.7.

Verdict: Does any of them really stand out?

Clearly, Apple doesn't mess around when it comes to performance. Unfortunately, they don't care that much about anything else.

So, what guns do the S20 Ultra brings to the fight?

Much higher refresh rates, an Always-on display, above the average telephoto lens, much faster wired charging speeds (and it can even reverse charging other Qi-compatible devices), twice the RAM, and a card slot.

But remember that this is the Exynos variant, and on top of that, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has slightly better glass protection and cameras. So, unless you prefer the Apple ecosystem or half-a-decade of software updates, there's no real winner here.

Pros Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max
#1 Performance Performance
#2 AMOLED AMOLED
#3 Always-On-Display Cameras
#4 Cameras Fast Charging
#5 Fast Charging Wireless Charging
#6 Wireless Charging Glass Protection
#7 MicroSD Slot
#8 Glass Protection
Cons Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max
#1 Weight Always-On-Display
#2 3.5mm Jack MicroSD Slot
#3 Price Weight
#4 3.5mm Jack
#5 Price
Relative Score*
vs.
Global Score Galaxy S20 Ultra iPhone 12 Pro Max
Gaming Score
7.8
6.9
-0.9
Tek-Score
7.38
7.42
0.04
Your Score

Scroll the sliders down below to get your own personalized score. Let's suppose you value performance and battery life, and you don't really care about anything else. Then, just set the "Performance" and the "Battery" sliders up to 5 (5+5=10), and then the other sliders down to 0. You'll know what's the best phone for you.

Performance 1.9
Display 1.7
Cameras 1.4
Frame 0.9
Battery 1.9
Storage 2.0
Connectivity 0.4
Total Should be 10 or as close as possible: 9.6

*Reference: 100: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

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About me

Hello!

My name is Luis Silva, and I have a degree in computer management. Ever since I was a teenager, I've loved everything to do with tech. Music, pictures, video editing, I've done it all! This site is a place for me to share some of the knowledge I have, as well as keep up-to-date with current trends. This is a wonderful place for tech-geeks and everyone else that just want to learn more about tech and smartphones in general.


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Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Related Comparisons


Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Related Comparisons

×

"Display size to phone weight" ratio explained

This indeed is a "display size to phone weight" ratio, but because every phone ended up somewhere between 0.0272 and 0.0421, I've amplified (adapted) those values so they would fit in a 0-10 scale. As of now, the best smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy A40, with 140g. (4.94 oz) for a 5.9 inch display. It got a score of 9.92. While the worse device is the iPhone 8 Plus, which weighs 202 g. (7.13 oz) and has a 5.5-inch display. It ended up with a score of 0.75.

Please, be aware that this score is subject to change if and when a new smartphone comes along that ends up being outside of this scale.

×

"Battery to device size" ratio explained

This score should give you an idea about the energy footprint of the devices you're considering. It reflects not only the hardware and the energy that it requires but also the amount of energy that the battery can deliver.

The major spenders on any device should be the display and the SoC. But everything from a notification led to its modems need to be optimized, or else, the OEM should simply include a bigger battery as a compensation. Unfortunately, it isn't always possible due to size limitations. But in the end, if a particular OEM can do a good job and give you excellent battery life on a small device, so should everyone else. That's why I've added a "battery to device size" ratio. But since the real scale went from 119 (for the Galaxy S10e, Snapdragon variant) and up to 164 (for the iPhone 7 Plus), I've decided to convert them so they would fit in a 0-10 scale, being 0 the worst device, (the iPhone 7 Plus) and 10 the one every OEM should look up to.

As an example, Apple did an excellent job on the iPhone 7. It has a score of 8. Despite having a small capacity, the hardware is well optimized, and it still gives you decent battery life considering its size. The iPhone 7 Plus, on the other hand, with those bezels shrinking its display size, clearly could've been the #1 in our top 10 list of best battery devices if Apple simply filled all that empty space with a bigger battery.

As a side note: I haven't included the dept of the devices in this formula because even if a device ended up being 1mm/0.03 inches thicker, it wouldn't matter that much to those who really value battery life.

Please, be aware that this score is subject to change if and when a new smartphone comes along that ends up being outside of this scale.

×

Rivals

As of now, these are the rivals that were considered for each of them. They may change every time its prices are updated.

These are the lowest prices found on Amazon, eBay, BestBuy, and Walmart.


 Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12
    $689
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12 Pro
    $969
  • SonyrivalXperia 1
    $688
  • SonyrivalXperia 5
    $649
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11 Pro
    $684
  • ApplerivaliPhone XS Max
    $650
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11 Pro Max
    $900
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10 Plus
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10+ EX
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 EX
    $697
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 U.EX
    $789
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 20 U.SD
    $899
  • GooglerivalPixel 4 XL
    $780
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20
    $697
  • HuaweirivalMate 30 Pro
    $849
  • HuaweirivalP40 Pro
    $799
  • HuaweirivalP40
    $666
  • OnePlusrival8 Pro
    $799
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 20 U.
    $899
  • XiaomirivalMi 10 Ultra
    $846
  • OpporivalFind X2 Pro
    $950
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12 Mini
    $739
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21 Ultra
    $899
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21
    $729
  • SonyrivalXperia 1 II
    $650
  • XiaomirivalMi 11
    $698
  • OnePlusrival9 Pro
    $969
  • VivorivalX60 Pro
    $900

 Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max 
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12 Pro
    $969
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 U.SD
    $1049
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 20 U.EX
    $999
  • HuaweirivalMate 40 Pro
    $1065
  • OpporivalFind X2 Pro
    $950
  • XiaomirivalMi 11 Ultra
    $1079
  • OnePlusrival9 Pro
    $969
  • VivorivalX60 Pro Plus
    $1177
  • OpporivalFind X3 Pro
    $1149
×

Formula deviation

Since the guys at DxoMark don't review every camera out there, I've come up with a formula based on the ones that they do rate, so I could get an equivalent score for the ones they don't review. After testing it against these cameras, I got the deviation between that and their DxO score.

Device: DxOScore Deviation
Samsung Galaxy A50: 88 -1
Apple iPhone XR: 104 1
Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro: 108 -7
Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro: 87 1
Sony Xperia 1: 99 -1
Sony Xperia 5: 101 1
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus: 126 2
Apple iPhone 8 Plus: 96 -3
Xiaomi Pocophone F1: 92 -1
Apple iPhone 7 Plus: 90 -1
Apple iPhone X: 101 3
Apple iPhone 11: 112 -1
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: 107 1
Apple iPhone XS Max: 110 -2
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max: 124 1
Samsung Galaxy S10: 124 2
Apple iPhone XS: 110 -1
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus: 120 -2
OnePlus 7 Pro: 122 0
OnePlus 7T Pro: 122 0
Huawei P30 Pro: 125 -1
Google Pixel 4: 117 0
Google Pixel 3: 103 0
Google Pixel 2: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus: 127 -2
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: 132 2
OnePlus 6: 100 0
OnePlus 6T: 101 1
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: 105 -1
Huawei Mate 20 Pro: 120 0
Xiaomi Mi 9: 115 0
Huawei Mate 30 Pro: 132 0
Huawei P40 Pro: 140 -1
Apple iPhone SE 2: 101 0
OnePlus 8 Pro: 126 0
Xiaomi Mi 8: 105 1
Samsung Galaxy A71: 89 1
Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro: 134 0

As you can see, most cameras sit between 1 and -1, while a few of them go up to 2 or -2. That means it's reasonable to assume other similar cameras that they don't review to, in the worst-case scenario, be anywhere from -2 to 2 points from the score that the formula gets.

For example: Given that the Pixel 4 got 117 points and that the Pixel 4 XL share the same year and camera specs, it's reasonable to expect a score of 117 too. But in reality, if they do review that camera, it may end up anywhere between 115 and 119.

Be aware that at DxO, they give a score based on their opinion, not based on any formula. That's why I think there's an odd difference of 6 points between the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X. In theory, they should have the same camera.

I'm guessing that the Mi 9T Pro got a deviation of 7 points because they tested its Chinese variant (the K20 Pro).

Update: They just changed their protocol to include preview image evaluation and trustability. I'm keeping the old table (for now) for reference purposes, and I'll be adding a new one as soon as they review at least a couple of new mclass-range cameras.

You can expect the same (or a bit bigger) deviation for high-end cameras, but anything with a score below 100-110 should be taken with a grain of salt.

This is valid for all cameras tested with the previous protocol. For those that they dclassn't test, the deviation may be up to twice as much.

×

About GeekBench 5

This is just a quick note to let you know that, if, by any chance, the smartphone you're looking for isn't on the GeekBench site yet, you can check on GsmArena.com, as they also usually test smartphones with that benchmark tool.



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