Samsung Galaxy S8 vs Google Pixel full review
High-end phones are getting so good it’s often hard to recommend one over the other. Different people want different things from their phones; the best camera, the fastest processor, the best display, the best deal.
Yet when a phone as gorgeous as the Samsung Galaxy S8 is compared to the uniform but outstanding Google Pixel, we itch to pick a winner. Can there be one? Let’s put them head to head to find out which one wins. If one wins. You get the idea.
Is one cheaper than the other?
Let’s not pretend this often makes a difference. The Galaxy S8 is more expensive than the Pixel. If you want to buy it outright, it will cost you £689. Here it is at Carphone Warehouse.
Which one has a better design?
It all depends on your taste, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the Galaxy S8’s design. Its large screen but relatively compact body mean it’s a phone that is all screen, save for two thin strips of bezel at the top and bottom of the device.
The Pixel looks a little plainer next to the S8, but its traditional candy bar style is still attractive. It is actually slightly wedge shaped, thinner at the bottom than the top but sits nicely in the hand.
Both phones are usable with one hand too but the 5.8in screen on the S8 is 18.5:9 and taller than the Pixel’s regular 16:9 5 in screen. Side by side its clear the S8 is winning in terms of pure screen size.
Fingerprint sensors lie on the rear of both phones, though the Pixel’s is slightly easier to use as it sits lower down and centrally where you finger might naturally lie. The S8’s is to the side of the central camera lens and a bit harder to reach particularly if you have smaller hands. Also see: Samsung Pay is now available in the UK!
You might be slightly put off by the fingerprint sensor’s location on the S8 but it isn’t a deal breaker. The way the screen’s edges recede ever so slightly is subtle and attractive and makes it very immersive. The Pixel’s screen is flat in comparison. Also see: Galaxy S8 Active latest rumours
It will depend entirely on personal taste, but the S8 has a wow factor the Pixel just doesn’t. But if you have small hands or prefer a smaller 5in device then the S8 will be overkill and the Pixel will be preferable.
Just remember though – the S8 is brand new as of April 2017, whereas the Pixel came out in October 2016. Some may want to wait for the new Pixel phone that is likely to drop in October 2017.
Head to head on specs and features
As with all the most important things in life, this head to head is best represented by a good old table. Here you go:
|Specification||Samsung Galaxy S8||Google Pixel|
|Operating system||Android 7.0 Nougat||Android 7.1 Nougat|
|Display||5.8in QuadHD+ (2960x1440, 570ppi) SuperAMOLED, dual-edge||5in FHD (1920x1080 441ppi) AMOLED|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835||Qualcomm Snapdragon 821|
|GPU||Adreno 540||Adreno 530|
|Storage||64GB, microSD support||32GB/128GB|
|Cameras||12Mp, f/1.7 rear; 8Mp selfie with autofocus||12Mp, f/2.0; 8Mp selfie|
|Security||Fingerprint scanner, iris scanner||Fingerprint scanner|
|Connectivity||802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC, USB-C||802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC, USB-C|
|Battery||3,000mAh, fast wired- and wireless charging, Quick Charge 4.0||2,700mAh with fast charging|
Processor and RAM
What does this tell us? Well, there’s not too much in it. The biggest difference here is the S8 has the latest Snapdragon 835 processor whereas the Pixel has the 821, which was very much high-end when it was launched.
In pure benchmarking terms, the S8’s Geekbench 4 scores are higher: single-core 2017 and multi-core 6466. This is blisteringly high. The Pixel scores are: single-core 1565 and multi-core 4116.
If you want the highest phone on paper, then right now it’s the S8. However, Samsung phones (even the best ones) have a tendency to slow down significantly a year or so into use. We will have to wait and see if it’s the same with the S8.
Google however uses pure, stock Android on the Pixel and a major advantage of having hardware made by the company that owns the software is that you’ll get OS and security updates before anyone else (though it has said the Pixel is only guaranteed for two years of software updates, which is a tad worrying).
It is guaranteed to keep the Pixel running very smoothly, to the point that only the true power users of this world will notice the difference between the 835 and the 821.
Both phones have 4GB RAM to keep things ticking over, which in 2017 is still more than enough. Neither phone encounters any sort of lag and run very slick between apps.
Both displays are AMOLED, so vibrant colour recreation is the name of the game. It’s easy to love the full, 5.8in S8 display but you might be put off when many apps and video playback displays in the standard 16:9 format, with black bars. There is a software button to expand to fit the screen for video, but it cuts off a bit of the picture.
You don’t get that with the Pixel; sure, it’s a smaller display but it’s 16:9 so videos and apps will use every pixel… on the Pixel.
The S8 offers one storage option at 64GB. This is a decent amount when you have no other choice, but if you want more it is expandable up to 256GB with the microSD slot.
There are two, non-expandable Pixel models of 32GB and 128GB. Google charges £100 extra for the 128GB model.
So if you want more than 64GB on the S8 you need to spend on a memory card, and if you want more than 32GB on the Pixel it’ll cost you £100 more.
Here’s our round up of the best microSD cards
Here is where it gets really tough. These are probably the two best smartphone cameras on the market right now. Definitely the two best Android.
The S8 carries over the same lens that was found in the S7, but images are of an even better quality thanks to new multi-frame image processing. It takes three photos at once and collates them to make one final image using all the best parts of the three. It’s all automatically done and results are stunning.
In our S8 review we said:
"There’s no change from the fantastic camera inside the Galaxy S7. So the Galaxy S8 has a 12Mp Dual Pixel with an impressive f/1.7 aperture and other features like optical image stabilisation (OIS) and 4K recording.
"The camera does 'multi-frame image processing' where it takes three shots instead of one and uses the extras to do things like reduce blur and perfect other elements like focus. It does this when it thinks it needs to like a moving object or low light situations.
"It's the new processor that makes this already awesome camera even better. Some shots, unedited, are unbelievable."
The Pixel is pretty top notch too though.
In our Pixel review we said:
"The rear camera has a 12.3Mp sensor with 1.55um pixels an f/2 lens. It focuses using a combination of laser and phase detection, and has a dual-LED flash. Once again with Google phones, though, there’s no optical stabilisation, only EIS.
"In use, however, this is a fantastic and capable camera. It takes sharp, well-exposed photos with loads of detail."
Here's an example of a photo taken by the Pixel using HDR:
Basically, you won’t be disappointed by either of these cameras. They are truly outstanding.
Both phones also have 8Mp front-facing cameras that produce decent selfies and are great for video calling.
Both phones fast charge via USB, which is great. The S8 has the more advanced Bluetooth 5.0 to the Pixel’s 4.2, but you won’t notice the difference. The S8 has full IP68 waterproofing and wireless charging – the Pixel has neither of these features.
The S8 has a 3,000mAh battery while the Pixel has a smaller 2,770 cell. You will get a full day from each device, and because the S8 has a larger screen, the larger battery doesn’t mean it’ll last longer.
Both also have a 3.5mm headphone jack. Hooray.
How similar is the software on both phones?
The Galaxy S8 has been a turning point for Samsung as it has improved its TouchWiz skin that goes over Google’s Android Nougat 7.0. It is more refined, with better icons, a smoother home screen launcher and a cool pill shaped message notification pop up that is much less intrusive than the usual full bar.
It makes the S8 feel closer to stock Android than the S7, but also still keeps a Samsung sheen to things. For once, this is a good thing.
The Pixel, as you may expect, runs full stock Android (currently 7.1). This is Google’s vision of what pure Android should be, and it’s slick, fast and looks great. It’s less space age than Samsung as is a colourful, straight edged but playful way to bounce around the phone.
It makes all the icons circular, which we love but you may not, and the Google search bar is a tab you swipe from left to right rather than a large strip. It’s Google, but it isn’t overwhelming.
They’re both Android, and they are both highly customisable. Both also use on-screen navigation buttons. See if you can compare the two in store before you make a decision too, it makes a big difference even if you can only spare five minutes.
Bixby vs Google Assistant
A big draw for the Pixel when it launched was that it had the Google Assistant. But guess what? The S8 has it too.
It is the best of the virtual assistants at the moment, but it’s not perfect. The key is you can have a continued contextual conversation with it rather than only being able to ask one simple question.
Eventually, the idea is it will be intelligent enough to bring cross-app compatibility so you can book a taxi to a restaurant that you’ve just booked using it. It’s not there yet though. But you can set an alarm hands-free, still something that we get a kick out of.
The S8, confusingly, also includes Samsung’s Bixby assistant. It’s odd that Samsung has chosen to put Google Assistant on there too. Perhaps it had to.
Bixby generally isn’t great. It is over-engineered and at launch, doesn’t support voice control, the best way to interact with it. The S8 also has a dedicated button to launch Bixby, which is a tad annoying as we ended up trying to avoid Bixby overall (which is possible) but we did accidentally launch it quite a bit as it’s next to the volume button.
Bixby also can only talk to Samsung apps. So, if you want simplicity go with the Pixel. But it’s also fairly easy to use the Google Assistant on the S8 and just ignore Bixby.
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Google Pixel: Specs
- 5in Full HD display 1080x1920
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 CPU
- 4GB RAM
- 32GB storage
- 12MP rear camera
- 8MP front camera
- 2770mAh battery
- USB-C charging port
- Fast Charging support
- headphone jack
- SIM card slot
- Android 7.1 OS
Samsung Galaxy S8: Specs
- Android 7.0 Nougat
- 5.8in Quad HD display (2960x1440), 570ppi
- Dual curved edge display
- Exynos 8895 octa-core processor
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB internal storage
- Micro-SD card slot (up to 256GB)
- 12Mp rear-facing camera with OIS
- 8Mp front camera
- Pressure sensitive home button
- Fingerprint scanner
- Heart rate monitor
- 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX
- 4G LTE Cat 16
- Headphone jack
- 3000mAh non-removable battery
- Wireless charging
- IP68 dust & waterproof rating