Battle for the Android throne: Can the Google Pixel 2 best Samsung’s Galaxy S8?

Google Pixel 2 Review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Google has unveiled the Google Pixel 2, the latest in its Pixel smartphone series. To say we were impressed with the company’s first model would be an understatement, and with this latest iteration, Google masterfully built on solid foundation.

Loaded with a Snapdragon 835 processor and an even more advanced camera, the Pixel 2 — all gruff about the bulky bezels aside — is certainly no sophomore slouch. That said, how does this latest iteration measure up against Samsung‘s flagship Galaxy S8? Let’s take a look, with this side-by-side smartphone showdown.

Specs

Galaxy S8
google pixel 2 vs samsung galaxy s8
Pixel 2

Size 148.9 x 68.1 x 8 mm (5.86 x 2.68 x 0.31 inches) 145.7 x 69.7 x 7.8 mm (5.7 x 2.7 x 0.31 inches)
Weight 155 grams (5.47 ounces) 143 grams (5.04 ounces)
Screen 5.8-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED 5-inch AMOLED display
Resolution 2,960 x 1,440 pixels 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
OS Android 7.0 Nougat Android 8.0 Oreo
Storage 64GB (U.S.) 128GB (International) 64GB, 128GB
MicroSD card slot Yes No
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM 4GB 4GB
Connectivity GSM / CDMA / HSPA / LTE GSM / CDMA / HSPA / LTE
Camera Rear 12MP with OIS, front 8MP 12.2 MP rear with OIS, 8 MP HD front
Video 4K at 30fps, 1,080p at 60fps 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 120fps, 720p at 240fps
Bluetooth Yes, version 5.0 Yes, version 5.0
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Other sensors Barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, heart rate, proximity sensor, iris scanner Barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, proximity sensor, Active Edge
Water resistant Yes, IP68 Yes, IP67
Battery 3,000mAh 2,700mAh
Charging port USB-C USB-C
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Colors Black, silver, gray, blue, gold Black, Blue, and White
Availability AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Unlocked from Samsung  Unlocked from Google, Verizon
Price $725 $650
DT review 4 out of 5 stars Hands-on Review

Both the Google Pixel 2 and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 pack the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB of RAM. It means you should expect almost the same performance, though the Pixel 2 may edge out a little as the software is simple, pure Android. Samsung has its TouchWiz user interface layered over Android, and while it’s much improved, it still can slow down the operating system over time. Google also makes Android, and by designing its own phone, it’s able to optimize the hardware and software far more than Samsung can.

In terms of storage, you get more options to choose from with the Pixel 2 as there’s a 64GB and 128GB variant. With Samsung, you’re stuck with the 64GB model in the U.S., though there’s a MicroSD card slot which lets you add more space if you want.

It’s a close round, but we’re giving the edge to the Pixel 2.

Winner: Google Pixel 2

Design, display, and durability

samsung galaxy s8 review device 12
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Aesthetically speaking, one of the biggest mobile trends in 2017 has been the move away from thick bezels — the edges flanking the front of the screen. These two phones look vastly different, because one embraces this trend, while the other is far from it. The Galaxy S8 features minimal bezels, and looks even more stunning thanks to the curved screen. The all-glass build gives the phone a seamless, smooth feel in your hand and the skimpy, bezels offer a more immersive experience by bringing the screen virtually to the edge of the device.

With the second iteration Pixel, Google has retained large bezels. The Pixel 2 maintains the unique aluminum and glass build mixture on the rear which we like, but one can’t help but notice the thick, almost clunky, edges around the screen. The Pixel 2 looks straight from 2015.

Thin bezels aren’t just an aesthetic advantage — it allows the smartphone to offer more screen in a smaller frame. If you look at the dimensions of both devices, you’ll find the S8 almost has the same dimensions as the Pixel 2, but it offers a much larger 5.8-inch display, over the Pixel 2’s 5-inch screen.

The S8’s Super AMOLED display takes up 83-percent of the front panel, and the 2,960 × 1,440 pixels pixel resolution offers pristine image quality. The Pixel 2’s AMOLED screen has a standard Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution, and while it still looks great, the Galaxy S8’s screen is simply sharper at 570 pixels-per-inch. It’s overkill, compared to the Pixel 2’s 441 ppi.

The Pixel 2’s Full HD screen makes it more efficient from a processing and battery-consuming perspective, but the HDR Premium-certified Galaxy S8 allows you to watch sharp High-Dynamic Range (HDR) content — the latest craze in mobile.

Unlike the Galaxy S8, Google decided to do away with the 3.5mm headphone jack on the Pixel 2 for no specific reason. A headphone jack adapter is included in the box, but if you lose the dongle, you’ll have to rely on USB Type-C or wireless earbuds. This is a deal breaker for a lot of people, and it easily helps Samsung win this category. There is one positive for the audio department on the Pixel 2 — you now get front-facing stereo speakers. It certainly beats having a down-firing speaker like on the original Pixel or the S8.

The Galaxy S8 and the Pixel 2 are both water- and dust-resistant, but Samsung goes a step further with an IP68 rating, meaning the device should be able to withstand a plunge in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. The Pixel 2 has an IP67 rating, which similarly lets you take the phone underwater up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.

It’s not a contest. The Galaxy S8 boasts a gorgeous, immersive design; packs a higher-resolution, bigger screen; and has a slightly better water-resistance rating. The Pixel 2 may win in a drop test, though, as the Galaxy S8 is covered in glass.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Camera

googles newest gadgets pixel 2 hands on white rear camera

The original Google Pixel was heralded as the best camera phone available and with the follow up Pixel 2, Google built on this solid foundation. In fact, camera review site DxOMark recently gave the Pixel 2 a score of 98 out of 100 — the highest rating ever awarded for a smartphone.

In our brief hands-on time with the Pixel 2, we saw virtually no shutter lag while snapping shots with the optical image stabilization-equipped 12-megapixel camera. The Motion Photos feature, which is almost the same as Apple’s Live Photos, allows you to capture three seconds of video by simply tapping the shutter icon. Best of all, the Pixel 2 has a Portrait Mode feature without the need for a dual camera set up. Machine learning and software algorithms help identify the primary subject in a photo, and the background is then blurred for images that pop. As it’s all done via software, it works with the front-facing 8-megapixel camera as well for spectacular selfies.

The Galaxy S8 12-megapixel rear camera is pretty much the same camera that was in the previous Galaxy S7. When we tested the S8, our broad daylight images had great picture quality with accurate colors, and low-light images were solid. There’s a Portrait Mode-like feature called Selective Focus, but it doesn’t work as well as Apple’s. More skilled photographers will appreciate the Pro mode feature, which allows you to manage shutter speed, focus, and ISO. There’s also a “Wide Selfie” mode that allows selfie aficionados to pivot the camera slightly to the left and right respectively for a broader field of view, making those larger group selfies less cramped.

We’ll have to do more testing, but from what we’ve seen the Pixel 2 seems to have the better camera at the moment.

Winner: Google Pixel 2

Software

Google Pixel 2
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

As Google designed the hardware and Android software for the original Pixel, the smartphone felt more fluid compared to other Android devices. This looks to be the case with the Pixel 2, but the key advantage with the Pixel-series is the phones get the latest security and version updates first. Case in point: Android 8.0 Oreo released in August, and the Pixel 2 devices will launch with it installed. The S8 still runs last year’s Android 7.0 Nougat.

The Google Pixel 2’s software is the pure Android experience. It may not be chock full of features like the Galaxy S8, but it’s simple, fast, and gorgeous. Samsung has improved TouchWiz’s design over the years and it looks great on the S8, but we prefer the more minimal, uncluttered experience on the Pixel. You get Google Assistant on both smartphones, but Samsung’s device comes with Bixby, an assistant you can use to control phone functions via your voice.

Regardless, the ability to get fast version and security updates gives the Pixel 2 the win.

Winner: Google Pixel 2

Battery life and charging

samsung galaxy s8 review device 9
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We found the Galaxy S8 to offer just about a full day of battery life with some change, based on medium to high usage. That’s thanks to its 3,000mAh battery capacity. Samsung goes a step further and offers wireless charging on the S8, as well as fast charging.

We weren’t fans of the battery life on the original Pixel, as we found it struggling to stay alive by 7 p.m. on a regular work day. We’re sad to see a small downgrade in battery capacity from the 2016 Pixel, from 2,770mAh to 2,700mAh in the Pixel 2. Android 8.0 Oreo and the Snapdragon 835 processor do promise battery life improvements, but we’re skeptical we’ll find better battery life on the Pixel 2. We’ll have to do more testing. It’s capable of fast charging, but you won’t find wireless charging on board. Samsung takes the cake here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Pricing and availability

Samsung-bogo-galaxy-s8-samsung_galaxy_s8_device_6
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 2 is available for pre-order now and will set you back a cool $650. It’s available unlocked from the Google Store, or directly from Verizon. It’s not as widely available as the Galaxy S8, but it still works with all major U.S. carriers.

The Galaxy S8 will cost you $725 unlocked from Samsung, but you get more choice when you want to purchase it as all major carriers sell it, and so do many retailers. The Pixel 2 still gets the win, though, as the price is substantially less expensive than other phones using the latest Snapdragon 835.

Winner: Google Pixel 2

Overall winner: Google Pixel 2

While the Google Pixel 2 probably won’t win any awards for design anytime soon, the phone itself is worth every penny. Google bolstered the latest Pixel 2 with a faster, more efficient processor,  and even somehow managed to upgrade the already spectacular camera. The Galaxy S8 is still one of our favorite smartphones of the year and the display is more capable than the Pixel 2, however, when juxtaposed across the gauntlet, the Pixel 2 is our pick in this match up. If you want a headphone jack, go for the S8.

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