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Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 UItra: don’t buy the wrong one

Renders of the Google Pixel 8 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra next to each other.
Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 8 Pro is the last of 2023’s top smartphones to arrive. It’s big, bold, and comes packed with camera tricks to take on Samsung and Apple’s best. But if you are averse to Apple’s ecosystem, the only direct rival to Google’s latest flagship is the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Both product lines have a reputation for having one of the most powerful camera phones, with Samsung banking more on hardware supremacy while Google leads with software processing. If you’re trying to find the best pound-for-pound flagship between the two, here’s a detailed comparison to help make your choice easier.

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: specs

Google Pixel 8 Pro Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Size 150.5 x 70.8 x 8.9 mm 78.1 x 163.4 x 8.9 mm
Weight 187 grams 234 grams
Screen size 6.7-inch
Super Actua LTPO OLED
Gorilla Glass Victus 2 shield
Up to 2,400 nits peak brightness
Smooth Display (1–120Hz) refresh rate
Dynamic AMOLED 2X
120Hz adaptive refresh rate
240Hz Touch Sampling Rate
1750 nits peak brightness
Gorilla Glass Victus 2 shield
Screen resolution 1344 x 2992 pixels 3088 x 1440 pixels (Quad HD+)
Operating system Android 14 Android 13 (One UI 5.1)
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay Google Pay, Samsung Pay
Processor Google Tensor G3 Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
RAM 12GB 8GB, 12GB
Camera 50-megapixel primary (F1.68, FOV 82°)
48-megapixel ultrawide (F1.95, FOV 125.5°)
48-megapixel 5x optical telephoto (F2.8, FOV 21.8°)
10.5-megapixel (F2.2, FOV 95°)
200-megapixel primary (F1.7, FOV 85˚)
12-megapixel ultrawide (F2.2, FOV 120˚)
10-megapixel 3x telephoto (F2.4, FOV 36˚)
10-megapixel 10x telephoto (F4.9, FOV 11˚)
12-megapixel front camera (F2.2, FOV 80˚)
Bluetooth 5.3 5.3
Fingerprint sensor In-display fingerprint sensor In-display fingerprint sensor
Water resistance IP68 dust and water resistance IP68 dust and water resistance
Battery 5,050 mAh
30W wired fast charging
Up to 50% charge in about 30 minutes
Fast wireless charging
Battery Share
45W Adapter fast charging
Up to 65% charge in around 30 minutes
Wireless charging
Wireless Power Share
App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store, Samsung Galaxy Store
Network support 5G, LTE
Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax, 2.4GHz+5GHz+6GHz)
GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou, NavIC
Ultra Wideband
Google Cast
Wi-Fi 6E (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax
Wi-Fi Direct
GPS, Glonass, Beidou, Galileo, QZSS
Ultra Wideband
Colors Obsidian
Phantom Black
Sky Blue
Price Starts at $999 Starts at $1,199

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: design and display

Google Pixel 8 Pro in hand.
Google Pixel 8 Pro Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

The Pixel 8 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra take fundamentally different approaches to design. Samsung goes for a boxy look with flat sides and sharp edges, while Google’s phone has rounded sides with a bulging frame for a more comfortable grip. The weight difference is also massive, as the Pixel 8 Pro is over 22% lighter than the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Aluminum and Gorilla Glass Victus protect both phones, which have builds that are IP68-certified. Each device offers a large OLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate and dynamic adjustment tech, but the Pixel 8 Pro’s screen is brighter and goes all the way up to 2,400 nits.

In day-to-day life, however, those numerical figures won’t make much of a difference as the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s screen is also sufficiently bright, and content legibility is not a problem even under broad daylight. But one area where the Samsung flagship leaps far ahead is stylus support.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra in Sky Blue, seen from the back.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Galaxy S23 Ultra supports stylus input and comes with the S Pen that slots right inside the phone’s chassis. This stylus is not merely a gimmick, though. It supports a wide array of Air Gestures and comes with a ton of customization and shortcut tricks.

If you know your way around the Good Lock modules, the S Pen will truly elevate your smartphone experience to an altogether different level of convenience and immersion. It also helps that the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the only mainstream flagship phone out there with stylus support.

The Pixel 8 Pro has some technical advantages with its display, but the S23 Ultra’s S Pen is also a great addition. We’re chalking this one up as a tie.

Winner: Tie

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: performance and battery

Playing a game on the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Samsung has equipped the Galaxy S23 Ultra with a slightly overclocked trim of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip that is exclusive to this particular phone. The chip is paired with 12GB of RAM and up to 1TB of storage without any scope for further expansion. The S23 Ultra is also equipped with a larger vapor chamber cooling system for improved heat dissipation, and it actually does a great job.

Google’s flagship chip, though not especially advertised as coming with heat dissipation, has seen dramatic improvements in cooling with the Tensor G3. However, it’s not going to be up to the standard of the S23 Ultra. But in terms of raw performance, you won’t find either phone lagging.

What you get inside the Pixel 8 Pro is a custom-designed Tensor G3 processor ticking alongside 12GB of RAM and up to 1TB of storage. Google has also fitted dedicated AI and security chips inside the phone, but just like Samsung, it has skipped microSD card expansion.

Google Pixel 8 Pro in a case showing off a custom AI generated wallpaper.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

There isn’t much difference when it comes to the battery capacity, as both phones have a 5,000mAh battery. However, the Galaxy S23 Ultra takes the crown here. Not only does it sport a two-day battery life, but it supports up to 45-watt wired charging. The Pixel 8 Pro tops out at 30W and sometimes struggles to make it a single day without needing a recharge.

Wireless charging support is also part of the package for both phones, as is reverse wireless power sharing. The latter means you can simply keep any other phone or earbuds case on the Pixel 8 Pro Galaxy S23 Ultra’s rear panel and it will share power.

Google has improved in a lot of areas, but Samsung takes the win pretty convincingly here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: cameras

Someone taking a photo with the Google Pixel 8 Pro in a landscape orientation.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Google’s top-tier offering leads with a 50-megapixel optically stabilized main camera. It is assisted by a 48MP telephoto camera with 5x optical zoom output and a 48MP ultrawide snapper. Selfie duties fall to a 10.5MP sensor with autofocus. As has become customary with Pixel phones, the images taken are nothing short of exceptional, and this time around, all three lenses output still photos of a similar quality.

But can Samsung overcome Google with the massive 200MP main camera on the Galaxy S23 Ultra? This allows the phone to perform multiple layers of pixel binning to output images in smaller formats. There are also a couple of 10MP telephoto cameras, with one delivering a 3x optical zoom range while the other one banks on a periscope system to offer 10x optical zoom. Put together, it’s an amazing camera, and it’s the periscope zoom lens that’s seen the largest improvement by far. Oversaturation can still sometimes be a problem, but Samsung is clearly improving on this front.

Ultrawide capture is handled by a 12MP snapper, and the front camera also relies on a 12MP camera. The Galaxy S23 Ultra allows 8K capture and can do slow-motion videos at up to 960 frames per second (fps), while the Pixel 8 Pro maxes out at 4K 60 fps capture, with slo-mo is limited 240 fps.

Close-up shot of the cameras on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The Pixel 8 Pro, however, serves up some impressive AI-powered goodies such as Magic Eraser for removing unwanted objects from the frame, Face Unblur to fix photos post-capture, Macro Focus to take close-up shots, Astrophotography mode for long-exposure night sky capture, and Magic Audio Eraser to remove noise from videos.

This time around, Google is also adding some new tricks like Night Sight for video capture and Best Take for group photos, where multiple frames are combined to deliver the most pleasing stills.

Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra offers its own unique set of camera features, such as simultaneous video capture from each camera, a stunning 100x zoom range for stills, 360-degree audio capture, and mic zoom-in to follow the camera view. Just like the Pixel 8 Pro, it also supports Night Mode for video (from front and rear cameras), as well as portrait capture.

This is a very tough category to judge, as both phones are exceptional. The Pixel 8 Pro creates images with a more realistic tone, but the S23 Ultra’s vibrant shots may appeal to some. Samsung clearly has an edge in zoom photography, but Google’s post-processing and AI-powered editing are unmatched by anyone else. This is very much a tie.

Winner: Tie

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: software and special features

The Home Screen on the Google Pixel 8 Pro.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Software is where the two phones sit on almost opposite ends of the spectrum. Google serves a vanilla flavor of Android on the Pixel 8 Pro with a ton of exclusive features. The Google Assistant experience is the best you’ll come across, with more tricks arriving at a regular cadence via Pixel feature drop updates.

This year, Google is adding multilingual assistant voice typing into the mix alongside more natural conversations, improved call-screening capability, better noise isolation for calls, and more. Google is also extending the Face Unlock convenience to payments and app sign-ins. Hardware-wise, there’s also a new temperature sensor, which, admittedly, has limited usefulness.

Samsung, on the other hand, is currently seeding out the Android 14-based One UI 6 to the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The Android skin on Samsung phones is a bit divisive. On the bad side, it is cluttered with a healthy dose of bloatware and ads.

The S Pen's menu on the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Andy Boxall / DigitalTrends

But on the positive side, it offers a set of exclusive features that set the Galaxy S23 Ultra apart from every phone out there. For example, Edge Panels and the S Pen wheel offer more shortcuts and tools at your disposal than you would find on any other device.

The scope for aesthetic customization is deep, while Samsung Good Lock modules offer a level of UI control that you simply won’t find on any smartphone out there.

This year, however, Google is making a dramatic leap at boosting the longevity of Pixel phones. Google says the Pixel 8 Pro will get seven years of Android OS upgrades and security updates, as well as feature drops for an equal number of years. Samsung is only promising four OS upgrades and five years of security updates on the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Although the usefulness of each phone’s software features largely comes down to personal preference, there’s no denying that everyone should benefit from Google’s impressive software support. It’s the first of its kind in the Android space, and it’s something we hope to see more of in the future.

Winner: Google Pixel 8 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: price and availability

The Google Pixel 8 Pro sitting upright on a park bench.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 8 Pro starts at $999 and comes with 128GB of storage. If you need more room, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB models are also available. It is fully available for purchase and comes in a trio of colors: Bay, Obsidian, and Porcelain.

Samsung, on the other hand, is charging a minimum of $1,199 for the Galaxy S23 Ultra with 256GB of internal storage. That’s a healthy $200 gulf and enough to buy a good pair of wireless earbuds or even a previous-generation smartwatch. Color options on the table are Green, Phantom Black, Lavender, Cream, Lime, Sky Blue, Graphite, and Red. But do keep in mind that a bunch of these are exclusive to the Samsung store.

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra lying on a large rock.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Picking between these two phones is fairly straightforward. If you’re chasing the best Android experience, with unbeatable support, reliable cameras, a standout design, and the most rewarding Android experience out there, the Google Pixel 8 Pro is where you should put your money. And if you’re after the most advanced AI wizardry available on a phone today, the Pixel should be your default choice.

But if you’re looking for an Android phone that offers camera perks like 10x optical zoom, tons of pro-grade video and photo capture gimmicks, and the versatility of an excellent stylus, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra should be your pick. It comes at a 20% premium over the Pixel 8 Pro, but if you’re invested in Samsung’s ecosystem and appreciate the flexibility of One UI, this is the most feature-loaded phone you can possibly get.

Editors' Recommendations

Nadeem Sarwar
Nadeem is a tech journalist who started reading about cool smartphone tech out of curiosity and soon started writing…
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