Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus vs. Google Pixel 3 XL: Which big Android phone is best?

Galaxy S10 Plus vs. Pixel 3 XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

As the force behind Android, Google’s Pixel phones are some of the best Android phones around and the Pixel 3 XL is the biggest it offers. You won’t find a better software experience, but Google isn’t quite as skilled in the hardware department. You could argue that Samsung is the opposite way around; the South Korean manufacturer makes incredible hardware, but often falls down in the software stakes.

What happens when you compare the best big phones from these Android titans? We pitted the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus against the Google Pixel 3 XL to find out.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus Google Pixel 3 XL
Size 157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8 mm (6.20 x 2.91 x 0.30 inches) 158 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm (6.2 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches)
Weight 175 grams (6.17 ounces) 184 grams (6.49 ounces)
Screen size 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 6.3-inch P-OLED
Screen resolution 3,040 × 1,440 pixels (526 pixels per inch) 2,960 x 1,440 pixels (523 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie Android 9.0 Pie
Storage space 128GB, 512GB, 1TB 64GB, 128GB
MicroSD card slot Yes No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay, Samsung Pay Google Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM 8GB, 12GB 4GB
Camera Triple lens 16-megapixel ultra wide-angle, 12MP variable aperture, and 12MP telephoto rear, 10MP and 8MP front dual lens Single lens 12MP rear, dual 8MP lenses front
Video 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps 2,160p at 30 fps, 1,080p at 120 fps, 720p at at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes, ultrasonic in-display Yes, back
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 4,100mAh

Fast charging (QuickCharge 2.0)

Qi wireless charging

3,430mAh

Fast charging (USB Power Delivery)

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
Colors Prism black, prism white, prism blue, flamingo pink, ceramic black, ceramic white Just black, clearly white, not pink
Price $1,000 $900
Buy from Samsung Google
Review score 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

Galaxy S10 Plus vs. Pixel 3 XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus has Qualcomm’s 2019 flagship chip, the Snapdragon 855, whereas the Google Pixel 3 XL has last year’s Snapdragon 845. The new processor brings efficiency boosts, greater speed, and lots of little extras. The S10 Plus also comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 512GB of storage, or 12GB and 1TB of storage. The Pixel 3 XL makes do with 4GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of storage. To top that off, the S10 Plus has space for a MicroSD card, which the Pixel lacks.

With a 4,100mAh battery, the S10 Plus has considerably more power than the Pixel 3 XL, which has a 3,430mAh battery. We also found battery life to be an issue when we tested the Pixel 3 XL. Google’s phone does have an advantage in wired charging, offering greater speeds through the USB Power Delivery standard than the S10 Plus which only supports Quick Charge 2.0. Both these phones can be wirelessly charged with any Qi charger.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

Design and durability

Galaxy S10 Plus vs. Pixel 3 XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Samsung’s design has evolved over years to reach the S10 Plus. This is a seriously stylish smartphone with a curved, almost all-screen front, and a minimal glass back, broken only by the horizontal camera suite. The dual front-facing camera is a hole-punch design at the top right, and the fingerprint scanner has been assimilated into the display. The S10 Plus is a great example of elegant smartphone design. We would argue that the only superfluous element is the Bixby button.

By contrast, the Pixel 3 XL features one of the ugliest, deepest notches ever, yet still has a sizable chin at the bottom of the screen. We love the two-tone glass on the back, though, which is subtly etched with a fingerprint sensor in the middle and the single camera lens at the top left in the glossy portion of glass. It’s also quite a minimalist design, with that simple G logo at the bottom.

There’s really no dividing them on durability as both boast an IP68 rating which means they can be submerged in shallow water for up to half an hour without damage. As they’re both glass, cases are advisable for drop protection.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

Display

Galaxy S10 Plus vs. Pixel 3 XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Samsung has been leading the field in display technology for years now and the S10 Plus kicks things up another notch, but thankfully doesn’t have a notch. The only element you may not like is the hole-punch at the top right, or Infinity-O as Samsung calls it, which accommodates the dual lens front-facing camera. The 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED itself is superb. The colors are accurate, the brightness can crank up as high as you need, and it’s the first display to win HDR10+ certification. It even emits less blue light than other displays.

The Google Pixel 3 XL also has an excellent OLED display, which is 6.3 inches and plenty sharp enough, but it can’t match the brightness or contrast of Samsung’s display. We’re not keen on the big notch, but you’ll soon get used to it if you pick this phone up. There isn’t a big difference between these two on paper, but Samsung’s display is superior by most measures.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

Camera

Galaxy S10 Plus vs. Pixel 3 XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

This is a very tricky category. On paper, the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is the runaway winner with a triple lens setup that includes a standard 12-megapixel lens with a variable aperture, an ultra-wide 16-megapixel lens with a 123-degree field of view, and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens capable of 2x optical zoom. It’s an incredibly versatile camera suite. The Google Pixel 3 XL relies on a single 12.2-megapixel lens, but it does also have the Pixel Visual Core, which is a standalone image processor.

Nothing sums up the software versus hardware clash better than these different approaches to the camera. Google’s software smarts and application of A.I. enable it to wring astounding performance from limited hardware and we’ve seen it beat phones with more lenses in the past. On the other hand, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Plus will be able to do things that the Pixel 3 XL can’t match. Well, after plenty of testing, we’ve come to the verdict that the Pixel 3 XL still holds the crown as the best camera phone.

Things are closer around the front where the S10 Plus pairs 10-megapixel and 8-megapixel lenses, while the Pixel 3 XL pairs two 8-megapixel lenses (one being a wide angle lens). Nevertheless, the Pixel 3 XL’s prowess still wins.

Winner: Google Pixel 3 XL

Software and updates

Galaxy S10 Plus vs. Pixel 3 XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

As the guiding force and developer of Android, Google has an obvious advantage in the software stakes and it shows. Stock Android may not thrill everyone, but we love its simplicity and slick performance, and Google has included some exclusive extras that you only get on Pixel phones, which we’ll delve into in the next section.

Traditionally, Samsung’s user interface has been too busy and impacted performance, making its phones feel slightly laggy. Thankfully, that is no longer the case, with TouchWiz giving way to Experience and now to the One UI, which is actually very well-designed. An issue that Samsung hasn’t solved, however, is the slow speed of its updates.

New versions of Android will roll out to the Pixel months in advance of the S10 Plus. We also prefer the general software experience on the Pixel. Samsung’s extras are a mixed bag. We appreciate things like Samsung Pay, but we could live without Bixby, for example.

Winner: Google Pixel 3 XL

Special features

Samsung Galaxy S10 hands-on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Samsung tends to pack in a lot of extras, but many of them are gimmicky or double up needlessly on Google’s superior services. You’ll find the usual Samsung line up, including Gear VR and Dex desktop mode, but reverse wireless charging is new. It enables you to charge any Qi-certified device with your S10 Plus, which could prove handy in a pinch. The S10 Plus also has an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner. Perhaps most important of all, the S10 Plus can support the latest Wi-Fi 6 and advanced LTE standards, which means you’ll get awesome connection speeds where available.

Google’s software smarts really show in this category. The Pixel 3 XL has nifty features, like Now Playing, which shows whatever song is playing in the background on the lock screen and compiles a list you can reference later. Then there is Duplex, which enables the Google Assistant to call and make reservations or appointments for you, and Call Screen, which enables it to handle spam calls. We also find the app suggestions when you swipe up, which change based on your behavior and the time of day, are usually spot on, so we rarely have to search the full app drawer for what we need.

The winner here depends on what you value, so we’ll call it a tie.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The Google Pixel 3 XL starts from $900, but we have seen discounts, so shop around. It’s available from many retailers and the unlocked version will work on all the major carriers. It’s a Verizon exclusive, so you need to go there if you want to buy from a carrier store.

The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus starts from $1,000. You can buy it unlocked or from all the major carriers. It comes out on March 8 but if you pre-order it, you get Samsung Galaxy Buds for free.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

Despite its shortcomings, the Pixel 3 XL topped our best smartphones list last year, beating out the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, but the S10 Plus is a major upgrade over its predecessor. With a faster and more capable processor, an incredible display, an elegant design, a versatile camera, and a host of extras it’s also more than a match for the Pixel 3 XL. Google’s flagship still has plenty to offer and it will be the better buy for some people, but the S10 Plus has to take the win here.

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