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Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus vs. Google Pixel 4 XL: Which big phone wins?

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is dead — long live the Samsung Galaxy S20. Samsung’s new flagship range was revealed at Galaxy Unpacked 2020, and if you’re planning on upgrading in the next few months, then Samsung’s new phones have dramatically increased your choices, no doubt causing some serious dilemmas.

It’s tough enough to pick between the three S20 models on offer, never mind factoring in other top smartphones. But that’s reality, and one of the top smartphones of the moment is the Google Pixel 4 XL. It’s a big phone with a lot of power, and an absolutely stunning camera, backed up by Google’s peerless use of the Android operating system. Can the middle child of the S20 range, the Galaxy S20 Plus, take down Google’s monolith? We put them head to head to find out.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus Google Pixel 4 XL
Size 161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8 mm (6.4 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches) 160.4 × 75.1 × 8.2 mm (6.3 × 2.9 × 0.3 inches)
Weight 186 grams (6.6 ounces) 193 grams (6.8 ounces)
Screen size 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 6.3-inch AMOLED
Screen resolution 3200 x 1440 pixels (525 pixels per inch) 3040 × 1440 pixels (537 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 10 (under One UI 2.0) Android 10
Storage space 128, 512GB 64, 128GB
MicroSD card slot Yes, up to 1TB No
Tap-to-pay services Samsung Pay, Google Pay Google Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
RAM 12GB 6GB
Camera 12-megapixel, 64-megapixel telephoto lens, 12-megapixel ultrawide lens, and ToF sensor rear, 10-megapixel front 12-megapixel and 16-megapixel telephoto rear, 8-megapixel front
Video 8K at 30 fps, 4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps 4K at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 120 fps, 720p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in-display No
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 4,500mAh

Fast charging (25W)

Qi wireless charging

3,700mAh

Fast charging (18W)

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon
Colors Cosmic Gray, Cloud Blue, Cosmic Black Just Black, Clearly White, Oh So Orange
Price $1,200 $899
Buy from Samsung, AT&T Google
Review score Hands-on review 4 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

The Galaxy S20 Plus is a beautiful phone. Like its predecessors, the S20 Plus has a sleek glass build with rounded edges that softly curve into the body. It’s almost all display on the front, with just a single hole-punch for the selfie lens. The Pixel 4 XL has slimmed down previously large bezels, but retains a large forehead bezel for the selfie lens and face-sensing tech. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who says the Pixel is the better-looking phone.

The S20 Plus has the edge over the Pixel 4 XL in pure screen size with a massive 6.7-inch display. The sharpness should be similar, though the Pixel holds a tiny edge in terms of pixels-per-inch. While the Pixel would previously have had an edge thanks to its 90Hz screen, Samsung has boosted its screen tech yet again and the super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate of the S20 Plus screen puts that advantage firmly to bed.

Well, what about durability then? It’s a bit more even here. Both phones have glass bodies, which makes them equally susceptible to cracks and scrapes, and both come with an IP68-rating for dust and water-resistance. You’ll want a protective case regardless.

The durability of each phone is similar, but Samsung’s flagship runs away with the rest of the round.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

Performance, battery life, and charging

John Velasco / Digital Trends

A new year means a new round of hardware updates, and the Galaxy S20 Plus is equipped with the latest Qualcomm processor, the Snapdragon 865. While the Pixel 4 XL’s Snapdragon 855 will still provide great performance, there’s no doubt in our mind the Snapdragon 865 is the faster and more powerful of the two. That new processor is joined by 12GB of RAM, twice the 6GB available on the Pixel 4 XL. Storage is similarly one-sided. The Pixel 4 XL tops out at 128GB of storage, with no MicroSD card slot. The S20 Plus also has 128Gb as standard, but you can spring for 512GB of storage if you like, and either way, there’s support for MicroSD cards up to 1TB in size. That’s a lot of storage.

If the Pixel 4 XL has an Achilles’ heel, it’s the battery size — 3,700mAh is simply not enough, and it means the phone will only just make it through a workday with medium use. Power users will find it completely inadequate. We’re yet to test the battery in the S20 Plus in the wild, but the 4,500mAh capacity is more in line with the size we expect from a powerful flagship phone. We’re confident the S20 Plus’ battery will outlast the Pixel 4 XL’s. Support for wireless charging and some very fast charging can’t save the Pixel 4 XL from having disappointing battery life and handing the S20 Plus the round.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

Camera

pixel 4 xl 2x zoom camera
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Samsung has made some serious strides where the S20 Plus’ camera is concerned. Samsung’s new flagship is equipped with an impressive main camera suite, with a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens, 64-megapixel telephoto lens, 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens, and a time-of-flight depth-sensing lens. It’s impressive hardware, and it comes with some equally impressive software. The new Space Zoom allows a 30x hybrid zoom with A.I. stabilization, and there’s support for filming in 8K.

At first glance, it seems the Pixel 4 XL is completely outclassed, but it never pays to underestimate the Pixel range’s camera. The dual 12-megapixel and 16-megapixel telephoto lenses produce amazing images in a variety of lighting conditions, helped by Google’s impressive Night Sight software. It’ll even take good shots of the night sky with the new astrophotography mode. It’s an impressive camera, and that quality extends to the 8-megapixel selfie camera around the front.

Google creates some of the best camera software out there, and it’s going to be a close-run contest between these two. Until we’ve had a better chance to test the S20 Plus, this has to be a tie.

Winner: Tie

Software and updates

John Velasco / Digital Trends

You’ll find Android 10 on the Galaxy S20 Plus, but covered over by Samsung’s One UI 2.0 software. It’s a good manufacturer’s skin, with plenty of customization elements and additional features. It’s down to personal choice whether you prefer this or the Pixel-specific Android 10 software on the Pixel 4 XL — but honestly, we feel you can get used to and enjoy using both of them.

But your opinion might change while you’re waiting for Android 11 in the future. The Pixel 4 XL will get an update shortly after the new operating system launches, while Samsung S20 Plus owners are likely to wait a while for the latest upgrade. Samsung’s upgrade history isn’t the best, and it probably won’t be supported for as long as the Pixel 4 XL either. The Pixel 4 XL wins here.

Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

Special features

pixel 4 xl next-gen assistant
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Galaxy S20 Plus has no shortage of special features, and will include Samsung’s virtual assistant, Bixby, support for the DeX desktop mode, and — probably most importantly — 5G support. That last point future-proofs the S20 Plus to a significant degree, and means you can rest assured your phone will be able to handle the latest mobile network as it continues to roll out across the world.

The Pixel 4 XL has a similarly broad array of special features, most of which are powered by the exceptional Google Assistant — the new Recorder app and Call Screen rest among these. There’s also the motion-powered Motion Sense. These special features are very impressive, and would normally tip the balance in the Pixel’s favor — only, the Pixel 4 XL doesn’t support 5G. We’re leaving this as a draw.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus will be available for pre-order from February 21, and will release on March 6. It won’t come cheap though, as prices start from $1,200. That’s an awful lot of money. The Pixel 4 XL is currently available, and prices start from $899 for the 64GB model.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

The Google Pixel 4 XL is a strong contender, with an exceptional camera, sleek software, and powerful specs, but it has some weaknesses, and those weaknesses are areas where the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus really shines. With an absolutely stunning bezel-less design, and a huge battery, the Galaxy S20 Plus is looking like one of 2020’s phones to beat. With the latest Snapdragon 865 processor, a versatile quad-lens camera, and the full 5G experience, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is the victor in this particular battle, even if it is several hundred dollars more expensive.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the Pixel 4 XL isn’t worth buying. Quite the opposite — if you love the Pixel’s Android experience and incredible camera, and aren’t too worried about the odd design or the smaller battery, then Google’s big flagship is worth considering. But if you’re not a Pixel die-hard, you should buy the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus.

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