Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus vs. Google Pixel XL: Two plus-sized phones battle it out

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Camera, software, durability, and more

Camera

samsung galaxy s8 plus vs google pixel xl photos 163
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL were highly praised for their camera, and rightly so — the camera is an increasingly important part of the smartphone.

When it comes to raw specs, the Google Pixel XL offers a 12.3-megapixel rear-facing camera with a f/2.0 aperture and electronic image stabilization. The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus carries over the same camera as the Galaxy S7 — a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera with a f/1.7 aperture.

The front-facing camera on both devices are packed with 8-megapixels, and they’ll likely offer similar quality shots. The specs on the two phones are ultimately pretty similar, but in our camera tests the Google Pixel outperformed the Galaxy S7, so we’ll have to crown it the winner here.

Winner: Google Pixel XL

Software

While both of the two phones feature the latest and greatest Android Nougat version, software is a pretty big point of difference for the Google Pixel XL. The Pixel series replaces the Nexus program as offering Android as Google intended it — so you won’t find any bloatware other than pre-installed Google apps. Pixel owners will also get timely security and version updates as soon as Google rolls them out — it’s why the Pixel XL is on Nougat 7.1. The S8 Plus will likely stay on Android 7.0 Nougat for quite some time.

The Galaxy S8 Plus has Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface, which looks far better and isn’t quite the performance hog we remember on prior devices. The S8 Plus also offers Samsung’s all new personal assistant Bixby, which even has a dedicated button on the side of the phone. Bixby can recognize objects via the camera app, can perform touch actions via voice, offers personalized information based on time and location, and allows you to set reminders. What’s great is if Bixby isn’t for you, you can still access Google Assistant by pressing and holding the home button, like on the Pixel XL.

On top of that, the Galaxy S8 Plus features software like Samsung Pay, which is available at far more locations than Google’s Android Pay on the Pixel XL.

Still, while Samsung may offer a few more features in its software over Google, we think the importance of getting timely Android version and security updates are pretty important. We’ll have to go with the Pixel XL based on Samsung’s track record.

Winner: Google Pixel XL

Durability

Google Pixel XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Smartphones should last for at least a few years these days, and a part of that means being able to withstand a least a drop or two. Unfortunately, the heavy use of glass on both of these phones limits that. For starters, the Google Pixel features a half glass back, so it would be easy to crack it if you dropped it. That’s magnified on the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, however. The device not only features the curved edge, but it also has a glass back — so dropping it could be disastrous.

The Google Pixel XL isn’t waterproof, and that’s where Samsung gains the upper hand. Like the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy S8 Plus has an IP68 dust- and water-resistance rating, meaning it’ll be able to withstand up to 1.5 meters of water for as long as 30 minutes.

We’d recommend a case for both these phones, but the Galaxy S8 Plus wins this round. At least Samsung offers some protection over water.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

Extra features

samsung unpacked 2017 roundup dsc 9064
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the devices have plenty on offer, but the S8 Plus has a few features that don’t seem to fall into any other category. For starters, the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus lets you connect your phone to an external monitor through the DeX dock, after which you can use the device like a desktop computer. The dock basically puts the phone in Android freeform mode, and optimized apps can be resized. It’s really a pretty cool feature, and we’re hoping to see more Android phones adopt this functionality.

There’s also iris scanning and facial recognition technology, which you can use to unlock your phone.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

Price and availability

Google Pixel XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Google Pixel XL started shipping towards the end of 2016, and you can buy it through Verizon or through the Google Play Store. The device starts at $770, which isn’t cheap — and if you want to get the higher storage option you’ll be looking at a total cost of $869. Sadly, Google has been having inventory problems and it’s extremely difficult to find the smartphone in stock. Estimated shipping times are often more than a month.

Samsung hardly has inventory issues as it’s better equipped to make smartphones in huge quantities. The Galaxy S8 Plus hit shelves on April 21.

Google Pixel XL Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus
AT&T N/A $850 or $28.34 per month for 30 months
Sprint N/A $850 or $35.42 per month for 24 months
T-Mobile N/A $850 or $30 per month for 24 months with a $130 down payment
Verizon $770 or $32.08 per month for 24 months $840 or $35 per month for 24 months

That’s a lot more expensive, but you are getting double the storage of the base Google Pixel XL, and a much-improved processor. We have to hand it to Samsung due to Google’s poor stock issues.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

There’s really no question here — the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus is a better phone. It’s more powerful, has a better display, and has cool features like desktop mode with the DeX dock. That’s not to say that the Google Pixel XL isn’t a good phone — it’s actually an excellent one, but newer is generally better in the tech world, and it’s no different here.

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