(Pocket-lint) - When Google launched the Pixel 6 lineup in 2021, there were many things unconventional about its launch. From the fact that it teased the phone publicly for months running up to the launch, to its weird-looking design. It drew people’s attention and became something of a surprise hit among tech enthusiasts.
With that launch now being a few months behind us, Samsung’s latest flagship is on the market. The S22+ adds to a long-line of Galaxy smartphones that offer top tier performance, so how does it compare to the more affordable Pixel 6? And which should you buy? Read the comparison or watch our video below to find out.
- Galaxy: 157.4 x 75.8 x 7.6mm - 195 grams
- Pixel 6: 158.6 x 74.8 x 8.9mm - 207 grams
- Both: Glass front and back, aluminium frame
- Both: IP68 water and dust resistant
We don’t know how many times something along the lines of “smartphones are all glass rectangles now, they’re all the same” has been said or written in recent years. And, broadly speaking, it’s true. But with the Pixel 6 and Samsung’s latest 'Plus' Galaxy model, we see two quite different approaches to the glass slab approach. And it doesn’t matter which side you look at them from either, they’re quite different.
Saying that, the two phones are incredibly similar when it comes to size. They’re a similar height, width and thickness, although technically the Pixel 6 is ever so slightly taller, thicker and heavier than the Samsung S22+. It’s a testament to Samsung then that, despite this, it’s got a bigger screen. That's saying something when you consider that this is the larger of the two non-Ultra S22 models; there’s an even smaller one.
The bezels around the screen are much much thinner than the Pixel and that black frame around the display is close to being uniform all the way around, and even matches the curves of the corners, hugging the inside of the frame closely. Pixel 6 has a chunkier, more right angled look. It’s striking when you put the two side-by-side.
Where Pixel gets it right is in the shape of the phone. It might be big, but because the glass curves on the back - and the aluminium edge has a more pronounced rounding - it does feel more comfortable to hold. Samsung’s is very flat, giving more of an extreme edge between the glass and the frame.
The other thing worth noting is Pixel’s camera hump. It’s unusual, but does mean you can place it down on its back without it wobbling.
From a durability standpoint, the Samsung should be longer lasting and more resistant to impact. It has Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus+ on the front and on the back, with what it calls Armour Aluminium, which it says is more durable and scratch resistant than before. Pixel uses Gorilla Glass Victus on the front, and Gorilla Glass 6 on the back. So it’s still pretty sturdy itself, and both are water and dust resistant to the same IP68 rating.
- Galaxy: 6.6-inches - AMOLED - 1080 x 2340 resolution - 393ppi
- Pixel 6: 6.4-inches - AMOLED - 1080 x 2400 resolution - 411ppi
- Galaxy: 120Hz adaptive refresh - HDR10+ support
- Pixel 6: 90Hz adaptive - HDR10+ support
- Both: In-display fingerprint sensor and punch-hole cameras
Moving on to displays, and the Pixel 6’s screen - at least size wise - sits in between the S22 and the S22+. It’s 6.4-inches, where the S22+ is 6.6-inches, and the S22 is 6.1-inches diagonally.
It’s not all that different when it comes to resolution. They both have fullHD+ resolution screens. And with Samsung being slightly larger, you get a tiny bit less pixel density, but you’d be hard pushed to see that difference.
Overall, the two screens offer a great experience in terms of colour, brightness and contrast, but there are a couple of things that swing the display experience in the favour of Samsung. The main thing you notice, unsurprisingly, is the size. The extra real estate means that when you’re watching videos or gaming, everything’s just that bit bigger, and gives content a more immersive or expansive feel.
Then you get those bright highlights that are definitely brighter on the Samsung thanks to a higher peak brightness, and higher brightness overall. It is just brighter, and that can make a difference when viewing the screen outside in daylight.
With both screens set to their natural mode, there’s not a huge amount of difference at all in terms of how colour appears on the screen. Neither is overly warm or saturated, and they’re very similar. From an angle, there was a difference in slight colour shift. Pixel seems to tint a little pink, where Samsung skews towards green.
Samsung’s also has the bonus of faster refresh rates, but we’re not talking something that’s easy to see with the eye. It’s 120Hz vs. 90Hz. Most of the time - since most content isn’t even refreshing that fast - there’s no difference really. However, Samsung’s is more capable of saving battery, with it being able to automatically drop as low as 10hz.
That means you might see a bit more initial stuttering when you go from a static screen to a moving one. Like when you’re reading twitter, or a web page, and swipe to go home. It doesn’t seem to switch between refresh rates as smoothly as some others. The Pixel doesn’t appear to stutter like that at all, which makes sense given that - with Smooth Display turned on - it goes between 60-90hz.
Performance and battery
- Galaxy: Exynos 2200 or Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 - 8GB RAM - 128GB/256GB storage
- Pixel 6: Google Tensor - 8GB RAM - 128GB/256GB storage
- Galaxy: 4500mAh battery - 45W wired charging - 15W wireless charging
- Pixel 6: 4614mAH battery - 30W wired charging - 21W wireless charging
When it comes to raw power, it’s a little bit of a miss-match. Samsung’s S22 is powered by a flagship quality processor, where the Pixel isn’t really. In most markets it’s the Exynos 2200 in the S22 (with the US and China featuring the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1), and the Pixel of course has the Google Tensor processor.
Benchmarks aren’t everything but Samsung had a considerably higher multi-core score when tested in Geekbench. It was around 3300, where Pixel was 2400. Single core was 1100 vs 1000. Despite the difference in numbers, the actually feel of using each phone was very similar.
Even when comparing app load times, there wasn’t a huge difference in how quickly they loaded up different apps and games. From social media to games. Samsung would often load a split second quicker than Pixel, but there really wasn’t much in it. But it wasn’t consistent one way or the other, sometimes it was the Pixel that loaded faster. Either way, neither was slow, and both feel speedy and fluid most of the time.
As for battery life, Pixel has a higher capacity, but again, the actual difference between the two in real everyday battery life is minimal. We didn’t see a huge difference with our usual 2-3 hours of screen time a day split between social media and a bit of casual gaming. Most days we’d use about 55-60 per cent of the battery between 8am and 11pm.
- Galaxy: 50MP f/1.8 primary w/OIS - 10MP f/2.4 3x telephoto zoom w/OIS - 12MP f/2.4 ultrawide
- Pixel 6: 50MP f/1.9 primary w/OIS - 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide
- Galaxy: 8K video at 24fps - 4K up to 60fps
- Pixel 6: 4K video up to 60fps
There’s one clear advantage for Samsung in the camera department: It’s got an extra lens. The telephoto zoom lens means you can zoom up to 3x, and the picture is pretty much as sharp and well balanced as the shots from the ultrawide and primary camera. Pixel only has the main and ultrawide, and although it can zoom 2x to good effect with good detail, it’s not as pin sharp as the 3x on the Samsung.
Otherwise, comparing the two phones’ pictures in daytime revealed some interesting differences. Samsung in our experience likes to go for that colour-boosted look where blues and greens - in particular - are a bit oversaturated. Pixel’s colours just made the photos seem a bit more natural to our eyes. Samsung also seem to up the contrast a tiny bit too.
This extra contrast and colour does make the photos seem more dynamic. That boosted contrast increasing the range between the highlights and the shadows, and giving that slightly artificial sharpness. Where Pixel's approach definitely seemed to be evening out the difference between highlights and shadows. There’s not a massive amount in it, but we preferred the end result from the Pixel.
Selfie cameras were different, with the Pixel - in daytime at least - getting quite crushed and contrast-heavy.
Like we mentioned in the daylight photos, there's a difference in the way the two phones approach highlights and shadows, it's the same at night. That means, even here, Samsung's phones are more contrast heavy, with brighter (sometimes over exposed) highlights, and dark shadows. Pixel's may not pop as much, but again, it evens out the difference, making a bit more of a natural image. In other low light conditions we also found Pixel did a better job of reducing the noise in the shadows.
One thing we will say is that the night mode capture on the Samsung is considerably quicker than on the Pixel. But the results you get from Pixel, to our eyes at least, are more natural. There is appeal in Samsung's approach though, especially since they look that bit sharper, however artificially.
- Both: Android 12
- Galaxy: One UI 4.1 skin
- PIxel: Google's new Pixel skin
Which software is best very much comes down to preference. We're big fans of the redesigned Android 12 on the Pixel, with the big, colourful controls and the way the interface automatically adapts and changes to the colours of the wallpaper.
You do still get that element with the Samsung, but with a much more traditional Android interface, with small quick controls and toggles. Samsung comes loaded with quite a lot of Samsung's own apps and services, but if you don't like those you can always download and install Google's. Many of them come with the redesigned widgets too, so you can even get your Home Screen widgets looking more Pixel-ish.
The big thing here for software is that with Pixel you generally get the big Android updates as soon as they're available and you get easy access to public betas when they arrive.
However, Samsung's massively improved its upgrade game recently and has been rolling out updates and security patches really promptly to its flagship phones. And they will support updates for a good few years. In many ways, it's become the example to all other Android manufacturers. Even getting out security patches ahead of Google in some instances.
- Galaxy: £949 in the UK
- Pixel: £599 in the UK
There's a quite a gap in price between the Pixel 6 and its similarly-sized Samsung competition. Samsung's latest Plus-sized flagship is near enough £1000 in the UK, where the Pixel is almost £400 cheaper. And yet, the difference in performance isn't all that stark.
Clearly, the Samsung has hardware in some departments that outperforms the Pixel. That’s particularly true when comparing the displays and the speed and overall performance. Some people might even prefer the more colour-rich, higher contrast camera results. However, it costs a lot more to buy.
Ifthe thing you care about most is cameras that give a more balanced look, and you don’t want to empty your bank account, the Pixel 6 will do that for you. Plus, we really enjoy the software experience on the Pixel, and that’s something you’d can’t measure objectively. It’s purely subjective.