Google has announced its new 2017 handsets, the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL. Following on from a couple of great original devices, these are designed as premium Android phones, to propel Google's vision of smartphones forward and provide a rival to Apple's iPhone, but to assert some superiority over Android stablemates too.
There's no bigger rival in the Android world than Samsung, and while these devices are both Team Android, there's a difficult decision to be made if you're looking to buy a new phone. Both devices essentially come in two sizes, with the Pixel 2 squaring up against the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Pixel 2 XL against the Samsung Galaxy S8+.
Here's how they break down.
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Google Pixel 2 vs Pixel 2 XL vs Samsung Galaxy S8 vs S8+: Design
- S8 and S8+ have slimmer bezels
- Pixel 2 chooses metal over glass
- Samsung keeps the 3.5mm headphone socket
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL offer matching designs, differing in size to reflect the difference screen sizes. It's a unibody aluminium body with a glass insert in the upper back. The front differs slightly, with the Pixel 2 featuring a standard 16:9 display with bezels top and bottom, while the Pixel 2 XL has an 18:9 display, narrowing those bezels dramatically. Both have twin front-facing speakers.
The Pixel 2 measures 145.7 x 69.7 x 7.8mm, making it shorter but a little wider than the Samsung Galaxy S8 at 148.9 x 68.1 x 8mm. The Pixel 2 XL is larger at 157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9mm again making it shorter but a little wider than the Samsung Galaxy S8+ at 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1mm. The Pixel may well fit in your pocket better, but the Samsung gives you a little more screen in your hand.
That's the big difference in the design here: Samsung uses it's dual curved-edge Infinity Display which adds wow factor that the Pixel 2 lacks, giving the appearance of a phone that has no side bezels at all.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ have identical designs, but differ in terms of physical size. They retain the glass and metal sandwich build that saw the S6 and S7 devices rise to success, but the home button has been ditched in favour of an almost all-screen front and pressure-sensitive home button built into the lower section of the display.
The Pixel phones are IP67 rated and the Samsung phones are IP68 rated, so water and dust protection all round; both use USB Type-C, but Samsung keeps the 3.5mm headphone socket for added convenience. What is less convenient on the Samsung Galaxy S8 is the rear fingerprint scanner: the Pixel 2's conventional rear positioning will make it much easier to unlock.
Samsung has the wow factor, but there's no lack of quality in the Pixel 2.
Google Pixel 2 vs Pixel 2 XL vs Samsung Galaxy S8 vs S8+: Display
- S8 and S8+ displays both larger than Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
- S8 and S8+ both have curved edges with 18.5:9 aspect ratios
- Pixel 2 is 16:9 and Full HD
- Pixel 2 XL is 18:9 but lacks Samsung's curve
- S8 S8+ and Pixel 2 XL all have Quad HD+ resolutions
All these phones use OLED displays, but the glory very much goes to Samsung. The Samsung Galaxy S8 features a curved 5.8-inch AMOLED display, while the S8+ has a curved 6.2-inch AMOLED screen. As we mentioned above both have a 18.5:9 aspect ratio, making the displays taller but not wider in order to offer a larger display space and massively reduce the bezel.
Samsung is consistent with these phones, both with those glorious curved edges, both with 2960 x 1440 pixels, which is a pixel density of 570ppi on the Galaxy S8 and 529ppi on the Galaxy S8+. The two devices also have Mobile HDR Premium certification, so you'll get things like Netflix in HDR.
The Pixel display story is rather different. The Pixel 2 XL squares up to Samsung with an 18:9 display packing in 2880 x 1440 pixels for 538ppi. It doesn't curve at the edges, so gives a flatter finish, which while it might not look as dramatic, means none of the content drifts off to the edges. It's also an OLED panel, but this version comes from LG rather than Samsung, but the overall effect and experience is pretty close to the SGS8+.
The regular Pixel 2, however, uses a 16:9 OLED display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, 440ppi. That use of that 16:9 display means that there's the old forehead and chin above and below the display, so the Pixel 2 doesn't look quite as advanced as all the other devices in this comparison. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S8, you're not getting the same screen space or resolution.
We can't evaluate the quality of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL display yet - because this phone is too new and we need more time with it - but from what we've seen in the LG G6 and the LG V30, we suspect that the Samsung panel is going to be brighter and slightly more vibrant. That might mean that the Pixel visually doesn't look as good; it might also mean that the Pixel display doesn't drain as much power.
Again, there's a feeling here that Samsung's Infinity Display is just a bit more of a head turner than that which you find on the Pixel 2.
Google Pixel 2 vs Pixel 2 XL vs Samsung Galaxy S8 vs S8+: Camera
- All devices have 12-megapixel rear camera, 8-megapixel front
- S8 and S8+ have auto-focus on front
- Pixel 2 and XL offer unlimited full resolution Google Photo storage
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ feature a 12-megapixel Duo Pixel camera on the rear, coupled with an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. Both have an aperture of f/1.7 and the rear camera on both integrate Bixby Vision to identify things it sees. Bixby Vision is now matched by Google Lens in the new cameras.
The front camera on the S8 and S8+ also features auto-focus and the two Samsung devices also have iris scanning capabilities. Additionally, the rear cameras use multi-frame image processing, meaning three images are taken and the information combined to produce one image with more detail. The Samsung Galaxy S8 offers great all-round performance from the camera.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL also have the same cameras, with specs that closely match those from Samsung. It's a 12-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera. On the rear camera, Google also refers to Duo Pixels, suggesting it's the very same sensor as Samsung, with both having 1.4µm pixels. The lens is different: Google opts for f/1.8, but that's unlikely to make a huge difference, compared to the post-processing.
Both Samsung and Google use similar multi-frame techniques to get better results and both lean heavily on HDR to get great results. There is a difference in the front camera however. Samsung has included auto-focus on the front camera, whereas the Pixel is fixed focus. Potentially that gives Samsung a little more power for sharp selfies.
Google's camera app is simpler, with less to distract or confuse, while the flip side of that is Samsung potentially offers you more option. Both are great and we suspect it will be difficult to pick one camera over the other.
Google Pixel 2 vs Pixel 2 XL vs Samsung Galaxy S8 vs S8+: Hardware
- S8 and S8+ have Snapdragon 835 or Exynos 8895
- Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL both have Snapdragon 835
- Larger respective battery capacities on S8 and S8 Plus
- Samsung offers microSD expansion
The great thing about these devices is that they all come packed with power. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL both run on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 platform and the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ use the same chipset or the Exynos 8895, depending on region. All models will offer 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage.
Samsung offers a distinct advantage, however, with microSD expansion, so you can easily increase the internal storage.
There is a 3000mAh battery capacity under the hood of the S8 and a 3500mAh capacity for the S8+, both of which are charged via USB Type-C and support both fast charging and wireless charging. As mentioned previously, the 3.5mm headphone jack has also been retained.
The Pixel 2 has a 2700mAh battery and the Pixel 2 XL has 3520mAh. The Pixel 2 ditches the 3.5mm headphone socket. We've not had the chance to test the Pixel 2's battery performance, but we suspect that the 2 XL might be the best of the lot in terms of endurance. Although the Pixel 2's battery sounds small, the small display may actually help it last a long time.
In terms of smoothness and power, these devices should all be closely matched, but bear in mind that the Samsung Galaxy S8 has been available for 6 months already and will be replaced when the Pixel 2 is only 6 months old.
Google Pixel 2 vs Pixel 2 XL vs Samsung Galaxy S8 vs S8+: Software
- Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL launch on Android Oreo
- S8 and S8+ have Bixby and Google Assistant
- Pixel 2 front of the line for updates
The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ both launched on Android Nougat with Samsung's TouchWiz software over the top, meaning a little more bloatware on top of vanilla Android. Samsung's new AI system called Bixby is present on both devices, launched via a dedicated button on the left hand side of the two handsets, and the S8 and S8+ also offer Google Assistant support.
At the time of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL launch, the Samsung is still waiting to be updated to Android Oreo, which comes with the Google devices. Google Assistant is baked to the core of these device, with more AI in more places, such as with Google Lens. As these are pure Android devices from Google, they will the first to be updated to new version and get new security updates.
Samsung, however, offers a lot more functionality across its devices. There's greater provision for a range of things from customising the devices to connecting to other Samsung devices. That might be seen as more bloat than the Pixel 2 phones, but there's a lot more on offer for those who want it. Samsung offers a range of edge panels to take advantage of the curved edge, but the Pixel offers a squeeze gesture to launch Google Assistant, which could be a big time saver.
Google Pixel 2 vs Pixel 2 XL vs Samsung Galaxy S8 vs S8+: Price
- Pixel 2 XL the most expensive
- Samsung prices haven't
- Pixel 2 phones on pre-order now
The Google Pixel 2 costs £629 and the Pixel 2 XL costs £799 for 64GB versions. That makes the smaller model cheaper than the launch price of the Samsung, but for the Pixel 2 XL, it's more expensive than Samsung's bigger device.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 launched at £689, while the Galaxy S8+ cost £779 at launch. Those prices have held firm (if you're buying direct from Samsung), although contract deals are in place for all these phones.
As it is, the cheapest is the Pixel 2, but the best value is the Galaxy S8+ if you're looking for a big handset.
Google Pixel 2 vs Pixel 2 XL vs Samsung Galaxy S8 vs S8+: Conclusion
The Pixel 2 launches with that Google advantage of having the latest software and being the front of the line when it comes to updates. The clean experience means it will be fast and fresh and free of the clutter than some will accuse Samsung of. Samsung is very refined, however, but pretty much changes everything in Android to own the experience.
In terms of the design and the display, Samsung has the edge, offering one of the most radical designs that will really turn heads - and is very nice to own. We prefer the larger handset, but that the smaller device is as radically styled is really impressive.
However, some may see that the Pixel 2 XL is just more convenient: it offers that 18:9 display but without the curves, so using it right to the edges is more practical than on the Samsung, even if it doesn't look as flashy. The Pixel 2 also has an advantage with the fingerprint scanner: Samsung's placement of the scanner beside the camera isn't great, but the Pixel 2 is more conventional, meaning the fingerprint scanner is going to be much easier to hit every time.
With both offering solid designs and waterproofing, this is a close call. One thing you need to remember, of course, is that Samsung's phone is 6 months old, and will probably be replaced in early 2018, whereas the Pixel 2 is brand new, so make sure you consider the Galaxy S9 too.