If you are on the market for a new flagship Android smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is probably the first device you will think of. However, it certainly isn’t the only option out there. While there may not be too many 2017 flagships out there yet, there are some fantastic smartphones from 2016 that you can still consider. We have already compared the Samsung Galaxy S8+ against the Apple iPhone 7 Plus in an earlier versus battle, so today we are going to be pitting the Samsung Galaxy S8 against the Google Pixel XL, one of the most impressive flagships launched last year.
The Google Pixel XL may be several months old by now, but it still remains a highly competitive flagship that offers a fantastic stock Android experience and packs a highly capable camera. It is highly competitive in pretty much every category, making it a strong rival to newer 2017 flagship Android smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, and the LG G6.

Samsung Galaxy S8 on the other hand is no doubt the most impressive 2017 flagship Android smartphone that we have seen so far (along with the bigger Galaxy S8+). The smartphone managed to win our versus battle against the LG G6 quite easily last month, so it definitely has the advantage entering into the versus battle today. Similar to the previous versus battles, we will be comparing the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel XL across ten different categories – Design, Dimensions, Processor, Display, Memory, Connectivity, Battery Life, Camera, Operating System, and Price. The winner of the comparison will be the one that manages to reign supreme in most number of categories.

Dimensions

We will begin our comparison by taking a look at the dimensions of both the Samsung Galaxy S8 as well as the Google Pixel XL.

The Google Pixel XL measures 154.7mm tall, 75.7mm wide, and is 8.5mm thin at its thinnest point. In terms of weight, the Pixel XL weighs in at 168 grams, which is pretty decent for its display size. Samsung Galaxy S8 on the other hand is 148.9mm tall, 68.1mm wide, and 8mm thin. It is also lighter than the Google Pixel XL, weighing in at 155 grams.

Quite clearly, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is a more compact device despite sporting a larger display. That makes the Galaxy S8 a clear winner in the dimensions round.

Display

The next category is the display. Quite clearly, the display on a modern smartphone is perhaps the most important component for many people. Whether it is playing games or viewing HD videos, a great display helps make the whole experience more immersive.

The Google Pixel XL uses a 5.5-inch sized AMOLED display with 1440 x 2560 Quad HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 534 pixels per inch. For protecting the display against scratches and other forms of damage, there is a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on top. Google, or should we say HTC, has used a relatively new-gen AMOLED panel in the Pixel XL, offering impressive characteristics. While it doesn’t have a fancy curve on the sides, it does deliver a stunning viewing experience thanks to the key strengths of OLED technology. The Pixel XL panel achieves a peak brightness of over 400 nit, making it more than bright enough for use in broad daylight. Color accuracy is quite good as well, although not in the same league as the Super AMOLED panels used by Samsung on its flagship models. Straight out of the box, colors are quite punchy and are not very accurate. However, you can change that by going over to Developer Settings and enabling the “sRGB” mode. Once this mode is enabled, the Pixel XL panel displays more or less true-to-life colors. And while it may not beat the best AMOLED panels out there in the color accuracy department, it is still superior when compared to most LCD panels found on flagship-grade smartphones. The UI scaling can be adjusted as well, using the “Display size” setting. Overall, the Google Pixel XL packs a mighty fine display with gorgeous deep black levels and punchy colors. The very good sunlight legibility means you can continue to view whatever is on the display even if you are outdoors on a sunny day. AMOLED panels are usually superior to LCD panels when it comes to sunlight legibility, so this is to be expected.

Samsung Galaxy S8 boasts a 5.8-inch Super AMOLED display with a unique 1440 x 2960 QHD+ resolution, which results in an impressive pixel density of 570 pixels per inch. The display is protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass 5 on top, the latest available protective glass from Corning. Unlike other Galaxy flagships, the Galaxy S8 display has very little bezel at the top and bottom, while there are none on the sides as it is a dual-curved edge panel. This is being marketed by Samsung as an “Infinity Display”, claimed to deliver a more immersive viewing experience to users. In addition to being largely free from bezels, the display also includes support for HDR. In fact, the Galaxy S8 display comes with Mobile UHD Premium certification from the UHD Alliance, supporting the HDR10 standard. That means you will be able to enjoy the limited HDR content that is available from streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video. One feature that has been retained by Samsung is the Always-on Display feature, which has now been further optimized to drain less battery compared to last year’s models. However, it still does have an impact on battery stamina, so we recommend not using the feature unless you really find it useful. As far as key characteristics go, Samsung has made some significant improvements with the Galaxy S8 display. It is now much brighter, claimed to hit maximum brightness of up to 1000 nits when viewing HDR content. Sunlight legibility has been improved as well, while color accuracy remains as good as previous Galaxy flagships. All things combined, Samsung has set a new benchmark when it comes to smartphone displays. If display is your No.1 priority, then the Galaxy S8 should definitely be your next smartphone.

While both displays are excellent, the Galaxy S8 uses a newer Super AMOLED panel that does boast a few advantages over the Google Pixel XL display. That means the display round goes to the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Battery Life

While a few new technologies such as fast charging and wireless charging have made life easier for us, manufacturers haven’t really focused much on increasing the battery life on their new flagships.

On paper, the Google Pixel XL is definitely impressive. The smartphone packs a 3450mAh capacity battery, which is bigger than most of its rivals. Google says the battery is capable enough of providing up to 32 hours of talk time, 14 hours of video playback, and up to 14 hours of browsing on a Wi-Fi network. But in reality, things aren’t as rosy as Google suggests. While the Pixel XL is definitely not a major disappointment, it isn’t particularly remarkable when it comes to battery life. There is fast-charging support thanks to Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, but the charging time isn’t as fast as some other flagship handsets on the market. Wireless charging isn’t supported at all, so you will need to connect the charger every single time.

On paper, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is definitely not a worthy challenger to the Google Pixel XL when it comes to battery life. While the display size has gone up significantly, the battery capacity remains identical to the Galaxy S7 from last year. For a flagship smartphone with a 5.8-inch display, a 3000mAh capacity battery is no doubt a bit small. However, Samsung has done a great job with the optimization, which has allowed it to extract the maximum battery performance out of the 3000mAh unit. As a result, the Galaxy S8 delivers more or less identical battery life as the Google Pixel XL. Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging works faster as well, allowing the Galaxy S8 battery to be charged quicker. Plus, the Galaxy S8 supports wireless charging as well as fast wireless charging. This means you get the convenience of wireless charging combined with the quick charging speeds that fast charging tech brings.

Since the two offer comparable battery life, we are going to give this round to the Samsung Galaxy S8 as it supports wireless as well as fast wireless charging.

Memory

While there hasn’t been a major increase over the years, newer flagship handsets do include higher storage compared to their predecessors. When it comes to RAM however, we have seen some pretty significant improvements over the past few years.

Google Pixel XL is available in two storage options – 32GB and 128GB. The base storage variant is definitely a bit low, especially when considering the next option being 128GB. Google should have instead gone with 64GB for the base variant. While 32GB of internal storage is acceptable in a device with microSD expansion, it can be quite difficult without any memory expansion. The Pixel XL, like previous Nexus-branded handsets, does not include a microSD card slot. The only option that consumers have is to use cloud storage. Google is actually providing unlimited cloud storage to anyone who purchases a new Google Pixel XL, so that is something you should keep in mind. Thankfully though, Google has switched to the newer UFS 2.0 memory, which boasts significantly improved read and write speeds when compared to traditional eMMC 5.0 memory chips. When it comes to RAM, the Pixel XL includes 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, which is a bit underwhelming when compared to flagship smartphones from Chinese Android OEMs. Still, it gets the job done and the Pixel XL provides a more than adequate multitasking experience.

For the global market, Samsung Galaxy S8 ships with 64GB of internal UFS 2.1 storage, which can be further expanded by up to 2TB using a microSD card. UFS 2.1, in case you haven’t heard, is believed to offer slight increase in performance as well as efficiency when compared to UFS 2.0 memory that Samsung has been using on its flagship handsets since the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. However, the Galaxy S8 isn’t the first smartphone on the market to use UFS 2.1 storage, the LG V20 was the first with UFS 2.1 memory last year. In some markets, Samsung will be selling the dual-SIM variant of the Galaxy S8, which uses a Hybrid Dual SIM slot. If you are someone who uses two SIM cards all the time, you will not be able to expand the storage further. In terms of RAM, the Galaxy S8 comes equipped with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, identical to the Galaxy S7.We are a little disappointed, as we were hoping the Galaxy S8 would be Samsung’s first flagship with 6GB of RAM. Most Chinese Android flagships come equipped with 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM, so 4GB of RAM sounds a bit underwhelming. Samsung’s own Galaxy C9 Pro too comes equipped with 6GB of RAM.

We will have to give it to the Samsung Galaxy S8 here, as it uses faster UFS 2.1 memory and offers memory expansion as well.

Processor

Now it is time for us to compare the processing power of these two flagship smartphones. Being the newer of the two handsets, the Samsung Galaxy S8 has a clear edge going in.

The Google Pixel XL is powered by the Snapdragon 821 from Qualcomm, a quad-core SoC that is a slightly more powerful variant of the Snapdragon 820 chipset it debuted in early 2016. The only major difference between the two chips is that the Snapdragon 821 SoC is clocked higher, resulting in slightly superior benchmark performance. However, Google decided to leave the custom Kryo cores clocked at the same levels as the Snapdragon 820, which is why the Pixel XL does not perform any better than smartphones powered by the Snapdragon 820 SoC in most benchmarks. The two performance-oriented cores have been clocked at 2.15 GHz, while the efficiency-oriented Kryo cores have been clocked at 1.6 GHz. Taking care of graphics is the powerful Adreno 530 GPU, clocked at 624 MHz. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 SoC is manufactured on a 14nm process node by Samsung, so the SoC is a significant improvement over the Snapdragon 810 in terms of efficiency.

In North America, the Samsung Galaxy S8 comes powered by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 835 octa-core SoC under the hood. While the Snapdragon 821 SoC is a quad-core SoC, the new Snapdragon 835 is an octa-core SoC with newer Kryo 280 cores that offer improved processing power. The SoC consists of four Kryo 280 cores clocked at 2.35 GHz and four efficiency-oriented Kryo 280 cores clocked at 1.9 GHz. Qualcomm has equipped the SoC with the new Adreno 540 GPU, which happens to be the company’s most powerful mobile GPU yet. In most other markets, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is powered by the company’s in-house developed Exynos 9 8895 SoC which features four custom M2 cores clocked at 2.3 GHz and four ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.7 GHz. Graphics are handled by the integrated ARM Mali-G71MP20 GPU, a beefed-up variant of the GPU found in Huawei’s Kirin 960 mobile SoC. Both the Exynos 9 8895 as well as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoCs are manufactured by Samsung on a 10 nm process node, which means they boast significant energy efficiency as well as performance improvements when compared to last year’s top mobile SoCs. In terms of actual benchmark performance, the Exynos 8895 and Snapdragon 835 SoCs aren’t a huge improvement when it comes CPU-intensive benchmarks. In graphics benchmarks, the new SoCs do perform better by a significant margin, although it still isn’t wide enough to be considered a “major upgrade”.

Since the Samsung Galaxy S8 runs on a newer and more powerful SoC under the hood in all markets, the processor round goes to the Galaxy S8. However, the Google Pixel’s Snapdragon 821 SoC is still very capable, so you shouldn’t have any complaints from it as far as performance goes.

Camera

Camera is another area that most consumers put very highly on their list when shopping for a new smartphone. When you are paying the premium for a company’s most expensive smartphone, you do expect it to have a fantastic camera that performs well in almost all lighting conditions. Do the Google Pixel XL and Samsung Galaxy S8 deliver? Let’s find out.

The Google Pixel XL features a 12.3MP resolution primary camera, boasting large 1.55 micron sized pixels. That’s significantly higher than most smartphones cameras and is also slightly higher compared to camera sensors found on most flagship handsets. The actual sensor used by Google is the Sony IMX378, a newer version of the custom 1/2.3” type Exmor RS sensor that was used in the Nexus 6P. It integrates phase detection + laser autofocus technology, allowing the camera to achieve impressively fast focus speeds, even in low-light. However, the Pixel XL camera uses an f/2.0 aperture lens, which isn’t the brightest when compared to other flagship handsets. There is no optical image stabilization (OIS) either, although you do get Electronic Image Stabilization to compensate to a certain degree. The EIS system in the Pixel XL uses a gyroscope to detect and correct shakes during video capture, allowing it to record smooth footage. Rest of the key features of the back camera include a dual-tone LED flash, face detection, panorama shots, slow-mo 720p video capture at 240fps, HDR+, and 4K video recording. HDR performance is particularly impressive on the Pixel XL, mainly due to the advantages that HDR+ offers. According to Google, the HDR+ feature allows the Pixel XL camera to capture natural-looking shots with superior highlights when compared to other smartphones. In terms of quality, the Google Pixel XL camera still remains one of the finest cameras on a smartphone currently. With a score of 89, the Google Pixel is still at the top of the mobile DxOMark mobile chart. Low-light performance is fantastic as well, thanks to the large pixel size. The front-facing camera is an 8MP unit, paired with an f/2.4 aperture lens. While the aperture is slightly disappointing, the sensor features 1.4 micron sized pixels and can capture videos in 1080p Full HD resolution.

Samsung Galaxy S8 is not a huge upgrade over its predecessor when it comes to the primary camera. The latest Samsung flagship sports a 12MP resolution camera at the back, integrating Samsung’s Dual Pixel autofocus tech. However, the sensor is actually all-new. In some units, Samsung is using the Sony IMX333 sensor, while in other it uses the S5K2L1 ISOCELL sensor developed by the company’s System LSI division. While they offer the same resolution as the sensors used in the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, they are slightly larger in terms of physical size. Pixel size however, remains identical at 1.4 microns. Rest of the key hardware specs remain similar as well. The 12MP sensor is paired with an f/1.7 aperture lens, which helps get maximum light into the sensor for superior low-light performance. Optical image stabilization (OIS) is present as well, further aiding performance in low-light as well as ensuring steady video recording. What is missing though, is a dual-tone LED flash. While almost every other smartphone maker is using dual- or even quad- LED flash on its flagship handsets, Samsung is still using a single-LED flash. On the software front, the Galaxy S8 offers a wide range of manual controls, allowing advanced users to fully customize settings such as ISO, White Balance, Exposure, and Shutter Speed. The Quick Launch camera feature has been retained, but it is now activated by quickly pressing the power button twice in quick succession. Image processing has apparently been tweaked, which helps the Galaxy S8 perform slightly better than its predecessor in terms of camera performance. On the front, the handset comes equipped with an upgraded 8MP sensor with autofocus tech. It is paired with an f/1.7 aperture lens and lets users take selfies in low-light using the display as flash. Similar to the front-facing camera on the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy S8 camera is capable of capturing videos at up to 1440p resolution.

If you’re looking for a top-notch cameraphone, both the Google Pixel XL and Samsung Galaxy S8 are going to impress you. While the Galaxy S8 has a slight edge when it comes to the selfie camera performance, both handsets are on the same level when it comes rear-camera performance. Which is why we believe that this round ought to end in a tie.

Connectivity

Google Pixel XL features Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot, USB Type-C port, and 4G LTE network support (Cat.12) with maximum download speeds of up to 600 Mbps. Samsung Galaxy S8 on the other hand comes with Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band VHT80 MU-MIMO, 1024QAM, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth 5.0 Low Energy, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, NFC, MST, ANT+, USB Type-C, and LTE Cat.16 with maximum download speeds of up to 1Gbps. Both smartphones come with a fingerprint scanner, positioned at the back of the handsets. Additionally, the Samsung Galaxy S8 includes an iris scanner as well as facial recognition tech for easily unlocking the device.

As you can tell, the newer Samsung Galaxy S8 holds a clear edge over the Google Pixel XL in the connectivity department. In fact, the Galaxy S8 is simply the best smartphone on the market right now as far as connectivity features go. An easy win for the Galaxy S8 here.

Design

The Google Pixel XL is manufactured by HTC on Google’s behalf, which is why the smartphone shares many design cues with HTC smartphones such as the One A9. However, it does have a unique design identity thanks to a unique back with glass on the upper portion and metal on the lower part. The rest of the body is made out of aluminum, giving it a premium look and feel. The fingerprint scanner, as we discussed in the connectivity round, is positioned at the back instead of being housed on the front. Water resistance is unfortunately not a feature that the Pixel XL boasts of, as it only comes with an IP53 certification that makes it resistant to only splashes of water. In terms of colors, the Google Pixel XL comes in three options in the US – Quite Black, Really Blue, and Very Silver.

Samsung Galaxy S8 is quite a decent upgrade over the Galaxy S7 when it comes to design. The front, as we have discussed earlier as well, is completely different from previous Galaxy flagships. Samsung has trimmed the bezels at the top and bottom down to a bare minimum, maximizing the screen-to-body ratio to 83%. As a result, there are no physical buttons whatsoever at the bottom now. Instead, Samsung has switched to on-screen software keys for navigation. The fingerprint scanner has been moved to the back, placed right next to the rear camera lens. In terms of build, not much has changed. Samsung is still using the same glass sandwich build with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back, with a solid aluminum frame in the middle. Samsung has retained the IP68 certification for dust and water resistance, so you will be able to take your Galaxy S8 anywhere without worrying about any liquid damage. Color options include Midnight Black, Orchid Gray, Arctic Silver, Maple Gold, and Coral Blue.

Overall, both smartphones are definitely very premium in terms of build quality and also look very attractive. However, the Samsung Galaxy S8 does hold a slight edge thanks to its near bezel-less front that looks stunning. The design round goes to the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Price

In the US, the Google Pixel XL is only sold by one major carrier – Verizon Wireless. The Big Red carrier sells the Pixel XL 32GB variant for a full retail price of $769.99 while the 128GB model costs $869.99. If you opt to get the smartphone on a 2-year contract, you will need to pay $36.24 monthly for the 128GB variant and $32.08 per month for the 32GB model. You can also get the Google Pixel XL from the Google Store for roughly the same price.

Samsung Galaxy S8 is now available in stores in the US from all major carriers as well as retailers. The full retail price of handset is roughly $750 at most places, which makes it more affordable than the Google Pixel XL. If you wish to get it on a 24-month contract, you will need to shell out roughly $30, varying depending on which carrier you get it from. AT&T on the other hand is selling the handset for a monthly payment of $25 for a period of 30 months.

Despite being the newer of the two handsets, it is the Samsung Galaxy S8 that is slightly more affordable than the Google Pixel XL, thus making it the winner in the price category.

Operating System

The Google Pixel XL currently runs on Android 7.1.2 Nougat, the latest available version of Android. As you would expect from a Google smartphone, the Pixel XL offers simply the best stock Android Nougat experience out there. If you hate bloatware and custom skins, then the Pixel XL will definitely please you with its software. There are no unnecessary apps and features on offer, just the bare essentials. It does come with the Google Assistant though, which has now become quite common on a number of high-end smartphones. At the time of its launch however, the Pixel XL was the first device to come with Google Assistant as well as Daydream VR certification. When paired with a Google Daydream VR headset, you will be able to enjoy a wide range of VR content. The other big reason why the Pixel XL scores in the software department is the promise of continued software support directly from Google. You can expect to receive all major Android upgrades until 2 years from the handset’s launch and security updates for up to 3 years.

Samsung Galaxy S8 currently runs on Android 7.0 Nougat operating system, which is a bit disappointing for a flagship handset. However, Samsung has made some positive changes to its custom Grace UX layer, which has made it a lot leaner than previous iterations. As a result, the Galaxy S8 software is very smooth and exhibits no lags whatsoever. The UI design has been tweaked as well, allowing it to make full use of the display’s unique 18.5:9 aspect ratio. The main highlight though, is Bixby, Samsung’s new virtual assistant that the company claims is smarter than any other virtual assistant on the market currently. However, Bixby Voice will not be available until a few weeks in the US, while other markets will have to wait until the fourth quarter of the year to be able to enjoy the complete functionality.

While Samsung has certainly done a good job with the software on its latest flagship, the operating system round has to go to the Google Pixel XL. Samsung isn’t particularly impressive when it comes to rolling out major updates on time, even for its flagship models.

Conclusion

In our Samsung Galaxy S8 vs Google Pixel XL specs comparison today, the latest flagship from Samsung managed to reign supreme in most categories, registering a win in 8 out of 10 categories. The Google Pixel XL won in just a single category, while the camera round ended up in a tie.

Which of these two flagship smartphones would you pick? Let us know in the comments section below.

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