Samsung Galaxy S8 vs Google Pixel


Interface and Functionality

Pure Android versus Samsung’s skin. You’d be surprised at the polish of Samsung’s skin, but we still find the cleaner Pixel interface more alluring, and it will be the first one with software updates.

Samsung has been hard at work fixing and improving its custom user interface on top of Android. In the S8 you see its latest and best efforts: with clean and well organized menu system, a new app drawer shortcut (swipe up or down on the home panel), and a new iconography that looks simple (even too simplistic in some cases).

The Google Pixel on the other hand has a pure version of the Android platform, a haven for that group of people looking for that clean stock experience. The beauty of the Pixel, however, is not just in the clean looks, but also in the smooth performance and fast updates. We have seen Samsung take nearly 5 months to deliver the Nougat update on the Galaxy S7, and we have no reason to believe that the S8 will be faster to get the Android O update when the time for it comes later this year. This is the Pixel advantage: you are guaranteed to get those updates on day one, and that is important.

In terms of actual functionality, we don’t find a huge difference: power user features like the Android split-screen multitasking works great on both phones, for instance. Yet multitasking on the bigger screen makes so much more sense: Samsung itself pointed out that you can have a YouTube video playing with a second app with an on-screen keyboard running, and all of that fits on the tall S8 screen. You simply cannot fit so much content on the Pixel.

The taller S8 display gives it some advantages in some apps: for instance, we love how we can see all the weather app information right away, without having to scroll, while you cannot do this on the Pixel. Sure, that has to do with app design as well, but it’s telling.

Both phones come with their distinct voice assistants. The fast and excellent Google Assistant is actually available on both phones. Most of you are familiar with its speed and ability to understand the context of a sentence. Samsung, however, is preparing something on top of that, a new Bixby assistant, reserved for the Galaxy S8. Its bigger advantage is that it will be aware of the app and the context within the app, so that it can do specific things when a specific app is opened. There is even a dedicated physical key with the sole purpose of summoning Bixby. The feature will not be available at launch, but Samsung is working to bring this over the coming months and we will have full impressions then. Currently, the part of Bixby that is available reminds us of Google Now cards, but more colorful: you get to see colorful widgets with a summary of your day, news and notifications.

The keyboard typing experience is excellent on both phones: both have keyboards that are great, with nice vibration feedback and typing that is fast and accurate. The big advantage of having the tall screen on the S8 is that when you type, you can still see a ton of context, while an open keyboard on the Pixel shuts down most of your view in the current app.

Processor, Performance and Memory

The Galaxy S8’s 10nm Snapdragon 835 is the fastest chip on Android, but the Google Pixel still feels like the smoother performer.

Samsung is in a unique position among phone makers: it’s the biggest of them all and the most profitable one in the Android world, and that’s what gives it some special privileges. For example, the Galaxy S8 is the first phone to ship with the Snapdragon 835, the latest and most powerful system chip by Qualcomm (outside the United States, the S8 runs on the similarly powerful Exynos 8895, and we have the Exynos model for this comparison).

Google’s Pixel, on the other hand, was released earlier and features a less capable Snapdragon 821 system chip, that is manufactured on the 14nm technology, which makes it less power efficient than the newer 10nm tech used for the S8.

All of this is great, but start using the two devices, and you notice that – surprisingly – the Pixel is the phone that has more grace, finesse, and smoother daily performance. The S8 is fast, but it is also just a bit stuttery. Nope, it’s not a huge lag by any means, but still it cannot go unnoticed in a direct comparison. The Pixel has none of that: in fact, it is the smoothest Android performer that we have handled, and the S8 changes none of that.

Benchmarks are another story. The Galaxy S8 crushes them and beats the Pixel by the numbers. It has a more powerful processor that will load games faster. A side note for gamers: both the S8 and the Pixel support the Vulkan API for more advanced games and better performance, which is nice.

Samsung also offers the quite neat DeX dock. This dock allows you to hook up your S8 to an external monitor and have a full desktop experience using only your phone as the base. We have not tested that in depth yet, but initial tests confirm that you can play games on a big screen and multitask quite well using the DeX dock. The dock is not a new idea – Motorola did something similar a few years ago with much less powerful processors, but it makes a lot of sense with current technology on the S8. You don’t have anything similar with the Google Pixel.

Next up: storage. For years, Google has insisted on making Nexus phones without a microSD card slot for expandable storage and this tradition continues in the Google Pixel. The Pixel has a 32 GB storage base model, and for $100 more you can get a 128 gig version, but neither supports a microSD card. Avid 4K video shooters and file hoarders will find the lack of a microSD card a disadvantage, and the 128GB option seems like a better fit for those power users.

The Galaxy S8, on the other hand, ships in a single model with a much more sensible 64GB storage, but it also supports a microSD card slot, so that you can pop in a card to expand that storage at any time.

Internet and Connectivity

The larger screen on the S8 makes a difference in browsing.

The Galaxy S8 and the Google Pixel are both flagship phones, and are offered with the full spectre of 4G LTE bands required for all major U.S. carriers. So you, you will naturally get full LTE compatibility on Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. The phones will also work across all major 4G LTE networks in Europe.

The actual browsing experience is one thing that benefits a lot from the taller screen on the Galaxy S8. You need to scroll less, and you see much more on this larger display, plus you can multitask easier as well.

In terms of additional connectivity options, you have NFC on board on both phones. The S8 support Samsung Pay for wireless payments (including support for older, magnetic terminals), while the Pixel only works with Android Pay. Dual-band Wi-Fi is also on board on both, a useful feature in congested urban areas where a single-channel Wi-Fi receiver would often result in reduced download and upload speeds.


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