Google’s new Pixel XL 2 handset is the most enticing of the new Pixel line-up, offering a gorgeous edge-to-edge display, premium specs and some super-smart camera tech. So how does it stack up against Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, which boasts the brilliant S Pen stylus and a dual-lens snapper?
Samsung has already proved with its Note range that it really knows how to put together a great super-sized smartphone. Putting the burny issues of the Note 7 to rest with its always-cool user experience, this year’s Galaxy Note 8 is one of the best devices for staying entertained and productive on the move.
Of course, such smarts come at a price. The Note 8 is Samsung’s most costly handset and one of the most expensive smartphones you can buy in the UK right now.
Likewise, Google’s freshly launched Pixel XL 2 is a premium device that will drain your wallet faster than a Vegas nightclub. The Pixel XL 2 sports a similar edge-to-edge design to the Note 8, as well as top-end specs, although there are plenty of differences between these devices too.
Check out our side-by-side comparison in the video below.
When it comes to design, these two phones are a very similar size and weight. The Note 8 is a tad larger, although considering Samsung has crammed a mighty 6.3-inch screen into that space, the form factor is very impressive. Google’s 6-inch panel doesn’t quite wrap around the edges of the handset in the same way, hence it isn’t any easier to handle.
Flip to the back and you’ll see that Samsung has gone all-glass, which can get quite smeary (clearly visible in the video). Google has added just a strip of glass to the otherwise metal frame, giving quite a distinctive finish. Both phones are water resistant and pack a rear fingerprint sensor, although we prefer the central positioning of the Pixel XL 2’s scanner; the Note 8’s is quite awkward to find at times.
Those screens are both Quad HD AMOLED panels, which boast strong contrast levels, punchy colours and detailed image reproduction. The Pixel XL 2 and Note 8 both offer an 18:9 aspect ratio too, which is well suited to viewing movies on the go.
However, only the Galaxy Note 8 offers microSD expandability for carrying a theoretically limitless media collection around. Pixel owners will have to stick with the 64 or 128GB of internal space. Likewise, the Note boasts a 3.5mm jack while the Pixel XL 2 has culled this feature, presumably to help with that water resistant design. Luckily you get Bluetooth 5 support on either handset, for connecting a wireless headset.
Android is the OS of choice, coming in a vanilla form on the Pixel XL 2. As you’d expect, this is the fresh new Oreo update, offering some funky new features such as picture-in-picture support. Check out our Oreo hub for all you need to know.
The Note 8 is still on Android Nougat, although should be getting an update to Oreo come the year’s end. In addition you get loads of cool features not found on the Pixel XL 2, including the brilliant S Pen stylus. This allows you to sketch up a storm, easily modify documents, create GIFs on the fly and plenty more besides.
Check out our Note 8 tips and tricks guide for all you need to know.
These phones also do things differently in other areas. For instance, the Note 8 supports Samsung’s own Gear VR platform for virtual reality experiences, while the Pixel XL 2 of course uses Google Daydream. Meanwhile the Pixel rocks Google Assistant for hands-free interactions, something handled by Samsung’s Bixby on the Note 8. For the record, we prefer Google Assistant for the everyday stuff.
Read next: What is the best voice assistant?
Performance is more or less a match between these handsets. You get the same Snapdragon 835 chipset on the Pixel and Note (in some regions at least), with a super smooth experience no matter what you’re up to. That should remain the case for the foreseeable.
Meanwhile the battery life is also solid, no matter your choice. You only get wireless charging via the Note 8, something missing from the Pixel, although both blowers support fast charging.
Which brings us onto the camera tech. Google’s Pixel XL 2 offers what DxO Labs reckon is the best smartphone camera of all time and so far we’re certainly impressed. You can shoot detailed, great-looking photos even in quite challenging conditions. Likewise, 4K video capture is pleasingly smooth. That’s thanks to the combination of Optical and Digital Image Stabilisation, which works against any judder and cuts out those rough edges.
If you go for the Note 8, you’ll get a funky dual lens camera which can shoot at the same megapixel level as the Pixel XL 2. Shots again look great even in low light or with high contrast, while you can once again shoot up to 4K resolution video. One of the benefits of that dual lens setup is the Portrait mode, which blurs the background to help your subject stand out. However, this feature is regardless offered by the Pixel XL 2, thanks to its software smarts, and it actually works impressively well.
Of course Samsung offers a fair few bonus camera modes, including the ability to turn yourself into a bizarre cartoon character. Naturally.