Google Pixel vs Samsung Galaxy S7: Should you save for the first Google phone?

The Nexus is dead, long live the Pixel!

That’s right: Google is no longer outsourcing its handsets to LG and Huawei. And its first two offerings – the Pixel and Pixel XL – look like the stuff of smartphone dreams, albeit expensive dreams.

But where does that leave 2016’s other big hitters? In terms of glowing reviews and strong sales, it’s hard to look past the Samsung Galaxy S7. Is Samsung’s flagship going to be crushed by Google? Let’s find out…

Google Pixel vs Samsung Galaxy S7: Design

Both the Pixel and the Galaxy S7 are pricey smartphones, and if that kind of expenditure makes you feel uneasy, you can at least comfort yourself with one thing: you’ll get a good-looking device.

Both handsets are a beautiful combination of metal and glass, and are in the same ballpark size-wise, at 5in and 5.1in respectively. While the Samsung Galaxy comes in black, gold, white, silver or rose gold, Google gently prods at the pomposity of rival manufacturers’ grandiose colour titles with the more straightforward “quite black”, “very silver” and “really blue”.[gallery:0]

Two more things to note from the outside. First, both phones have fingerprint security, but they’re located in totally different places. While Samsung opts for home button security on the S7, Google places it on the back of the handset – so it’s a question of whether you prefer to unlock with your thumb or your index finger.

Second, Google incorporates a USB Type-C charging port into their handset, while Samsung sticks with micro-USB – probably for the last time, given the Note 7 has abandoned it. Whether this is a win for either depends on whether you value the faster speeds of the newer port over the convenience of micro-USB cables being literally everywhere.

Me? I can’t decide overall, so I’m calling this one a draw.


Google Pixel vs Samsung Galaxy S7: Screen

Thankfully, this category is a little more clear-cut… at least on paper, anyway. I should caveat this section by saying that there’s more to screen quality than just resolution, and our review will get to the bottom of screen quality when we can put the Pixel properly through its paces.

That said, on paper, Samsung clearly has the upper hand here.

As mentioned above, the Galaxy S7’s screen is marginally (0.1in) bigger than the Pixel’s, but the resolution difference is huge: 1,440 x 2,560 to Google’s 1,080 x 1,920. That means that while the S7 is packing 557 pixels per inch, the Pixel has just 424.[gallery:1]

Now it’s important not to overstate that, since most people will find a 1080p display fine on a screen of that size – hell, most of our TV sets are still 1080p and we cope fine with those. However, if you’re interested in VR – either with the Samsung Galaxy Gear VR or Google’s upcoming Daydream – then this stuff matters a lot more. In short: virtual reality involves having a screen magnified very close to your eyes, and under this kind of scrutiny, every pixel matters.

That means that this round goes decisively to Samsung, unless Google really manages to surprise us when we get our review Pixels in. But given that Samsung make some of the best screens in the business, colour me doubtful.

WINNER: Samsung Galaxy S7

Google Pixel vs Samsung Galaxy S7: Performance

Performance is quite a bit stickier, and requires a little bit more speculation. This is complicated by the Samsung Galaxy 7’s chipset varying, depending on where you bought it. If you bought it in the UK, your chipset will be Samsung’s own octa-core 2.3GHz Exynos 8890 chip, but if you’re reading this in America, you’ll have a nippy quad-core 2.15GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820. That’s the same chip found in the HTC 10, LG G5 and OnePlus 3, so it’s no slouch either.

The Google Pixel gets a slight boost on the latter chipset, packing a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor that promises a 10% boost on its predecessor. As we haven’t had any handsets with this chipset in yet, it’s hard to validate these claims, but it’s likely the Pixel will be very snappy indeed.[gallery:2]

Both handsets are backed up with 4GB of RAM, so a dead-heat there.

If I were a betting man, I’d give the Google Pixel the slight edge: not just because of the advances of the Snapdragon chipset, but because Google hardware combined with Google software is a recipe for buttery-smooth operation. But we won’t know for sure until we get one down in the labs.

WINNER: Google Pixel

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