Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Google Pixel 2: Which Android powerhouse is best?
If you’ve ended up here, you’re facing this dilemma right now, so which do you pick? Well, hopefully I’ll be able to push you one way or the other by objectively listing each one’s strengths and weaknesses.
It’s the Samsung Galaxy S9 vs the Google Pixel 2. Let’s go.
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Google Pixel 2: Design
In terms of looks, it’s very hard to fault the Samsung Galaxy S9 – well, not in any sensible way, anyway. You could say it looks almost identical to last year’s model, which is entirely valid, but not really an issue given how good looking the S8 was.
It’s hard for the Pixel 2 to compete. Which isn’t to say that the Pixel 2 is a bad-looking handset by any means, but it’s certainly a touch more prosaic. While the Pixel 2 XL has the curves and 18:9 screen, the regular Pixel 2 is a classic oblong with a 16:9 display.
(You may think the Pixel 2 XL is the handset you want at this point, but I’d discourage that approach, given its weird screen issues.)
Despite its prettier design, the S9 has a few features that the Pixel 2 definitely misses out on. The first is a headphone jack. The original Pixel has a 3.5mm headphone jack, the Pixel 2 does not – although it does come with an adapter for the USB-Type C slot in the box.
The second is wireless charging. Again, the Samsung Galaxy S9 has it, the Pixel 2 does not. Third, and by far the most important of the omissions, is expandable storage. The Samsung Galaxy S9 supports microSD cards of up to 400GB should you fancy. With the Pixel 2, you’re stuck with either 64GB or 128GB, depending on the model you buy.
Both handsets are water resistant, but here again, Samsung has the upper hand. While the Pixel 2 has a resistance rating of IP67, the S9 manages IP68. That’s the difference between three and four feet of water so in practical terms not an enormous discrepancy – but a dividing line all the same.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Google Pixel 2: Screen
Let’s make things clear: if you want a bigger phone, the S9 will get the nod here, and if you want a smaller handset, then the Pixel 2 is the one for you. There are differences, but none are as significant as that.
With that out the way, let’s get onto the nitty-gritty. The Samsung Galaxy S9 has a 5.8in AMOLED display with a resolution of 1,440 x 2,960. It’s also 18.5:9 aspect ratio – meaning it’s longer and thinner than 16:9 handsets like the Pixel 2.
The Pixel 2 is a 5in handset with a resolution of 1,080 x 1,920. To save you doing the maths, that means that the Pixel 2 has 441 pixels per inch to the Samsung Galaxy S9’s 570. That means the S9 is sharper in theory, although most people will likely not notice the difference unless you’re planning on using the phone with a VR headset.
Of course, there’s more to screens than pixel density, and we measure this by checking three metrics: colour accuracy, brightness and contrast. To put everything in one place, here is how the two handsets stack up with each other:
Google Pixel 2
Samsung Galaxy S9
As the chart above suggests, there’s not a great deal in it, but there is a clear winner, and once again it’s the Samsung Galaxy S9.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Google Pixel 2: Performance
Let’s start with the main specifications. The Google Pixel 2 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB RAM. In the USA, the S9 has the newer Snapdragon 845 processor, but in Europe it’s powered by the Exynos 9810 processor and 4GB RAM.
Historically Exynos processors are similar to the Snapdragon processors American customers get – we won’t know for sure until we get our first Snapdragon 845-powered phone to review. But for now, all you really need to know is the Exynos 9810 is a marked improvement on last year’s Snapdragon 835 processor which powers the Pixel 2.
It’s a similar story with the graphical performance. If you’re wondering why the Pixel 2 actually wins in the onscreen stats here, it’s because the Pixel 2 has a lower resolution screen. In short, the Pixel 2 is definitely slower.
How much does this matter in practice? Very little to most people. The Samsung Galaxy S9 is a little more future proof, but there’s not a great deal in it. Both handsets will feel lightning quick for many months to come.
In terms of stamina, the Samsung Galaxy S9 has a 3,000mAh battery to the Pixel 2’s 2,700mAh. In our battery test, that made precious little difference, with the S9 lasting just six minutes longer.
Despite this, there is one very good reason to buy a Pixel 2 over the Samsung Galaxy S9, and it comes down to the operating system. Although both phones use Android, Google’s own handset is a pure version of the software, without any unnecessary bloat or skin over the top. Plus, of course, as a Google phone, the Pixel 2 is guaranteed to get the next version of Android long before the S9. It’s not enough to tip the balance in favour of the Pixel 2, but it’s certainly worth thinking about.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Google Pixel 2: Camera
The Pixel 2 is very much the gold standard of photography in smartphones. Or it was: the Samsung Galaxy S9 is very much gunning for that title, and gosh it’s close.
On paper, it certainly wins. The S9 packs a 12-megapixel rear camera with an aperture of f/1.5. The Pixel 2, by contrast, has a 12.2-megapixel snapper with an aperture of f/1.8. However, in his review, Jon found a number of cases where the Samsung Galaxy S9’s software would produce a brighter image than it should have, using a higher ISO than necessary, resulting in lower quality images. You can read his full explanation in the camera section here.
This makes it a tougher call than it should be, but I’ll stick with Jon’s verdict here: “Overall, though, despite the slightly bizarre and inconsistent implementation of the bigger f/1.5 aperture, the Samsung Galaxy S9 has an excellent camera and, once you take into account the quality of the video, I’d say it was better than the Pixel 2.”
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 (just)
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Google Pixel 2: Price
So far, you’ll note that the Samsung Galaxy S9 has won in every single category. There’s a reason for that, and it’s the same reason it’s about to lose this one: it’s eye-wateringly expensive.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 starts at £739 SIM-free. That means that on contract, you’re looking at a cost of at least £45 per month if you don’t want to pay any money upfront, and probably more.
By contrast, the Google Pixel 2 started out with an RRP of £629 SIM-free, and it has come down fast. At the time of writing, you can buy one for just £519. On contract, you can get it for as little as £29 per month with no upfront cost.
To be clear, I don’t expect the high price of the Samsung Galaxy S9 to last if past form is anything to go by, but at the time of writing it’s just no contest.
Winner: Google Pixel 2
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Google Pixel 2: Verdict
If you’ve been running through each section keeping score, you’ll note this is a convincing 4-1 win to Samsung. That’s true, but it really doesn’t tell the whole story.
If money is no object, then it’s hard to look beyond the Samsung Galaxy S9. It’s fast, feature-packed, great looking and with a super camera. It is better than the Pixel 2 in every respect, objectively speaking. Well, almost every respect – the Pixel 2 will get the next version of Android first, if that’s important to you.
The problem is that we’re talking marginally better in most instances, and virtually tied in others. That wouldn’t be an issue if the cost difference were under £50, but with prices being what they are, you have to really like the improvements to rule out the Pixel 2.