After far too many leaks, Google’s new Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are finally official. There’s plenty of powerful hardware on offer here, finished off with Google’s signature style. There are also lofty photography expectations to live up to, given the spate of recent camera-focused smartphone launches.

Don’t miss: Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL hands-on

Let’s stack the new Pixel handsets up against the latest releases from LG and Samsung: the V40 ThinQ and the Galaxy Note 9. We’ll also throw in Google’s biggest photography rival — the Huawei P20 Pro — for good measure.

Flagship performance (as expected)

Pixel 3 XL hands on

Let’s get the performance angle out of the way first — it’s a neck and neck race here. With powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processors almost universally powering this year’s top-tier handsets, we’re only looking at marginal software based-differences that shouldn’t have a meaningful impact on day to day performance. Samsung’s Exynos 9810 and Huawei’s Kirin 970 also sit comfortably in the same ballpark but don’t quite keep up with the same level of graphics and gaming performance.

See also: The full list of Google Pixel 3 specs

Where the Pixel 3 and 3 XL fall behind is with memory. 4GB of RAM isn’t going to ruin the experience, but the choice feels like a cost-cutting measure when other manufacturers offer 6 and even 8GB as standard. Google is also a little off base when it comes to storage capacity too. 64GB is too small for a flagship smartphone, especially one that ships sans a microSD card slot. LG commits the same sin. 128GB should be the minimum with options for more. Google may be relying on customers using Drive storage, but that’s no help if you venture offline.

 Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XLGalaxy Note 9LG V40 ThinQHuawei P20 Pro
DisplayPixel 3 XL: 6.3-inch P-OLED
2,960 x 1,440 resolution
18.5:9 aspect ratio

Pixel 3: 5.5-inch P-OLED
2,280 x 1,080 resolution
19:9 aspect ratio
6.4-inch AMOLED panel
2,960 x 1,440 resolution
18.5:9 aspect ratio
6.4-inch P-OLED FullVision
3,120 x 1,440 resolution (Quad HD+)
18:9 aspect ratio
6.1-inch AMOLED panel
2,240 x 1,080 resolution
18.7:9 aspect ratio
CPU10nm, octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845Global: 10nm, octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810

U.S.: 10nm, octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
10nm, octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845HiSilicon Kirin 970
Octa-core up to 2.4GHz
GPUAdreno 630Global: Mali-G72 MP20
US: Adreno 630
Adreno 630Mali-G72 MP12
MicroSDNoYes, up to 512GBYes, up to 2TBNo
BatteryPixel 3 XL: 3,430mAh
Pixel 3: 2,915mAh

and weight
Pixel 3 XL: 76.7 x 158.0 x 7.9mm, 184g
Pixel 3: 68.2 x 145.6 x 7.9mm, 148g
161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm
158.7 x 75.6 x 7.6mm
155.0 x 73.9 x 7.8mm

Hopping back up to the top of our spec table, the Pixel 3 XL offers a crisp display, thanks to its QHD+ panel. The smaller Pixel 3 makes do with an FHD+ solution that’s a good fit for its smaller size and still matches the larger Huawei P20 Pro. Although given that most companies are now defaulting to a 1080p resolution in software to extend battery life, QHD+ panels feel a little overkill.

Google has opted for LG Display’s P-OLED technology for both of the models this time. Our hands-on time suggests that things are much improved over last year’s questionable panel inside the Pixel 2 XL, so display quality should be good across all of these models. Though, the Samsung AMOLED panel inside the Galaxy Note 9 sets the bar to beat.

Power users crave a big battery to get them through the day and again we see that the Pixel 3 range isn’t quite at the head of the pack. 3,430mAh inside the Pixel 3 XL is on the smaller side here when compared to the 4,000mAh cells inside the Galaxy Note 9 and Huawei P20 Pro. There’s only so much that Google can cram into the smaller Pixel 3, and 2,912mAh seems reasonable for the handset’s size. Both phones should last a full day, but perhaps not always comfortably.

The LG V40 ThinQ and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 standing next to each other on a shelf.

Making the extras count

If there’s a major trend in smartphones that’s appeared this year (besides “AI“) it’s multi-camera photography. The Huawei P20 Pro kickstarted the triple camera idea, which LG followed up with the V40 ThinQ. Samsung too appears sold on the wide-angle and telephoto combination. The result has been to give consumers greater shooting flexibility than ever before.

Google Pixel 3: All the new camera features explained

Google Pixel 3 cameras: Here’s what they can do

In that sense, the Pixel 3’s single rear shooter feels very plain, even though it will undoubtedly take very good pictures thanks to the company’s machine learning hardware and software. Google has hopped on the wide-angle and depth-sensing train with the front cameras, but serious photography fans will have probably preferred those options on the back.

 Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XLGalaxy Note 9LG V40 ThinQHuawei P20 Pro
CameraRear: 12.2MP f/1.8 1.4µm sensor, with OIS and EIS

Front: 8MP f/2.2 97° wide-angle sensor fixed focus + 8MP f/1.8 depth sensor with PDAF
12MP Wide Angle dual aperture sensor with f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures, & OIS + 12MP 2x Telephoto with f/2.4 aperture & OIS

8MP sensor with f/1.7 aperture
Main camera: 12MP sensor, ƒ/1.5 aperture, 78° field-of-view, 1.4µm pixel size, OIS,
Super wide: 16MP sensor, ƒ/1.9 aperture, 107° field-of-view
2x telephoto: 12MP sensor with 45° field of view

Standard: 8MP sensor, ƒ/1.9 aperture, 1.12µm pixel size, 80° field-of-view
Wide: 5MP sensor, ƒ/2.2 aperture, 1µm pixel size, 90° field-of-view
40MP RGB f/1.8 + 20MP monochrome f/1.6 + 8MP telephoto f/2.4 with OIS
dual-LED flash, PDAF+CAF+Laser+Depth auto focus, 3X optical zoom, 5X Hybrid Zoom

24MP sensor with an f/2.0 aperture
IP RatingIP68IP68IP68
AudioDual front-facing speakers
No 3.5mm headphone jack
aptX & LDAC Bluetooth
Bottom-firing speaker
3.5mm audio jack
aptX & LDAC Bluetooth
Boombox Speaker
DTS:X 3D Surround Sound
Hi-Fi Quad DAC
3.5mm headphone jack
aptX HD & LDAC Bluetooth
Bottom-firing speaker
No 3.5mm audio jack
aptx HD, HWA, & LDAC Bluetooth
ChargingWireless charging
18W USB Power Delivery 2.0
USB Type-C
Adaptive Charging (Quick Charge 2.0, 18W)
USB Type-C
Wireless charging
Qualcomm Quick Charge 4 (ships with QC 3.0 charger)
USB Type-C
SuperCharge (25W)
USB Type-C
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11ac
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Bluetooth v5.0
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Bluetooth v4,2
SoftwareAndroid 9.0 PieAndroid 8.1 Oreo
Samsung Experience
Android 8.1 Oreo
LG UX 6.0+
Android 8.1 Oreo
EMUI 8.1

The lack of a headphone jack will still be cause for concern for music lovers, but Google salvages something back with dual front-facing speakers. Wireless charging also helps to keep the handset feeling like good value when compared to the Galaxy Note 9 and LG V40. An IP68 water and dust rating is present on every phone but the Huawei P20 Pro, which is only IP67 rated. These are the type of features we’ve come to expect from expensive models, and the Pixel 3 range delivers.

Of course, stock Android fans will flock to the Pixel 3 series to get their hands on Android 9.0 Pie. It’s a shame that neither Samsung nor LG was able to ship their most recent phones with the latest version of Android running out of the box.

The Google Pixel 3 series ticks most of the major flagship boxes, but outside of a stock Android experience, it’s tough for the handsets to stand out against the competition.

Photographers looking for flexibility will probably prefer any of the rivals covered here. Music and media lovers with a big library will likely want a phone with a microSD card slot or more memory, and probably a 3.5mm headphone jack too. We haven’t even mentioned the design, which although far more subjective, probably isn’t winning any prizes for either looks or build materials.

Do you think Google has done enough with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL to topple this year’s competition? I’m not so sure, but be sure to tell me your thoughts in the comments.

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