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Samsung Galaxy S9+ vs Pixel 2 XL: quick look
Now that Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is official, one of it’s biggest and most obvious competitors will be the Google Pixel 2 XL. Both are the larger variants of each company’s respective flagships so naturally they will draw a lot of comparisons. Expect a more comprehensive comparison in the weeks following our full review of the Galaxy S9, but for now here’s a glimpse of the two stack up.
Samsung and Google have two very different visions of how to design smartphones. The Galaxy S9 Plus retains the same overall build and form factor as last year’s S8, with a mostly glass body full of curves, tapered edges, and rounded corners. It’s sleek, slender, and elegant. The Pixel 2 XL is at the other end of the spectrum with a more industrial appearance. Sure, it has rounded corners and subtle tapers all around, but the Pixel 2 XL is mostly square and flat, which sits in stark contrast to the S9’s more pebble-like approach.
The Galaxy S9 and Pixel 2 XL couldn't be more different from a design perspective.
AMOLED and 18:9 is the name of the game when it comes to the displays. The S9 Plus retains the same 6.2-inch screen size and QHD resolution as last year’s S8 Plus and the Pixel 2 XL has a comparable 6-inch Quad HD screen. They both use the same screen technology and are similarly spec’d, but there is a big difference in color reproduction. Samsung’s display is very bright, vibrant, and saturated and it makes the Pixel 2 XL look downright flat, even on it’s saturated mode. The other major difference is in the thickness of the surrounding bezels. Samsung’s bezels are significantly thinner on all sides and Samsung says the bezels on the S9 and S9 Plus are even thinner than the S8 and S8 Plus, giving you a more immersive screen experience.
In terms of hardware the S9 Plus will ship with the latest Snapdragon 845 processor and 6 GB of RAM. Qualcomm states that this is 30 percent faster and 30 percent more power efficient over the 835 in the Pixel 2 XL. Fingerprint sensors can be found on the rear of both devices and Samsung made the smart decision of relocating the fingerprint sensor below the cameras, in a position much easier to reach. As we all know by now, Google removed the headphone jack with the Pixel 2 line, but it doesn’t appear that Samsung will be going that route anytime soon. Both the S9 and S9 Plus are holding on to the headphone jack.
To further improve the audio experience, the earpiece on the S9 Plus doubles as a speaker to compliment Samsung’s already existing bottom firing unit. This now gives the Galaxy S line stereo sound and while it may not compare to the Pixel 2 XL’s front firing pair, it’s a very welcome improvement.
Battery capacities on both are also fairly similar. The S9 Plus features a 3,500 mAh battery and the Pixel 2 XL’s is only a hair larger at 3,520.
Last year’s Note 8 was Samsung’s introduction into the dual camera space and they’ve continued that with the S9 Plus. Two 12 MP sensors can be found on the rear with the secondary lens providing optical zoom and lens blurring effects. New to the camera this year is the additional of a mechanical aperture, which allows for an aperture of f/2.4 or f/1.5. This is a real hardware change in aperture like what you would find in a DSLR and can be controlled manually or automatically based on lighting conditions. The Pixel 2 XL goes for a more traditional approach with a single 12-megapixel shooter but Google has proven that two cameras aren’t always better than one, achieving one of the most impressive portrait modes on a smartphone.
On the software front, the Pixel 2 XL is running Android 8.1 Oreo and the S9 is running 8.0, but the S9 Plus comes with Samsung’s usual interface, which changes much of the stock Android experience found on the Pixel 2 XL. The majority of the UI is mostly the same as the S8 and Note 8, but there are some notable software changes such as improvements to Bixby, the addition of AR Emoji, and a cleaner camera interface. If you don’t care for any of Samsung’s software add-ons, the Pixel 2 XL’s simple and straightforward software will be much more appealing and so will its speedy software updates.
Once the Galaxy S9 Plus is officially released the Pixel 2 XL will have some stiff competition. It may be very tough to decide which one is the better choice. The S9 Plus is obviously the clear winner when it comes to raw specs and new camera tech, but we’ll have to wait and see how these two truly stack up in real-world use in the coming months.