Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Google Pixel 2 XL

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If you’re looking to buy a “phablet”, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 and Google’s Pixel 2 XL will likely be two smartphones you consider. Both phones have large displays, fantastic cameras and come in a glass and metal design typical of 2017 phone releases. But, there are also differences between the devices that might nudge you to opt for one over the other.

To make up your mind about which phone is more suited to you, we’ve tried out the phones to see how their features compare like-for-like. Each phone excels in different areas. So, you’ll need to think about what you value in a phone and choose the one that best caters to your tastes.

Pros and cons at a glance

  • The Note 8 is more stylish and has the best display
  • The Pixel 2 XL has a longer lasting battery and extra features you’ll actually use
  • Both phones have superb cameras, but you have more freedom to edit images on the Note 8

Get Note 8: £47.00 per month >>

Get Google Pixel 2 XL: £49.00 per month >>

Design 

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has squarer edges than the Samsung S8+, which makes the phone more angular. The Gorilla Glass 5 casing protects the phone from low-impact falls and gives a premium feel deserving of its price tag.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 in maple gold
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 in maple gold

In the UK, you can buy the Galaxy Note 8 in two colours: midnight black and maple gold. No matter which colour you pick, the phone emanates a classiness well-suited to professional types.

The Google Pixel 2 XL is narrower than the Note 8. It has an 18:9 aspect ratio, which is the same as phones like the LG V30. By comparison, the Note 8 has a little more space to play around with, managing an 18:9:5 ratio.

On the front, the addition of front-firing speakers places a bezel around the outside that eats into the display. The bezel is narrow but sticks out like a sore thumb when you hold the phones next to each other.

On the back of the phone, Google has made the smart move of positioning the fingerprint sensor away from the camera lens. Instead, the sensor is in the upper-middle of the back, where it’s easier to find without flipping over your phone or smudging your camera.

Google Pixel in White
Pixel in white

You also have that two-tone metal and glass design you’ll remember from the original Pixel, which is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it look. Personally, I think it adds character. But, it does make the phone look childish when sat next to the elegant Note 8.

Display 

I’ve already mentioned the Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8’s superb infinity display, but it’s important to know the removal of bezels isn’t just for show. With the Note 8, you have wide viewing angles that let you tilt your phone and still see the screen. This is useful when you want to show an image or video to a couple of friends without passing your phone around one at a time.

What’s more, the OLED display is incredibly bright and displays colour accurately. Thanks to the quality of the display, you shouldn’t have problems playing HDR videos, which will eventually become the standard format used by streaming services like Netflix.

The Google Pixel 2 XL also has a bright display but uses plastic OLED (commonly known as p-OLED) material for its screen. Although the Pixel 2 is bright, colours don’t display as vividly when you first set up the phone. For example, whites are given a blue tint that gives interfaces a cool hue. To get rid of this, you’ll need to turn on Saturated mode in settings.

Camera 

Both phones have excellent cameras but produce a different style of image.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 uses inbuilt colour rendition to create warmer, more dramatic images. The effect is flattering when taking close-ups of people, giving those of us with fair skin a healthy glow. The phone’s Pro Mode offers valuable functionality for editing images, letting you control white balance, focus and exposure.

Meanwhile, the Pixel 2 XL’s camera produces more true-to-life shots, which works well for images of nature. When taking images of landscapes, you’ll find the Pixel 2 XL achieves a level of sharpness and detail unmatched by other flagships.

Google Pixel XL picture of palace
Picture was taken with Google Pixel 2: Image on right has HDR+ enabled to sharpen sky without losing detail elsewhere

When using the phones for video, you’ll find the Note 8 has wide viewing angles that give videos an immersive feel. It’s also better than the Google phone at retaining detail and dynamic range when recording. One downside of videoing with the Note 8 is that footage loses quality when you record in slo-mo. This won’t happen when using the Pixel 2 XL, which remains consistent across frame rates.

On balance, the Note 8 just about wins the bout for best camera. Primarily, because the camera’s optical zoom is better at focusing in on distant objects without a loss of focus. When you use the Pixel 2 XL’s digital zoom on a far-off subject, you’ll find noise creeps into your photo.

Galaxy Note 8 image of surfer
Example of long-distance zoom on Galaxy Note 8

Software, storage & battery life 

These phones are both powerful, but the Note 8 is slightly faster. This is because the Note 8 has 6GB of RAM in comparison to the Pixel 2 XL’s 4GB. Although, you’ll only register the difference if you’re running multiple programs at once or playing VR games.

The Note 8 and Pixel 2 XL solve the problem of maxing out on storage space in different ways. If you’re buying the Note 8, you can pay more for a model that comes with 256GB of internal memory. There’s also an SD card slot for expanding your memory without spending a bomb.

By comparison, the Pixel 2 XL only goes up to 128 GB and has no card slot. However, Google does offer unlimited online storage for photos and videos. At least, it does until 2020, which is when Google’s said it’ll start compressing large files to a lower resolution.

Neither of these phones has an incredible battery life, so you’ll want to keep your charger on you. Samsung has been cautious with battery sizes since the fiasco with its S7’s battery blowing up. In fact, the Note 8’s 3300 mAh battery is smaller than most smaller phones, including the Samsung’s own S8.

The Pixel 2 XL has a larger 3,520 mAh battery. The battery is only a fraction bigger, but as the phone has a smaller display with fewer pixels, it lasts several more hours from full charge.

What lets the Pixel 2 XL down is the lack of support for wireless charging. You might not care about this now, but in a few years, wireless charging points will be much more common. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s an inconvenience to consider.

Extra features 

The Galaxy Note 8’s stand-out feature is its S-Pen. You can use the pen to do a range of things, from animating messages to translating foreign languages. I particularly like the Screen-off Memo feature, which lets you scrawl down and save notes without even unlocking your phone.

Animating message with Galaxy Note 8

The Pixel 2 XL also has some useful add-ons. For example, it’s copied the HTC U11 in letting you command the phone via a squeeze of your hand. This is cool if a little gimmicky. For the moment though, you can only use a squeeze to do two things: silence calls and summon the Google Assistant. If you desperately want it to do something different, try an app like Button Mapper that re-configures the squeeze command to do things like launch apps.

Both the Note 8 and Pixel 2 XL are intelligent enough to recognise objects. All you need to do is point your camera at something and the phones’ will tell you exactly what you’re looking at. However, the Pixel 2 XL goes a step further to make this feature more practical. Referring to its image recognition technology as Google Lens, it lets you:

  • Take a photo of a router’s Wi-Fi password to automatically connect to the network
  • Photograph text in another language for an instant translation
  • Take a snap of a phone number for it to appear in your contacts

Imagine; no more having to enter and re-enter awkward Wi-Fi passwords!

How to choose between Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 and Google’s Pixel 2 XL

Most people will prefer Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 to the Pixel 2 XL. In most areas, the Note 8 eclipses what the Pixel 2 XL brings to the table, mainly due to its smoking hot design, stunning display and a camera that rarely disappoints.

However, the Google Pixel 2 XL is by no means a dud phone – especially now it’s resolved the burn-in issues that plagued it upon its release. It has front-firing speakers that work well for listening to music out loud or putting people on loudspeaker. It’s also a more intelligent device, offering some cool life-hacks through the Google Lens software. If you’re lazy like me, those shortcuts are worthy of praise and it’s an exciting sign of how ‘smart’ phones will be in the not-so-distant future.

Product specs

 Samsung Galaxy Note 8Google Pixel 2 XL
Pricecirca £869.00circa £799.00
Body
Weight195 g175g
Dimensions162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm (6.40 x 2.94 x 0.34in)157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm (6.22 x 3.02 x 0.31 in)
Display
Size6.3 inches6.0 inches
Resolution1440 x 2960 pixels, 18.5:9 ratio (~521 ppi density)1440 x 2880 pixels, 18:9 ratio (~538 ppi density)
Platform
OSAndroid 7.1.1 (Nougat)Android 8.0 (Oreo)
ChipsetExynos 8895 Octa - EMEAQualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835
CPUOcta-core (4x2.3 GHz & 4x1.7 GHz) - EMEAOcta-core (4x2.35 GHz Kryo & 4x1.9 GHz Kryo)
GPUMali-G71 MP20 - EMEA Adreno 540
Memory
Card slotmicroSD, up to 256 GB (uses SIM 2 slot) - dual-SIM model
No
Internal64/128/256 GB, 6GB RAM64/128 GB, 4GB RAM
Camera
Image captureDual: 12 MP (f/1.7, 26mm, 1/2.55", 1.4µm, Dual Pixel PDAF) + 12MP (f/2.4, 52mm, 1/3.6", 1 µm, AF), OIS, Dual Pixel phase detection autofocus, 2x optical zoom, LED flash12.2 MP (f/1.8, 27mm, 1/2.6", 1.4 µm), OIS, phase detection & laser autofocus, dual-LED flash
Video2160p@30fps, 1080p@60fps, 720p@240fps, HDR, dual-video rec.2160p@30fps, 1080p@30/60/120fps, 720p@240fps
Sound
Audio32-bit/384kHz audio
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- 3.5mm jack
- Loudspeaker
Loudspeaker with stereo speakers
No 3.5mm jack
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- Type-C to 3.5 mm headphone jack adapter
Battery
SizeNon-removable Li-Ion 3300 mAh batteryNon-removable Li-Ion 3520 mAh battery