Google Pixel 8 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Which 'Droid do you avoid?

Pixel 8 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra in use
(Image credit: Google / Samsung)

Android phones are ideal for those who want absolute freedom regarding customization, software selection, and broader possibilities of how to use your device. But when picking between the best Android phones, who reigns supreme: the Google Pixel 8 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra?

Both phones have a history of offering fantastic hardware but does Google’s software prowess catapult them ahead of Samsung’s impressive internals? Let’s find out.

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Specifications

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Header Cell - Column 0 Google Pixel 8 ProSamsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
ProcessorTensor G3 + Titan M2Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
OSAndroid 14Android 13
RAM and storage12GB - 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB8GB - 256GB, 12GB - 256GB/512GB/1TB
DisplaySuper Actua LTPO OLEDDynamic AMOLED 2X
Resolution (ppi)1344 x 2993 (489)1440 x 3088 (~500)
Refresh Rate120Hz120Hz
Brightness2400 nits peak brightness1750 nits peak brightness
Battery5,050 mAh5,000 mAh
Dimensions6.4 x 3.0 x 0.36.43 x 3.07 x 0.35 inches
Weight213g (7.5 oz)234g (8.25 oz)

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Price

Probably the easiest comparison between these two smartphones is their price. One of the key selling points of Pixel smartphones is their competitive pricing, especially when taking into account the performance and feature set of the Pixel 8 Pro — offering fantastic value for money thanks to a somewhat modest $999 pricing.

Samsung’s flagship device is packed with premium components that drive awesome performance — but premium performance comes with a premium price tag, leading to a $1,199 price tag.

Winner: Google Pixel 8 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Design

Google Pixel 8 Pro

(Image credit: Google)

Say what you will about Android phones, but the breadth of design choices is far vaster than other phones you might come across — phones that appear to have stagnated harsher than swamp water.

Both the Pixel 8 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra have an impressive aesthetic. Samsung’s borderline industrial design is a great contrast to the Pixel 8 Pro’s new softer corners and modern look. However, if we were to judge on looks alone, it’s the Pixel that stands out most for its unique and recognizable camera bar and build.

While both phones pull off the minimalist style quite well (as long as you’re not focusing on the S23 Ultra’s hideous camera array), the Pixel 8 Pro has a real fun and captivating identity about it.

However, does the functionality of Google’s design hold up as well as Samsung’s? Well, the S23 Ultra’s combination of an “Armor Aluminum” chassis and Gorilla Glass Victus 2 does offer impressive scratch, drop, and shock protection alongside an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance.

But the Pixel 8 Pro isn’t exactly a Faberge egg in comparison, also touting Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus 2 protection and a sturdy aluminum frame. Will it be as tough a frame as Samsung’s? That’s unlikely given Samsung’s S23 Ultra is about as tough as a phone gets before you have to start referring to it as rugged.

But there is one thing Samsung seemingly overlooks — it’s those exposed camera lenses. The Pixel 8 Pro’s camera bar isn’t just a trendy Geordie La Forge visor, it also protects its lenses giving users a little more comfort when it comes to ditching a case.

Winner: Google Pixel 8 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Display

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Samsung makes some of the best smartphone displays ever put to market, that much is practically undeniable. But is this category really such a one-horse race? How well does the Pixel 8 Pro measure up to Samsung’s domineering displays? Let’s see.

When it comes to size, Samsung pips the Pixel to the post measuring 6.8 inches to the Pro’s 6.7 inches. But as any kind woman will try to convince you, size isn’t everything. Sadly, the S23 Ultra also pulls ahead when it comes to resolution and pixel density with a 1440 x 3088, ~500 ppi (Pixels Per Inch) canvas to work on as opposed to the Pixel 8 Pro’s 1344 x 2992, 489 ppi playground.

The Ultra and Pixel 8 Pro both feature Always-on displays with dynamic 1-120Hz refresh rates, but Samsung’s AMOLED 2X display pulls ahead once more over the Pixel 8 Pro’s Super Actua LTPO OLED panel with a whopping 3,000,000:1 HDR10+ contrast ratio over Google’s 1,000,000:1 HDR contrast offering.

Does the Pixel ever get the upper hand here? Actually, it does — if you believe Google’s claims about peak brightness. We’ll need to bring the Pixel 8 Pro in for testing to ensure the validity of these numbers, but the Pixel 8 Pro is reportedly capable of an incredible 2400 nits peak brightness — blowing away the S24 Ultra’s 1750 nits peak brightness.

It’s a victory for Samsung, but the Pixel 8 Pro clearly has some fight in it.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Processor

Google Tensor chip

(Image credit: Google)

The Pixel 8 Pro’s new Tensor G3 chip could make all the difference when it comes to this portion of our face-off. It’s the most powerful chip that Google has ever produced, and it’s needed to power all of those impressive AI functions the smartphone is touting. But how well does it perform in relation to the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor?

According to early Geekbench 6 results, there’s a clear winner in terms of sheer performance numbers. While the Pixel 8 Pro delivers some admirable figures for single-core and multi-core performance with scores of 1760 and 4442 respectively, the S23 Ultra’s Snapdragon processor bests it with 1880 single-core and 4982 multi-core scores.

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Pixel 8 Pro vs Galaxy S23 Ultra: Geekbench 6 results
Header Cell - Column 0 Google Pixel 8 ProSamsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Single-core Score17601880
Multi-core Score44424982

The numbers don’t lie, except for when they do. These numbers are a great way of determining the computational capabilities of a device, but real-world performance is missing from this equation.

Frankly, most mobile phones are considerably overpowered when it comes to what the vast majority of us are going to use them for. Does the S23 Ultra have a more powerful processor? It’s sure looking to be the case.

That being said, Google’s offering is almost drawing a parallel in some areas, and is by no means a slouch. We’ll need to wait until we get the Pixel 8 Pro in our hands to rate how its performance can be judged in operation.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra in white with cameras facing towards the viewer and an image of the night sky captured on the Galaxy S23 Ultra behind it.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Both of these phones are admired for their shutterbug capabilities, and rightly so. Just look at the hardware of both the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and Google Pixel 8 Pro if you need any convincing: 

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Header Cell - Column 0 Google Pixel 8 ProSamsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Front Camera10.5MP (Autofocus, 1.22 μm, ƒ/2.2)12MP (wide, ƒ/2.2)
Rear Camera (Main)50MP (wide, 1.2 μm, ƒ/1.68)200MP (wide, 0.6 μm, ƒ/1.7)
Read Camera (Ultrawide)48MP (0.8 μm, ƒ/1.95)12MP (1.4 μm, ƒ/2.2)
Real Camera (Tele)48MP (5x optical zoom, 0.7 μm, ƒ/2.8)2 x 10MP (1.12 μm, ƒ/2.4 / 1.4 μm, ƒ/2.2)

Each phone has its secret weapon: for Samsung, it’s the S24 Ultra’s mighty 200MP primary sensor, and for Google, it’s the incredible Pixel software backing every snap you take.

I’m going to make a somewhat controversial claim here when I say that Google’s software magic goes to great lengths to bridge the megapixel chasm. There’s a stunning array of software features tied into the Pixel 8 Pro’s camera experience, including Video Boost, Night Sight, Real Tone, Magic Editor, and Pro Controls which are modeled after DSLR capabilities.

That’s not even everything either, here’s a full look at the Pixel 8 Pro’s suite of image-enhancing software to highlight my point:

  • Pro controls
  • High-resolution images
  • Ultra HDR
  • Magic Editor
  • Best Take
  • Macro Focus
  • Magic Eraser
  • Photo Unblur
  • Motion Mode
  • Real Tone
  • Face Unblur
  • Panorama

  • Manual white balancing
  • Locked Folder
  • Night Sight
  • Astrophotography
  • Top Shot
  • Portrait Mode
  • Portrait Light
  • Super Res Zoom
  • Motion autofocus
  • Frequent Faces
  • Dual exposure controls
  • Live HDR+

While Samsung’s hardware is wildly powerful, I feel that Google pulls things back onto an even keel with its well-rounded camera array and its phenomenal software. Hate me for it if you want, but I think this one might be a draw.

Winner: Draw

Outlook

After taking some time out to do the maths on this one, it’s clear to see we’ve reached an impasse. While both phones have their strengths and weaknesses there really is a balance struck between the two that ultimately makes it hard to decipher a true “winner” between them both.

However, while it’s not as satisfying of a conclusion as an absolute trouncing or a photo-finish victory, it is good news for consumers torn between the two. Whether you opt for the Google Pixel 8 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra you’re going to be investing in a quality product that will perform across the board.

Rael Hornby

Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.