Google Pixel 2 XL vs Galaxy Note 8

Google Pixel 2 XL vs Note 8

The Google Pixel 2 XL and the Galaxy Note 8 are two excellent devices. They are so good, that I would be lying if I told you that it was easy to make a decision between these two devices. Deciding which one to buy is going to come down to a lot of personal preference and trivial differences. So let’s do a comparison of the Google Pixel 2 XL vs Galaxy Note 8.

Feel in the hand

I always find that one of the most important aspects of a smartphone is how they feel in the hand. The Galaxy Note 8 and Google Pixel XL 2 are both slippery and fragile phones, no surprise. However, the Pixel feels much easier to hold. This makes sense as it’s a slightly smaller (6.2 inch) and lighter (175 g)  phone than compared to the Galaxy Note 8 (6.4 inch, 195 g). The Note 8 is taller than it is wider, and I absolutely hate that about this phone. I remember back to the old HTC M8, which suffered this same design flaw.

Having a tall phone makes it difficult to reach the poorly placed fingerprint reader at the top (damn you Samsung) and pull down the notification shade. Fortunately, Samsung does offer a one-handed mode that you won’t find in stock Android. But still, I find that I am accelerating my future arthritis from my fingers cramping so much when trying to reach the top of the screen. It could be I just have very small hands, but I would absolutely prefer to hold the Pixel in one hand for an hour rather than the Note 8.

tl;dr – Pixel 2 XL feels much better to hold.

Display

Now for the elephant in the room. As you might have heard, the Pixel XL 2 has suffered from an enormous amount of display issues. The first one was the case of the poorly saturated screen. For some reason, Google decided to make the colors on the Pixel be natural and true to life. But here’s the problem…our eye doesn’t like natural, true to life colors. Collectively, our eyes prefer that vibrant, bold and slightly over-saturated display the Samsung offers. So when you initially opened up the Pixel…it was a disgrace. I think Google tuned down the colors way too far. Everything looked so dull and lifeless. I felt like I was getting mild depression just by looking at the display. It also became very apparent when comparing images. On the Google Pixel, any image with skin tones just didn’t look right. And if you tried editing it by boosting up the saturation and color temperature before posting it on Instagram, it would be a nightmare. On everyone else’s beautiful iPhones and Galaxys, the image would look too oversaturated because they already have that saturation boost in their display that you don’t have in yours.

Luckily, Google released a software update to fix this issue. So everything I just said above is now irrelevant. 

But let’s move on to problem number two, the screen burn issue. Unfortunately, I was also personally affected by the issue and it’s really annoying. After only two weeks of usage, I already have screen burn in near the navigation buttons. This is completely unacceptable for a $800 device. No excuse should be made for this.

And don’t even get me started on the blue shift. It’s definitely noticeable but doesn’t bother me as much as theburn-inn.

Even so, I would 100% say that the Galaxy Note 8 just has the all-around better display. It gets brighter and darker than the Pixel, still a little more vibrant, doesn’t suffer from the blue shift issue, or screen burn in.

tl;dr – Galaxy Note 8 has the much better display

Camera

This is where things start to get trivial. Both devices have an amazing camera. And let’s be real, if you’re only posting your images on social media where they are going to be compressed anyway then even a mid-range phone’s camera is well qualified. However, I am impressed that the Google Pixel can do portrait mode with one camera. Also, pictures taken in portrait mode look slightly better on the Pixel than they do on the Galaxy Note 8. Also, you can do front facing portrait photos on the Pixel. On the Note 8, you do have a front-facing selective focus that doesn’t really work that well. On the flip side, you can adjust the bokeh effect on the Note 8 with portrait mode, something that you can’t do on the Pixel.

As for the video, I haven’t really tested it that much on either device to have an opinion.

The Galaxy Note 8 does have a better camera app than the Pixel. It offers more manual control and “pro” features. The Pixel’s camera software is essentially barebones.

tl;dr – Both devices have a great camera. The Pixel 2 XL has a better portrait mode, the Galaxy Note 8 offers more manual controls.

Battery

This is probably the most non-trivial difference between these two devices. The Pixel 2 XL has a fantastically better battery than the Galaxy Note 8. After 24 hours of mixed usage, I still had 50% battery life left on the Pixel with 4 hours of screen on time. The battery life on the Google Pixel 2 XL is amazing! Legit, that’s the thing that I probably love the most about this device. Also, it charges a slightly faster than the Galaxy Note 8.

The Galaxy Note 8’s battery life is….average. You are going to have to charge after 8 hours regardless of what you’re doing. It just doesn’t compare to the Pixel. For the Note 8, I have all the optimizations on and it still doesn’t match up with the Pixel 2 XL.

tl;dr – The Pixel 2 XL has the better battery

Performance

Oh boy…this is where the flame war starts. As you know, the Google Pixel 2 XL runs stock Android. The Galaxy Note 8 runs Android along with the Samsung Experience skin. The advantage of stock Android is that it’s fast, smooth and efficient. There are no unwanted pre-installed apps. The advantage of Samsung Experience skin is that you get all the cool things that you don’t find in stock Android such as S-Pen features, Game Mode, Secure Folder, Themes, etc. When it comes to the overall performance, the Pixel 2 XL is a beast! Samsung users (trust me I am one of them), you don’t realize it but your device is slow.

Trust me, the Note 8 isn’t laggy or doesn’t suffer from extreme moments of slow-down, but as soon as you pick up and use the Pixel, you realize just have unimpressive the UI performance is on the Note 8. Again, I am not saying that the Note 8 is slow and laggy. There seems to be that common misconception on the internet. What I am saying is that the Galaxy Note 8 does not offer a consistently smooth 60 fps when scrolling and moving around the UI that the Pixel 2 XL does. The Pixel 2 XL does not suffer from the signature “Samsung stutter” or the occasional jaggedness or drop frames that Samsung devices are known for.

Whether or not this bothers you is an entirely different question. There are some people who are perfectly fine playing games at 30fps while others wouldn’t tolerate anything less than 60.

tl;dr – The Pixel 2 XL offers consistently better performance.

Stuff You Probably don’t care about

Okay, let’s just bang these out of the way:

  1. The Galaxy Note 8 has expandable memory, the Pixel doesn’t
  2. The Pixel 2 has front-facing speaker, the Galaxy Note 8 doesn’t
  3. The Galaxy Note 8 is IP68, the Pixel is IP67
  4. The Galaxy Note 8 has the S-Pen, the Pixel doesn’t.
  5. The Galaxy Note 8 has iris scanning, the Pixel doesn’t.
  6. The Pixel is guaranteed to get future Android updates for the next 2 years, the Note 8 isn’t.

Verdict

Like I said at the beginning, both of these are amazing devices. For myself, it has been hard to choose which one I wanted to keep. So here’s the thing, if you intend on keeping your phone for more than 1 year and you only use your phone for Reddit and Instagram and Facebook, get the Google Pixel 2 XL. Otherwise, the Galaxy Note 8 is the better bang for your buck.