The Pixel 8 Pro is my personal favorite Android smartphone right now, and for good reason. It combines solid performance, great cameras and an excellent screen in one package. But it’s not the only great Android phone on the market: Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra is arguably one of the best Android flagship phones you can buy. The question is: Which one is better? Let’s dive into the data.
The Pixel 8 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra may both be flagship devices, but they have several different pieces of hardware. Where Google offers its new Tensor G3 chip, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is paired with an exclusive Qualcomm chip, or Samsung’s Exynos chip if you live outside the US
Pixel 8 Pro Specifications:
Screen: 6.7-inch Super Actua panel, 1344 x 2992 resolution, 120Hz, up to 1600 nits (high brightness) and 2400 nits (peak HDR)
Storage: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
Processor: Google Tensor G3
Battery: 5050 mAh capacity
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.3, Ultra-Wideband, Dual Band GNSS, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS
Cameras: 50 MP Octa PD wide camera, 48 MP quad PD ultrawide camera, 48 MP Quad PD telephoto camera (rear); 10.5 MP Dual PD selfie camera (front)
Galaxy S23 Ultra Specifications:
Screen: 6.8-inch Edge Quad HD+ panel, 3088 x 1440 resolution, 120Hz, up to 1200 nits (high brightness) and 1750 nits (peak brightness)
RAM: 8GB / 12GB (depending on model)
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
Processor: Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
Battery: 5,000 mAh capacity
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6e, Bluetooth 5.3, GPS, GLONAAS, BDS, Galileo
Cameras: 200 MP wide-angle camera, 12 MP ultra-wide camera, 10 MP telephoto camera, 10 MP periscope telephoto camera (rear); 12 MP selfie camera (front)
Display and design
You won’t mistake one of these phones for the other. The Pixel 8 Pro offers sleek, rounded corners that feel good in your hands. The Galaxy S23 Ultra, on the other hand, has a blockier design that still has rounded corners but feels and looks more like a rectangle than the Pixel 8 Pro.
However, both smartphones have nice designs and have plenty of weight and width for a premium device. Both devices also have a USB-C charger on the underside, as well as bottom-mounted speakers. Aesthetically, I’m more of a fan of the Pixel 8 Pro’s design, although Google hasn’t done much to differentiate this phone from the older Pixel 7. Still, the company designed a great look for its smartphones and the available color options (Obsidian, Porcelain, Bay) only helps to emphasize the friendly, easy-to-hold design.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra also continues to build on Samsung’s proven design, with clicky buttons and an exceptional screen. Since you’ll be spending so much time looking at the panel, it’s important to have a great display that doesn’t clash with the phone’s design, and both fit the bill here.
The back of the phones presents one of the biggest differences. The Galaxy S23 Ultra has a side-mounted camera setup, while the Pixel 8 Pro’s camera setup is stretched across the back of the phone in a horizontal design. Both look great and create a bit of lift on the back of the phone, making it difficult for either of them to sit flush against the table surface. But a case solves that problem.
The displays on both devices are also stunning, and while the Galaxy S23 Ultra offers a higher resolution, both OLED panels deliver great contrast through bright, vivid colors and dark blacks. When placed side by side, however, the S23 Ultra comes out as the more colorful and contrasting of the two. However, the Pixel 8 Pro wins back some points thanks to its much higher peak brightness.
Performance and software
Both the Pixel 8 Pro and the Galaxy S23 Ultra are powerful and fun to use, but ultimately your software preference will likely play a role in which one you choose.
Once again, Google is working with its custom line of Tensor chips, and while the Tensor G3 isn’t exactly as game-changing as the M1 chip was for Apple’s MacBook lineup, it still offers plenty of performance and great features — most notably, the slew of AI features which Google has baked into the chip. As usual, the Pixel 8 Pro runs a clean, stock version of the latest Android OS (in this case Android 14), so you can experience Android in its purest form, without lots of bloatware slowing you down.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra, on the other hand, runs the latest version of Android 14, but with Samsung’s One UI overlaid on top. That means there’s some bloatware on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but far less than there used to be on these types of phones. Both Android 14 on the Pixel 8 Pro and Android 14 on the Galaxy S23 Ultra offer great performance, although the Qualcomm Snapdragon chip inside the S23 Ultra offers a bit more power compared to the Pixel 8 Pro’s Google Tensor G3.
Comparing the two devices using Geekbench 6, the Pixel 8 Pro scored a lower 1760 in single-core usage, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra scored 1885. The difference is a bit higher when comparing their multi-core scores, with the Pixel 8 Pro scoring 4442 and the Galaxy S23 Ultra scored 4998. This suggests that the Galaxy S23 Ultra performs better overall when looking at raw performance. Note: Exact Geekbench scores may change, but the differences between the two phones should remain relatively constant.
But raw power is not everything. Samsung hasn’t leaned into the AI world as much as Google has, which means you lose a lot of the AI functionality that helps deliver better multitasking and valuable features over the Pixel 8 Pro. Some of these AI features include small things – like the ability to create wallpapers with generative AI – to the bigger features that tie into the phone’s various systems – like being able to edit out unwanted sounds from videos and audio recordings – as well as Google’s previously released Magic Eraser- feature, which allows you to edit objects and people out of images completely.
Google has also made it possible to translate languages on the spot using the Pixel 8 Pro, and includes the ability to filter incoming calls and only let the people you want to talk to. Some of these features have already been available on the Pixel 7 and previous Google smartphones, but the Pixel 8 Pro’s updated chip allows it to process things much faster and more efficiently.
Regardless of which device you get, though, both the Pixel 8 Pro and the Galaxy S23 Ultra are more than powerful enough to handle your day-to-day business, whether it’s messaging, browsing Instagram, or taking high-quality photos at leisure.
Both the Pixel 8 Pro and the Galaxy S23 Ultra are equipped with top-notch camera stacks. The Pixel range has always offered solid cameras, despite not always including the most expensive hardware to work with. But the hardware isn’t what makes the Pixel a famous photography device: much of that reputation is down to the computing power and machine learning that Google designs into its phones, and those systems continue to play a big role in how great the Pixel 8 Pro is at taking photos.
The high-resolution cameras on the back of the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Pixel 8 Pro both take excellent pictures. However, the S23 Ultra can oversaturate colors in photos, a problem that has plagued Samsung devices for years. If you want a more grounded and realistically colored photography experience, the Pixel 8 Pro takes better pictures. But if you don’t mind the more saturated, overly bright colors, the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s camera stack will deliver some photos that pop wonderfully.
Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention the massive 200MP camera on the back of the Galaxy S23 Ultra. While I’m a much bigger fan of the more realistic colors the Pixel 8 Pro offers in photos, the S23 Ultra’s camera captures so a lot of detail thanks to its high-quality main camera. Samsung also has a 10MP periscope telephoto lens here, which means much less blur when zooming in on distant objects. You can expect all the details of distant objects without having to give in to grainy feedback or artifacts. The Pixel 8 Pro doesn’t offer a periscope camera, but its various AI programs power digital zoom without a ton of detail loss. Just don’t expect it to look as sharp as zoomed photos taken with the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s periscope lens.
While features and functions are great, none of that really means anything if the phone’s battery isn’t reliable. Fortunately, neither the Pixel 8 Pro nor the Galaxy S23 Ultra suffer when it comes to battery, thanks to the massive 5,050 mAh battery on the Pixel and the 5,000 mAh battery on the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
However, don’t let that small capacity difference fool you. Depending on what you’re doing, these two phones can see very different limits on their battery life. The Galaxy S23 Ultra and Pixel 8 Pro both do really well when browsing and messaging, but I noticed that playing videos and other media tends to eat through the battery on the Galaxy S23 Ultra much faster than on the Pixel 8 Pro. That’s most likely due to the S23 Ultra’s power-hungry hardware, which generates more heat than Google’s AI-powered efficiency. Still, both the Pixel 8 Pro and the Galaxy S23 Ultra have more than enough battery to last all day, as long as you don’t spend seven hours gaming nonstop.
When it comes to charging, however, the two devices offer different charging options. The Pixel 8 Pro is rated for 30W wired charging and 12W wireless charging, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra offers 45W wired charging and 15W wireless charging. This means you can expect decent charging times on both devices, although the Galaxy S23 Ultra will charge slightly faster compared to the Pixel 8 Pro.
Choose your next Android device
If you’re planning to get a new Android smartphone and want to get one of the best, you can’t go wrong with the Pixel 8 Pro or the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Personally, I’m more likely to recommend the Pixel 8 Pro, as I really like Google’s design and the Pixel’s many AI features. However, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has fought hard to earn its place as one of the best Android smartphones on the market, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least give Samsung the credit it deserves here.
The Pixel 8 Pro typically lists for $999 for the 128GB model, while the smallest storage option for Galaxy S23 Ultra (256GB) usually costs $1,150 on Amazon.
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