In 2023, I extensively used the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra for over six months. Recently, I got my hands on the Google Pixel 8 Pro. In this comparison, I’ll dissect the distinctive features of both phones and provide my opinion on which one stands out as the top choice for most users.
Galaxy S23 Ultra Advantages Over Pixel 8 Pro
1. One UI and Customization
Exploring Galaxy S23 Ultra: Unveiling the Advantages
Diving into the Galaxy S23 Ultra (review), we first encounter One UI, Samsung’s tailored version of the Android operating system. One UI stands out with numerous exclusive features not commonly found on other Android devices. These include efficient multitasking window management, convenient edge panels, and versatile S Pen functionalities such as screen note-taking, text conversion from handwritten notes, and even remote photo capture. One UI further introduces Samsung DeX, allowing your Galaxy phone to transform into a computer when connected to a desktop monitor. Another noteworthy addition is Link to Windows, seamlessly connecting your phone’s notifications, messages, and photos to a PC, with the option to mirror your phone screen.
While One UI boasts impressive features, it’s essential to address a drawback—specifically, its app drawer implementation. From a personal perspective, I find the Pixel’s implementation more user-friendly, offering faster app access compared to navigating through One UI’s pages. Notably, users can enhance the app list similarity to Pixel’s through adjustments with the Samsung Good Lock app, underscoring One UI’s positive aspect of high customizability. This emphasizes Samsung’s commitment to delivering a personalized and adaptable user experience.
However, there’s a notable drawback to One UI—the inclusion of intrusive ads for third-party services in specific OS areas, such as under device protection, where you might come across a McAfee ad. Moreover, the device comes pre-loaded with apps like Facebook and Microsoft. While not inherently negative, this adds to the perception that despite a substantial investment in the phone, its OS is saturated with content users may not have requested or deem essential.
2. 10x Optical Zoom
A key advantage of opting for the Galaxy S23 Ultra lies in its remarkable 10x optical camera, outshining the Pixel 8 Pro’s 5x optical counterpart. The 10x zoom feature on the S23 Ultra has proven exceptionally practical, enhancing my experience, particularly during my recent trip, where it enabled me to capture intricate close-ups. While the 10x zoom stands out, I can’t help but wish the S23 Ultra also incorporated a 5x optical zoom.
Intriguingly, in comparisons with the new iPhone 15 (review) and Pixel 8 Pro (review) released this year, I discovered a personal preference for the 5x telephoto, unlike the S23 Ultra’s 3x. Nevertheless, for photography enthusiasts passionate about capturing the beauty of nature, the S23 Ultra’s 10x camera, combined with its overall camera system, is undeniably a source of pure joy.
3. Video Quality
Enhancing Visuals: Galaxy S23 Ultra Video Quality
Highlighting the video quality, the Galaxy S23 Ultra offers a distinct advantage. While the Pixel 8 Pro’s video is commendable, I observed that the S23 Ultra’s video generally surpasses the Pixel 8 Pro’s, particularly in addressing image sensor noise, especially in low-light conditions. It’s worth noting that we’re yet to witness Google’s anticipated new video boost mode on the Pixel 8, set to enhance low-light scenarios, slated for release later this year in a software update. Despite this, the Pixel 8 Pro excels in HDR processing and color science, showcasing its strengths in those aspects.
4. Portrait Photos and S Pen
In the realm of camera features, the S23 Ultra stands out with its remarkable portrait mode, offering a slightly superior performance compared to the Pixel in my experience. Another notable benefit is the inclusion of the S Pen, conveniently housed at the bottom of the phone. This stylus not only enhances the user experience by enabling features discussed earlier with One UI but also adds a unique and distinctive aspect to this phone. Remarkably, it positions the S23 Ultra as one of the few phones available today that comes with a built-in stylus.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra boasts the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, outperforming Google’s new Tensor 3 chip in Geekbench scores—a clear advantage for the S23 Ultra. Despite these superior scores, both phones deliver exceptionally smooth performance based on my experience. It’s essential to note that while the S23 Ultra excels in Geekbench scores, Samsung doesn’t market the phone with new AI features tied to that chip, contrasting with Google’s approach with the Tensor chip on the Pixel. Therefore, although the S23 Ultra offers enhanced performance in terms of features, it doesn’t necessarily bring more innovative features compared to the Pixel 8 Pro.
6. Battery Life
Regarding battery life, both the Galaxy S23 Ultra and the Pixel 8 Pro have consistently lasted throughout my day. However, it’s undeniable that the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s battery outperforms the Pixel 8 Pro’s. Despite the 8 Pro having a slightly larger battery, my typical end-of-day usage leaves the Pixel 8 Pro at around 40 to 35%, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra hovers closer to 50%. So appreciate about the S23 Ultra’s battery performance.
Pixel 8 Pro Advantages Over Galaxy S23 Ultra
1. Pixel Call Assist
The primary strength of the Pixel 8 Pro lies in its remarkable feature suite called Pixel Call Assist. This suite includes several calling features designed to enhance your communication experience. Notably, there’s Call Screen, where the Google Assistant engages with the caller to determine the legitimacy of the call. Additionally, Hold for Me allows the Assistant to stay on hold on your behalf while you attend to other tasks. Direct My Call provides a visual representation of menus when dialing specific customer support numbers. Lastly, Clear Calling removes background noise, ensuring your voice is clearer to the person you’re speaking to. This suite consolidates a range of powerful calling features, making Pixel Call Assist a standout advantage of the Pixel 8 Pro (review).
2. Pro Photo Controls
Another significant advantage of the Pixel 8 Pro lies in its Pro Photo controls. While Samsung offers comparable controls, Google’s clever move here is integrating them directly into the main camera UI. This strategic placement eliminates the need for multiple swipes to access these controls, a convenience not mirrored on the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The seamless integration of Pro Photo controls within the primary camera interface exemplifies Google’s smart approach to enhance user experience on the Pixel 8 Pro.
3. Tensor G3 Features
The Pixel 8 Pro stands out with its state-of-the-art on-device Google Assistant and a range of features fueled by Google’s Tensor G3 processor. These features include the ability to read web pages aloud and translate them into various languages. With Pixel Speech, users can seamlessly switch between multiple languages during conversations with the on-device Google Assistant. The Audio Magic Eraser function enables the reduction of specific background noises, such as wind or surrounding voices, in recorded videos. Introducing the new Best Take feature, Tensor empowers users to automatically blend different faces from various takes, ensuring a perfect photo without any blinking subjects. Overall, Tensor plays a pivotal role in powering the Pixel 8 Pro’s exceptional camera system.
Comparing these camera systems presents a bit of a dilemma; both perform well, yet distinctions are noticeable. Frequently, I observe that the Pixel excels in color science for photos—less punchy with saturation, particularly in highlights. On the other hand, the S23 Ultra tends to over-process the appearance of certain photos, especially in challenging scenarios where increased dynamic range is desired. In summary, the Pixel demonstrates superior performance in capturing a comprehensive range of details without any blowouts.
4. Pixel Exclusive Features
The Google Pixel 8 Pro surpasses the S23 Ultra with cutting-edge software features exclusively from Google. Some of these Pixel-exclusive features remain unique, such as call screening, while others, like the Magic Eraser, initially introduced on the Pixel, have transitioned to Google Photos and are now accessible on other devices, including the S23 Ultra.
Opting for a Pixel is the route to experience Google’s latest and greatest offerings. Google’s Android version, though not as feature-packed as One UI, exudes a sleek and streamlined feel. There’s minimal unwanted auto-downloaded content, and you receive newer Android versions promptly, along with feature drops throughout the year.
Introducing the latest cutting-edge feature for this year, the Pixel unveils the Magic Editor. Powered by AI and machine learning, the Magic Editor swiftly transforms your photos, allowing not only erasure but also item selection, resizing, and repositioning—all accomplished in 10 to 15 seconds, a task that would typically take 10 to 15 minutes in Photoshop.
5. Design and Build Quality
The Pixel 8 Pro outshines the S23 Ultra in terms of weight and overall exterior design. It’s undeniable; the S23 Ultra weighs in as a heavy phone at 234g, compared to the more manageable 213g of the Pixel 8 Pro. Additionally, the Pixel 8 Pro features a flat screen, facilitating the application of screen protectors, and boasts more rounded edges, providing a more comfortable grip. When it comes to something you hold in your hand for potentially at least an hour every day, ergonomics play a significant role, and the Pixel 8 Pro excels in this category.
6. Price and Software Updates
The last two advantages of the 8 Pro over the S23 Ultra are its competitive price and the remarkable promise of 7 years of software updates. Google’s Pixel devices stand out as industry outliers, committing to a lengthy 7-year software update cycle compared to Samsung’s four years and Apple’s five years. This extended software support significantly favors choosing a Pixel, especially if longevity is a priority. The Pixel 8 Pro is priced at $999, while the S23 Ultra retails for $1,200. Notably, the S23 Ultra can often be found at the Pixel 8 Pro’s price due to discounts before the holidays and the impending release of the S24 Ultra early next year.
Which One You Should Buy?
Now the last question is, Which One You Should Buy? So When choosing between the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and the Google Pixel 8 Pro, the decision ultimately depends on individual preferences and priorities. The S23 Ultra shines in camera capabilities, customization, and battery life, while the Pixel 8 Pro distinguishes itself with innovative features, a user-friendly design, and an attractive price point. The choice between these flagship devices involves nuanced considerations, as both offer a robust smartphone experience. As technology enthusiasts weigh the pros and cons, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and Google Pixel 8 Pro continue to lead the way in the ever-evolving smartphone landscape.