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Google Pixel vs Samsung Galaxy S7: Which is best

Katharine Byrne
5 Oct 2016
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Fancy the look of Google's new Pixel phone? Here's how it compares to the Galaxy S7

Google's brand-new Pixel phone is almost here. The highly anticipated successor to its well-respected Nexus handsets, the Pixel is a bold statement from Google, as this year it's gone the whole hog and delivered a top-class flagship handset rather than sticking with its mid-range roots. As a result, this puts the Pixel in prime Galaxy S7 territory, so I've put both phones head-to-head to see how they stack up against one another.

I'll be comparing each phone's design, specs, display and camera, as well as storage options and the different pricing structures. Of course, I won't be able to do a full comparison until I've had the Pixel in for review and put it through our Expert Reviews benchmark tests, but I'll update this article with our tests scores and head-to-head camera shots as soon as I can, so make sure you check back soon for our full and final verdict on which phone you should have in your pocket. 

Design

The Pixel is made out of glass and metal, much like the Galaxy S7, but Google's take is rather different; here the glass covers only the top third of the phone's rear, rather than the entire back. This gives it quite a distinctive look, but it's still a magnet for fingerprints, so you'll need to clean it fairly regularly if you want it looking its best.

The Galaxy S7 is a fraction thinner than the Pixel, measuring 7.9mm thick as opposed to 8.5mm. Otherwise, it's pretty much exactly the same size: the S7 measures 142mm tall and 70mm wide, while the Pixel is 144mm tall and 70mm wide. That's pretty good going considering the S7 has a slightly larger 5.1in display. The Pixel, meanwhile, only has a 5in screen, so there's more wasted space on the front of the handset than there is on the S7. It's a minor point, but one worth mentioning.

Like the previous Nexus phones, the Pixel features a rear-facing fingerprint sensor for unlocking the phone and using Android Pay. The S7, meanwhile, has a front-facing fingerprint sensor integrated into the home button. This is arguably easier for making contactless payments and for unlocking your phone when it's lying on a table, but this is down to personal preference.

Samsung galaxy S7 camera

Display

As previously mentioned, the S7 has a 5.1in display and the Pixel only stretches to 5in. Samsung wins here, though, since its 2,560 x 1,440 resolution easily trumps the Pixel's 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. However, while the S7 may be sharper, they should both have equally good image quality, since both phones use an AMOLED panel rather than LCD.

AMOLED typically displays much richer, more vibrant colours than LCD, and its black levels are also far darker. This is because each individual pixel has its own backlight, allowing them to be turned off to create a perfect 0.00cd/m2 black level if needed. This also allows for higher levels of contrast than LCD, meaning text will pop out more and you'll see greater detail in shadowy images. I'll update this section with our colorimeter results as soon as I have them, but for now, I'm expecting image quality between the two phones to be nigh on identical.

Performance

The Pixel comes with Qualcomm's latest quad-core 2.15GHz Snapdragon 821 chip, the latest model in its Snapdragon 820 range. The S7, on the other hand, uses one of Samsung's own octa-core 2.3GHz Exynos 8890 chips. Both have 4GB of RAM.

While I've yet to see how much the Snapdragon 821 improves on its predecessor, there's still a sizable gap between the S7's Exynos 8890 benchmark results and those of the Snapdragon 820. As a result, unless the Snapdragon 821 delivers a significant boost in performance, the Pixel may end up being a fraction slower than the S7 in our benchmarks, but I'll have to wait and see how it feels in everyday use before I make a final call.

The Pixel will have a hard time trying to beat the S7 in the battery life stakes, too. For starters, it has a smaller battery than the S7, with only a 2,770mAh capacity rather than 3,000mAh. That doesn't necessarily mean it won't outlast the S7, but it remains on the back foot. Indeed, with a video playback score of 17hrs 48mins, the Pixel certainly has its work cut out.

Samsung galaxy S7 charge

Camera

Of course, the rear camera is a little more difficult to judge until I've actually taken some shots, but the Pixel's sensor is actually very similar to the one included in last year's Nexus 5X and 6P. It's a 12.3-megapixel unit with an f/2.0 aperture, phase detection and laser autofocus, as well as pixels that measure 1.55um – but this time Google has added advanced stabilisation features to shoot smoother video.

The S7, meanwhile, has a 12-megapixel sensor and a wider aperture of f/1.7, allowing more light to enter the lens. It also has 100% phase-detection autofocus, but its pixels are slightly smaller at 1.4um. That's still pretty large in the grand scheme of things, but it will be interesting to see whether its wider aperture will be able to offset the effects of having smaller pixels overall. Check back soon for a detailed picture analysis.

Storage

Google has decided to go with fixed amounts of storage this year, with the Pixel available in 32GB and 128GB configurations. The S7 is also available in multiple storage sizes – 32GB and 64GB – but you do get the added flexibility of adding a microSD card up to 256GB at a later date, making it more flexible overall.

Price

With fixed storage options on the Pixel, you'll need to think long and hard about which one you buy, as you'll then be stuck with that amount of storage for the rest of the phone's life cycle. With the 32GB version costing £599 SIM-free and the 128GB costing £699 SIM-free, though, anyone with large media collections will probably be better off opting for the 128GB model. The S7, meanwhile, is currently available for £549 SIM-free, making it the cheaper option of the two.

However, when both phones cost so much to buy outright, it's more likely that you'll be buying one of these on contract. Again, the S7 has the edge here: you can get one for £37-per-month with no upfront cost for a 1GB data plan. The Pixel, meanwhile, costs £47-per-month for the same plan, again with no upfront cost. You do get a £50 Google Play Store voucher if you pre-order the phone, however, which goes some way to offsetting its higher cost – but £50 off £1,128 (the total cost of ownership over two years) is hardly the same as paying £888 for the S7. Other contract deals are available, but right now, you'd have to pay quite a lot upfront for the Pixel to match the lower per-month prices of the S7.

Buy the Google Pixel now from the Google Store

Verdict

Of course, Samsung has had over six months for its prices to settle, so the Pixel too will no doubt fall in price in due course. However, by that point we'll be well on our way to the Galaxy S8, which may well end up outstripping the Pixel even further judging by the latest leaks and rumours. For now, though, the S7 is definitely the cheaper handset of the two, and – probably – the best value, too. I'll be able to give you a more definitive verdict once I've tested the Pixel in full. However, at present it doesn't look as though the S7 has much to worry about.

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