Samsung Galaxy S8 vs LG G6: the weigh-in

The season's most promising flagships enter the ring

It's been a while since Samsung and LG seemed like even competitors on the biggest stage.

The LG G3 ruled for a while, but then Samsung's Galaxy S6 dominated the slightly uninspiring LG G4, and last year's Galaxy S7 impressed more than the modular experiment that was the G5.

But now, with the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6, this feels like a fight that could truly go either way.

Both pack taller-than-usual, HDR-capable displays on bezel-light faces, and otherwise load in a lot of top-of-the-line tech to delight and entice potential buyers. And neither is out just yet, although we've had hands-on time with both devices at this point.

Plotting a top-end Android purchase in the near future? Here's how the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6 compare based on specs and our initial impressions.

Design: Hard to choose

The most exciting thing about the LG G6, at least conceptually, is that it ditches the modular approach of the G5. While that was an interesting twist, the concept of add-on accessories didn't really catch on, and wasn't worth the expense or trade-offs.

Luckily, the G6 is much more than just a unibody G5. This glass-and-metal slab is a beauty of top-end flagship design, and it all starts with the front, which plasters the stunning screen across more than 85% of the phone's face. You still get slim bezels on the sides and slight larger ones on the top and bottom, but the G6 is an eye-catcher for sure. And it's a flat screen, in case you're not swayed by curves.

The Galaxy S8, on the other hand, is all about those curves. It likewise puts a tall screen all over the front of the phone, with no bezel seen on the curved sides, and very little on the top and bottom. The way the screen blends into the curved bezel is really seamless and attractive.

Both look absolutely brilliant, and if you put it to an office poll, we'd probably give you a split decision between the two. Do you prefer a curved screen or a flat one? Otherwise, it's hard to lose with either. These are fabulous-looking flagships.

Screen: Extra tall

Flagship screen sizes have pushed the width boundaries about as far as they can go before feeling deeply uncomfortable and unmanageable – so both the Galaxy S8 and LG G6 have avoided the issue by pushing height instead.

Both devices ditch the long-standard 16:9 aspect ratio, with the G6 using an 18:9 screen at 5.7in (2,880 x 1,440) and the Galaxy S8 going for 18.5:9 for its 5.8in panel (2,960 x 1,440). By going taller, both phones give you more screen real estate without stretching your one-handed grip, and both are actually narrower than their predecessors – the S8 being compared to the Galaxy S7 Edge in this case.

There's a fair bit more in common between these displays: both are super-crisp Quad HD stunners, and both have mobile HDR capabilities, offering stronger contrast between light and dark colours. With compatible content, such as Netflix original series like Luke Cage and Stranger Things, you'll really see a difference – well, once the Netflix app is updated, at least.

Both also have rounded edges, which is a neat trick. But while Samsung's screen is another AMOLED panel, LG has stuck with its Quantum IPS LCD for the G6. You won't get the deeper blacks of an OLED screen on an LCD, but it's quite bright and has great viewing angles.

Camera: Single or double

Last year, we gave the Galaxy S7 a slight advantage over the LG G5 when it came to camera performance.

It's an all-new battle this time around, however, and both handsets are packing improvements. The Galaxy S8 largely sticks with what worked last time around, hardware-wise, with another 12-megapixel main camera with f/1.7 aperture. However, it uses more image processing tricks: the S8 snaps three photos every time you hit the shutter button, then tosses in noise reduction, pixel binning, sharpening, and shake reduction to reduce blur.

Meanwhile, the LG G6 keeps the dual-back-camera approach from last year, but changes the components. Instead of having mismatched megapixel counts, both are 13MP sensors, with one at 71° and the other a 125° wide-angle lens.

We've spent more time with the G6 so far and found it to be faster than the LG G5 with locking onto subjects and adjusting exposure, albeit a bit slower than the Google Pixel. You'll get great results with good lighting, but expectedly less so with low light, with plenty of noise visible – especially since the wide-angle lens doesn't have optical image stabilisation.

In fact, in our LG G6 review-in-progress, we said the Galaxy S7 Edge still produces slightly better results than the new G6, according to our reviewer's eyes and analysis. So if the Galaxy S8 ends up being even better than its predecessor, then it should likewise be even more of an improvement over the LG G6. We'll find out for sure once we have a Galaxy S8 review sample in hand.

Performance: Plenty of power

When it comes to raw power, the Galaxy S8 should have the edge here.

The LG G6, announced a few weeks beforehand, relies on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 system-on-a-chip, which most of us first encountered with the Google Pixel last autumn. It's super fast, offering a slight advantage over the previous 820 chip, and the 4GB RAM within is plenty for multitasking. We've been extensively hands-on with the G6 and it's certainly speedy.

However, Samsung is going for its new Exynos 8895 chip in the UK, or the next-level Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 in some regions. In both cases, you'll get a chip made with the 10-nanometer process, which allows for more parts crammed into the same space, while the Snapdragon 821 uses the old 14nm process. It's a more powerful, more efficient chip in both cases, and should win out in any benchmark comparison.

Will you notice the difference? We'd be surprised, to be honest. Chips this powerful can handle anything your apps, games, and media can throw at them, and the G6 already feels like one of the fastest phones we've ever used. It's hard to believe there will be a noticeable difference in everyday usage with the Galaxy S8, unless Samsung and LG's skins atop Android 7 Nougat throw a wrench into things.

Battery and perks: Galaxy of benefits

Samsung stuck to its guns with the Galaxy S8's battery, using the same 3,000mAh size from the flat Galaxy S7 – but not the larger 3,600mAh battery from the Galaxy S8 Edge. Meanwhile, the LG G6 goes 10% higher with 3,300mAh.

We'll have to see if it makes much a difference, but we know from initial testing that the G6 will only give you a solid day with regular usage – not more. Also, the G6 won't have wireless charging outside the United States, although it does have FastCharge 3.0 via USB-C. The Galaxy S8 has both wireless and fast charging, however.

You'll get 64GB starting storage on the LG G6 and 64GB on the Galaxy S8 – and both take microSD cards to amplify that tally, thankfully. Both devices are also IP68 water and dust resistant, too.

But the Galaxy S8 brings some added perks to the table. It has VR support via a new Gear VR model, which fits the new form factor and comes with a touch remote. It also has iris scanning that has been improved since first appearing on the recalled Galaxy Note 7.

And you can also grab the DeX Station, a phone dock that can connect to an external screen – up to 4K resolution – to give you a desktop PC-like experience. You'll be able to use desktop-optimized versions of apps, like Microsoft Word, and even plug in a mouse and keyboard. It'll cost you, of course, but that could be a really useful perk for anyone whose smartphone is their primary device these days.

Initial verdict: Tough call

We'll have to give both phones a thorough testing through our review process, but for now, it's easy to see how either of these phones could be the first true flagship champion of 2017.

Both handsets impress with fabulous, extra-large, HDR-capable displays and minimal bezels. Both pack a powerful punch and will surely take brilliant shots. And both, well, cost a lot of money – but you're getting some top-end tech here.

It's bound to come down to the details, which we can't assume from specs and a hands-on. But we are equally excited about both of these Androids, and we'll loop back with a finalized verdict once both are run through our gauntlet. Be sure to check back.