Google Pixel 2 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Which is best?

Does Google's refreshed flagship take down Samsung's world-beater?

Samsung's Galaxy S8 has been our favourite smartphone in the world since its release this past spring, successfully fending off attacks from the compelling OnePlus 5, Apple iPhone 8 Plus, and HTC U11.

But what about the Google Pixel 2? Last year's Pixel debut was mostly strong, particularly its brilliant camera, but the overall package underwhelmed a bit for its high price when compared to other top-tier options.

And the Pixel 2… well, the standard-sized Pixel 2 looks a lot like the original version, but it packs in some tweaks and enhancements. Is it enough to usurp the flagship king? Here's a look at how this comparison stacks up, now that we've properly reviewed the Pixel 2.

Design: The bezels are back

Google's larger Pixel 2 XL offers a refined look that's built to battle against the Galaxy S8, iPhone X, LG G6, and other screen-dominant phones… but the standard Pixel 2 isn't like that.

In fact, it's a lot like last year's phone at a glance: very iPhone-esque with a lot of bezel around the screen. Somehow, it looks like there's even more bezel here than last year, although that might just be our shifted perceptions after seeing other new flagships chip away at all of that empty space. On the plus side, you do get some very nice stereo speakers on the front.

The back looks a lot nicer than before, with the two-tone effect refined to an impressive degree, plus there's a textured coating on the bottom that helps you grip the phone and adds a premium flourish. Overall, though, it's a pretty safe and familiar upgrade.

Compare that to the Galaxy S8, still the most stylish handset on the market today. The front home button has been banished in favour of a nearly all-screen front, as the Infinity Display covers 85% of the curved face. You get a little bezel on the top and bottom, but it really fades away when you're staring at that huge, beautiful screen. This one's all Samsung.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Screen: Same lopsided comparison

This category is another easy win for Samsung.

Google has seemingly stuck with what was pretty good the last time around: a bright and colourful 5in AMOLED panel, albeit at just 1080p resolution. It adds the benefit of always-on capabilities this time around, and overall, it's a very solid display.

But Samsung has the best of the bunch here. The Galaxy S8 has the loveliest smartphone screen we've ever used, with its extra-tall 5.8in AMOLED display running at an ultra-crisp Quad HD resolution and featuring incredible contrast, stark blacks, and even mobile HDR for supported content.

It's a beauty. The Pixel 2's screen is fine, and better than some (like the Apple iPhone 8 and Huawei P10) – but the Galaxy S8 just takes things to a whole 'nother level.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Camera: Pixel packs a punch

When we put photos from the world's best smartphone cameras up to a blind vote this summer, our dear readers picked the Google Pixel XL as the top shooter of the bunch. And then we picked it second behind the HTC U11 in our own analysis.

Anyway, the key takeway here: the Pixel XL beat the Galaxy S8 in both contests. And unsurprisingly, the Pixel 2 widens the gap even further.

The Galaxy S8 has a great camera, too – but in our own vote, the Pixel XL came out ahead in categories such as landscape shots, HDR shooting, and low-light shots with flash enabled. Samsung won on selfies and macro shots, at least, and the 12-megapixel back camera is an excellent everyday shooter. But the last Pixel just took slightly better images on a consistent basis across the spectrum.

The Pixel 2 takes several shots with each shutter snap and stitches them together with Google's clearly brilliant algorithms, turning out one final, oft-incredible shot (the Galaxy S8 does something similar, too). You'll get a 12.2MP snapper here with optical and electronic image stabilisation, plus both phase-detect and laser-assisted autofocus, as well as auto HDR.

And the results? Well, alongside the Pixel 2 XL, we're calling it the best smartphone camera in the world. It's that impressive. You'll get incredibly detailed photos, surprisingly crisp portrait-style shots (despite the single back sensor), rich colours, and consistently lifelike results - better than we've seen on any other handset.

So yes, it takes this category. But the Galaxy S8's camera is pretty good too. Just not Pixel 2-quality.

Winner: Google Pixel 2