The Pixel 8 Pro is my personal favorite Android smartphone right now, and for good reason. It combines solid performance, fantastic cameras, and an excellent display in one package. But it isn’t the only stellar Android phone on the market: Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra is undoubtedly one of the best flagship Android 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 might both be flagship devices, but they feature several different pieces of hardware. Where Google offers its new Tensor G3 chip, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is paired with a high-end Qualcomm chip, or Samsung’s Exynos chip if you live outside the U.S.
Pixel 8 Pro specs:
Display: 6.7-inch Super Actua panel, 1344 x 2992 resolution, 120Hz, Up to 1600 nits (high brightness mode) 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 specs:
Display: 6.8-inch Edge Quad HD+ panel, 3088 x 1440 resolution, 120Hz, Up to 1200 nits (high brightness mode) 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 be mistaking one of these phones for the other. The Pixel 8 Pro offers slick, rounded corners that feel good in your hands. The Galaxy S23 Ultra, on the other hand, has a blockier design that still features rounded corners but feels and looks more like a rectangle than the Pixel 8 Pro.
Both smartphones have great looking designs, though, and have plenty of weight and width for a premium device. Both devices also feature a USB-C charger on the bottom, as well as bottom-mounted speakers. Aesthetically, I’m more of a fan of the Pixel 8 Pro’s design, though 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 help to highlight the friendly, easy-to-hold design.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra continues to build off Samsung’s tried-and-true design as well, with clicky buttons and an exceptional display. Since you’re going to spend so much time looking at the panel, having a great display that doesn’t clash with your phone’s design is important, and both fit the bill here.
The backs of the phones presents one of the biggest differences. The Galaxy S23 Ultra sports a side-mounted camera array, while the Pixel 8 Pro’s camera array is stretched across the back of the phone in a horizontal design. Both look good, and create a bit of lift on the back of the phone, making it hard for either of them to sit flush against tabletop surfaces. But a case solves that problem.
The displays on both devices are also fantastic, and while the Galaxy S23 Ultra offers a higher resolution, both OLED panels deliver great contrast through bright, vivid colors and dark blacks. When set side-by-side though, the S23 Ultra comes out on top as the more colorful and contrasted 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 Galaxy S23 Ultra are powerful and fun to use, though ultimately the software you prefer is probably going to play a part in which one you select.
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 a ton of performance and great features—most notably, the slew of AI features Google has baked right into the chip. As usual, the Pixel 8 Pro is running a clean, stock version of the latest Android OS (in this instance, Android 14), so you can experience Android in its purest form, without a ton of bloatware slowing things down.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra, on the other hand, is running the latest version of Android 14, but with Samsung’s One UI overlaid on top of it. That means a little bit of bloatware is present on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, though much 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, though the Qualcomm Snapdragon chip inside the S23 Ultra offers a bit more oomph when compared side-by-side with the Pixel 8 Pro’s Google Tensor G3.
When 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, where the Pixel 8 Pro scored 4442, and the Galaxy S23 Ultra scored 4998. This suggests 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.
However, raw power isn’t everything. Samsung hasn’t leaned into the AI world as much as Google has, which means you’re losing out on a lot of the AI functionality that helps deliver better multitasking and valuable features across the Pixel 8 Pro. Some of those AI features include small things—like the option to create wallpapers using generative AI—to the larger features that tie into the various systems of the phone—like being able to edit out unwanted sounds from videos and audio recordings—as well as Google’s previously released Magic Eraser function, which lets you edit objects and people out of photos completely.
Google has also made it possible to translate languages on the spot using the Pixel 8 Pro, and includes the ability to sift through incoming calls and only letting the people you want to talk to through. Some of these features have already been available on the Pixel 7 and earlier Google smartphones, but the Pixel 8 Pro’s updated chip allows it to process things much faster and more efficiently.
No matter which device you get, though, both the Pixel 8 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra are more than powerful enough to handle your day-to-day business, whether that’s messaging, browsing Instagram, or taking high-quality photos in your spare time.
Both the Pixel 8 Pro and the Galaxy S23 Ultra are equipped with top-of-the-line camera stacks. The Pixel lineup has always offered solid cameras, despite not always including the most expensive hardware to work with. But hardware isn’t what makes Pixel a renowned photography device: Much of that reputation comes down to the computational power and machine-learning that Google designs into its phones, and those systems continue to play a large part in how great the Pixel 8 Pro is at capturing photos.
The high-resolution cameras on the back of the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Pixel 8 Pro both capture excellent photos. However, the S23 Ultra can oversaturate the colors in photos, an issue that has plagued Samsung devices for years. If you want a more grounded and realistically colored photography experience, the Pixel 8 Pro takes better photos. 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 magnificently.
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 much detail thanks to its higher-quality main camera. Samsung also has a 10MP periscope telephoto lens here, which means far less blur when zooming in on distant objects. You can expect all the details of far away objects without having to give into grainy feedback or artifacting. 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 crisp as zoomed photos captured with the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s periscope lens.
While features and functions are great, none of that really means anything if your phone’s battery isn’t reliable. Luckily, 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.
Don’t let that slight capacity difference fool you, though. Depending on what you’re doing, these two phones can see wildly different limits to their battery life. The Galaxy S23 Ultra and Pixel 8 Pro both do really well when browsing and messaging, but I did notice 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-driven efficiency. Still, both the Pixel 8 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra have more than enough battery to last through the day, so long as you don’t spend seven hours gaming nonstop.
When it comes to charging, though, the two devices do offer different charging capabilities. 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 recharge times on both devices, though the Galaxy S23 Ultra will recharge slightly faster compared to the Pixel 8 Pro.
Choosing your next Android device
If you’re planning to get a new Android smartphone and want to get one of the best, then 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 numerous 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 that it deserves here.