In Depth

Google Pixel vs Samsung Galaxy S7: Best Android phone 2016

How does Google's new Pixel weigh up against 2016's top Android phone?

Since its launch in March, the Samsung Galaxy S7 has cemented itself as one of – if not the best – Android smartphones on the market, thanks to its impressive build, power and gorgeous display. It's been a serious hit with the critics, too, and is the default Android challenger to the iPhone 7.

This year the Galaxy S7 faces a brand new competitor, straight from the makers of Android. Called the Pixel, it's Google's attempt to bring a flagship smartphone to market, fully branded by the search engine giant.

It's an effort showcase just how good Android can be, but is the Pixel good enough to beat the Galaxy S7? And if you're in the market for an Android device, which one should you buy?

Here's everything you need to know:  

Design

Design is a subjective matter, but these are two different looking devices. The Galaxy S7 uses the same distinctive design cues as Galaxy phones before it, with its pill-shaped home button, slightly curved edges and square centrally-mounted camera hardware around the back.

The Pixel is Google's iPhone competitor and the firm has created a phone quite similar in appearance to Apple's device. The key difference is that the round fingerprint scanner is fitted to the back of the device on a glass panel. It's ever so slightly taller than the Samsung, but slightly thinner at 7.3mm to the Galaxy's 7.9mm thickness. It's also a little bit lighter. 

Samsung's design is a bit more practical thanks to IP68 certified water and dustproofing – it can be submerged in water at a depth of up to 1.5 metres for half an hour. The Pixel's IP53 rating means that taking Google's phone for a splash really isn't advised.

Display

The Galaxy S7 has had praise heaped on its display – Know Your Mobile says "the data doesn't lie – Samsung's Super AMOLED tech present on this handset is empirically the best display tech on the market".

It's a 5.1ins screen with a Quad HD resolution that's pin sharp thanks to a pixel density of 577 pixels per inch. It's also one of the brightest displays on the market, with the most accurate colour gamut and contrast, and the lowest reflectance you can buy.

The Pixel's display is slightly smaller at exactly 5ins and while it is also an AMOLED display, it's not quite up to the resolution you'll find on the Galaxy. The Pixel's screen is Full 1080p HD and it doesn't have handy features like the "Always on" screen you'll find on its Samsung rival.

Both phones are available as Phablets with bigger screens and here there's parity – both the Galaxy S7 Edge and Pixel XL use 5.5ins displays with Quad HD resolution, though the Samsung phablet has a display that's curved at the edges – a nice design touch.

Camera

These are two smartphones promising serious photographic performance. Both make use of 12 megapixel main cameras with a flurry of extra features such as optical image stabilisation and HDR photography.

Android Central has pitched the two phones head to head, comparing how they perform in different settings. The site says that the Galaxy S7 tends to take warmer photographs with more saturated colours, while the Pixel's shots are cooler and a bit more natural looking.

The Pixel's camera takes slightly sharper shots, but you can't really tell the two apart unless you really zoom in on a photo. Darker shots allow the Pixel to excel, but overall both have fantastic cameras – you can't go wrong with either of them, says the site. 

Hardware

In the UK the Galaxy S7 is equipped with an Exynos 8890 chipset mated to 4GB RAM, while the US version of the phone gets the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820.

The Pixel, by comparison, gets the latest Qualcomm processor – the Snapdragon 821, which is also mated to 4GB RAM. Qualcomm says that the new chipset is 10 per cent quicker than the older one, though thorough benchmarking evaluations to prove how it performs in the Pixel have yet to emerge. 

In terms of battery life, the Galaxy S7's cell is slightly larger – 3,000mAh to the Pixel's 2,770mAh pack. Both are charged primarily via USB-C ports with fast charge capabilities, meaning you can top the Galaxy up by 60 per cent in half an hour, or alternatively the Pixel can take on board seven hours of charge in just 15 minutes. Google's phone does not support wireless charging, though.

In terms of storage options, Samsung offers its phone with either 32GB or 64GB on-board storage, though it is Micro SD card friendly so you can expand it. The Pixel also starts with a 32GB option, but is not Mirco SD card compatible. Instead, there's a 128GB option at the top of the range.

Software

While these are both Android phones, the differences between the two in terms of software are actually quite big. Google's Pixel phone comes with Android Nougat 7.1 out of the box, complete with Google Assistant, while the Galaxy S7 still uses Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow in Samsung's Touch Wiz skin. 

Eventually, the Samsung phone will get the same operating system as the Pixel, but if you'd prefer to be first in line for Android updates the Pixel will be the phone to go for.

The Pixel is also the first Daydream VR compatible handset – Google's second generation virtual reality platform, which is a direct rival for Samsung's Gear VR.

Price

Samsung's phone has been on the market for several months now, while the Pixel is as fresh as can be. This is reflected in how much the two phones cost.

The Galaxy S7 is officially priced at £569.99, but it's available for a lot less if you shop around – some mobile phone retailers have the handset SIM free for less than £500 now.

Google has gone toe to toe with Apple with its new device, matching the iPhone 7 on price. The basic Pixel will cost you £599.

Verdict

Trusted Reviews calls 2016's big Android battle a stalemate. The Galaxy S7 is without doubt a "big hitter" and you won't be disappointed with it, but the Pixel is fresher, with new hardware, software and a svelte iPhone-like design. Summing up, the site says "you'll be happy with either handset".

Know Your Mobile has a winner – the Pixel. The site calls the bout in Google's favour not necessarily because it's the better overall phone, but because it's the purest Android experience you can buy. If you're buying for the Android operating system first and foremost, the lack of bloatware and being first in the queue for software updates will be a big deal.

Stuff sees it differently though, and reckons that the Galaxy S7 is the clear choice. The site says that you get a lot more bang for your buck with the Samsung made phone, given that it's cheaper and comes with a better display, wireless charging and Micro SD card support. In terms of camera hardware and performance, it's too close to call, so these additional perks and the smaller price tag make the Galaxy S7 their winner.

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