Smartphone cameras have taken a dramatic leap over the last decade. Lenses have multiple features and 2020 has even brought us phones that can film at a higher resolution than the cameras used for shooting professional videos. But the capability isn’t everything.
There are lots of technical reasons why people choose to film professional videos with a regular camera and not with a smartphone regardless of its capabilities and yet think about it, today we have Ultra smartphones with periscopic zoom lenses and megapixel counts that exceed the hundreds and obviously a price tag to match and yet if you think about it, how much of that really matters to you? what if there was another smartphone that didn’t cost so much that brings all those numbers and was yet capable of achieving almost that same premise.
This is the Galaxy S20 ultra, the smartphone that Samsung claims is bold enough to change photography.
On the other hand there is the pixel 4 XL which we know is the successor to the phone that actually did change photography with a completely different approach so $1399 for the galaxy S20 ultra and $899 for the google pixel 4 XL.
Sure I know that you can find lots of deals right now but the price difference is relative. If you look at it you could still buy a Google pixel 3a for the price difference in between.
So the question is
Which one of these phones is actually better
Are you really getting more of a phone with the Galaxy S20 ultra?
These two companies have been in charge of major milestones. For me, the Samsung Galaxy S6 was the first Android phone to take smartphone photography seriously and every single pixel that we’ve known has been amazing when it comes to photography and yet the approaches remain the same if you think about it.
The S20 ultra believes that great hardware is what it needs. Sure there is a six-month gap between each of these phones so of course this could be an unfair comparison, but I believe it’s not.
For Google specs have always been secondary they have always provided the best camera and also the best Android experience to a certain degree and the biggest question is if Samsung can change that through software and hardware at the same time.
From a design perspective this is a tough one. It feels like if each phone went into this weird competition over the crown for a polarizing design. The pixel was the least appealing phone of 2019 in my opinion but the galaxy makes me think twice.
See, the pixel color options make it more effective at fingerprint suppression and the black and orange accents make it a bit more appealing. Samsung sadly picked the dullest and smudge friendly colors it could find and then slap this phone with a camera hump that only a few people could love and make sure you strap the Galaxy on a case to balance it. Even if it’s technically more durable than the pixel with Gorilla Glass 6 versus 5. Also the powder coating on the pixel’s aluminum might look good in matte but I don’t think it’ll do a better job than the galaxy’s polished aluminum.
Look at the spec sheet. Six months of a difference means the galaxy is two generations ahead in the processor department, has double the RAM, starts to double the storage which is also faster and it supports expandability which the pixel doesn’t have.25% more battery, double the charging speeds (both wired and wireless), offers fast wireless power share and supporting every version of 5g known to man, the ultra takes on its name well at being the extreme of everything modern hardware can offer while the pixel has even been lagging behind certain 2019 models. And the trend continues when you look at the front.
See on a phone the display is most of its story and this is where Samsung again is king. Its panel is 10 percent larger. Though you have to keep the taller aspect ratio in mind still it offers 15% more surface area. Then it’s the more futuristic approach by Samsung as removing bezels gives it nearly 10 percent more screen to body ratio. Both are capable of quad-HD plus resolution but Samsung’s dynamic AMOLED is also more advanced than Google given its added brightness, additional blue color reduction, and HDR 10 plus support at full HD plus. It can also give you refresh rates up to 120 Hertz which is more noticeable than Google’s variable 90Hertz at quad HD plus. About the only thing I prefer on the pixel is it’s more useful dynamic always-on display and then if content consumption is your thing I’d say that I prefer the added symmetry on the galaxy’s display. Talking about content consumption I would prefer the speakers on the pixel than that of the S20 Ultra. Now to make matters more interesting Samsung’s Infiniti o approach looks like something from 2020 while the pixels top hood more like a play from five years ago. Google’s edition of radar and other more secure facial recognition tricks has its benefits at a time when face ideas are more ubiquitous. It’s now updated to only work when your eyes are open and I love how notifications are only shown when your Face is detected. Its major problem is, well you still can’t use it as supported by a metric for bank applications six months later. Those radar hand gestures don’t work outside the United States and right now if you’re wearing a face mask obviously it completely defeats the purpose.
The galaxy does have facial recognition though I wouldn’t call it secure, but you also get the option for more traditional and secure ultrasonic fingerprint scanner under the display which banks do support if only you could also hide notifications in the process. Let’s continue talking about software I’ve been an eternal advocate for the way Samsung does things but this is going to be an exception and the reason is that I’ve been waiting for a major camera update to reach this phone that some people already have and for some reason, I still don’t.
Google customers don’t have to worry about that, this phone already has two
milestone updates and this phone is barely a couple of months old now for everything other than software updates I do prefer having a phone that does more. I like how game launcher Tunes all this hardware to run at its best when I play a game , and the extra RAM also allows you to keep apps running permanently. These are all things that for me are genuinely useful. The pixel by contrast has bare-bones as it gets and sometimes people just do need a phone that’s both simple and practical.
I will definitely take the Google assistance any day over Bixby and then it’s squeeze to launch feature is just as useful as having the entire Google feed when I swipe to the left and then stupid little things like having the lock screen detect the song that’s playing in the background. But I’ll admit that I am disappointed that Google started removing perks like unlimited storage for photos at full quality on a phone. The reason why software updates matter is because the pixel did not start off as being a good phone .In case of battery life it was okay barely ended the day, and now I can trust this phone to end the day just fine after a couple of updates ,where as the s20 ultra may not be a 2-day phone but it will fully last a day and have enough juice to start the next day just fine .When it comes to phone calls even if the pixel has a more exposed earpiece the audio quality on both devices is just as great and the listeners claimed that the audio was crisp on there end regardless of which device used.
The galaxy wins the hardware and the software is more of a tie in a matter of taste and really the tiebreaker lies in the camera.
The galaxy behaves more like a real camera which has its pros and cons as it
brings along the added complexity that makes the smartphone auto mode approach more enticing to consumers in which the pixel owns best asks for pros well the galaxy starts winning because it simply has more cameras much larger sensors and more megapixels on each focal length versus the pixel and sure both companies do computational photography but Google has been doing it for a lot longer. Samsung has the advantage of a more epic ultra wide which the pixel lacks,though photos are toe-to-toe on the standard cameras during the day but then here’s the thing. Once you start zooming into subjects it doesn’t matter how much software Google brings , the galaxy provides usable photos up to 10x zoom while the pixel is already soft at its max which is 8 X. This is actually more noticeable in low-light where the galaxy brings its night mode to all focal lengths.
Well the galaxy keeps fighting grain and bringing some more detail but then if we talk about the cons obviously a larger sensor will always be better but I wonder why Samsung decided to kill variable aperture as is this is the phone that needed it. See the natural bokeh can be cool but the closer you get to a subject the more out of focus it is going to be while the pixel doesn’t struggle with this now. I did think I’d prefer portraits from the pixel but I find them to be comparable.
What’s really more surprising to me are the selfies once again because there’s just so much data being pulled by this galaxy. Skin tones seem more natural , portraits are more balanced and better separated but then if you want to look at a real shocker the night selfies both phones supported a night mode from the selfie camera and yet the galaxy just beats the pants out of the pixel in detail, color balance, dynamic range and skin
Now you know what’s funny? A department where I thought the galaxy
would win was video and it does but mainly because of its capabilities and not the execution. The ultra is capable of 8k video which the pixel can’t match.
But if 4k is any indication, and the software update doesn’t come soon enough the pixel does a slight better job in stabilization and then just owns autofocus with the galaxy remaining locked for no reason whatsoever and then fumbling as you get closer to subjects probably what I like the most about the galaxy is its ability to switch focal links as you film and then the ability to record 4k at 60 versus 4k at 30 in addition to how it allows you to switch between cameras while recording because yes you do also get 4k at 60 from the front-facing camera along with some very good dynamic range and stabilization, while the pixel is sadly still stuck at 1080p at 30.
To conclude I have to say comparisons continue getting harder and more interesting as companies try to blur the lines of competition where they come up with ingenious in solutions to bring consumers what they want. Where Samsung knows hardware better than most companies Google knows software better than most companies but then we reach a point where doesn’t matter how good your software is you really just can’t beat physics in that sense the galaxy S20 Ultra owns hardware and there’s a tie in software and then the camera experience is also owned by the galaxy even before the software update that is yet to come. If it were my money I would definitely pick the more future proof and capable device but I think this comparison is surf to prove how Google
can compete so well with very little hardware mostly on the code bench. I feel that if you were to pick the Google pixel 4 XL you’re not getting any compromise and you still have enough money left to buy that second smartphone or SmartWatch or tablet that you’ve always wanted.
Let us know which device would you pick in the comments down below.