Home Featured Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max, Galaxy S23 Ultra: Top-End Phones Compared

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max, Galaxy S23 Ultra: Top-End Phones Compared

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max, Galaxy S23 Ultra: Top-End Phones Compared

The Pixel 8 Pro is Google’s latest top-end phone, packing a new processor, a brighter display and better cameras than its predecessor. But it faces stiff competition from two other handsets that dominate the premium smartphone market: the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. How do they really compare?

The Pixel 8 Pro runs on the new Tensor G3 chipset, the third generation in a line of silicon Google has designed to augment its on-device AI processing. Tensor chipsets don’t seem to be quite as much of a performance powerhouse in benchmarks like Geekbench as the A17 Pro chip in the iPhone 15 Pro Max or the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip in the Galaxy S23 Ultra. We’ll have to wait until we can fully test the Pixel 8 Pro to see how it performs compared with the others.

But the Tensor chipset does enable many of the Pixel family’s neat media-editing tricks, like Magic Eraser for taking elements out of photos, Audio Magic Eraser for diminishing background noise, and Best Take for combining the best bits of a burst of photos. These are the flashiest software advantages the Pixel 8 Pro holds over the competition (among others), even though Magic Eraser is technically available for other phones through the Google Photos app.  

iPhone 15 Pro Max

Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The other big advantage the Pixel 8 Pro holds is a guarantee of seven years of Android operating system and security updates. That’s far more than Samsung phones like the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s four years of OS updates and five years of security updates. And Apple is unclear about how long phones will be supported — the just-released iOS 17 update, for instance, leaves behind the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, both released in 2017, so five years of OS updates is the low-end estimate for a new iPhone.

The Pixel 8 Pro’s rear camera hardware includes a 50-megapixel main shooter, a 48-megapixel ultrawide and a 48-megapixel telephoto capable of 5x optical zoom. On paper, those cameras will likely produce sharper photos than the 12-megapixel ultrawide and 12-megapixel telephoto cameras on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, though we’ll have to test to compare it to Apple’s unique “tetraprism” technology in its zoom camera (the iPhone’s 48-megapixel main camera may be roughly comparable to the Pixel 8 Pro’s main shooter).

As far as rear cameras go, the Pixel 8 Pro might face the biggest challenge from the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which has a 200-megapixel main camera. While it has only a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, Samsung’s top-of-the-line phone has two telephoto cameras: a 10-megapixel 3x optical zoom and a 10-megapixel 10x optical zoom, which is capable of up to 100x digital zoom. But with the phone’s starting cost of $1,200, those souped-up camera specs make sense considering the Pixel 8 Pro’s $1,000 starting price and the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s $1,100 price tag.

All three phones have pretty similar selfie cameras: the Pixel 8 Pro has a 10.5-megapixel selfie shooter, while the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Galaxy S23 Ultra both have 12-megapixel front-facing cameras.

Samsung Galaxy S23

Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Regarding design, the three phones have very different looks. The Pixel 8 Pro retains its predecessor’s wide horizontal camera block spanning the width of the phone. A metallic stripe wraps around the phone’s three rear cameras, with a flash and new temperature sensor on the right side (for checking food and, pending FDA approval, your own skin). The rest of the phone’s rear cover is a matte glass, and its sides are rounded.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max has its predecessor’s flat sides and square camera block, with lenses that are larger and stick out farther than those of previous iPhones. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is the physically largest of the bunch, though its design has tended toward minimalism, with just the five cameras popping out of the undecorated back cover (i.e. no big camera block), as well as rounded sides.

The Pixel 8 Pro’s 6.7-inch OLED display (3,120×1,440 pixels) is the same size as its predecessor’s, but it’s brighter, maxing out at 2,400 nits with a 1 to 120Hz refresh rate. It has a slightly sharper resolution than the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s 6.7-inch OLED (2,796x 1,290-pixel) screen, and it’s on par with the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 6.8-inch AMOLED (3,088×1,440-pixel) display (both Apple’s and Samsung’s phones have 120Hz adaptive refresh rates).

The phones are also pretty similar in terms of other hardware specs. The Pixel 8 Pro comes with 12GB of RAM and 128GB to 1TB of storage. Apple never specifies the amount of memory in its phones, though GSMArena says the iPhone 15 Pro Max has 8GB, and the phone comes with 256GB, 512GB or 1TB of storage. The Galaxy S23 Ultra starts with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, but it can also be configured for 12GB of RAM and 256GB, 512GB or 1TB of storage. None of the three has a slot for expandable storage, so you’ll have to store your extra files in the cloud or hook up an external SSD.

Similarly, Apple doesn’t disclose battery capacity on its phones, saying only that it gets up to 29 hours of video playback (in other words, it should last all day without needing to recharge). The Pixel 8 Pro has a 5,050mAh battery, while the Galaxy S23’s battery has a capacity of 5,000mAh.

In a first for Apple, the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a USB-C port instead of its Lightning connector and has 25 watts of wired charging as well as 15 watts of wireless charging. The Pixel 8 Pro has up to 30 watts of wired charging and 23 watts of wireless, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra has the fastest speed, with 45 watts of wired charging and 15 watts of wireless.

To see how else the Pixel 8 Pro stacks up against the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Galaxy S23 Ultra, we’ve placed each phone into this side-by-side comparison chart:

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Google Pixel 8 ProApple iPhone 15 Pro MaxSamsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Display size, tech, resolution, refresh rate, brightness 6.7-inch OLED; 3,120×1,440 pixels; 1-120Hz adaptive refresh rate6.7-inch OLED; 2,796×1,290 pixels; 120Hz adaptive refresh rate6.8-inch AMOLED; 3,088×1,440 pixels; 120Hz adaptive refresh rate
Pixel density 489 ppi460 ppi500 ppi
Dimensions (inches) 6.4x3x0.3 inches6.29×3.02×0.32 inches6.43×3.07×0.35 inches
Dimensions (millimeters) 162.6×76.5×8.8 millimeters159.9×76.7×8.25 millimeters163.3x78x8.9 millimeters
Weight (grams, ounces) 213 g (7.5 oz)221 g (7.81 oz)234 g (8.25 oz)
Mobile software Android 14iOS 17Android 13
Camera 50-megapixel (wide), 48-megapixel (ultrawide), 48-megapixel (telephoto)48-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (5x telephoto)200-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 10-megapixel (3x telephoto), 10-megapixel (10x telephoto)
Front-facing camera 10.5 megapixels12 megapixels12 megapixels
Video capture 4K4K8K
Processor Google Tensor G3A17 ProQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
RAM/storage 12GB RAM + 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB256GB, 512GB, 1TB (RAM undisclosed)8GB + 256GB; 12GB + 256GB; 12GB + 512GB; 12GB + 1TB
Expandable storage
Battery 5,050 mAhUndisclosed; Apple says up to 29 hours of video playback (25 hours streamed)5,000 mAh
Fingerprint sensor Under displayNone (Face ID)Under display
Headphone jack NoneNoneNone
Special features 5G (Sub 6 and mmWave); VPN by Google One; 7 years of OS, security and Feature Drop updates; front-facing camera has autofocus; 13W Qi wireless charging; 30W wired charging; USB-3.2 speeds via USB-C; IP68 dust and water resistance; Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on front and back5G (Sub6, mmWave), Action Button, Always-On display, IP68 water resistant, MagSafe, Dynamic Island, 5x optical zoom (120mm equivalent), satellite connectivity, eSIM, thread networking technology5G (Sub6, mmWave), IP68 water resistant, wireless PowerShare to charge other devices, integrated S Pen, 100x Space Zoom, 10x optical zoom, UWB for finding other devices, 45W wired charging
US price off-contract $999 (128GB)$1,199 (256GB)$1,200 (256GB)
UK price Converts to £825 (128GB)£1,199 (256GB)£1,249 (256GB)
Australia price Converts to AU$1,575 (128GB)AU$2,199 (256GB)AU$1,949 (256GB)

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