Pixel 4 XL Vs Galaxy Note 10 Pics: HDR, Portrait, Night Sight Shoot-Out

google pixel 4 xl vs samsung galaxy note 10 camera shoot out

Google recently launched its Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, which are its two newest flagship Android smartphones. The Pixel 4 family brings a number of new features to the table including 90Hz displays, Face Unlock, and radar-driven motion/gesture sensing tech, but one of the most talked about features of any Google Pixel phone to date is its namesake, the camera. Or in the case of the Pixel 4, its cameras, plural.

While our full review of the Pixel 4 XL will be forthcoming shortly, we thought that we'd give you a brief preview of what this new high-end smartphone has to offer with its new cameras. For the first time ever, the Pixel is offering two rear cameras: a 12.2MP primary sensor with an f/1.7 aperture and 77-degree field of view and a 16MP telephoto sensor with an f/2.4 aperture and 52-degree field of view. That all sounds like fancy, cutting-edge technology, but how does the Pixel 4/Pixel 4 XL perform versus other flagship devices, when you just flip it out of your pocket for some auto mode shooting by day and in Night Sight shooting in low light settings?

Below are a few shots that we took with the Pixel 4 XL compared to Samsung's current top flagship smartphone, the Galaxy Note 10+. In all cases auto mode shooting with auto HDR settings were enabled and for most, except for a couple of 16:9 captures, standard full resolution was enabled...

New England Leaf Peeping With The Google Pixel 4 XL And Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

fall foliage pixel 4
Google Pixel 4 XL
fall foliage note 10
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

In our first comparison, it looks to our eyes like the Pixel 4 XL's colors are a more accurate representation of real life in some (not all) areas, even if it looks a bit darker/underexposed. The Galaxy Note 10+ has more vibrant colors, however (notice how blue the sky looks). That said the color shift results in white halo artifacting around the leaves and branches of the trees. Conversely, the Google Pixel 4 XL failed to capture the lush, contrasting green in some of the top tree areas, as well as the bright reds of the bush in the lower foreground of the shot. It all comes down to personal preference really.  You decide. Our team was mixed in terms of which was the better shot here.  

Pixel 4 XL Vs Galaxy Note 10+ Portrait Mode Shooting Comparison

Pixel 4 portrait flowers galaxy note 10 plus portrait flowers
(Left) Pixel 4 XL - (Right) Galaxy Note 10+
yogi portrait pixel 4 yogi portrait note 10
(Left) Pixel 4 XL - (Right) Galaxy Note 10+
hanging flowers pixel 4 portrait hanging flowers note 10 portrait
(Left) Pixel 4 XL - (Right) Galaxy Note 10+

In the top picture, again, the Pixel 4 XL seems to be rendering more accurate colors, while the Galaxy Note 10+ image tends to "pop" a bit more. Notice the yellow flowers in particular to the left and right of the arrangement in the Galaxy Note 10+ photo; it's pushing more white than yellow and looks over-exposed. Meanwhile, the Pixel 4 XL tends to be slightly under-exposed in spots, but has decidedly more crisp rendering of the subject image along with decent background bokeh. The Galaxy Note 10+, however, struggles to render the arrangement artifact-free in areas, with one of the stems of a flower getting blurred into the background.

Outside, it's a tough call between the two devices, and unfortunately Yogi, Jack Russell extraordinaire, wouldn't stay completely still for his photo session either. We'd give the nod to the Galaxy Note 10+ by a hair in Yogi's cameo, with slightly better color balance over the Pixel 4 XL and every bit as much detail for his fur, with smooth transition to background blur. In the hanging flower basket shot, however, the Pixel 4 XL gets an edge with better detail in general and richer color rendering.

Neither the Pixel 4 XL nor the Galaxy Note 10+ appear to provide a completely convincing representation of bokeh, that's prominent in true DSLR camera shooting, with some poorly defined edges in some cases along the stems in both images. Regardless, both phones deliver quality that's close enough for most mainstream consumers, though we'd give the overall hat tip here to the Google Pixel 4 XL in this comparison.

Indoor Shots, Mixed Lighting Comparison

statue by window clock pixel 4 statue by window clock note 10
(Left) Pixel 4 XL - (Right) Galaxy Note 10+
yogi dog on stairs pixel 4
Google Pixel 4 XL
yogi dog on stairs note 10
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

In the St. Michael the Arch Angel statue shot, we're seeing more of Samsung's overly aggressive sharpening algorithms muddying details (take particular note of the detail on the serpent). The Pixel 4 XL to our eyes produces a cleaner shot, but as has been the case with these photos, it underexposes yet again with slightly muted colors, while Samsung's rendering is just a bit too vibrant and warm.

In the stairs shot with Yogi, the Note 10 captures his fur color better than the Pixel, with brighter whites as well. Contrary to most times, he was actually cleaner than the Pixel 4 XL renders him, the day these shots were taken. With respect to his brown fur areas, the bright orange hue that's rendered looks a bit unnatural for the Note 10+, to our eyes. Overall, the image -- again -- looks a bit darker than we'd like on the Pixel 4 XL, compared to the Galaxy Note 10+. The upside, however, is that the fur detail and overall detail in the images appears to be crisper. The Pixel 4 gets the nod again, when it comes to detail but somewhere in between the two, when it comes to lighting and color, is probably the happiest medium.

Pixel 4 XL Night Sight Vs. Galaxy Note 10+ Night Mode Shooting

Google Pixel 4 XL Night Sight Shot
Google Pixel 4 XL
galaxy note 10 night shot
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

Our final battleground is the all-important low light night mode shot, or Night Sight, in Google Pixel speak. Unfortunately we didn't have a starry night to capture with Google's new Pixel 4 Astrophotography feature. However, we did have access to some nice lake front property with an overcast, heavy mist setting and some excellent ambient light bleeding through from a nearby industrial park and street lights. 

The first thing that's obvious is that the Pixel 4 XL captures a significantly quieter scene with less noise over all. In addition, the deep purple hues of the night sky do look more natural here in the Pixel rendering. In addition, the trees tend to be better detailed, but to be fair, lighting may have been slightly different with car traffic in that area, lighting up the street randomly. Water reflections also look better in the Pixel 4 XL's shot, with better color vibrancy. Oddly enough this time, it's the Pixel 4 XL that captures better color detail and balance, versus the Galaxy Note 10+'s slightly more muted rendering. 

Finally, the biggest take-away for us here with this comparison, is how dramatically different each phone renders final output of images. Samsung's Galaxy Note 10 goes flat-out for color and pop with less regard for accuracy, sometimes to a fault, whereas the Google Pixel 4 XL is sometimes too conservative in an effort to render accurately it seems.

Regardless, whichever way you lean in this shoot-out, there's little question that smartphone photography has come a long way. Both of these top-end Android phones can snap great still imagery. The moments and memories you can capture with a simple tap of your pocket-sized supercomputer can be amazingly vibrant and detailed with some of the latest technologies available. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as we've recalled so many times in these comparisons, however. So, whatever works for you is, well, whatever works for you. Stay tuned for our full Google Pixel 4 XL review in the days ahead.