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Samsung Galaxy S8 vs. LG G6: Which one's the smarter buy?

Both the Galaxy S8 and G6 have big screens, water resistance and premium looks. But which one is the better way to go?

Sarah Tew/CNET
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Once again, Samsung and LG's rival phones come face to face. And once again, we're here to help you figure out which is best for you.

Both the Galaxy S8 and G6 are excellent high-end phones with slim bezels, waterproofing and the latest Android 7.0 software. And both companies are attempting to regain their footing after independent setbacks; Samsung from its Galaxy Note 7 recall nightmare and LG from the nonstarter that was the LG G5 and its handful of modular accessories.

Overall, the S8 has the sexier, stronger hardware, but does that really matter in the end? LG's G6 saves you money and offers a lot of the same features. To help you out, I evaluated how these devices stacked up in design, camera, performance, features and value.

Design: Eye-candy and durability

The S8 and G6 have plenty of design elements in common. Both are rated IP68 for water resistance and have barely-there bezels. However, the S8 has a slightly bigger display (5.8 inches compared to 5.7), and is physically lighter, narrower and thinner than the G6. It also fared better during our drop test. The S8's display uses Corning Gorilla Glass 5 and survived multiple drops from different heights. But the G6's screen is coated with Gorilla Glass 3 and during our drop tests, it cracked on the first try. Lastly, the S8's display has a higher pixel density, so it's a tad sharper (though you can't really discern this with your naked eye).

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A 3-foot drop on the sidewalk didn't crack the S8's display.

Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET


One thing that we absolutely hate about the S8, though, is its fingerprint reader, which is awkwardly located right next to the camera lens. I much prefer the G6's approach, which places a round target right underneath the camera lens.

Winner: The S8. While I detest the location of the S8's fingerprint sensor, the phone is sleeker and more beautiful than the G6.

Camera: Capturing beautiful pics and video

The G6 can take wide-angle shots from its front-facing camera and two rear cameras (one's got a wide-angle lens). This means you can fit more content in each frame, including more peeps for a group selfie. There's also a Square Camera app that edits neat square photos perfect for Instagram.

The S8 does not have two rear cameras (bucking the trend that Apple, LG and Huawei have all hopped on), but it has tons of features like Snapchat-like facial effects and a Portrait editing option that blurs the background.

As for photo quality, both phones take sharp and bright pictures. And while I was impressed by the G6's white balance and color accuracy for dimly lit photos, the S8 did a better job at lighting up the dark shots in general. The S8 also took more defined selfies, and I preferred the S8's deeper contrasts. (You can check out more of the G6's photo quality with the gallery below. And peruse the S8's camera gallery here.)

Winner: You'll certainly be satisfied with either phones' cameras, and the G6's wide-angle option can come in handy. But I was more impressed by the S8's photo quality.

Performance: Processor speeds and battery life

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Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 chipset (center) and the older 820 (left).

Qualcomm

Given its more advanced Snapdragon 835 chipset, the S8 tallied up higher scores on all three benchmarks I conducted against the G6 and its 821 chipset (you can see the Antutu, Geekbench and 3DMark results here). But just because the S8 is faster on paper doesn't mean you'll see any sluggishness from the G6. Indeed, both are as speedy and quick with real-life usage, like scrolling through web pages, launching apps and snapping photos.

As for battery life, the S8's lower capacity 3,000mAh battery (compared to the G6's 3,300mAh) outlasted the G6 by nearly three hours in our drainage test for continuous video playback on Airplane mode. It clocked in 16 hours compared to the G6's 13.

Winner: The Galaxy S8, easily. The G6 really isn't a slouch -- its processor is still reliable and fast, and its battery life is excellent. But it just couldn't outpace the S8 on both accounts.

Features: Interface and software goodies

Both the interfaces on the G6 and S8 are sensible and easy to understand. While I'm not feeling the rounded corners for the app icons (it looks dated) from both phones, any objections I have about aesthetics can be quickly fixed with a new launcher and icon pack.

The S8 throws in a tab you can pull out to access things like your most-used apps and contacts, the weather and calendar events. I found it minimally useful, but nonessential.

The S8 also has a digital voice assistant named Bixby. While it has other features like scanning and retrieving info from objects in real life, it's not fully fleshed out yet and Samsung is still working on its development. For the meantime, you can use Google Assistant, which comes built-in on both phones.

Winner: This is a tie for me. I like the extra features the S8 offers along its edge, but unless you're an avid fan and user of these panels (and I'm not), both phones are pretty on par with one another.
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Using the S8's extra edge panels.

CNET

Value: Most bang for your buck

Across multiple carriers and countries, the G6 is consistently cheaper than the S8. In the US, this difference can range from $30 to $100. In the UK and Australia, there's about a £40 and AU$191 difference, respectively. Keep in mind that the S8 comes with twice as much built-in storage (64GB compared to the G6's 32GB), but both phones have expandable storage up to 2TB.

True, the price difference between the two isn't huge (compared to, say, the savings you'd get if you bought the OnePlus 3T or others), but $100 is still a notable amount of dough to keep in your wallet -- especially if you're on a tight budget.

Winner: The G6 is the one to get if you want to save cash. (#Protip: There may be some G6 deals still going on that include a free Google Home or LG TV.)
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The G6 offers most of the same important features, but at a lower price.

James Martin/CNET

Class action lawsuits: Who's getting sued over what (*bonus round!)

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Both Samsung and LG are tangled up in legal woes over past phones.

Josh Miller/CNET

As a PSA, I added a bonus round about the lawsuits both companies are dealing with surrounding their devices. If you've been living under a rock throughout 2016 (and who could blame you), Samsung experienced a big fiasco when some of its Galaxy Note 7s exploded, and Samsung had to recall the phone. As such, lots of people are suing for reimbursement and service fees.

Not to be outdone, there's a class action lawsuit being brought against LG for a bootlooping issue with its G4 and V10 phones. Not only were some of these handsets bricked, LG is accused of not doing enough to reimburse and replace these faulty products.

To be fair, these complaints and issues are being lobbied against past devices, and the S8 and G6 look to be performing a-okay so far. But you have a right to be wary about these company's past troubles, since you're handing over your hard-earned money after all.

Winner: Nobody! Particularly you, the consumer.

And the winner is...

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The smarter buy for you does not necessarily mean what's the best-of-the-best on the market.

Josh Miller/CNET

Taking home design, camera and performance, the S8 is the clear winner here. It has a beautiful and sturdy construction, an awesome camera and a robust battery life.

But (and this is a big but), I definitely won't blame you if you go for the G6. The S8 is better and it won the most categories, true, but it isn't so much better than the G6. The G6 still looks and performs great, and has many of the same features as the S8 that make it so appealing (water resistance, slim bezels and Google Assistant). Plus, if you plan on getting a case anyway, you're probably not going to be hung up about the G6's look or durability. In general, the G6 does most of what the S8 can do -- but for a lower price tag to boot.

Samsung Galaxy S8 vs. LG G6

Samsung Galaxy S8 LG G6
Display size, resolution 5.8-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels 5.7-inch, 2,880x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 570ppi 565ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.9x2.9x0.31 in 5.9x2.8x0.31 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 148.9x68.1x8 mm 148.9x71.97.x7.9 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.5 oz; 155g 5.7 oz; 162g
Mobile software Android 7.0 Nougat Android 7.0 Nougat
Camera 12-megapixel 13-megapixel (standard), 13-megapixel (wide)
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel 5-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K
Processor Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.35GHz+1.9GHz) or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 (2.35GHz+1.7GHz) 2.35GHz Snapdragon 821 with Adreno 530 GPU
Storage 64GB 32GB
RAM 4GB 4GB
Expandable storage Up to 2TB Up to 2TB
Battery 3,000mAh (nonremovable) 3,300mAh (nonremovable)
Fingerprint sensor Back cover Back cover
Connector USB-C USB-C
Special features Water-resistant (IP68); wireless charging; Gigabit LTE-ready 18:9 aspect ratio; wireless charging (US-only); water-resistant
Price off-contract (USD) AT&T: $750; Verizon: $720; T-Mobile: $750; Sprint: $750; U.S. Cellular: $675 AT&T: $720; Verizon: $672; T-Mobile: $650; Sprint: $708; U.S. Cellular: $597.60
Price (GBP) £689 £649
Price (AUD) AU$1,199 AU$1,008