The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is arguably the world’s most powerful phone. Rich in features and packed with top-tier specs and the latest software, it’s the best Android smartphone soon to be on the market. But how does it stack up against the iPhone 7 Plus, the stalwart Apple flagship that’s due for a new iteration in September? We break it down for you.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
6.38 by 2.95 by 0.34 inches
6.23 by 3.07 by 0.29 inches
2,960 by 1,440 pixels
1,920 by 1,080 pixels
Dual 12MP Rear, 8MP Front
Dual 12MP Rear, 7MP Front
Design and Display
Even Apple fanboys will have to admit that the Note 8 is a beauty. It adopts the same overall build as the Galaxy S8, with the “Infinity” display that wraps around the sides and matching glass panels on the front and back. The tiny bezel combined with the unique aspect ratio give the Note 8 a seamless and eye-catching look.
The iPhone 7 Plus has a sleek metal unibody, and we’re fond of how the Jet Black looks and feels, but with its large bezel and unwieldy size, it just isn’t as friendly to use with one hand and not as pleasing to look at as the Note 8. You’ll find Samsung’s phablet just makes better use of space.
Display is another area where Apple can’t compete. The Note 8 has a best-in-class 6.3-inch Quad HD+ (1440p) Super AMOLED display, packing in 521 pixels per inch. The iPhone 7 Plus has a respectable Full HD (1080p) IPS panel, but the resolution works out to 401ppi. It’s sharp, but can’t keep up on sheer crispness. The AMOLED panel on the Note 8 also delivers dense inky black and rich saturated colors. IPS is known for color accuracy, however, it’s the Note 8 that can really make images pop. Screen brightness, viewing angles, and overall visibility will also be better on the Note 8, which supports HDR content.
The Note 8 packs a Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. It also supports expandable storage, letting you use a 256GB microSD card. That’s plenty of power and storage for multitasking, taking photos and video, and running demanding games, though we haven’t yet put it through its paces. The Galaxy S8 uses the same processor with less RAM, so we expect a similar level of smooth performance, with the only slowdowns coming from the Samsung-heavy UI layer.
The iPhone 7 Plus is powered by Apple’s A10 chipset; it has 2GB of RAM and a starting configuration with 32GB of storage. In benchmark testing, it provides some of the best overall, single core, and multi-core performance we’ve seen. Compared with the Qualcomm chipsets found on nearly all Android phones, Apple has an advantage in getting its software to work seamlessly with its hardware and that pays off in day-to-day use. The 7 Plus has excellent touch-screen responsiveness, snappy performance, and effective multitasking. You won’t get expandable storage; if you want more space on your 7 Plus you’ll have to pick a higher storage model (64GB, 128GB, 256GB).
Battery life is hard to compare without further testing. The Note 8 has a 3,300mAh cell, which is right between the S8’s 3,000mAh and the S8+’s 3,500mAh. We weren’t too taken by the battery life of the S8. During testing—in which we set screen brightness to maximum and stream full-screen video over LTE—it lasted for 5 hours, 45 minutes. The S8+ was better, clocking 7 hours, 37 minutes, so we expect the Note 8 to fall right in between these times. Samsung says that with regular usage, the Note 8 should provide a full day of use. The battery on the 7 Plus is smaller at 2,900mAh and lasted just 6 hours due to a combination of its high screen brightness and less power-efficient LCD.
The iPhone 7 Plus was the first major smartphone to get dual rear camera sensors and the Note 8 follows the trend. It comes with a pair of 12-megapixel cameras, both with optical image stabilization. One is a telephoto lens capable of 2x optical zoom, similar to the 7 Plus. The other is a wide-angle camera that can take broader scenery shots, similar to the LG G6.
With the Note 8, you get features like selective focus, which lets you change focus before and after you take the shot, and what’s likely to be excellent low-light camera performance. The iPhone 7 Plus has a solid shooter, with a pair of 12-megapixel cameras, optical zoom, OIS, and 4K video recording, but the Note 8 now matches it feature for feature. Currently, the Galaxy S8 is our top camera phone and if the Note 8 improves on this performance, we expect it to be capable of winning any shootout against the iPhone 7 Plus.
Software and Features
Software is the hardest to compare. Android and iOS are fundamentally different platforms, despite converging on certain aspects of features and design. The Note 8 ships with Android 7.1.2 Nougat, but it’s almost certain to get an update to Android 8.0 Oreo. The iPhone 7 Plus is currently running iOS 10.3.3, but will receive an update to iOS 11 in September. Both are stable and highly refined operating systems, but iOS has some fundamental advantages in that it tends to get app releases and updates first, offers more reliable system updates, and provides a smoother experience overall.
In the case of the Note 8, Samsung adds its own flair with the TouchWiz UI. You get new features like app pairing—which lets you launch two apps at the same time—an always-on display for notifications, edge panels that give you easy access to apps, and of course the S Pen, which offers the best note-taking and handwriting recognition abilities of any phone available.
The 7 Plus isn’t without its strong suits, though. The iOS 11 update will let developers create AR apps without the need for additional hardware. You also get improved multitasking and refinements to notifications.
But in terms of an ecosystem, the Note 8 is the clear winner. You have the Samsung Gear VR headset for virtual reality games and content and Samsung Dex to use productivity apps and games in desktop mode, potentially letting you use one device for work and play. That’s something the iPhone 7 Plus just can’t match.
Overall, the Galaxy Note 8 edges out the iPhone 7 Plus in most aspects, but that’s to be expected given that it’s the newest Samsung phone. We expect to see a closer match with the upcoming, heavily leaked iPhone 8. It’s also worth noting that the Note 8 will cost you a pretty penny, coming within spitting distance of $1,000 on most carriers when you count taxes. That makes it the most costly Note device yet and nearly $200 more expensive than the base version of the iPhone 7 Plus. If you like the OS and don’t plan to make much use of the stylus, the 7 Plus is a great phone, but if you want the latest and greatest, the Note 8 seems hard to beat. Of course, we’ll reserve final judgment until a full review.
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