T3 Smackdown: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

Is the most advanced handset Samsung’s ever made a great leap forward?

It’s here: the most advanced phone or phablet Samsung has ever made. There’s no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a technological tour de force, but then so is the extremely similar Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus - and that’s a good bit cheaper too. Are the differences big enough to justify the price? Let's find out by pitting the two handsets against each other in a smartphone battle royal.

There can be only one!

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus: display

As expected, the Galaxy Note 8 gets the infinity Super AMOLED display we’ve already seen in the S8 Plus. However it’s very slightly bigger - 6.3 inches to the Plus’s 6.2. As with the S8 Plus the default resolution is 2,220 x 1,080, but rumours of a true 4K display were incorrect: both devices top out at 2,960 x 1,440 Quad HD.

The Note’s display also supports the bundled S Pen for annotation and navigation, which you can do even when the display is off. Both devices are IP68 rated for dust and water resistance.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus: colours

The Note 8 will come in four colours: Midnight Black, Maple Gold, Orchid Grey and Deep Sea Blue. Not all markets will get all colours: for the time being UK customers will be offered the black and grey models.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus: processor, storage and software

Both devices are powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor or Samsung Exynos 8895 depending on where in the world you are: the Snapdragons are for the US market. There is 4GB of RAM and 64GB on-board storage in the Galaxy S8 Plus and 6GB of RAM and 64GB on-board in the Note 8. Both have microSD slots for additional storage, and there will also be a Note 8 with 256GB of on-board storage.

In benchmarks, the Exynos versions of the S8 Plus and Note 8 score better than the Snapdragons. That’s probably because of the different GPUs, because where the Snapdragons are paired with Adreno 540 GPUs the Exynos chips get the newer ARM Mali-G71. 

Android Oreo may be imminent, but it’s not on either device: both ship with Android 7 Nougat and will be upgradeable to Oreo shortly. The Note 8 ships with version 7.1.1.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus: camera

The camera is the unique selling point of the Galaxy Note 8: while the camera in the S8 Plus is very impressive - it’s a dual pixel 12MP sensor with optical image stabilisation, digital video stabilisation and an excellent aperture of f/1.7 - but the Note 8 adds a second lens. That enables SLR-style focus in portraits and other special effects, and for serious snappers it’s going to be awfully tempting.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus: battery

Both devices have wireless charging but Samsung is playing it safe with the Note 8’s battery after its predecessor’s famous flammability. The battery is just 3,300mAh compared to 3,500mAh in the Galaxy S8 Plus. Given the slightly larger screen that’s inevitably going to have an adverse effect on the Note 8’s battery life compared to the S8 Plus.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus: other

The other key difference between the Note 8 and the S8 Plus is the S Pen: the Note has it and the Plus doesn’t. People who like their S Pens like them a lot, and unless you’re really serious about photography it’s the main reason to pick the Note over the Plus. It’s particularly useful for busy people on the move, enabling easy note-taking, scribbling on images or anything else you need to do quickly.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus: price

For many people this will be the clincher: handset prices have been inching up, and the Galaxy Note 8 was widely expected to be more expensive than the S8 Plus. The S8 Plus has an RRP of £779 / $1,000 / AU$1,300, although it’s widely available for considerably less than that, with multiple retailers hovering around or below the £600 / $770 / AU$970 mark. According to The Inquirer, Carphone Warehouse accidentally leaked the UK price of the 64GB Note 8. It’s £869 / $1,120 / AU$1,400.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).