Apple iPhone 8 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 8: Which is best?

Which phablet is worth breaking the bank over?

September is the month for a big, big 8 – your pick of the brand new Samsung Galaxy Note 8 or Apple's iPhone 8 Plus.

Both are pretty fab phablets. The Galaxy Note 8 extends the Galaxy S8's design philosophy to a slightly larger display and packs in the S Pen stylus – and unlike last year's Note, none of them have exploded (yet).

Meanwhile, the iPhone 8 Plus makes modest improvements and alterations to last year's winning iPhone 7 Plus, bringing in some nice perks to Apple's previous best handset. However, it's overshadowed by the forthcoming iPhone X.

Still, if you're not compelled to splash out £999+ (RM5600+) on a smartphone and want to 'only' spend between £799 (RM4500) and £869 (RM5000) instead, this is a showdown worth considering. Here's our take on which big phone to get, now that we've properly reviewed both handsets.

Design: Note this

We could almost cut and paste the design showdown from our recent Galaxy Note 8 vs iPhone 7 Plus matchup, because the iPhone 8 Plus looks a hell of a lot like its predecessor. And the one before that. Oh, and the one before that too.

That's true from the front, at least. Flip it over and – finally! – the iPhone 8 Plus has revived the glass-backing treatment. Yes, the old aluminum finish is gone, in favour of flashy glass that also unlocks wireless charging capabilities. It's a slick upgrade, but otherwise the iPhone 8 Plus mostly looks and feels the same as before. We were already growing a bit tired of the familiar look, plus the flashy iPhone X isn't making the old approach seem any fresher.

And we're just way more into the Galaxy Note 8's look, really. Like the Galaxy S8, it's almost all screen on the front, with minimal top and bottom bezel around the huge curved display. It's striking stuff, and unlike what any other maker is putting out there right now.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Screen: Still Samsung

Again, there's not a big leap from the comparison to last year's big iPhone – seeing a trend here? The iPhone 8 Plus again packs in a 5.5in LCD screen at 1080p resolution, and it's plenty bright, solidly crisp, and will certainly please existing iPhone users. It's certainly a heap better than the 750p iPhone 8 screen.

The one big new advantage is Apple's True Tone tech, which comes over from iPad. It automatically adjusts colour levels based on your ambient lighting, and it looks really sharp. It really helps the iPhone 8 Plus' screen pop in everyday usage, and you'll definitely want to keep the feature enabled.

And yet the Galaxy Note 8 still nudges out a win here. It's a higher-resolution Quad HD display, and while it's larger at 6.2in, that's because it's also taller – with an atypical 18.5:9 aspect ratio. That gives you more screen to play with, but without making the phone feel too wide or unmanageable.

Better yet, it's another AMOLED stunner from Samsung, with excellent contrast, deep blacks, and now support for mobile HDR (high dynamic range) for apps such as Netflix and YouTube. Like the Galaxy S8 phones, it's the best smartphone screen you'll find right now. Well, until we properly test the iPhone X of course.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Camera: Snap decision

The Galaxy Note 8 won the recent camera battle against last year's iPhone 7 Plus when we pitched the two against each other, but that was a bit of an uneven fight given Apple's year-old tech there. So, does the new iPhone 8 Plus fare any better?

Yes, definitely. The iPhone 8 Plus brings some modest enhancements over last year's phone. It has two 12-megapixel cameras on the back, one wide angle at f/1.8 aperture and the other telephoto at f/2.8. On paper, that's the same as last year.

However, the larger, faster sensor brings better low-light results and speedier snaps, while the new colour filter punches up the saturation a tad and the "deeper pixels" provide better dynamic range. The results are typically quite detailed and well balanced, with spot-on exposure even in inconsistent lighting.

The Portrait mode also delivers more accurate and natural-looking results, plus there's the addition of the new Portrait Lighting feature, which lets you fiddle with the lighting around your subject with varied results.

On the other side, the Galaxy Note 8 also has two 12MP cameras: one f/1.7 main sensor and another at f/2.4. You can likewise do Portrait-style shots and optical zoom as on the iPhone. Like the Galaxy S8, shots are generally superb - some of the best you'll take with a smartphone in 2017.

Overall, both are really excellent, and in our individual testing, neither really stood out as being dramatically better than the other. Until we have a chance to pit them against each other, head to head, we're calling it a draw. You can't go wrong with either one.

Winner: Draw

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