Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus: Which is best?

It's the battle of the heavyweight phablets

In the market for a really big, really expensive smartphone? Apple's iPhone 7 Plus remains an appealing pick… but here comes Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 to add another contender.

Last year's Galaxy Note 7 launch went up in flames (quite literally) when defective batteries yielded explosive results, forcing Samsung to recall all of the devices. We expect a much smoother rollout for the Galaxy Note 8, which builds upon the foundation of last year's short-lived handset. At least our review handset didn't give us any issues. Phew!

Meanwhile, Apple seems all set to announce an iPhone 8 of its own in a matter of days. But if you need a new top-end phone right now, then you might be considering the iPhone 7 Plus alongside the Note 8. Which seems like the best device to spend a whole heap of money on? Here's our verdict.

Design: Notable, indeed

Look, we dug Apple's minimal aesthetic when the iPhone 6 Plus debuted two years ago… but with the same basic design repeated for the third time with the iPhone 7 Plus, it just doesn't yield much excitement anymore. And those huge bezels haven't aged well at all.

The iPhone 7 Plus gets the job done and it's certainly not ugly, but there are more striking handsets on the market now. Like the Galaxy Note 8, for example.

Building upon the brilliant look of the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, the Note 8 keeps the nearly-all-screen face with its minimal bezel and curved Infinity Display, but sharpens the curves for a slightly flatter, boxier look.

It looks fabulously modern and cool, unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, which is adequate but honestly a bit tired at this point. The iPhone 8 might shift the balance back towards Apple, but in this particular showdown, Samsung takes the easy win.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Screen: Infinity and beyond

Another easy win for Samsung? The screen, of course. Apple's 5.5in flat 1080p LCD display is pretty nice. The Plus' panel has strong contrast and excellent brightness, and very good sharpness. It's certainly a step up from the 750p screen of the standard iPhone 7.

But the Galaxy Note 8 is in another class here. It's a Quad HD belter, with an added level of sharpness that you just don't get from the iPhone 7 Plus, while the Super AMOLED panel means we get deeper blacks and improved contrast. And it supports mobile HDR content, to boot.

And it's just as strong as the Galaxy S8's screen, which means the Note 8 stand alongside the S8 as packing the best smartphone screen in the world. And the extra tall screen dimensions, thanks to the 18.5:9 screen ratio, mean you get a bit more real estate for media, web browsing, and more.

The iPhone 7 Plus does have the benefit of 3D Touch pressure sensitivity for added navigational abilities and benefits in apps and games, but it's not the most critical addition, and certainly not one that swings this battle towards Apple's favour.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Camera: 2v2

Look, the Samsung Galaxy S8 already has one of the best smartphone cameras on the market today, and it only has a single sensor on the back. Meanwhile, the iPhone 7 Plus has its dual-camera setup that allows for blurred-backdrop portrait shots and variable zooming, but in both our comparison testing and our reader vote, the Galaxy S8 still came out ahead.

The Galaxy Note 8 keeps the Galaxy S8's main sensor, but then – in a very iPhone 7 Plus-like maneuver – it adds another. An f/2.4 sensor is right there alongside the main f/1.7 sensor, both at 12 megapixels, and it adds optical-like variable 1x/2x zoom, along with the same kind of portrait tricks as Apple's phone and others on the market.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 7 Plus has two 12MP sensors at f/1.8 and f/2.8, respectively. It produces pretty excellent shots most of the time, but we thought the Galaxy S8 still came out ahead… and the Note 8 adds even more benefits on top of that.

Look, there's no dramatic difference here, and these are two of the best smartphone cameras on the market today. However, the addition of optical image stabilisation on the second sensor gives the Galaxy Note 8 a leg up here for clarity, along with the customisable bokeh effects. They're tiny advantages, but they're worth noting.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 8