Apple iPhone X vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 8: The $1,000 question

iPhone X backside
If you’ve got serious cash to spend on a top-of-the-line handset and you want the very best, you’ll soon have two options — and they’re both very special. Apple’s iPhone X is the biggest leap forward the company has taken in smartphone design since, well, it designed the modern smartphone. Meanwhile, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 is a return to form for our favorite supersized phablet.

There’s so much to like about both these flagships, but they’re also very different. The iPhone X lacks a fingerprint sensor, but can be unlocked with three-dimensional facial recognition. The Galaxy Note 8 has one on the back, and even though it has face unlocking technology, its front-facing camera can’t match Apple’s depth-sensing tricks. Conversely, the Note 8 has its iconic multifunctional S Pen stylus, and the iPhone doesn’t have anything of the sort. You get the idea.

In this specs comparison, we’ll run through all the strengths and weaknesses to determine an overall winner. For a deeper dive into both phones, check our iPhone X hands-on review and Galaxy Note 8 review.

Specs

iPhone X

Apple iPhone X vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Apple iPhone X vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Size 143.6 × 70.9 × 7.7 mm (5.65 × 2.79 × 0.30 inches) 162.5 × 74.8 × 8.6 mm (6.40 × 2.95 × 0.34 inches)
Weight 174 grams (6.14 ounces) 195 grams (6.88 ounces)
Screen 5.8-inch OLED Super Retina HD display 6.3-inch Super AMOLED
Resolution 2,436 × 1,125 pixels (458 ppi) 2,960 × 1,440 (522 ppi)
OS iOS 11 Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Storage 64GB, 256GB 64GB (U.S.) 128, 256GB (International)
MicroSD card slot No Yes
NFC support Yes (Apple Pay only) Yes
Processor A11 Bionic with 64-bit architecture, M10 motion co-processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (U.S.), Samsung Exynos 8895 (international)
RAM Coming soon 6GB
Connectivity 4G LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA+, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA, EVDO, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Camera Dual 12MP rear (both with OIS), 7MP True Depth front Dual 12 MP rear (both with OIS), 8MP front
Video Up to 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps Up to 4K at 30fps, 720p at 240fps
Bluetooth Yes, version 5.0 Yes, version 5.0
Fingerprint sensor No, Face ID Yes
Other sensors Barometer, 3-axis gyro, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor Accelerometer, barometer, gyro, geomagnetic, heart rate, proximity, iris, pressure
Water resistant Yes, IP67 rated Yes, IP68 rated
Battery Capacity coming soon

21 hours of talk time, 12 hours of internet, 13 hours of video playback, and up to 60 hours of audio playback

Fast charging offers up to 50 percent charge in 30 minutes, wireless charging (Qi standard)

3,300mAh

22 hours of talk time, 13 hours of internet, 16 hours of video playback, and up to 74 hours of audio playback

Fast charging, wireless charging (Qi standard)

Charging port Lightning USB-C
Marketplace Apple App Store Google Play Store
Colors Silver, Space Gray Midnight Black, Orchid Gray
Availability AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Apple AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Unlocked
Price $1,000 $930
DT review Hands-on review 4 out of 5 stars

Apple calls the A11 Bionic chipset inside the iPhone X “the most powerful and smartest” ever placed in a smartphone. While we can’t quantify that claim at the moment, there’s no doubting it’s pretty high on the list. The A11 Bionic contains six cores — two for high performance and four for high efficiency — as well as a graphics processing unit that is 30 percent faster than the one in the iPhone 7’s A10 Fusion chip.

All that extra muscle is sure to help the iPhone X deliver class-leading augmented reality functionality, and drives Apple’s Face ID technology and TrueDepth camera system. As far as RAM is concerned, Apple doesn’t traditionally reveal those numbers, and has a habit of getting more performance out of less onboard memory than its Android-powered counterparts.

The Galaxy Note 8, conversely, utilizes Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, with an impressive 6GB of RAM. It’s a chip that has delivered smooth and consistent performance across a variety of flagship Android handsets, from HTC’s U11 to the OnePlus 5, and works wonders here as well. Having all that memory at the system’s disposal certainly helps things, and makes the Galaxy Note 8 one of the most powerful devices running Google’s platform sold in the United States.

But Apple’s A10 Fusion chip in the iPhone 7 already beat out the Snapdragon 835 in several benchmark tests — it’s highly likely the A11 Bionic will surpass it completely. You won’t see performance issues on the Note 8, but Apple is clearly the winner here. Another advantage is since it’s an Apple-designed chip, it works optimized perfectly with iOS. You won’t find that kind of optimization with a Qualcomm processor on many Android phones.

Both the iPhone X and Note 8 come with 64GB of storage as standard, but only the Note 8 features a MicroSD slot for extra room. Both also offer 256GB for more money, though Samsung only sells higher capacity models outside the U.S. No matter which device you choose, you’ll get Bluetooth 5.0 — the latest version of the wireless protocol offering improved range — as well as NFC for tap-and-pay transactions. The Note 8 is also compatible with legacy terminals through Samsung Pay’s exclusive MST technology.

Winner: iPhone X

Display, design, and durability

things we like about the iphone x lifestyle1

These phones couldn’t look or feel more different, and that’s immediately apparent the second you encounter them for the first time. The iPhone X’s display follows the countours of the device. Calling it bezel-less would be stretch — there’s actually quite a pronounced black border to the screen, as well as that controversial notch housing the camera system and earpiece — but there’s no question it’s one of the most futuristic smartphone designs we’ve seen in some time.

Around back, the new iPhone is clad in glass to allow for wireless charging, and it features vertically stacked dual cameras. The sides are fashioned from stainless steel, and look remarkably shiny compared to the matte aluminum of previous generations. Also, unlike those older iPhones, you won’t find a home button or Touch ID anywhere on the handset. It’s a big change for sure, and while it makes the phone look so much better overall, we can’t help but feel disappointed that fingerprint recognition won’t make it to the iPhone X’s gorgeous 5.8-inch 2,436 × 1,125 OLED display.

Then again, Samsung’s solution is hardly perfect. With no room for the sensor on the face of the phone, it’s been relocated to the right of the dual cameras around back — just like the Galaxy S8. Not everyone loves rear-mounted fingerprint sensors, but a more central placement would have been unquestionably better than what Samsung has been doing as of late. Reaching across the lenses is an excellent way to smudge them, and the Note 8’s larger form factor only makes the whole experience more awkward.

In terms of overall design, thankfully the story is a bit more positive. The Note 8 has been called a super-sized Galaxy S8 in terms of its looks, and that’s not a totally unfair claim. That said, the Galaxy S8 is a great piece of kit — with a headphone jack, no less — and if it were going up against any other device, it’d probably win. The Note 8 packs a 6.3-inch 2,960 × 1,440 AMOLED panel into a body that is compact for its size but simply can’t compare to the iPhone’s tighter configuration.

In terms of durability, both phones are primarily made of glass and water resistant. The iPhone X is rated at IP67 — good to withstand a meter’s depth for 30 minutes — while the Note 8 fares a bit better at IP68, which offers an additional half-meter of submersion.

Winner: iPhone X

Battery life and charging

things we like about the iphone x lifestyle4

While we don’t have hard numbers on the iPhone X’s battery capacity, Apple says you can expect up to 21 hours of talk time (the rumor is a 2,675mAh battery capacity). That’s two hours more than what the iPhone 7 Plus offered. What’s more, you’ll be able to charge it wirelessly, because the iPhone X supports the open Qi standard used by many other phone manufacturers. Apple says the iPhone X will charge faster, too. A high-speed wall adapter packaged with the device will get you up to 50 percent in 30 minutes.

The Galaxy Note 8 also features wireless and fast charging, and because we’ve tested it, we know exactly what to expect. In reviewing the Note 8, we managed to use about 60 percent of juice from unplugging in the morning to about 7 p.m., with moderate usage. That’s solid longevity from a 3,300mAh battery, and if you’re careful, you could even manage a day and a half.

We won’t know for sure how the iPhone X compares until we get it in our hands; for that reason, this one ends in a tie.

Winner: Tie

Cameras

apple iphone x hands on review
Jeremy Kaplan/Digital Trends
Jeremy Kaplan/Digital Trends

The camera setups on these phones are surprisingly similar. Both the iPhone X and Galaxy Note 8 feature dual 12-megapixel sensors, combining wide-angle and telephoto lenses. The iPhone X’s are rated at f/1.8 and f/2.4 aperture, respectively, while the Note 8’s are f/1.7 and f/2.4. Each lens on these phones is supported with optical image stabilization, to help diminish blurry shots.

Both allow you to take portrait-style photos with backround bokeh, although the iPhone allows you to manipulate the light source of these shots as well, with a new feature called Portrait Lighting. The iPhone X can achieve this through its front cameras as well, thanks to Apple’s new True Depth system. Meanwhile, the Note 8 features an 8-megapixel shooter for selfies.

When taking stills, you’re likely to get fantastic results with either camera. But the iPhone X can do a bit more once you get to filming. While the Note 8 can only manage 4K recording at 30 frames per second and slow-motion 240fps at 720p, Apple’s flagship can handle 4K at 60fps and 240fps at 1080p.

But there’s one camera-related feature in the iPhone X we haven’t discussed yet, and it’s one everyone has been talking about: Face ID. You can unlock your iPhone X simply by looking at it — it’s designed to be that simple. And while Samsung is using iris and face scanning for authentication in the Note 8, that’s a system that’s simply easier to fool, and less secure. We’re not sure we’d take either over using our thumbs quite yet, but going forward, depth-aware imaging figures to be a major breakthrough. You can even use the iPhone X to transform your words and expressions to an animated emoji in real time, with a feature Apple calls Animoji.

Winner: iPhone X

Software

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review app switch
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Out of the box, the iPhone X will come with iOS 11. It’s the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, and it features an all-new App Store, redesigned Notifications Center and Control Center, and a bunch more small improvements. The Galaxy Note 8 ships with Android 7.1.1 Nougat, and while it’s not the latest version, 8.0 Oreo should arrive early in 2018.

There’s no use comparing iOS and Android — both platforms are excellent in their own right, and choosing is really just a matter of preference. There are a couple tools and features you’ll only find in one or the other, however, and the most obvious is Samsung’s S Pen.

The Note 8’s stylus makes it a powerful tool for jotting down ideas, and some quick doodling. It’s more advanced than you’d expect, though, being able to register 4,096 levels of pressure. The phablet’s always-on screen also means you can take notes without having to wake the phone first — a very useful software tweak. Hold the pen over text you’re reading, and it will even translate on the fly or magnify that area of the screen, if you wish.

Another feature new to the Note 8, called App Pair, allows you to join certain apps together so you can launch them both at once. Open a pair and both apps will immediately display in split-window mode. If you often find yourself multitasking, it could be a useful addition. There’s also the DeX Station — an optional dock that transforms your Note 8 into a desktop computer.

When you get away from the iPhone’s camera innovations, there’s not a whole lot dramatically new on the software front. Accessing many tools, such as the Control Center or the home button, is a little different, but the interface is still the same. The Note 8 delivers a totally unique input method not available on most other phones, and so it takes the victory here.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8

Pricing and availability

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review fingerprint scan
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The iPhone X launches on November 3, with pre-orders beginning a week earlier, on October 27. The Galaxy Note 8 is available for pre-order now, and begins shipping September 15.

Either way you go here, you’re spending a lot of money. But at a starting price of $1,000, the iPhone 8 crosses a threshold most high-end smartphones had been able to comfortably avoid until now. The Galaxy Note 8 begins at $930 — just $70 less — though Samsung is much more generous with add-ons and promotions. If you buy a Note 8 direct from the company now, you can land a Gear 360 camera or a 128GB memory card and wireless charging stand. To get an iPhone X with a similar amount of storage, you’d have to spend over $200 more.

Samsung will award you up to $300 credit if you trade in an eligible Galaxy S, iPhone, Google Pixel, or LG device. Many carriers are offering deals for users to upgrade from older iPhones to the X, but if you currently have an Android phone, it may not qualify under the terms.

Curiously, Apple’s website does not indicate the option of a SIM-free, unlocked model — whereas Samsung is offering exactly that for customers who wish to stay off-contract. The Note 8 offers so many more purchasing and trade-in options, as well as opportunities to save, making it much easier to buy.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8

Overall winner: iPhone X

It’s a close call, but we think the iPhone X is the one to buy. At the same time, you’ll have to consider the operating system. Jumping to Android or iOS is a big decision.

The outcome of this comparison hardly means the Galaxy Note 8 is a bad smartphone — it’s excellent. We think the iPhone X’s camera features, on the front and back, outshine those on the Note 8 though. The X is also likely a more powerful device all around.

The Note 8 is excellent if you’re looking for the most versatility, need to multitask, and have a penchant for writing things down. If you want to be at the bleeding edge of design, imaging, and augmented reality, Apple’s latest is likely your bag. Just remember, however you lean, our buying guides for both the iPhone X and Galaxy Note 8 will show you the cheapest way to get your hands on one.

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