Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs. Galaxy Note 7: Which hits more right notes?

samsung galaxy note 8 review hands on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
It’s been roughly a year since reports of exploding batteries forced Samsung to yank the Galaxy Note 7 from shelves, and the South Korean company is gunning for redemption with the Galaxy Note 8. There’s a lot riding on it.

That’s probably why Samsung played it safe with the Galaxy Note 8. The smartphone has the same iris-scanning tech and S Pen stylus as the Note 7, albeit a smaller battery. To be fair, the Note 8 has a larger, higher-resolution screen than the Note 7. It also features Samsung’s Bixby assistant, and it’s the first Samsung phone with dual cameras. While no one is upgrading from a Note 7 due to the recall, are the Note 8’s upgrades enough to justify the asking price? We pit Galaxy Note 8 vs. Galaxy Note 7 to find out.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Galaxy Note 7 THumber

Size 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm (6.40 x 2.95 x 0.34 inches)  153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm (6.04 x 2.91 x 0.31 inches)
Weight 6.88 ounces (195 grams)  5.96 ounces (169 grams)
Screen 6.3-inch Super AMOLED  5.7-inch Super AMOLED
Resolution 2,960 x 1,440  2,560 × 1,440
OS  Android 7.1.1 Nougat  Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Storage  64, 128, 256GB  64. 128, 256GB
SD Card Slot  Yes  Yes
NFC support  Yes  Yes
Processor  Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Samsung Exynos 8895 (international)  Qualcomm Snapdragon 820,
Exynos 8890 Octa (international)
RAM  6GB  4GB
Connectivity  GSM, CDMA, HSPA, EVDO, LTE  GSM, CDMA, HSPA, EVDO, LTE
Camera Dual 12MP rear, 8MP front  12MP rear, 5MP front
Video  4K  4K
Bluetooth  Yes, version 5.0  Yes, version 4.2
Fingerprint sensor  Yes  Yes
Other sensors scanner  Accelerometer, barometer, gyro, geomagnetic, heart rate, proximity, iris, pressure  Accelerometer, barometer, gyro, geomagnetic, heart rate, proximity, iris, pressure
Water Resistant  Yes, IP68 rated  Yes, IP68 rated
Battery  3,300mAh  Non-removable Li-Po 3,500mAh battery
Charger  USB-C USB-C
Quick Charging  Yes  Yes
Wireless Charging  Yes, Qi and PMA  Yes, Qi and PMA
Marketplace  Google Play Store  Google Play Store
Color offerings Black, gray  Black, white, gold, silver
Availability AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Unlocked  Recalled
Price $930 $850
DT Review Hands-on review 0.5 out of 5 stars

If you tore open the Galaxy Note 8 and Note 7 and compared their innards, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference.

Perhaps the biggest is the processor. The Note 8 has an octa-core Snapdragon 835 processor (international variants use Samsung’s Exynos 8895). Qualcomm claims it has a 27-percent performance advantage over its predecessor, the Snapdragon 821, and an even bigger advantage over the Note 7’s Snapdragon 820.

The Note 8 has a memory advantage, too. It packs 6GB of RAM instead of the Note 7’s 4GB, which should make it an even better multitasker.

We’ll have to wait until we get our hands on the Note 8 to say for certain, but we’re expecting more of the same great performance we’ve seen on other phones with the Snapdragon 835.

In terms of storage, the Note 8 and Note 7 are a little more comparable. They both have 64GB of internal memory and an SD Card slot that can accommodate extra storage space. Both feature similar sensors, such as an iris scanner and fingerprint scanner to unlock your phone, but the Note 8 has the recently launched Bluetooth 5 standard, which has improved range and data transfer speed.

Winner: Note 8

Design, display, and durability

samsung galaxy note 8 review hands on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Note 8’s design isn’t a radical departure from the Note 7. Instead, it’s more of a refinement.

The Note 8 has slimmer edges on the top and bottom than the Note 7, the sides curve a little more gradually, and the earpiece is flush with the phone’s glass. But the biggest difference between the two is the home button. On the Note 8, the Note 7’s physical button has been replaced with a software button that utilizes a vibrating motor. As a result, the fingerprint sensor, which was embedded in the home button on the Note 7, has been moved to the rear of the Note 8.

The Note 8 features the Infinity Display that’s on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, which means you get more screen real estate is a similar frame. The Note 8’s screen uses the same Super AMOLED Plus technology as the Galaxy Note 7, but at a higher resolution — 2,960 x 1,440 pixels versus 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. Compared to the Note 7, the Note 8 offers a slightly sharper image (518ppi versus 521ppi) and noticeably more real estate (5.7 inches versus 6.3 inches).

In terms of durability, the Note 7 and Note 8 are on par. They are IP68 certified for water resistance, which means they can survive a 30-minute dunk in up to 5 feet of water. But neither are rated to withstand bumps or scratches, which means the Note 8 will probably need a case in order to survive tile floors and sidewalks.

Despite the similarities between the Note 8 and Note 7, we’re handing this round to the Note 8. It might not stand up any better to the elements than its predecessor, but its improved design and screen put it over the top.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8

Battery life and charging

samsung galaxy note 8 review hands on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Note 7’s ambitious battery design didn’t work out so well. Wisely, Samsung walked things back for the Note 8.

The Note 8 has a 3300mAh battery, as opposed to the Note 7’s 3500mAh battery. That’s not a huge difference, and we’re not predicting a drastic difference in battery life. If the Galaxy S8, which also has a 3300mAh battery, is anything to go by, we’re expecting the Note 8 to last about a day on a single charge.

When it comes to charging, the Note 8 should recharge a little faster than its predecessor. The latter supported Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0, which delivered up to five hours of power from 10 minutes of charging. The Note 8 has Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging technology, which fully charges the battery in about an hour.

Both the Note 8 and Note 7 also both support wireless charging (Qi and PMA).

The Note 7’s battery may have a bigger capacity, but it also wasn’t safe. From everything we know, the Note 8’s battery should recharge faster (and more safely) than its predecessor’s and last just as long.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8

Camera

samsung galaxy note 8 review hands on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Note 8 and Note 7 may share some things in common, but the camera isn’t one of them.

The Note 8’s dual camera has two 12-megapixel sensors: One telephoto with an f/1.7 aperture, and the other a wide-angle lens with an f/2.4 aperture. It’s the first dual smartphone module with optical image stabilization on both cameras.

The Note 7, on the other hand, features a 12-megapixel camera with an f/1.7 aperture.

The Note 8’s software takes full advantage of the extra lens. Live Focus, a new shooting mode, applies a blur effect (bokeh) before or after your take a photo, like the iPhone 7’s Portrait Mode. Dual Capture takes a close-up shot and a wide-angle shot at the same time.

The Galaxy Note 7 has a Selective Focus mode, too, one that essentially mimics the bokeh effect with software, but there’s a limit to what it can do.

On the front, the Galaxy Note 8 has a slightly better selfie camera than the Note 7. It’s a 8-megapixel shooter instead of 5-megapixel, which should result in clearer, sharper snaps. But it’s the same aperture and lets in the same amount of light as the Note 7’s selfie camera, so we’re not expecting dramatically better low-light performance.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8

Software

samsung galaxy note 8 review hands on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy Note 7 ship with TouchWiz, Samsung’s Android skin. TouchWiz may be similar on both, but the Note 8 comes with Bixby, Samsung’s AI assistant. There’s also the Dex Station docking accessory (sold separately) that transforms the Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S8 Plus into a functional desktop replacement.

All Note phones come with Samsung’s S Pen, of course, and a number of S Pen software features that debuted on the Note 7 are present and accounted for on the Note 8. A few include Screen Off Memo, which lets you sketch and write memos without switching on the Note 8’s display, and Air Command, which provides a list of shortcuts to apps whenever the S Pen’s removed from its slot. There’s a new feature on the Note 8 called Live Messages, and it lets you sketch a message or drawing and share it as a GIF to your friends or to social media.

One new features in the software is called App Pair in the Edge Panel, which lets you pair two apps to start in split-screen view.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8

Price

korea brand samsung index galaxy note 7 child burned

The Galaxy Note 7 isn’t for sale, and we don’t recommend buying one. Samsung recalled every unit and distributed a software update that disables its ability to charge. There’s the Galaxy Note FE, a refurbished and safe version of the Note 7, but it’s tough to find in the U.S.

Pre-orders start at midnight on August 24 at AT&T, C Spire, Cricket Wireless, Sprint, Straight Talk Wireless, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, Xfinity Mobile, Samsung.com, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. An unlocked version will also be available.

When it was in stores, Samsung priced the 64GB variant of the Note 7 at $850. The Note 8 is a lot more expensive.

Galaxy Note 8 Galaxy Note 7
Verizon $40 for 24 months ($960)  $36 for 24 months or ($864)
AT&T $31.67 for 30 months ($950)  $36.67 for 24 months or $29.34 for 30 months ($880)
T-Mobile $39 for 24 months ($930) or $30 per month and $210 down  $70 down and $32.50 for 24 months or $0 down and $37.50 for 18 months ($850)
Sprint $40 for an 18-month lease  $35.42 for 24 months ($850) or $350 on a two-year contract

The Galaxy Note 8 is pricier than the Galaxy Note 7 across the board, as you can see. But to sweeten the pot, Samsung, retailers, and carrier partners are extending freebies and discounts to early buyers.

  • Samsung is throwing in a few extras for customers who reserve a Note 8 early. From now until September 24, you get a choice of a free Samsung Gear 360 camera (a $230 value) or a free Galaxy Foundation kit with a 128GB memory card and wireless charging convertible (a $190 value).
  • Samsung’s also extending a substantial discount to former Note 7 owners who reserve the Note 8 early. They’re eligible for an instant trade-in rebate of up to $425 when they upgrade their current phone for a Note 8.
  • Verizon is offering 50 percent off the Note 8’s retail price to subscribers who trade in their old phones, plus $100 off the Samsung Gear S3 smartwatch with a new two-year activation, $50 off the Samsung Power Bundle, which includes a wireless charging stand, portable power pack, and car charger.
  • AT&T is throwing in a free Galaxy Note 8 for customers who sign up for DirecTV service.
  • U.S. Cellular is giving customers who switch from another carrier up to $300 in credit.

So do all those promos even the playing field when it comes to pricing? Not really. The fact remains that the Galaxy Note 8 is about $100 more expensive than the Note 7, and that’s not insignificant.

Winner: Galaxy Note 7 

Overall winner: Galaxy Note 8

Has Samsung redeemed itself with the Note 8? Judging by what we’ve seen so far, it appears so.

The Galaxy Note 8 has a better screen, an upgraded processor, and dual cameras. It has a smaller battery, but one that charges more quickly than the Note 7’s. It has a design that’s much more refined.

The Note 8 is likely to be one of the safest smartphones you can buy, because Samsung does not want to make the same mistake twice and has rigorously tested the battery for faults.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8

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