How do the two phablets stack up?
Samsung has made a name for itself as one of the best brands to turn to for a big-screened smartphone. It was among the first to adopt an elongated display with the Galaxy S8, and it’s also one of the few to have made the transition without succumbing to the much-maligned notch.
With this in mind, we’ve placed the shiny new Galaxy Note 9 phablet against one of Samsung’s best big-screened phones of 2017: the Galaxy S8 Plus.
Worth the upgrade?
The S8 Plus and last year’s Samsung Galaxy Note 8 butted up against one another far more than the smaller S8 ever did. With only 0.1 inches of screen between them, both doled out a great media experience, not least because Samsung was among the first to add HDR support to its mobile lineup.
Both panels also delivered impressively crisp imagery thanks to the WQHD+ resolution at play, not to mention the fact that Samsung favours richer AMOLED panels too.
We may be 18 months down the line, but the story is much the same. The Note 9 retains its predecessor’s defining S Pen functionality (albeit with a few new abilities) and sports a bigger battery, which has the potential to take you beyond a day and a half of use.
A new pair of chipsets (depending on the market in which you buy the Note 9) also adds oomph beyond the Exynos 8895/Snapdragon 835-powered S8 Plus is capable. And a new GPU in the Note 9 should deliver better mobile gaming, too.
As for memory and storage, the Note 9 comes with 6GB or 8GB (depending on the storage option), whilst some variants of the S8 Plus fall comparatively short with 4GB. This has the potential to hinder multi-tasking and frequent app-switching.
The other big difference between the majority of Samsung’s 2017 flagships and its 2018 devices – including the new Note 9 – is the newer phones’ dual rear camera setup.
The 12-megapixel single sensor on the rear of the S8 Plus is still undeniably excellent. However, Samsung’s camera technicians never rest on their laurels, gracing the Note 9 with a souped-up mix of the dual 12-megapixel setup first encountered on the Note 8 with the dual aperture magic that debuted on the S9. Albeit, this time with a fingerprint sensor in a more convenient position – another trait lacking in the S8 Plus.
*** Note : £1 = $1.28 (correct at time of post)
Here’s a rundown of some of the fundamentals at play within both the new Galaxy Note 9 and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 Plus:
|Galaxy Note 9||Galaxy S8 Plus|
1440 x 2960, AMOLED
|6.2 inches, 1440 x 2960, AMOLED|
|Processor||Exynos 9810/Snapdragon 845||Exynos 8895/Snapdragon 835|
|Rear camera||Dual 12-megapixel||Single 12-megapixel|
|Software||Android 8.1 Oreo||Android 8.0 Oreo|
|Storage||128/512GB + microSD up to 512GB||64/128GB w/ microSD up to 512GB|
|Stylus||S Pen w/ Bluetooth||None|
Design and software
The Note series has always sported a more square appearance than the curvacious Galaxy S line, and the same is true here. The Note 9, like the S8 Plus, is a sandwich of curved Gorilla Glass on the front and back, with a metal frame running around the phone’s edge.
The rounding of the corners on the Note’s body and display are both significantly smaller than the S8 Plus’ silhouette – which, if it’s anything like the Note 8, will make it a touch less ergonomic.
Samsung now colour-matches the glass and metalwork on 2018’s Note, while the S8 Plus comes in all-black or a silver frame when paired with any other colourway. The predominantly glass design does at least facilitate both phone’s wireless and fast-charging support, which has now become a staple of Samsung’s flagship devices.
As for the software experience, both phones sport heavily skinned but relatively slick variations on Android, dubbed the Samsung Experience. Running atop 8.0 Oreo (with an update to 8.1 Oreo slated for later in August) on the S8 Plus and Android 8.1 Oreo at launch on the Note 9, with a presumed update to Android 9.0 Pie sometime next spring, the Samsung Experience 9.0 is decidedly similar on both phones.
There’s native support for multi-tasking, Bixby is unfortunately just a button-press or a swipe away, and Samsung’s pre-loaded software – such as its Themes app, Health app and Edge Screen – are all present and correct on both.
Being a Note rather than a Galaxy S device, Samsung also throws in a few stylus-driven experiences on the Note 9. These include Samsung Notes, the PENUP illustrative social network and Air Command, which lets you take snippets, draw animated live messages and use the S Pen to request real-time text translation.
Which is better value?
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is the company’s productivity-driven flagship for 2018, whereas the Galaxy S line has always had a proclivity for entertainment. Last year’s S8 Plus will continue to deliver a sterling smartphone experience and is still receiving major Android updates from Samsung, so should remain relevant for at least another year. The Note 9, meanwhile, is essentially the best of Samsung’s best right now and, as such, comes with a price tag to match, starting at £899.
If you want the S Pen functionality, better battery life, an even larger display and a more versatile camera, then the Note 9 is the way to go – but you’ll pay through the nose for it at launch.
The S8 Plus will continue to serve you well for media and gaming on a big-screened phone, and it’s dropped in price considerably. If you’re still hankering for stylus input, the Note 8 has also seen a reduction in price and will likely drop further, faster once the phone hits stores.