Best overall

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy S8

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Samsung's big-screened flagship phone delivers just about everything you could want from a premium handset — and with outright prices approaching $1,000, you'd hope so. The centerpiece of the Note 8 is its gorgeous 6.3-inch SuperAMOLED display, which can reach a dizzying 1,2000 nits in bright daylight for maxium visibility. You also get Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 835 processor (or Samsung's latest Exynos 8895 processor outside North America), plus 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage as standard.

The solid camera experience of the GS8 has been augmented by a second telephoto lens, the first zoom lens with OIS (optical image stabilization) in an Android phone. And that's backed up by all the core features you'd expect from a modern Samsung phone, like water resistance and fast wireless charging. And the S Pen is more useful than ever, with a bunch of new features.

Bottom line: The Galaxy Note 8 reigns supreme in the premium Android segment, with excellent performance across the board, only tarnished slightly by wonky fingerprint scanner placement.

One more thing:Want to pay a little less and get a slightly larger battery? Take a look at the Galaxy S8+.



Why the Galaxy Note 8 is the best

Samsung has successfully shrugged off the unfortunate legacy of the Note 7, returning with a fantastic handset that builds on the solid foundations of the Galaxy S8 series.

In addition to a slightly angular take on the S8's design, Galaxy Note 8 owners will get everything we loved about the S8+, with a bigger and better display, the added utility of the S Pen, and a dual camera setup that introduces some really fun and creative photo possibilities. A phone that demand such a high asking price needs to excel across the board, and the Note 8 lives up to the high standards we demand from a phone in this price category.

The only thing your money won't buy you is the latest version of Android Oreo out of the box — the Note 8's still on Nougat for now.

Best runner-up

Google Pixel 2 XL

Google Pixel XL

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The Google Pixel 2 XL gets the number-two spot here, but its basically a coin toss between these two handsets. They're both really, really good.

Despite some controversy around display quality — for what it's worth, the Note 8 definitely wins in this area — the larger of Google's two second-gen Pixel phones is a force to be reckoned with. It packs top-tier specs, a unique painted aluminum chassis in either black or panda black-and-white colors. And the curved glass front, while not quite as bezelless as Samsung's current phones, looks sleek and futuristic.

The Pixel 2 XL also boasts the latest version of Android Oreo out of the box, with speedy updates to Android 8.1 and beyond. And the rear camera, with Google's HDR+ technology, ranks as the best smartphone camera out there right now.

If you want a cleaner Android experience, or the latest software, or if Samsung's designs just don't do it for you, the Pixel 2 XL is a great alternative.

Bottom line: For a clean, fast and simple Android experience with probably the best low-light camera on any phone, the Pixel 2 XL is a fantastic choice.

One more thing: Since you're likely buying the Pixel 2 XL unlocked anyway, consider Google's own carrier, Project Fi.



Best tough phone

Samsung Galaxy S8 Active

Moto Z Force Droid

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Available on AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States, the Galaxy S8 Active is the latest ruggedized take on a modern Samsung flagship. Once again, building on the basis of the regular Galaxy S8, the Active model sports a chunkier, more durable chassis, loses the curved dispay and boasts an enormous 4,000mAh battery for epic longevity.

Add to that all your core GS8 features, likea great 12-megapixel rear camera, a bright screen and strong performance, and you've got the best tough Android phone you can buy.

Bottom line: It's not as pretty as the regular GS8, but the Active pulls ahead with a giant battery and a less accident-prone chassis.

One more thing: The Active is only available on AT&T and T-Mobile, so your buying options are much more limited compared to the Note 8 or GS8.

Conclusion

If you're looking to spend top dollar on a phone, our top choice is the Galaxy Note 8. It's followed closely by Google's top-end Pixel 2 XL, though, and if you need something tougher (and you live in the United States), you can consider the Galaxy S8 Active.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy S8

See at Verizon See at AT&T See at T-Mobile See at Sprint See at Best Buy See at Amazon

Samsung's big-screened flagship phone delivers just about everything you could want from a premium handset — and with outright prices approaching $1,000, you'd hope so. The centerpiece of the Note 8 is its gorgeous 6.3-inch SuperAMOLED display, which can reach a dizzying 1,2000 nits in bright daylight for maxium visibility. You also get Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 835 processor (or Samsung's latest Exynos 8895 processor outside North America), plus 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage as standard.

The solid camera experience of the GS8 has been augmented by a second telephoto lens, the first zoom lens with OIS (optical image stabilization) in an Android phone. And that's backed up by all the core features you'd expect from a modern Samsung phone, like water resistance and fast wireless charging. And the S Pen is more useful than ever, with a bunch of new features.

Bottom line: The Galaxy Note 8 reigns supreme in the premium Android segment, with excellent performance across the board, only tarnished slightly by wonky fingerprint scanner placement.

One more thing:Want to pay a little less and get a slightly larger battery? Take a look at the Galaxy S8+.

Update, November 2017: The Galaxy Note 8 is our new winner, closely followed by the Google Pixel 2 XL. And the new best tough phone is the Galaxy S8 Active.