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Galaxy S9+ vs. Galaxy Note 8: Which should you buy?

Samsung's dual-flagship approach is great for smartphone super-fans, because we get to see a new top-of-the-line phone from the company twice a year. The Galaxy S series refreshes early on in the year, followed by a Note phone about six months later.

But for someone who holds off on a purchase and doesn't necessarily upgrade every six months (or even each year), it creates a quandary when you go to buy a Samsung phone: do you buy the Galaxy S, or the Note? Right now you can get the Galaxy Note 8, which is still just a handful of months old and very much a modern phone, but if you want the absolute latest tech from Samsung it has actually been supplanted by the Galaxy S9+.

The Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series have converged over the past few years, but it hasn't ever been this close — here's what you need to consider when choosing between the two.

What's the same

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 8

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 8

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 8

The Galaxy S9+ has a few improvements over the Note 8, but as you'd expect considering their proximity much has been carried over. The two phones share a common platform in their hardware when it comes to the quality of the materials and the overall design, with the only real change being the GS9+'s different metal finish. The Galaxy S9+'s display has improved from the GS8+, but is indistinguishable in quality from the Note 8 — so yeah, both look amazing. And of course there's just a 0.1-inch diagonal difference in size.

This is the same core hardware platform supporting both phones.

The rest of the hardware features like waterproofing, an SD card slot, a headphone jack, wireless charging, Quick Charge 2.0 and the supporting specs are all the same. Yes the processor has been upgraded to a Snapdragon 845 in the Galaxy S9+, but that shouldn't make you forget about the Note 8's considerable speed in its own right. Both have the same RAM and storage, too.

Even though the Galaxy S9+ is running Oreo out of the box, I won't even claim it's a big difference. The Galaxy Note 8 should have its Oreo update in short order, and it will have as many of the same software features as possible. But even that aside, Samsung's take on Oreo isn't all that removed from the Nougat launched on the Note 8 — all else being equal in the phones, don't choose one over the other just to get it.

What's different

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 8

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 8

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 8

Physically, it's simply a bit easier to handle the slightly smaller Galaxy S9+. We're talking about 4 mm in height, 1 mm in width and 6 grams in weight, but add it all up with the slightly more rounded corners and the GS9+ feels like less of a behemoth than the Note 8. If the Note 8 is outright unmanageable for you the GS9+ won't feel like an entirely different phone, and you should consider the regular Galaxy S9 instead — but I'll never complain about a phone being smaller and easier to hold, even if it's subtle.

A slight drop in size and a better fingerprint sensor placement definitely make a difference.

Perhaps more important than the size is the fingerprint sensor placement on the Galaxy S9+. You can easily reach up and touch the lower, center-mounted fingerprint sensor without shifting the phone around in your hand. It's something you do dozens (perhaps hundreds) of times per day, and it's something you don't really think about until you've lived with the far inferior placement on the Note 8.

The Galaxy S9+ also introduces stereo speakers. A phone the size of the Note 8 really should have them as well, but at least you have access to it with the GS9+. The speakers aren't dramatically louder, but getting stereo separation and not having the audio easily blocked by your finger when holding the phone in portrait mode is another subtle usability improvement. And yes, the battery on the Galaxy S9+ is slightly larger, 3500 versus 3300mAh. That 6% bump in conjunction with the slight efficiency improvement from the Snapdragon 845 helps battery life, but it's not a massive shift.

Note 8's camera is no slouch, but the Galaxy S9+ easily bests it with no clear downsides.

One could say the biggest improvement in the 2018 phone is its main camera. This is an all-new setup for Samsung, with a brand new sensor and a variable aperture. The new sensor is capable of taking fantastic photos with less noise and sharper lines in all sorts of scenes, but really shines when it comes to low light photography. It also has 960 fps super slow-motion video capture, which is a neat trick. The Note 8's camera is no slouch, but the Galaxy S9+ easily bests it with no clear downsides.

The only benefit the Note 8 has going for it in this comparison is the feature that gives it its name: the S Pen stylus. If you like to draw or write notes by hand, there isn't anything like the S Pen on any other phone. Sure the Galaxy S9+ has some of the same features, but when it comes to getting that super-precise input there's no replacement for having the S Pen at the ready.

Bottom line: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 8

This really feels like a toss-up. Not only do these two phones have nearly identical experiences, but they also cost about the same. Though the MSRP of the Note 8 was a bit higher, around $940, a few months on the market and the release of the GS9+ has brought that down in many places to the same price as the newer phone. Given their similarities we know basically no one will be upgrading from a Note 8 to a GS9+, but these two will be cross-shopped for someone coming from an older phone.

Unless you need the S Pen, you should buy the Galaxy S9+.

With so much shared between the phones in hardware, design and capabilities, this really comes down to evaluating the few differences and how they'll actually matter in daily use. The Galaxy S9+ offers a slightly more compact size, a little better battery life, an improved main camera and stereo speakers — but importantly, it doesn't make any compromises compared to the Note. The Note 8 offers a tiny bit more room to work on the screen, and obviously the excellent S Pen — but that's it.

So either you need a stylus and you buy the Note 8, or you'll be better served overall by the Galaxy S9+.

Update July 2018: Updated to reflect the Note 8's position in the market with the latest pricing information.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

61 Comments
  • Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus for the win.
  • Just picked up a Note 8. SPen for the win.
  • Spen is hard to live without when you get used to using it. Also, the Note 8 can be had for $200-250 less than the 9plus. Sometimes even more.
  • Idk I never really used the Spen and the s9+ stood out for me so I bought it the s9+
  • I think the note 8 is light years better than the S9 I had the S9 from day one up until about 2 weeks ago and I switch to the Note 8 and it's literally like this is the update not the other way around the camera on here takes way more vibrant pictures and I'm somewhat of an amateur photographer the S9 over exposes everything it doesn't have any shadows in the pictures which some people would say that's good I guess but it takes everything out to where you can see everything but makes the picture look dull and dry it's just not a very good camera where is the Note 8 camera is amazing with all the classic saturation of Samsung photography just blows it out of the water the only thing better on the S9 was the fact that it could do that 60 frames per second 4K video which was awesome but the Ois was terrible, now the 4K 30 frames per second it was phenomenal in the stratosphere compared to that but the overall package on the note 8 I mean is just light years better than the S9 you would think this was the one that just came out do not buy the S9
  • I'm on the fence about "upgrading" to S9+ from Note8 through TMobile JOD.
  • I don't see a reason to upgrade from the Note 8 to the S9+ unless the Note is too big. Phones don't change very much in a year's time, and other than the adaptive iris, I don't see any hardware reason to upgrade. I also wouldn't want gen 1 of a new camera design. That being said, I bought my S8+ in November right before all the sales started, and I really want to get the S9+ haha.
  • The main reason I want to pick up a S9+ is because my Note8 has some serious screen burn-in. It's fine when I'm on dark pages but when I'm on light pages it's very distracting and disappointing. I play guns of boom a lot and text from the game are burned into my screen permanently:/
  • They will warrenty screen burn in. Bring it to your local Samsung store.
  • Local Samsung store?? LOL!
  • UBreakIFix is now an authorized Samsung service center, so it's possible there actually IS a local Samsung store. They're opening one in Springfield Missouri right now.
  • Note 9 would be super awesome
  • I love my Note 8...but randomly reboots about once every other day....which sux...and once it changed all my settings and background. Also...battery life has gone down hill lately....so thinking about 9plus.
  • You should check your phone's health & see what is draining your battery. In device maintenance, you can look at the battery & see what's going on. The biggest battery killer is Always On Display & location.
  • I have the same issues. I've tweaked and changed my phones battery saving mode so many times, have all the apps I can asleep at any given time and I still have severe battery issues with the note 8. It's unfortunate we can't get a 4,000mah battery at least, like many of the foreign competitors.
  • you might have the setting turned in for it to reboot itself, Check the settings. Also check what apps are draining your battery, and make sure your doing the system maintenance.
    My battery has taken a slight hit as well, but it's not the phone fault. It was that last update that cause the problem.
  • I believe that setting only let's you set it to reboot once-a-week.
  • You guys make me regret giving up my iPhone sometimes
  • I use the s8+, I'm waiting for the note9. I am hoping the FPS is within the display. Plus I have never owned a note. Maybe an exciting release. But one fact is it won't come cheap!
  • +1, waiting for FPS embedded in the display!
  • Is it really relevant to compare the S9+ with the Note 8?? Shouldn't you wait until August or September and compare the S9+ with the Note 9 instead?
  • Why wouldn't it be relevant? The note 8 came out a few months back and the s9+ is just going to be coming out.... If someone has an upgrade I'm sure its a relatively big decision on whether they choose the note 8 or s9+
  • It's very relevant
  • It is relevant, actually. The numbering of the Note devices (with the pen) is always one number behind the S-series. Those have the same - or very similar - hardware and software.
  • I have many S models. Note 8 was my first Note. Easily the best phone I have ever owned. Just as snappy as the day I got it. I don't think you can go wrong with the Note 8 or the S9+
  • Once again the SPEN is marginalized in a review. Not surprising. The Note 8 is cheaper, has a camera thats nearly as good, and way more functionality with the Spen. In essence your paying more for a slightly smaller size, and new fingerprint sensor placement. Dumb,Get a note 8.
  • SD845 as well.
  • Well, there's not a lot of speed difference between the 835 and the 845, as there are a number of 835 phones that are faster than the S9 Plus. But, the camera on the S9 Plus IS better, and so is the screen. I think the most important feature is the S pen, and that will be the deciding factor.
  • Having tried out the cameras on both of these in Carphone Warehouse a couple of days ago, I would go for the Note 8. Maybe the the new camera isn't fully optimised yet and software will improve it, but the Note 8 seemed to focus quicker and produced sharper photos.
  • This article highlights the whole reason the Note line has become a pale imitation of its former self. It used to be set apart from the S line by virtue of S pen, screen size and battery, for the power user. Now far too many people are buying it because it is 6 months newer than the S, and they must have the latest shiny thing.
    There shouldn't be any question of swapping one to the other. Either you want an S pen or you don't.
    Sadly Samsung no longer needs to set the Note apart in the same way so we have daft screen shapes and bent edges that do not work well with the S pen. They've driven me away from the best phones ever.
  • I have & use the s8+, the best phone I've ever used. For myself, the s9 would be a minimal upgrade. But the note9 will definitely peek my interest. I have never owned a note before and love the thought of the s-pen!
  • Still holding onto my Note 4, but seriously considering the Note 8. The S9+ with the 845 and the new camera is really tempting. I have the Bamboo Pen for my N4 with the S-Button equivalent. I can't find any info anywhere if it will work with the N8. If it doesn't, I'll move the N4 to being my home toy, my old S3 to being my GoPro monitor and get a S9+. I've gotten some suggestions in regards to a S-Pen replacement, but the Bamboo really feels like a real pen.
  • I thought according to Versus looking at this 9+ over even the 9 that is has 256GB storage space on the phone and the video camera is 2 times the speed over the 8- but is the same for the 9 or the 9+.
    2160 x 60fps For what we want to use this phone for, it will be perfect and about 1/2 the price of a real video camera for doing Live on FB. Heck we may even buy 2 if our bandwidth can handle it. I know they are offering up to $350.00 off retail for trade of the 8 or any phone model 1 year old. However do they have a buy 1 get one free or at least 1/2 off? Is there a non-profit discount?
  • BOGO Free right now on certain carriers
  • This might not be relevant to this post. I bought Note 8 yesterday and I am seeing light bleeding from the edges of the screen. I heard that newer Note 8 phones do not have it. Can you tell by serial number which Note 8 builds would not have this annoying problem?
  • Still love my Note 8.....Still as fast as new ....I played with s9+ but still find my Note 8 more premium....i dunno y ...I just mite wait for Note 9...I often use S pen ....Will make my wife upgrade from s7 edge to S9+....
  • samsung fans should grow up and stop buying into marketing. neither device is that great.
  • Dipstick. alert. lol
  • I like the Note 8 better mainly because the display is more square, less rounded corners vs S9+
  • I prefer the Note 8 over the S9+ but I wouldn't buy either of them for 1 reason, stock Android and 2 I'm a Pixel fan.
  • We get it u will never buy a Samsung device because it doesn't have stock android
  • Seriously. You remind me of Sue Heck on the show "The Middle" You have to throw it into every post.
  • Stock android is so pointless and boring.
  • Right on queue! However, I'm on my last Samsung.
  • The Note line doesn't make any sense any more with the Galaxy Sx + looking 98% the same as it. Before people used to buy the Galaxy Note because of the bigger screen size, bigger battery, more powerful processor and the fancy stylus (though the latter really never was mandatory in every day uses). Now the Galaxy S9+ is practically the same size as the Note, same processor inside (the Note 9 will probably have the same processor) and it even has a bigger battery than it's Note counterpart. The only difference today is really the stylus, and I hardly see how that stylus would justify the $100 - 200+ increase over the S9+. (Even over the S8+). The only way to give a new meaning to the Note line would be to cancel the Sx+ so that the Note would give better incentives to customers to buy it (or even wait for it) over the Galaxy Sx.
  • Comparing last years Note to the SX+ line-in addition to the S Pen (more than just a stylus) the Note 8 has 2 additional gigs of ram, a dual camera, and a brighter, as well as a larger screen. Though on paper there is only a 0.1 inch difference in screen size, I find the squarer, slightly less curved screen on the Note 8 allows that 0.1 inch of additional real estate to make a difference when viewing content. The additional ram also makes a difference though in most everyday tasks the 4 gigs in the S8+ was more than sufficient. With Apple rumored to be introducing a 6.5 inch iPhone X in late summer, I'd be surprised if Samsung didn't significantly turn up the specs on the Note 9.
  • Simply Wait for the Note 9...
  • Me too, I was going to upgrade to the 9+ from my 8+ but decided to wait for the note9. I really don't care about the FPS within the display, but the larger battery has my interest!
  • Note 8
  • The one with Band 71
  • I have an s7 edge now and am picking up the Note 8 later today. I wanted the stylus. I hope i like the phone...
  • halfway through and I wish I had gone somewhere else. This review sounds like someone who really wants the Note 8 but can't have it so let's just talk ****, instead of a review! The note costs $ 1300 outright and the S9 plus $1099 and is already on sale lol. Throw your Samsung 9 into a pool and take a picture underwater... Oh wait, you can't.
  • One thing to note is that the note 8 and the s9 both have octa-core processors, however the note 8's processor has 4 cores that run at 2.35GHz and 4 that run at 1.9GHz, whereas the S9+'s processor has all cores running at 2.8GHz. If you use apps that run heavily, the S9+ would probably be your best bet. But if you more so use your phone for office work or just social media, the note 8 would probably be better considering the S-Pen.
  • Note 9 or bust
  • Simple, if you have to ask you don't need the stylus.
  • Love my Note 8 and my s pen. Definitely looking forward to Note 9 releasing very soon.
  • Don’t need the s pen so went for the S9 plus. I’ve had a few notes over the years but after the initial excitement of having the original note I’ve never really used the S pen. If I needed the s pen I’d wait for the note 9 at this point. I think there are some significant improvements between the note 8 and S9 plus to warrant waiting for the note 9 if you want a note.
  • Neither for me.
  • I might have a problem since I bought my first Note phone last year (Note 8): addiction to the S Pen. I was planning on switching back to iPhones with the X, but now I just cant see myself using a smartphone without one considering the range of uses it opened. I find myself using excel a lot more, editing images has become easier, precise browsing is nice (no need to pinch zoom that much), swiping the keyboard is fast and accurate, etc. I'll pass on the Note 9, but will definitely stay on the Note range in the future I think.
  • "Nobody will be upgrading from the Note 8 to the S9+"? Quite a strong statement.
    Yes, the similarities are there for all to see BUT the finger sensor placement, significantly better battery life, slightly better camera, more manageable shape/size, less laggy interface and double the storage were enough for me to upgrade and it didn't cost me that much for the privilege.
    Sold my 4 month old 64GB Note 8 via a well known auction site, imported the 128GB S9+ (in the lovely Coral Blue) for not much more. I'm now much happier with the S9+, only my daughter misses the S-pen for "colouring"...
  • I see my original comments have been deleted. I'll just say this: don't let spec sheets lie to you. Because sometimes, they do. I own a Note 8, S9 plus, and an LG V30. The S9 Plus was a gift from my girlfriend. I bought the Note 8 and V30. Real world usage, the Note 8 is more fluid than the S9 plus, with slightly better battery life. My S9 plus occasionally lags. And I've had some bluetooth issues, as well. My Note 8 is the first Samsung phone I can honestly say I've loved using, daily. Now, the Oreo update did impair my battery life. And I hate the curved edges. Hate them. All things said, the LG V30 is the best of the three, to me. If it only had a pen, like the Note. But, that's what makes the Note special. And for guys like Andrew, who never use the pen... why even consider the Note? That's silly.