Galaxy Note 8 vs. Galaxy S8+: Which should you buy?

As the Galaxy S series got larger and the Galaxy Note series continued to take design and feature cues from its smaller siblings, the two phones have gotten increasingly homogeneous. The Galaxy S8+ is nearly the same phone as the Galaxy Note 8, save for the newer Note having dual cameras, a stylus and a couple spec differences. It stands to reason that people will be comparing the two and seeing if the Note 8 is worth the extra money.

Samsung is obviously happy when consumers are in the position of choosing between two of its phones rather than pitting one against a competitor. But which one is right for you? We're here to help you make that decision.

What the Galaxy Note 8 does better

The Note 8 is the new hotness, and it's understandably the top-end phone in Samsung's lineup and therefore will get plenty of advertising weight behind it. That will drive people into stores to check it out … but what exactly does it do differently from the Galaxy S8+?

Well, to set the stage let's quickly recap what's the same. You're getting the same core specs, screen quality and hardware features in both phones. For example you get the same Snapdragon 835 or Exynos CPU, 64GB of storage (with SDcard slot), QHD+ resolution Super AMOLED display, metal-and-glass body with waterproofing, and so on.

Yes the Note 8 is larger, but the hardware improvements are miniscule.

Yes the Note 8's screen is larger … 0.1-inch larger, at 6.3-inches in total. It's a hardly perceptible difference. Inside you get 6GB of RAM instead of 4GB — not a big deal now, but could be potentially useful in the future. The hardware design is slightly tweaked to accommodate it all, with more tightly rounded corners, but the proportions and materials are identical to that of the Galaxy S8+. The fingerprint sensor is in the same location as well, which definitely isn't a positive in either case.

The two big features that are actually substantially different on the Note 8 are the new camera experience and the S Pen. The Note 8's primary camera is actually the same as the GS8+, but it's also paired up with a secondary 12MP camera that has a telephoto lens that enables lossless zooming and software-based depth of field effects. It's more capable than the Galaxy S8+, for sure, but your day-to-day shots will be the same on either phone.

The S Pen is entirely unique to the Note lineup, and enables quick hand-written notes, annotation and precise control of small objects on the screen. If you've had a previous Note, you'll get it; if you haven't, you probably don't see the value. Go try it for yourself to see where you land on it.

What the Galaxy S8+ does better

For most people with no previous feelings about the type of phone they want, the Galaxy S8+ will likely be their initial choice. That will primarily come down to price and therefore value: the Galaxy S8+ is over $100 cheaper than the Note 8, even at MSRP, and because it's a few months older it's already on a discount. That's for about 90% the same hardware and experience.

The Galaxy S8+ gives you 90% of the experience for roughly $200 less.

Yes the screen is smaller, but unless you're holding both phones together you wouldn't be able to tell the 0.1-inch difference. And the Galaxy S8+ is definitely easier to handle (relatively speaking), being just a tad narrower and also considerably lighter — 22 grams, or about 12% — than the Note 8.

That's all while holding nearly the same specs, aside from the aforementioned lower RAM in the GS8+. Of course there's the positive trade-off of having a slightly larger 3500mAh battery to work with here — not a huge difference, but a little extra reserve you can count on nonetheless.

Which should you choose?

Going into this comparison, we're taking as a given that you're drawn to the core Samsung features, design and software. Thankfully Samsung shares so many features between these two phones it makes that part easy.

So comparing the Note 8 and the Galaxy S8+ head-to-head, the decision process is rather simple. If you want the biggest and most capable phone that Samsung offers, you go with the Note 8. Its screen is marginally larger, it has more RAM, it offers the S Pen you can't get anywhere else and it has the only dual camera setup in Samsung's lineup.

On the other hand, if you have no desire to use the S Pen, and don't see the small screen size bump as a benefit, you're going to be better served by the Galaxy S8+. It's a little smaller, has a larger battery and is less expensive than the newer Note 8. Given these few differences, most people will simply gravitate to the Galaxy S8+ as a default — and they'll probably make the right choice. The most likely Note 8 buyers are those who are opinionated about its few extra features from the start.

Waiting for the Galaxy S9+

At this point in the Galaxy S8+'s life, you may be questioning whether this comparison makes sense considering the Galaxy S9+ is set to be unveiled at the end of February. You'll be able to get your hands on a Galaxy S9+ around mid-march at the earliest, meaning if you need a phone now it obviously isn't an option to wait several weeks for a new phone to be released. You also need to keep in consideration the price differences, as the Galaxy S8+ has dropped from its original MSRP and will be even cheaper the closer we get to the Galaxy S9+ release. It's still a solid phone, and when compared to the Galaxy Note 8 here the comparison still stands, at least until the Galaxy S9+ is actually available.

Samsung Galaxy S9: Rumors, Specs, Release Date, and More!

Update January 2018: Recommendations updated to reflect the relative age of the Galaxy S8+ and impeding release of the Galaxy S9+.

Andrew Martonik

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