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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs iPhone 7 Plus vs Pixel XL: Should I go Samsung, Apple or Google?

We compare the fresh new Samsung Galaxy Note 8 with the biggest and best competition from Apple and Google, namely the iPhone 7 Plus and Pixel XL. Should you stump up close to a grand SIM-free for the new Note, or go for a rival phablet instead?

The Note 8 has just dropped here in the UK, after months of speculation about whether Samsung would even dare to produce another S Pen-toting handset. Thankfully the Korean giant didn't back down and the newest, and biggest, addition to the Note family is truly a mesmerising device.

Question is, does the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8 offer enough cool features to steal pocket space (and it’ll take up the whole thing) from the Apple iPhone 7 Plus or Google Pixel XL? Plus, after that series of explosive Galaxy Note 7 phones being recalled, will anyone want to go back to the Note again? Here’s how Samsung's stylus-packing handset compares to the biggest rivals out there.

Check out our full Note 8 hands-on review, as well as our other Note 8 comparisons to see how this mega-phone compares with the biggest Samsungs and most mighty rivals.

Note 8 vs S8 vs S8 Plus vs S7 Edge

Note 8 vs Note 5 vs Note 4

Note 8 vs Google Pixel XL 2 vs iPhone 7s Plus

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs iPhone 7 Plus vs Pixel XL: Specs

Phone iPhone 7 Plus Pixel XL Galaxy Note 8
Screen size 5.5-inches 5.5-inches 6.3-inches
Screen resolution Full HD Quad HD QHD+
Water resistant? Yes No Yes
Fingerprint sensor? Yes Yes Yes
OS iOS 10 Android Nougat Android Nougat
Processor Apple A10 Snapdragon 821 Snapdragon 835/Exynos 8895
Memory 3GB 4GB 6GB
Storage From 32GB From 32GB 64GB
microSD? No No Yes
Battery 2900mAh 3450mAh 3300mAh
Rear camera 12MP Dual 12MP 12MP Dual
Front camera 7MP 8MP 8MP

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs iPhone 7 Plus vs Pixel XL: Design

The Samsung Galaxy S8 pushed design to another level with that bezel-free Infinity Display, plenty of shiny glass and of course a button-free front. In a true embodiment of the 'don't fix what ain't broke' mantra, the Note 8 offers a very similar look, only with an even bigger display.

While the Note 8 is undoubtedly a great-looking device, it’s up against the design genius of Apple and Google’s well-loved Pixel XL.

The iPhone 7 Plus features a sleek aluminium unibody with curved edge 2.5D glass for that 'goes-on-forever' type look you can’t help but love. Google’s Pixel XL is very similar in design, minus a home button on the front in favour of an all-in-one sensor on the rear end. You also get a unique blend of half-metal and half-glass on the back, making it something of a halfway house.

So who wins out? Well, the iPhone 7 Plus is fully waterproof as is the Note 8, while the XL is definitely not a fan of liquids. But then the iPhone 7 Plus doesn’t have a headphone jack, where the Pixel XL does and so too does the Note 8. Plus, while all three phones here have fingerprint sensors, the Note 8 also offers iris recognition to unlock the handset. Just as well, as that rear scanner is in an awkward place, compared with the competition.

Which is best?

Our personal preference here is the new Note 8, which offers a surprisingly usable design despite that larger screen. Not to mention serious good looks, which really can't be beaten.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs iPhone 7 Plus vs Pixel XL: Screen and media

The iPhone 7 Plus and the Google Pixel XL both sport 5.5-inch displays. You'll notice a difference in sharpness however, as the iPhone offers Full HD visuals (1920x1080 for 401ppi) while the Pixel boasts crisper Quad HD visuals (2560x1440 for 534ppi).

The Galaxy Note 8 blows both of these rival phones out of the water however, since Samsung is a screen manufacturer after all. The Note 8 comes packing a mighty 6.3-inch Super AMOLED screen with a widescreen 18.5:9 aspect ratio, QHD+ resolution (2880x1440) and HDR display smarts.

While the iPhone offers more realistic visuals, the AMOLED panels of the Pixel and the Note 8 pump out super-vibrant images that really do look nice. Neither is 'best' of course, and which you prefer will entirely be down to personal preference. That said, the HDR support of the Note 8 means it's more future-proof than the other mobiles in this comparison.

Which is best?

The Galaxy Note 8 is the clear winner here, with a more spacious, super-sharp HDR-ready screen.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs iPhone 7 Plus vs Pixel XL: Features

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 comes packing that much-loved S Pen stylus as a crucial part of the package, something the competition here doesn’t offer. This allows precision input, which is ideal for getting creative on the move or staying productive.

The new Note also comes packing Bixby AI, for smart artificial assistant controls. Since this is powered by former Siri developers who wanted to make something even better than Apple's AI, it’s a really enticing offering. The assistant has finally made its way to the UK, so only time will tell if it really is a stronger feature.

Samsung's bonus features are all sat neatly on top of Android Nougat, an OS that's also unsurprisingly found on Google's own Pixel handsets. The Pixel XL adds no bonus features, sticking instead with a vanilla version of Android. Of course that does mean you get the Google Assistant deeply integrated for voice controls and unlimited Google Photos storage.

Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus uses iOS 10 instead, which offers less customisation but plenty of great functionality. For instance, the iPhone boasts 3D Touch, for pressure-sensitive controls that make interactions even faster. Peeking at content before opening it up is a really nice feature, while you can also jump straight into specific app actions direct from your desktops.

As for storage, only the Galaxy Note 8 here offers microSD memory card support. With the other handsets, you're stuck with whatever storage option you opt for. Good thing you can get upwards of 128GB of space then, albeit for a bigger price tag.

Which is best?

That brilliant S Pen stylus once again wins this round for the Galaxy Note 8. That said, we like the user experience offered by the rivals here too.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs iPhone 7 Plus vs Pixel XL: Performance and battery life

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 comes packing the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Exynos 8895 CPU with a hefty 6GB of RAM in backup, giving download speeds of up to 1Gbps. You also get a reasonably sized 3300mAh battery, which can hopefully keep you going all day even though it's powering that mighty 6.3-inch panel. Fast charging as well as wireless charging are both present and correct. And hopefully no more exploding/burning issues, as Samsung is putting each battery through rigorous testing to prevent any more mishaps.

The iPhone 7 Plus runs an A10 Fusion processor at 2.34GHz and is backed by 3GB of RAM and a 2,900mAh battery. Don’t expect much more than a day of use, especially if you like to stream lots of media. However, performance is still perfect after close to a year of use, even when blasting through demanding games and editing video footage.

Google’s Pixel XL packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with 4GB of RAM, as well as a 3,450mAh battery. This handset also boasts a fast charging feature and again, despite the Pixel's age, you can expect a silky smooth experience throughout.

Which is best?

We're yet to test Samsung's Galaxy Note 8, although those premium specs should make for a more graceful ageing experience. Still, the Pixel XL continues to impress with its smooth performance and solid battery life.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs iPhone 7 Plus vs Pixel XL: Cameras

The Galaxy Note 8 is the first Samsung mobile to boast dual rear cameras, with a 12-megapixel telephoto lens and 12-megapixel wide-angle snapper on offer.

These work together seamlessly and both feature Optical Image Stabilisation, to cut down on blur and judder when snapping pics. This means that even when you’ve zoomed in to take a close-up shot, the Note 8 offers full stabilisation to counter any hand shake. Definitely something that isn’t found on the rival smartphones in this comparison.

Image quality is excellent and you can shoot up to 4K resolution video on demand, again with strong stabilisation. Plus you get some cool bonus modes, including the ability to add neat bokeh-style effects, capture shots using both rear lenses at once, and the same S8-style AR face masks and effects to spruce up your shots with weirdness.

Meanwhile the Note 8's front-facing camera is an 8-megapixel shooter with that same face mask tech, so you can freak out your friends on Facebook.

Check out our full Note 8 camera preview for all you need to know.

Apple has also gone the way of the dual rear camera with 12-megapixel f/1.8 and f/2.8 wide-angle and telephoto lenses for high-quality snaps and a 63-megapixel panorama mode. Although we expect the Note 8 to offer better low light photography, we can't fault the iPhone's snapper for everyday use. Plus, you once again get support for up to 4K photography, as well as the Live Photos feature.

The front-facing iPhone selfie snapper is 7-megapixels, offering sharp shots.

In stark contrast to the others here, Google’s Pixel XL uses a traditional single-lens camera on the rear at 12.3-megapixels. Overall quality is excellent, including strong low light performance. Once again you have the ability to shoot 4K video, as well as a great HDR mode and more.

The Pixel XL also sports an 8-megapixel front-facing selfie snapper, just like the Note.

Check out our Pixel XL camera review and iPhone 7 Plus camera review for samples and full info. We've also put these snappers head-to-head in our Pixel vs iPhone camera comparison.

Which is best?

This is a really tricky call. The Note 8 has the potential to be the very best smartphone camera out there in 2017, although only a complete test will truly decide this. For now, the Pixel XL and iPhone 7 Plus both offer strong optics.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs iPhone 7 Plus vs Pixel XL video

Here's our full video comparison of these three phones, after going hands-on with the new Note 8.

You can pre-order the Galaxy Note 8 from O2, with a wide selection of tariffs and up to 50GB data allowance. Some of the contracts are viable for the Yearly Upgrade Programme and you can enjoy other benefits, including daily offers with O2 Priority.

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