Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Users have been enjoying the benefits of the dual-camera system Apple has installed on the iPhone 7 Plus for a while now, getting acquainted with how to use features like Portrait mode and optical 2x zoom. Now, for the first time with the Note 8, Samsung is joining the dual-shooter party as well. Generally, what Samsung does here is pretty similar to Apple's implementation, 2x zoom and portraits included.
There is one major difference, and that's the ability to change the focus point in a picture after the fact with the Note 8. You can do this from the Gallery app. You can also adjust the amount of background blur (bokeh) effect that you want, if you're working on a portrait shot.
Image quality dynamics don't change much with this new edition of the Note. Samsung's first-ever dual-camera remains true to what we've come to expect from the S8's 12MP camera, and that's mostly a good thing. Between the Note 8 and iPhone 7 Plus, we're looking at very similar results in that both cameras capture superb photographs.
There are two main differences between them: 1) the Galaxy Note 8 manages to capture slightly more detail; and 2) the iPhone 7 Plus shoots pictures with more realistic color tones. That's pretty much it.
You can't go wrong with any of these two cameras. It's surprising though just how much the Note 8 tries to capture a scene and then sprinkle it with some magic dust in order to make it looks better than it actually was. We'd rather stick with the more natural-looking processing of the iPhone 7 Plus. Nevertheless, the Note 8 tends to remain slightly more composed in super-dark scenarios, where photos from the 7 Plus start to look decolorized, but those are mostly extreme cases.
With the Galaxy Note 8 now featuring a secondary, telephoto camera, it can now capture good-looking portraitsa with simulated bokeh (blurred background) effect. We really enjoy snapping portraits with both the Note 8 and the 7 Plus. Results seem almost identical most of the time, with both handsets experiencing very similar issues when generating the bokeh effects. You have the option to adjust the bokeh intensity on the Note 8, which is a convenient option to have – some scenes may look better with more/less background blur than what the default setting presents.
The Note 8 marks another step forward for the video recording capabilities of Samsung's Galaxy smartphones. The improvements we notice here over the Galaxy S8 line are found in 1) more stabalized footage – very little seems to be left of the annoying jello effect, of which the S8 suffers greatly; and 2) the microphone captures better, clearer sound. In short, the Note 8 is an awesome 4K video recorder, plus you can now do 2x optical zoom.
In comparison with the iPhone 7 Plus, the Note 8's footage looks very similar, although slightly sharpened. That becomes more apparent if you zoom in 2x, and even more if you go further digitally, say to around 5x-6x zoom. There, the iPhone's footage continues to look relatively clear, while the Note's gets very noisy. The iPhone 7 Plus also captures the more stable, artifact-free video, with no jello and less focus hunting. The latter may be a result of the Note 8 trying too hard to immediately adjust its focus, thus it's more likely to experience unneeded focus shifts. Meanwhile, the 7 Plus takes more time to determine whether the change in the scene really warrants a change in focus, and if yes, then proceeds to do so with a slower, smoother transition.
One area where we do prefer the Note 8's footage is sound, and more specifically, the sound properties of the operator's voice. With the Note 8, if the person recording the video speaks or narrates, their voice sounds very nice and clear. Unfortunately, this isn't the case with the iPhone 7 Plus, where the voice of the person holding the phone sounds rather muffled.
Sound-wise, the iPhone 7 Plus' stereo speakers sound great (for a phone), with good clarity and decent depth. The Note 8's bottom-facing loudspeaker is also quite strong, and gets the job done effectively.
Music listening is effortless with both handsets nowadays, as both Google Play Music and Apple Music are available on both iOS and Android, so no matter the platform, you'll always have access to your own music library. Same with Spotify. Samsung bundles AKG-branded in-ear headphones with the Note 8, and they sound alright for the most part. The iPhone 7 Plus' EarPods, though, excel in comfort and ease of use. They work through the Lighting connector (there is no 3.5mm jack on the iPhone, unlike on the Note), but Apple bundles a Lighting to 3.5mm adapter in the box, so if you have a preffered wired set of earphones (that are not the EarPods), you'll be able to use them without too much hassle.