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Samsung Galaxy S8+ vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus

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Camera

Win some, lose some: zoom and Portrait go for the iPhone, low-light and continuous focus for the S8+

Samsung Galaxy S8+ vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Samsung gave the S8+ the same camera that is in the S7 edge, at least on paper – a 12 MP shooter with Dual Pixel focusing tech. The camera system uses new sensor models, though, and, in addition, the selfie snapper has been upgraded to an 8 MP autofocus affair, from a 5 MP fixed-focus unit. The iPhone 7 Plus has a more elaborate, dual-camera setup, combining wide-angle and telephoto lenses to enhance image quality, offer some real optical magnification, and support stylistic depth-of-field effects (like the new Portrait mode).

Samsung cleaned up its camera app interface significantly, with only the most used functions on the home screen, like with the iPhone, while the numerous shooting modes and color effects are tucked a gesture flick away. The front camera interface got richer, though, as it can now add bunny ears or funny sunglass stickers to your pics and vids, Snapchat and Apple Clips-style. As for speed of shooting, nothing beats these two, and yet the Galaxy S8+ feels slightly ahead, as the Dual Pixel tech is best in class when it comes to focus and refocusing times.

Camera UI of the Galaxy S8+ - Samsung Galaxy S8+ vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Camera UI of the Galaxy S8+ - Samsung Galaxy S8+ vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Camera UI of the Galaxy S8+ - Samsung Galaxy S8+ vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Camera UI of the Galaxy S8+ - Samsung Galaxy S8+ vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Camera UI of the Apple iPhone 7 Plus - Samsung Galaxy S8+ vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Camera UI of the Apple iPhone 7 Plus - Samsung Galaxy S8+ vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Camera UI of the Apple iPhone 7 Plus - Samsung Galaxy S8+ vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Image quality


The iPhone 7 Plus has a much more sophisticated system to play with than the S8+, combining the output of the phone's two cameras to find the best parts of each. Granted, Samsung's Auto HDR mode also combines a few shots with different exposures to find the sweet spot, but they are all taken by the same sensor. With that premise out of the way, we found that the dual camera gives the iPhone a real advantage in two scenarios. That would be the Portrait mode, where the depth-of-field effect comes with a top-notch blur. The other one is zoom. Since the telephoto lens is protruding ahead of the wide-angle one, you can have a real 2x magnification effect without loss in quality like with the digital zoom of Samsung's phone. It's not a world of difference, but when you know you have superb zooming abilities, you end up using the option much more often than you would have had before.

The iPhone captures images in “wide color,” and these can be viewed as such on the handset's display immediately, which is pretty svelte, especially if you are swapping photos with other iPhone 7/7 Plus users. Oftentimes, especially in bright sunshine, the pictures from the iPhone 7 Plus come with a warmer color temperature than those from the S8+, but the roles are sometimes reversed. When they do, the pictures from the 7 Plus still come out much warmer than natural, though, of which we aren't particularly big fans. In those situations, the Galaxy S8+'s photos tend to look more authentic, though it's not perfect either, due to its oversharpening and sometimes zealous saturation – these make pictures stand out, but prolonged viewing reveals the somewhat artificial nature of the end results. 

Both phones can capture copious amounts of detail, and handle tricky dynamic range scenes in a superb manner. Needless to say, the fast processing times and auto HDR modes play a significant part in these stellar exposure adjustments that the iPhone 7 Plus and S8+ are capable of. In low-light, the Galaxy exhibits exposure advantages, emphasizing the shadows, and downplaying bright object a bit better than the iPhone.



Video recording


All 4K video abilities aren't created equal, and Apple, while a late bloomer, used to do UHD recording the best of them all, with smooth footage, fast exposure adjustments, little artifacts, and no recording limitations. With the S8+, however, it now has a worthy competitor, as Samsung hits all the spots we mentioned, too, but the Dual Pixel tech that uses the whole sensor to focus, makes going from near to far objects, and vice versa, a seamless process. Not that the continuous autofocus of the 7 Plus is slow, but it is less fluid. Both the iPhone and the S8+ shoot slow-motion video with 240fps at HD definition, which can create some very eye-pleasing effects.

Video playback


Big-screen phones like these two really lend themselves towards video consumption, but the AMOLED display, while superior in terms of contrast and HDR certification (if the need arises), is a bit of an oddball on the S8+. Not only is video watching marred by the slightly curved display sides, but also the new aspect ratio is hit or miss. Go to the YouTube app, for instance, and you will find yourself with black bands on the sides of the screen to fit the standard 16:9 aspect, or with slightly cropped footage in compatibility mode. Even if you are streaming one of the new Netflix series, which are now shot in 2:1 Univisium format, they'd still show letterboxed, even if you download them for offline viewing, and there is no compatibility button for the Netflix app by default. You have to explicitly go to the Full Screen option in the Display settings menu to add an aspect ratio compatibility button for the Netflix app. Upon tapping said button, if the series is 2:1, then you lose nothing by making it stretch and fit the whole display, but if it's 16:9, tough luck, you got cropped. Ditto for gaming, as most titles are done with 16:9 in mind, and need updating to fit properly. Oh, well, “those ahead of their time will have to wait for it in the designated places” (scribble in prison).

Audio


Samsung Galaxy S8+ vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus

A large, beautiful screen is just half of the equation, as how these devices sound is just as critical, and the iPhone 7 Plus really delivers. The Galaxy S8+ is capable of producing some decent audio from its sole on-board speaker, but the iPhone 7 Plus stereo sound really blows it away: there's a richer range of frequencies covered, and they sound cleaner, while the S8+ sounds flatter and weaker in comparison.



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