The Fall of 2017 is packed with some decent smartphone action. Two of these big hitters are the Samsung Note 8 and LG V30. They may share similarities on the outside, but are different animals otherwise.
Samsung has a clear advantage when it comes to screen quality. While LG has dabbled with OLED tech in its smartphones, Samsung has been doing it since the first Galaxy S. But LG has some unique tricks worthy enough to steal attention from Samsung’s refinements.
- Curved glass and metal build
- About the same aspect ratio ~ 18:9
- Snapdragon 835 octa-core chipset
- Main camera lens aperture: f/1.6 on V30 vs. f/1.7 on Note 8
- 64GB base storage with microSD card support
- Wireless charging
- 3,300 mAh battery
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- IP68-rated waterproofing
- Bluetooth v5.0
- Android 7.0 (Nougat)
Samsung Note 8
- Best and brightest OLED screen
- 83% screen-to-body ratio
- 6GB of RAM
- Fast wireless charging
- Secondary 2x telephoto camera
- Quick Dual Pixel auto-focus
- 8MP front camera
- IRIS retina scanner for security
- S Pen stylus
- Awful fingerprint scanner placement
- Slower Quick Charge 2.0
- Standard audio DAC and non-HD aptX wireless codec
- low aperture on secondary camera – f/2.4
- Huge phone size and weight
- Expensive – almost $1K
- Thinner, lighter, and more wieldy phone size
- Secondary 120-degree wide-angle camera
- HiFi dedicated DAC for wired audio and AptX HD for wireless
- Tons of camera modes and manual controls
- Great fingerprint scanner implementation
- Quick Charge 3.0
- $800 price
- LG’s P-OLED screen is not as bright and is poor in low brightness
- Camera interface is not quick
- Camera’s performance with dynamic range is still not there
- Front-facing camera’s quality is poor
- Software is dated and not as snappy or smooth as the competition
Differences in use
- Although the Note 8 and V30 speak the same design language, they’re very different in-hand. The Note 8 is a heifer, short of 200 grams, while the V30 is surprisingly light for its size at 158g. The V30 is also noticeably thinner (7.3mm vs 8.6mm on the Note 8). So the V30 is gets the handling win, but the Note 8 feels more substantial and more like the loads of money you paid.
- The Note 8 is also a lot taller. With these elongated aspect ratios, the Note’s 0.3″ larger display makes for an almost comically tall phone. So it’s top-heavy at times just because the fact that your hand grasps half of the phone (depending your hand size).
- That said, grip is better on the Note 8, because of its thickness and rounder curves. The V30’s edges are a steeper taper. The glossy finish on its rounded frame is slippery, and because it’s so thin, there’s not that much area to grip.
- You get accidental screen presses on the edges of both phones – in our experience, a little more on the Note 8.
- Other than dimension differences, the glass/metal build of these phones are just about equivalent.
- The V30 has an ergonomically-placed rear fingerprint scanner, while the same cannot be said about the Note 8.
- The Note 8 has larger top/bottom bezels, but the V30 has more side bezel. The Note 8 has overall better screen-to-body ratio (83.2% vs 81.2% on the V30) – that takes into account the portions of the screen that curves, for better or worse.
- The Note 8’s display is significantly brighter than the V30. Half of the Note’s brightness is about 70% on the V30.
- Colors on Samsung’s panel are more vibrant (but not overly vivid). LG’s panel is slightly colder and natural, but still has that OLED pop.
- The V30 can have an issue with color uniformity, most noticeable in lower brightnesses, where it also exhibits grainyness. The Note does not have these issues. Also, the Note’s color shift is minimal at angles, where it is noticeable on the V30 (though not severe).
- The V30’s panel also over-darkens the picture in lower brightnesses. Details in dark areas of pictures and videos are unforgivably butchered. This does not happen on the Note 8’s OLED panel.
- The Note 8 handles outdoor visibility better due to a brighter-capable panel, but the V30 can get the job done.
- The Note 8 opts for 2x optical zoom for its secondary camera, while the V30 continues LG’s wide-angle implementation. Samsung calls its primary sensor “wide-angle”, but its 77-degree view pales in comparison to LG’s 120-degree sensor.
- In real world use, we found ourselves using the V30’s wide-angle camera a lot more than the Note 8’s 2x telephoto. The 120-degree difference is a lot more than 2x zoom from the primary sensor (see our LG V30 Synopsis)
- However, the Note 8’s dual camera can capture bokeh (aka Portrait) depth of field effect on a subject. This works very well on the Note 8, and we got some stunning shots (see our Note 8 Synopsis). The V30 cannot do this.
- Like the trend, captures on the Note 8 are noticeably warmer than on the V30. This makes the Note 8’s pictures more pleasing to the eyes, but the V30’s are more natural. The example below says it all.
- The Note 8 edges the V30 in higher dynamic range conditions (when there’s a high difference between bright and dark spots in a scene. The V30 can over-darken dark spots or over-brighten bright spots, but it’s not severe and a lot better than previous LG cameras. You can still tell the detail in these spots.
- The Note 8’s camera is noticeably brighter. This helps tremendously in low-light situations, but it can sometimes be unnaturally bright in normal conditions. Again, if you want more “true to life”, then LG does it better.
- Auto-focus is much faster on the Note 8 than the V30. Capture when hitting the shutter button is also quicker. Speed is an area LG really needs to improve. However, the V30 shows the user the points of focus (via little squares, like on full-fledged cameras) – the Note 8 doesn’t in Auto mode.
- The V30 has a lot more shooting modes/options than the Note 8.
- The V30’s software doesn’t look much different than that of last year’s G5, meaning that it is comprised of dated-looking icons, Setting menu, and transitions. Additionally, its app drawer is an afterthought. It’s an option and not enabled by default, and when enabled, it uses Android’s older button operation.
- The Note 8 has a revamped UI that sports classier accents, such as the unique styling to the nav bar and Settings buttons. The modern swipe up/down gesture to open the app drawer is also preset. Some TouchWiz DNA remains (i.e. bubbly icon shapes and Samsung bloat apps), but it’s forgivable now.
- Samsung’s UI is much more optimized than LG’s. Micro stutters are plentiful in the V30, and moving around the UI is generally slower. The Note 8 is notably fluid and quick to respond, not too far from Google’s Pixel phone experience. You occasionally get a micro stutter on the Note 8, but not nearly as much as the V30.
- The Note 8’s pressure-sensitive Home button is very nifty, especially if you use the function to auto-hide the navigation bar. Both phones can hide the nav bar, but the pressure button on the Note 8 allows you to return Home without having to swipe up to bring up the bar each time.
- Audio is all-around better on the V30. The Note 8 uses the DAC integrated in the Snapdragon 835 chipset while the V30 has a dedicated HiFi DAC made by ESS Technology. Wired headphones on the V30 sound more detailed, dynamic, and crisp. Additionally, the V30 has the higher fidelity AptX HD codec for wireless playback, while the Note 8 has the vanilla AptX.
- Battery life is comparable between the two. The V30 has a slight edge in our experience, but it’s not significant.
- LG hasn’t gotten rid of the camera(s) hump yet, while Samsung has. There’s a slightly raised rim around the Note 8’s rear sensors. The V30’s camera glass is more exposed, so you’ll have to be more careful to not crack it.
- The V30 costs $130 less than the Note 8 ($800 vs $930) and comes with a two year warranty instead of one.
Camera Sample Comparison
There’s a lot to consider when choosing between these two behemoths of the 2017 smartphone battle. The Samsung Note 8 and LG V30 have their own very distinct lists of pros and cons, making the decision that more challenging. It really comes down to what matters more in your smartphone usage. When we’re speaking of the overall package, we have to award the win to the Note 8. If the V30’s P-OLED display, camera, and software performance were closer, then it would be a neck-and-neck bout.
That considered, the V30 can still be justified for many users, such as those who don’t think the $1000 mark for a smartphone is acceptable. The V30 plays it at a safer $800. Also, if the mobile audio experience is one of your top values, then you can’t really beat the V30. This goes for the unique and awesome option of a wide-angle shooter too.
Also See: Best Smartphones (October 2017)