With prices of flagship phones like the iPhone 11 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and the OnePlus 8 Pro ($999 at OnePlus) regularly breaking the $1,000 mark, buying a budget handset or a used older-generation model can save you big money.
But what is the better option: buying a used flagship that launched a few years ago or getting a brand-new budget phone? Will the performance be as good? Can they handle the same tasks? Are they both safe to use?
To find out, I pitted two phones against each other. One is the Galaxy S8 ($420 at Amazon). Launched in 2017, the phone was the pinnacle of mobile technology in its day. With a powerful processor, a great single rear camera, a lovely curving screen and a water resistant design, the Galaxy S8 earned a glowing score in CNET’s review at the time. I picked it up preowned in the UK for only £205 (about $255 or AU$370).
Available new for around that price is the Moto G Power (called the Moto G8 Power in the UK). Brand-new (it was launched in April), it costs £220, $275 or AU$399 — a really affordable option. It has a 6.4-inch screen, four rear cameras, an octa-core processor and the latest Android 10 software.
Galaxy S8 vs. Moto G Power: Is a used phone better than…
The Galaxy S8 was the flagship of its day, but yesterday’s top tech always trickles down to become today’s bare minimum and this older phone put up a hell of a fight. Its processor performance outstrips the Moto, its single camera takes gorgeous images and its waterproofing and Android Pay support makes it a solid budget option.
The Moto G8 Power’s multiple cameras, however, do provide more shooting options, its battery life is much greater and its up-to-date Android software means it’ll stay safer to use for years to come. The S8, on the other hand, won’t receive security updates for much longer, making it more vulnerable to hackers.
It’s that safety issue that clinched the win for the Moto G8 in this piece, but read on to see more detail on how I came to that conclusion.
It might be three years old, but the Samsung Galaxy S8’s great processor performance, capable single rear camera, waterproofing and Android Pay compatibility make it a compelling choice still for those shopping for used phones on a budget.
Motorola’s Moto G Power has a big, vibrant screen, multiple rear cameras and the latest version of Android. It’s an excellent budget buy if you’re after a brand-new phone.
Processor performance: Galaxy S8 beats Moto G Power
Both phones pack octa-core processors. The Galaxy S8 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset while the G8 Power features a Snapdragon 665. Both have 4GB of RAM.
On our suite of benchmark tests, the Galaxy S8 was the clear winner, with better performance observed for both processor and graphics tests. You can see the full breakdown of score on the bar graph below, but the takeaway here is that despite being three years old, the Galaxy S8 is the better performing phone.
It’s noticeable, too. While everyday navigation around the home screens is comparable on both phones, the S8 handles graphically demanding games better. When the G8 Power is set on the default quality, the game Asphalt 9: Legends was a little stuttery and became almost unplayable when I changed the graphics to high. The S8 handled those high graphics with little visible slowdown.
Less demanding games such as the peaceful Alto’s Adventure played perfectly well on both phones. They also handled photo editing in Snapseed and high-definition video streaming on YouTube and Netflix without breaking a sweat.
Winner: The S8’s superior processor processor performance makes it better equipped to tackle the variety of demanding games on the Google Play Store. For everyday tasks like email and WhatsApp though, you won’t notice the difference.
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Camera: Galaxy S8’s single rear camera vs. Moto G8 Power’s four
When it launched, the S8’s single rear 12-megapixel camera was among the best cameras found on a phone. But things have moved on and today’s phones pack multiple cameras, offering wider angles and telephoto zooms. The Moto G8 Power packs four cameras on its back: a standard 16-megapixel, an 8-megapixel ultrawide, an 8-megapixel 2x telephoto zoom and a 2-megapixel macro.
You’d think that with these many cameras, the Moto G8 Power would be the clear-cut winner. But the Galaxy S8 puts up a hell of a fight.
In this first shot overlooking Edinburgh’s Dean Village, the S8 has better looking contrast than the Moto, which looks somewhat washed out in comparison.
The same is true in this scene taken within Dean Village. The Moto has evidently attempted to brighten the shadows, but it’s not a good look and the punchier tones of the S8 are much better.
The Moto’s extra cameras do help you get different views from the scene vantage point, however. This wide scene captures more of the fluttering flags…
…while this zoomed view gives an attractive composition around the various chimney stacks — neither of which the S8 can achieve.
The Moto G8 Power’s macro mode allowed me to focus closer on this flower, but the low 2-megapixel resolution means there’s not much detail in the final image. I actually prefer the shot from the S8, which has enough resolution to let me crop further into the image and still have better looking detail.
Winner: It’s a toss-up. The Galaxy S8 takes superior images from its single camera and provides better colors and contrast. But the Moto G8 Power has more shooting options, which snag shots that wouldn’t be possible with the S8. Neither is a clear winner over the other, so it comes down to personal preference.
Battery: Moto G8 Power’s huge cell keeps on going
As the Moto G8 Power’s name suggests, the phone packs a meaty battery: 5,000-mAh. That vastly outstrips the Galaxy S8’s 3,000-mAh cell. The G8 Power does have a bigger screen to power though, which likely takes a toll on battery life.
While we’re still waiting on official lab test results for the G8 Power, I conducted a small-scale test of my own. After one hour of streaming a YouTube video (with equivalent high brightness and volume muted on both phones) the Galaxy S8 had dropped from fully charged to 87% remaining. The Moto, however, only dropped to 94%. Anecdotally, the S8 can last much of the day — but only if I was conscious about my power usage. To eke out the most juice, I avoided demanding gameplay and video streaming. In general, if you’re thinking of continuing to use your phone during a night out after work, expect to power up before you leave the office (should offices and nights out ever become things we do again).
Winner: The Moto G8 Power, with its capacious battery, won’t struggle to get through a full day of use and has plenty of power to spare to order a midnight pizza. (Pepperoni. Extra cheese.)
Security: The Moto G8 Power’s up-to-date software gives peace of mind for longer
Because any phone that doesn’t have the latest security patches is extremely vulnerable to being hacked, software security on an older handset is an even bigger deal than it normally is. Most Android manufacturers tend to support their phones for two to three years, then effectively cut them loose as it becomes too time-consuming to keep updating older models.
The latest software version for the Galaxy S8 is Android 9 (aka Pie), with security updates that arrived earlier this April. That means it’s pretty much bang up to date and therefore safe to use. According to Samsung’s update info page, the S8 will receive quarterly (rather than monthly) security updates, although for how long it’ll receive these updates isn’t known and Samsung wasn’t able to give a clear answer when contacted. It’s worth noting that the S7 Active (launched in 2016) is still receiving security patches, so it’s possible the S8 will have a while ahead of it yet.
As for the Moto G8 Power, security is a big advantage. It’s brand-new, runs the latest Android 10 software and will likely not only receive the next big update to Android 11, but will also receive security patches further down the line.
Winner: When your phone receives an update also depends on your carrier, but as the newer phone, the win goes to the Moto G8. In addition, Motorola’s update page shows that it’s currently updating phones as far back as 2018’s Moto E5. Based on that, it’s fair to assume that the G8 Power will still be safe to use in early-mid 2022.
Design, display and extras
The Galaxy S8 looks and feels like the more luxurious phone, even accounting for the slight scuffs and scratches that hint that it was preowned. The curved glass and solid feel is more premium than the plastic-backed Moto G8 Power.
But there’s no denying that the Moto’s massive 6.4-inch display makes videos more immersive than the S8’s 5.8-inch screen. True, its resolution isn’t as high, resulting in a lower pixel density (399 ppi compared to the S8’s 570 ppi), but you most likely won’t notice a difference. When I used the phone, icons and text on the Moto looked perfectly crisp and sharp, and high-resolution videos look great.
The S8 does up the stakes with IP68 waterproofing (the G8 Power only has a nano coating to protect itself against light splashes), as well as NFC, which lets you use Android Pay and Samsung Pay.
Both phones have rear fingerprint scanners, charge with the more recent USB-C type cable, and have 64GB of storage with the option to expand with a microSD card.
Winner: The addition of waterproofing and NFC for Android Pay put the Galaxy S8 ahead, but the Moto G8 Power’s bigger screen will be beneficial to those of you wanting to watch Netflix on the go.
Which should you buy?
It’s harder than I thought to make a decision between the two. Despite being three years old, the Galaxy S8 holds its own extremely well, with excellent processor and camera performance, a luscious design and features like waterproofing and Android Pay compatibility.
The big point against it is the software. While it’s still technically receiving security updates, it’s very much towards the end of its supported life cycle and as per the advice from industry experts, using an unsupported phone can be dangerous.
Using technology for longer is something we should all try and do and rescuing used phones from ending up in landfill is unquestionably a good thing. But it’s important to do so safely and persisting in using an unsupported phone, exposing your personal info and banking details, even nude pics, to hackers isn’t a risk you should take.
As such, the S8’s realistic usable life isn’t as long as the Moto G8 Power’s. The Moto also has the benefit of the bigger screen and it offers camera features not found on the S8.
Given those points, my money would have to go on the Motorola Moto G8 Power, if only for the peace of mind of having its software supported for longer.
Had I spent just a bit more, however, I could have picked up the Galaxy S9 ($600 at Sprint), used, for under £300 — being an entire year more recent than the S8 I used, its realistic life is a lot longer, which would resolve my main concern over the S8. I have no doubt that the S9 would have been the clear winner in this shootout.
So do consider buying used — it’s a great way of putting awesome tech in your pocket, not stretching your budget and rescuing an otherwise great phone from landfill. But it’s important to shop smart: Buy from a trusted source (I used MusicMagpie in the UK but Gazelle performs an identical service in the US) and make sure it’s recent enough that it’ll still receive security updates for a long time to come.