Samsung Galaxy Note 8 expert review
The Galaxy Note 8 is Samsung’s latest addition to their ‘phablet’ family, combining the size of a tablet with mobile voice features. This is a bold step for Samsung that may either sink or swim. I have managed to get my hands on one, so let’s see how it holds out when it’s put through its paces.
- Quad-Core Processor
- 4600mAh Battery
- Varied screen quality
- Poor camera quality
Upon taking the Note 8 out of its box for the first time, I was greeted by Samsung’s familiar plastic casing. It felt very similar to the Tab 2 rather than its older brother, the Note 10.1, which for me was quite disappointing. The 8-inch behemoth had a solid feel to it whilst remaining extremely thin (coming in at a mere 8mm), although at 338 grams, it still felt pretty heavy. Samsung seem to have stuck with what they know by adding the power and volume buttons to the right side, re-using some of their old features and even adding some new ones, including:
- New and improved S-Pen
- Non removable battery
- Plastic casing
- Micro USB
Accompanying the volume and power buttons on the side is an infrared sensor; this is a feature that is becoming increasingly common again in smartphones even after disappearing many years ago. They have also stuck with the traditional positioning of the headphone jack by placing it directly on top. One of my favourite changes is the addition of the Micro USB port instead of Samsung’s own tablet connection; this for me makes it a lot more user-friendly at home, where I primarily host Micro USB chargers and accessories.
Incorporated into the build of this great phablet is Samsung’s famous, if slightly redesigned, S-Pen. The new S-Pen features a new tip, which seems to be a lot more resistant to sliding around the screen and also has a slight spring when you press down on it. This felt a lot smoother than the S-pen on previous devices and seemed to work a lot better, although it was a slightly larger in size. The casing on the Note 8 unfortunately is still the same plastic that Samsung use for a lot of their newer devices, which – despite still being solid - I think has a cheaper feel.
The hardware in the Note 8 is of the highest quality and I have absolutely no concerns about how this phablet is going to run. Crammed inside this phablet is a whole host of powerful hardware, consisting of:
- 1.6GHz Quad-Core Exynos Processor
- 2GB RAM
When I powered the Note 8 on, I didn’t expect to be hit with the sheer power that this phone threw at me. I was overwhelmed by how quick and responsive it was: switching between apps was seamless and left little time for me to register it had even opened. And this was only the beginning of the power this Quad-core processor can throw out. Whilst running through all of the applications, the Note 8 continued to function as though it had just been switched on; it didn’t once struggle to open an app or slow down.
The Note 8 comes in a 16GB variant and has around 9.5GB of free space to use, although the capability of adding an additional 64GB Micro SD card makes this completely bearable. If you do not wish to add the expandable memory then the on-board 9.5GB will offer more than enough space, unless you are looking to copy HD movies or a whole load of music across.
Samsung have been at the forefront of the multitasking industry with their split screen capabilities and the Note 8 is no exception. The split screen function allows you to open two applications simultaneously on the screen, from a selected bunch of Apps.
Once again Samsung are at the forefront of long-lasting battery life, with a 4600mAh battery that won’t run out of juice after just a few hours. The Note 8 offers up a whole day of heavy use, around two-three days of light use and around a week of standby time. Impressive, I think you’ll agree! The lack of removable battery though is, however, something of a concern, as this is a phone as well as a tablet, meaning the ability to remove or even change the battery would ideally be something we’d like to see. Charging the Note 8 from empty to full using the charger provided took around three hours and it wouldn't charge when plugged into my computer. The addition of the micro USB port is one of the key things that Samsung have added, as now I am able to use all the same chargers I currently have without having to buy any new ones.
The Note 8 is a real game changer as it combines an 8-inch tablet with the capability of making phone calls, alongside a whole array of fantastic features, ranging from the standard WiFi, Bluetooth and mobile connectivity to the more cutting edge LTE 4G and infrared. Infrared is becoming increasingly common in top-end devices, giving them the ability to act as a remote for your home entertainment system, which could soon make remote controls a thing of the past. Handy, indeed. As the Note 8 is a phablet, it is also capable of making voice calls and sending text messages, and this is enhanced by the addition of 4G LTE, which increases the speed of your mobile internet whilst you’re out and about.
Audio is quite a key feature on a device with such a big screen – especially if you are using it to watch your favourite movies. To improve the entertainment experience on the Note 8, Samsung have added a set of stereo speakers, both of which are located on the bottom. At first I thought this would be a great addition, but it turned out the speakers weren’t as powerful as I had hoped and I found myself struggling to hear the audio at times. I decided I would give it a second shot and listen using my headphones, which made a massive difference. Here, the Note 8 provides the same stunning audio quality we see with the likes of the S4 and Note 2, although this could be an inconvenience for people who don’t wish to use headphones or want to show off their favourite YouTube videos with their friends.
The camera phone has become a huge part of everyday life, near enough replacing the digital camera completely. Usually with a tablet I don’t have high hopes for the camera, as people can usually fall back on their phone for their trusty snaps. However, with the Note 8 I expected it to be excellent, as it could potentially replace your mobile phone and tablet by combining them both in to one device. When I gave the Note 8’s 5 mega-pixel camera a shot, I was met by a camera that had trouble focusing on the simplest of objects and provided a very grainy and blurry image. I wasn’t greatly impressed, although this could be something that could be improved with a future software update.
The Note 8 is also capable of filming video in 720p, which I hadn’t expected. I was fully hoping we would be able to record in full HD 1080p, but the quality of this is very similar to what we have seen when taking photos. Samsung have also provided a 1.3 mega-pixel front camera used primarily for videos calls. The quality of this camera actually seems to be clearer and slightly sharper than that of the rear camera, and as a result, I would have absolutely no problem using this for a video call.
The Note 8 is set to join the ranks of Samsung’s top-end devices, and thrown into the mix are a relatively impressive set of features, including:
- 8-inch screen
- 800 x 1280 resolution
- 189 ppi (Pixels Per Inch)
Samsung’s jump from 7-inch tablets to an 8-inch one is quite significant, as the extra inch makes a huge difference in the overall size of the device. I found the screen was extremely bright and offered up incredible colours, but I couldn’t help but notice that it looked fairly washed in certain areas.
Having said that, after I changed the screen mode from Standard to Movie this all changed, and the detail and quality improved significantly. At first I found that the icons on screen were overly large, and this is down to the 800 x 1280 resolution. But once I looked past this I found that they were the ideal size to match the screen provided and would look strange any other way. Viewing angles were beyond impressive and are by far the best I have seen from any previous Samsung device. Although the screen took a little getting used to, I am still extremely impressed with it.
The Note 8 comes preloaded with Android version 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean), soon to be updated to the latest version of 4.2.2.
Samsung’s TouchWiz layout has remained very much the same as we have previously seen but they have added a handful of new features and improvements:
- Group Play
- S Note
- Smart Remote
Group Play is a feature we have only really seen in the S4 so far, but looks set to be a part of all of Samsung’s newer devices and later versions of software for devices that can support it, such as the S3 and Note 2. The Group Play feature allows you to share music, photos and documents across your WiFi network with your friends and create a party environment. This is an incredible feature bringing people closer together with their devices and showing the full potential of smartphones and tablets alike.
S Note hasn’t changed much, but every aspect of the S Pen itself has been greatly improved; its combination of a smoother tip with a thicker pen giving you a better response rate and allowing you to write/draw a lot easier. I had a play around with the S Pen and found that using that with the power of the phablet itself allowed me to navigate smoothly and write documents with complete ease. If this is how much the S Pen has improved in the space of a year then I cannot wait to see where it will be 12 months from now.
Samsung have been using Smart Remote since the Note 10.1 and have brought it back in the Note 8 due to popular demand. Being able to have an all-in-one remote that is capable of controlling all of the devices in your home entertainment setup is an incredible thing – and means you don’t need five or six different remotes lying around. The Smart Remote app allows for you to control volume, channels and even navigate the menu. But for me, the main attraction is the ability to add a list of your favourite channels, making it extremely easy for you to find – and switch between – your favourite shows.
Who is this tablet for?
The Samsung Note 8 in my opinion is going to be mainly for the home user, for obvious reasons: I don’t see many people walking around holding an 8-inch giant to their face whilst making phone calls! Smaller phones will always be ideal and even at 5.5-inch, the Note 2 is a lot more appealing to carry than this. Instead, the Note 8 is ideal for movie lovers and businessmen respectively, with its phenomenal screen size and high-quality entertainment features and the S Pen and S Note features.
The Galaxy Note 8 is Samsung’s first step into 8-inch tablet territory, combining the features of the Note 10.1 and the Note 2 into an all-in-one phablet. Combining an incredible screen with a phenomenal processor, the Note 8 is unmatched in the market for a tablet of this size that offers up an all-round exceptional media experience. Unfortunately, the camera is nowhere near what I expected and is quite disappointing, but considering all the other features, I can’t really hold it against Samsung.
Overall, I will be giving the Note 8 a more than respectable 7/10. I think that with just a few software improvements, Samsung could really bring this tablet to life and make it an incredible all-round experience for everyday use.