Last year was supposed to belong to the Samsung Galaxy Note7. The ultra-inclusive gadget was being marketed as the best smartphone to date, with ecstatic early reviews to back up the hype. Then the whole thing blew up. Literally. Now, Samsung returns with the Galaxy Note8, a formidable follow up that will only burn a figurative hole in your pocket this time around.
At a retail price of about AUD $1,499 ($960 USD), the Note8 is assuredly an expensive smartphone. And while the device is packed to the gills with innovative tech, it’s also comparable to the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus smartphones, with a few notable exceptions. However, don’t take any comparisons to mean that the Note8 is short of spectacular, or not worth the cost. Indeed, If you’re the kind of tech enthusiast who simply must have it all in one place–meaning the top shelf of quality, power, speed and durability alike–then Samsung’s latest has you’re name written all over it with an S-Pen. We’ve been playing around with one for the last few days so let’s break it all down below.
Remember the monolith from 2001? Well, imagine that in miniaturised form and you’re getting close to how the Note8 looks and feels. It features a massive 6.3″ screen that segues elegantly over the sides, but not to the point where the phone is “bezel-less”. Meanwhile, the corners are sharper here than on the similarly large Samsung S8 Plus, which hosts rounder corners. Consequently, the Note8 physically reinforces its function as a “small computer” at pretty much every turn.
As to whether putting a tiny computer in your pocket is a benefit or hinderance…well, that probably depends on the user. For those who more or less use their smartphones as mobile offices, we can’t imagine a device more handy than the Galaxy Note8. Others might find the phone somewhat clunky to grip on the fly. Also, because of the gadget’s impressive size, it’s somewhat tricky sliding your finger to the fingerprint sensor on the back.
Small criticisms aside, the Note8 flaunts a legendary build of industrial strength and magnitude. In addition to a smooth metal back and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 over the display, the device touts a water and dustproof rating of IP68. Suffice to say, the Note8 is designed to last long and look great while doing it.
With its 6.3″ Super AMOLED display, the Galaxy Note8 is–like the S8 Plus–a genuine behemoth when it comes to screen size and resolution. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a competitor offering the same level of quality, colour contrast, detail and lighting optimisation. Put simply, the darks are brilliantly dark, the brights are exceptionally bright, and the images remain sharp and legible in the face of extreme lighting conditions. Additionally, by running edge to edge and featuring a touch sensitive home button at the bottom, the Galaxy Note8 display utilises space with downright surgical precision. We can’t say it any other way: fans of big screens will find nothing to complain about.
Operating on the latest Android software, and packing a Snapdragon 835 processor and 6GB of RAM under the skin, the Galaxy Note8 delivers prime usability to say the least. Accordingly, things like browsing, gaming and apps are a swift and absolute breeze.
In addition to the standard fare, the device includes some novel touches designed exclusively with the owner in mind. One particularly user-friendly feature to hook our interest was called “pairs”, which engages two apps at once through a split-screen function. Again, it shows the Note8 not only making great use of screen size, but simultaneously veering one step closer toward full blown “small computer” territory.
In general, there’s pretty much no task the Note8 can’t perform, making it not just an accessible device, but an all-inclusive one. Throw in the S-Pen and its ability to take notes, create spreadsheets and even personalise texts, and the smartphone takes on even more functionality. All in all, the Note8 reigns supreme in the usability department.
While comparisons between the Samsung Galaxy Note8 and Samsung S8 (or S8 Plus) smartphones are inevitable, the models take distinctly different paths when it comes to the camera setup. That’s because the Note8 sees Samsung finally hopping aboard the dual lens camera train, and wasting no time in booking a first class seat. And by that, of course, we mean the Galaxy Note8 camera setup is aces.
At the front is an 8MP camera with f1.7 aperture, and at the back is a 12MP camera with an f2.4 telephoto lens. Both lenses include optical image stabilisation to account for camera movement with virtually unprecedented accuracy. For a quick shot, double tap the home button and fire away. In return, expect sharper colours, crystal clear images and brilliant dynamic range.
Along with the new camera setup comes a bevy of cool features. Among them is Live Photos. Similar to iPhone’s Portrait Mode, Live Photos allows you to tinker with the background, making it soft or hard or anything in between depending on what you’re looking for from the image itself. You can also use the two cameras (and their respective apertures) independently of one another, resulting in both wide and close shots. Can a similar feat be achieved by taking one shot and then zooming in using your fingers? Technically it can, however the image itself normally loses resolution in the process. Thanks to the dual cameras, the Note8 more ably sustains quality on both the close-ups and longer shots.
That the Samsung Galaxy Note8 is a powerful phone goes without saying. We’ve already mentioned the 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, and 6GB of RAM. We should add that the device starts with 64GB of storage, which can expand to 256GB by way of Micro SD card.
Now onto the battery, and this is where the Galaxy Note8 treads into somewhat perilous waters. Most users would assume that–given its epic price tag–the Note8 would include Samsung’s longest lasting battery to date. However, that’s not the case. In fact, the smartphone’s 3300 mAh battery represents a small drop from the Samsung 8 Plus’ 3500 mAh battery. The modification is presumably to accommodate the stylus, or maybe Samsung was just hedging its bets in the battery department. Whatever the reason, the battery is pretty great, but not as great as one might expect. Specifically, it’s good for about 4 hours of charge when the device is operating consecutively at maximum power. For your convenience, the Galaxy Note8 offers wireless charging.
If you’ve seen or read about the Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus, then throw an S-Pen and dual lens camera into the mix and you know what’s coming your way from the Note8 as far as features go. That said, it’s still worth mentioning a few. For instance, the Note8 distinguishes itself from the emerging herd by keeping the headphone jack intact. The device also includes an iris scanner, Samsung Pay, Bluetooth 5.0 with dual audio, and virtual assistance from Bixby. That’s joined by all the nifty camera features, while the S-Pen remains top of the line.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note8 is almost a paradox. Performance wise, the smartphone is basically second to none, making it an easy recommendation for tech heads and enthusiasts alike. However, that recommendation comes with an asterisk in that the Note8 is more or less a marginally bigger Samsung 8 Plus with harder edges, a dual camera setup and an S-Pen. Are these modest additions worth all the extra cash? That’s for you to decide. And if you need some extra motivation, be sure to check out the cheeky video Samsung released, which pokes a few jabs at Apple.