Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review – A Return To Form After The Explosive Note 7

Like clockwork, Samsung is once again releasing the next iteration of its Note phablet series, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. While the actual handset isn’t available in markets yet and won’t be for another week, review units have been sent out to reviewers to judge whether or not Samsung has a worthy contender for the smartphone/phablet market. This Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review will help break down all the pros and cons of the device, so consumers can best decide whether it is worth the price or not.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review

With the failed launch and subsequent recall of Galaxy Note 7 following the “exploding batteries” issue, Samsung really needed something big, which would regain customer trust for its flagship and more expensive phablet line of smartphones. People needed a reason to choose this over other more reliable devices like the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus. However, it seems like this time they did deliver on their promises and might even have a winner on their hands, even for non-Samsung fans.

Galaxy Note 8 Specs

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor / Exynos 8895 in EMEA
  • 6.3-inch QHD AMOLED ‘Infinity’ display with HDR
  • 3300mAh battery
  • 64GB, 128GB and 256GB storage options with microSD card support
  • 6GB RAM
  • Bluetooth 5, NFC And Wireless charging support
  • Iris sensor alongside fingerprint for better security

Hardware

As mentioned earlier, Galaxy Note 7 did not see a good life and was recalled twice because of the exploding batteries. For that very reason, Note enthusiasts had to wait before they could finally get their hands on a new phablet from Samsung. But the wait seems to have paid off as Samsung’s rethinking their strategy has proved advantageous and the Galaxy Note 8 not only looks great on paper but its performance is amazingly well.

Packing a 6.3-inch display on a body, pretty much the same size as an iPhone 7, means the phablet is almost bezel-less which seems to be the trend these days. If there is one device that absolutely benefits from being bezel-less, it is Galaxy Note since the consumers tend to prefer this series for their large screen sizes and stylus. Samsung Galaxy Note 8 continues the tradition with less curved corners which makes the stylus usage not only easy but also fun.

Of course, it isn’t exactly a device meant to be handled with one hand, but Samsung has tried its best to make it easier to handle with one hand by reducing the width. In this way, Samsung’s phablets are even more convenient and easy to use as compared to Pixel XL and iPhone 7 Plus.

Image credit: techradar

The true winning component of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is, however, the HDR capable AMOLED display. Take Samsung’s typical high-quality display, enhance it a few times and you would have the Galaxy Note 8 screen. With great viewing angles, 18.5:9 aspect ratio and amazing outdoor visibility of the screen truly sets a new standard when it comes to smartphone displays these days. Because of the size, multitasking on Note 8 is further improved and that is one of the main reasons this phablet series will continue to be preferred over other options in the market.

There are also many customization options available when it comes to resolution and text sizes. Users can choose from different “power” states, which change the display quality by altering the pixel count on screen. In the balanced/optimized power state, the Galaxy Note 8 renders apps and photos at 2220 x 1080 pixels, despite having a maximum pixel count support of 2960 x 1440. Power saving mode reduces the quality further to 1480 x 720, which is by no means a slouch, however, it might not be the ideal resolution to use this big screen device at.

For those who really want to see the full potential of the screen and don’t care about battery drain, there is a performance mode that truly makes the screen shine and lets it operate at maximum pixel count and in sunny outdoor areas, can increase the screen brightness to 1200nits. By comparison, a laptop screen usually goes up to 300nits, which makes the Galaxy Note 8, pretty much a search light by comparison. Of course, this wouldn’t be a recommended use of the screen as not only does it drain the battery life at an incredibly fast rate but also doesn’t provide any actual benefit in most cases. One exception would be when viewing HDR content on the device.

The stylus or S-Pen is one of the core components of a Note device and with Note 8, Samsung kicks things up a few notches with new features and better housing for the stylus. Like always, the stylus is carried inside the body of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and is easier to take out and insert back in. With the new changes to Samsung TouchWiz software, regular Note users won’t even need to turn on or unlock their devices to write on the screen, which can be a big issue when you need to jot down something in a hurry. In Galaxy Note 8, you can simply write notes on the standby screen and then copy them over to something else when you have the time.

Image credit: techradar

With Dual lens cameras becoming increasingly common in high-end Android devices, Samsung also opted to include one in Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Two 12-megapixel sensors power up the Samsung Note 8 back camera, working together or separately as per user preference to snap highly detailed pictures. The front facing camera remains standard with an 8-megapixel sensor but that’s not a bad thing. The front facing camera is also used to unlock the Note 8 if face sensor option is enabled in Settings. However, there is one downside to the camera and that relates to the software. There just aren’t a lot of features which can fully utilize the Galaxy Note 8 dual-lens camera.

Image credit: techradar

Software

Moving on with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review, the device comes bundled with Android 7.1.1 but Android Oreo shouldn’t be far behind as Samsung would most probably like to deliver the latest OS to its flagship devices as soon as possible. While the TouchWiz software retains the usual benefits and issues of Samsung devices, there are some that stand out over the others when it comes down to Note 8.

The biggest new inclusion in Samsung’s new software is the digital assistant Bixby – similar to Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana. Bixby has a new dedicated button in Galaxy Note 8 which only listens and responds to voice queries when the button is pressed and held down. While Google Assistant can do the basic tasks by voice such as searching something on Chrome, Bixby takes it a step further by directly interacting with apps so you can give it commands to perform tasks in 3rd party apps as well such as changing your social media status.

Image credit: techradar

However, it isn’t all perfect because despite speaking in English clearly, Bixby has a lot of trouble in understanding commands which are otherwise fairly simple and easy to execute on Google Assistant and Siri. When Bixby finally works, it works great and can execute pretty much every command you can think of, making the touch controls a bit redundant. But since the virtual assistant is new, there is a lot of room for improvement and that comes with time.

Samsung has long been criticized for their bloated software and UI, but the company has been making strides in improving and optimizing the TouchWiz UI, making it more user friendly, removing bloatware and overall improving the visual design and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 serves as a great example of how far the company has come. The software used in this phablet has a clean look to its icons and functions, showing how much the software has matured and for a simple user, there might not be any need to download 3rd party launchers and icon packs to customize the look of the device as Samsung already has a number of options available.

As I mentioned above, there are some issues with the Galaxy Note 8 camera besides the extremely limited software options, which is a surprise considering the rival devices from companies like LG provide a number of exciting features that make photography engaging and fun. When designing the Galaxy Note 8, Samsung went with the limited bezel-look which meant that the hard Home button at the front had to be removed. Doing so took away the fingerprint scanner which is now located at the back, next to the camera. To add more security options, Samsung has also added in the face and iris scanner in Samsung Galaxy Note 8, both of which use the front facing camera and both unlock options perform horribly. If you wear glasses, forget about using the Iris scanner as it will never detect your eyes. The face scanner on the other hand, while does work nicely, has a serious security flaw. The scanner doesn’t detect if the person trying to unlock the device is actually in front of the camera or not and can be easily fooled with a picture of the face. This pretty much bypasses all security and if the phone gets stolen, a simple photo of the phone owner can be used to unlock the device.

Below is a summary of all the pros and cons of the new Samsung device as mentioned in the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review above.

The Pros

  • Huge screen size making it ideal for multitasking, sketching and media usage.
  • 12MP dual camera and 4K video recording with amazing results.
  • High quality, bright screen with richly detailed colors.
  • Decent battery life, which sits within safe zone unlike Note 7. With good optimization in place, it can easily last you around 24 hours on a full charge.
  • Dedicated button for Bixby makes the digital assistant easier to use.
  • Fast performance thanks to the top of the line processor and 6GB RAM.
  • Better S-pen usability as it clicks into place easily and can’t be stuck in the slot.

The Cons

  • Price! The Galaxy Note 8 will set you back a hefty £869, which is quite a lot considering competing devices are priced much lower. For example, the Pixel XL costs £719 and even Galaxy S8+ costs £ Since the device is tailor made for enthusiasts with premium components, there is also a premium price tag attached. This might make Samsung Galaxy Note 8 a hard sell except for the hardcore phablet enthusiasts who happen to love Samsung.
  • The sheer size of the device makes it difficult to carry around and still requires you to use with both hands.
  • Despite launching in September, still carries the old Android firmware instead of the latest Android Oreo.
  • Biometric scanners are disappoint in their performance, even the fingerprint scanner is weirdly placed although it is still an improvement over S8+.
  • Battery life is just okay by today’s standards. While it lasts a fair amount of time, it is by no means amazing and takes a long time to fully recharge. Lack of rapid charging, while safe, does hurt the phablet’s prospects.

Final Verdict

If you are in the market for a phablet and absolutely love Samsung, then Samsung Galaxy Note 8 might be the perfect device for you, if no issues pop up in the future. After amazing Note 5, this seems like a true upgrade to the phablet family and worth looking at. However, Samsung might have gone a bit overboard in some departments. The screen size make it’s a bit difficult to use for day to day stuff and limits usability. On top of that, the premium price tag doesn’t help matters especially since the market is now filled with similar devices which offer great, if not better, features at a lower price. For those who have no particular love for Samsung, other alternatives like Galaxy S8+ and LG V30 or even the upcoming Pixel 2 XL might be worth looking into.

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