First Impressions and Early Verdict of the Galaxy Note 8
The latest Note has made Samsung look like it has returned to form. Would the tech giant’s return to the phablet formula with the Galaxy Note 8, help us forget about last year’s Note 7 disaster? After the Note 7 fiasco, anyone would’ve forgiven Samsung if it dropped the Note line and start from scratch. That was how bad it all got for the brand at the height of the Galaxy Note 7’s literally fiery end. Instead, the South Korean company gave it another go and launched a smartphone that can easily rival the iPhone 8. In our firsthand experience of the Galaxy Note 8, we see why experts already call the handset a huge success.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Features
It’s impossible to overlook its gorgeous design, but what’s even more impressive than that lies just beneath the surface. Here are the Note 8’s key features:
- Snapdragon 835/Exynos 8895 processor
- 3300 mAh battery with wireless and fast charging
- 6.3-inch quad-HD+ AMOLED HDR display
- 6GB RAM, 64GB storage
- Android 7.1.1
- 12-megapixel dual camera: 1 telephoto (f/2.4, OIS) and 1 regular wide-angle (f1.7, OIS)
- 8-megapixel (f1.7) selfie camera
- IP68-certified waterproof
- S-Pen with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity
- USB Type-C charging port
We’ve got no complaints here, really. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a stunning piece of work and it looks great right out of the box.
The Note 8 features slightly sharper edges compared to the curvier Galaxy S8 and S8+, though. It still gets the iconic InfinityEdge display and the ultra-thin top and bottom bezel, but the phone looks and feels a little “flatter” than its S-series counterparts.
This IP68-certified phone can impressively survive a half-hour submersion, but it may not do well against a nasty spill. It’s coated with Corning Gorilla Glass 5.0 and this glass-inspired construction doesn’t bode well for clumsy hands.
Bixby gets a dedicated button on the Note 8—a clever idea so the voice assistant won’t just pop on your screen by accident. It comes with 3.5mm headphone jack, a nook where you can tuck the S Pen stylus in, and a USB-C connector. There’s microSD/SIM card slot on top of the device, too.
We have no complaints with any of the phone’s physical buttons and features except for its fingerprint scanner. On a phone this big, the sensor sits somewhere impossible to reach: right within the camera module. While that essentially defeats having the feature in the first place, the said section makes up for it with an optical heart-rate monitor and LED flash.
Samsung’s latest flagship phone runs on Android Nougat 7.1.1, but comes with the brand’s own front-end software. While their previous Android skin, the TouchWiz, received more criticisms than praises, Samsung turns over a new leaf on the Note 8. Introducing a freshly re-branded UI—the Samsung Experience—Note 8’s touch interface brings a standout user experience. No more childish icons, weird sound effects, and sluggish performance on this new, customized user interface.
The Note 8’s software delivers in many other ways, too. For one, it handles the split-screen mode really well. You can readily open two apps simultaneously with no noticeable problem on the phone. Plus, you’re given several options to unlock the device—a no-brainer considering the illogical placement of its fingerprint scanner. There’s the facial recognition feature, which registers your face as a digital key. The iris scanner is another, pretty fast alternative. Either way, we’ve noticed how these security features often hit a roadblock when you’re somebody who uses glasses.
Overall, the Samsung Experience is mature Android skin. Not only does it work and look great, but also comes with a ton of customization options. We bet it’d make the pickiest users forget about downloading third-party home screen launchers.
First off, the AMOLED screen is stunning. We’re certain your eyes will greatly appreciate the resolution on the Galaxy Note 8. Turn the screen to its full WQHD+ resolution (note: it’s off by default) and text and photos look even sharper and crisp.
Tech-savvy folks will probably rave about the Note 8’s Always On Display, too. This gives users the option to keep the display on so they’re readily shown a black and white clock, battery status, and media buttons right out of their pockets. The only caveat to it is that the feature zaps the phone’s battery faster than normal.
Another impressive update on the latest Samsung smartphone is its implementation of the S Pen. This passive stylus (no battery needed) has its own dedicated nook and the screen supports over 4000 pressure sensitivity points, which makes writing feel even more natural on the Note 8.
It isn’t just useful for random note-taking apps either. The S Pen is now a fully functioning, well-defined layer of functionality that works really well on the Note 8. In fact, you can take quick notes with it even when your device is on standby. Simply pull out the stylus from its corner and the screen will automatically turn on, ready to take note of whatever you jot down. No more unnecessary tapping all over the screen.
It gets even better. Press the pen’s only button and you’ll be shown a shortcut wheel that lets you expand what you can do with the stylus. More than just making a new note, you can now translate what’s shown on the screen, start a screen recording (and save it as an animated GIF), and take instant screenshots that you can write on.
Overall, the S Pen feels less gimmicky and more like a full-fledged feature on the Galaxy Note 8.
Anyone with a Note 8 is sure to capture vivid and detailed snapshots every time. Its main, rear camera is that good. The camera app even has loads of modes to choose from, including a Pro mode that lets you adjust settings like shutter speed. Its optical image stabilization (OIS) feature is quite handy when taking photos on the move, too.
On paper, the Samsung Note 8 gets a combo of 12MP cameras (one in front and the other on the rear). One is a wide-angle, f/1.7 lens and the other is a zoomed lens (capable of 2x optical zoom) with a f/2.4 aperture. The latter, front-facing camera is more than capable of producing detailed, natural shots. Its wide lens even fits three people in a single frame.
With videos, the rear camera can shoot slow-motion clips at 720p (at 240fps). Regular videos, on the other hand, can be shot at beyond full HD settings. And thanks to the inclusion of image stabilizers on the Note 8’s cameras, video clips are often smooth and vibrant.
For the most part, the Note 8 is a competent work companion and there’s little to complain about its performance. Whether you’re surfing the Web, opening multiple apps, or even playing graphics-intensive mobile games at the best possible settings, there’s no noticeable hiccups and lags at all.
The phone readily supports Samsung DeX, too. It impresses us to no end how the Galaxy Note 8 is powerful enough to deliver a proper, desktop PC experience. These feats are all made possible by the powerful, top-of-the-class Snapdragon 835 chip.
Despite packing so much power underneath its hood, the flagship phone only comes with a 3300mAh battery. In a regular power mode, you’ll barely last a full day of social media, photo shoot, music streaming, and Web browsing with it. The Note 8 does a little better (even with heavy use) in its optimized mode, but it’d be so much better if users didn’t have to worry what battery mode they’re on every time. Luckily, the phone charges ridiculously quick with the charger the device is supplied with. In fact, it can go from empty to full tank in an hour.
Is the Galaxy Note 8 a Worthy Buy?
In all honesty, there’s little difference between the S8/S8+ and the Note 8 in terms of features. The latter, in fact, only shows a notable exception in the camera and stylus departments.
While savvy users won’t feel much of a difference between these devices, the latest Note will surely pique the interest of chronic scribblers/doodlers and serious Instagrammers. This speaks a lot about how fun the Note 8 could be as a daily companion. That sounds like it’s a worthwhile investment for anyone wanting a fun yet capable everyday smartphone at their disposal.
Our verdict? The Galaxy Note 8 is a noteworthy comeback for Samsung. And we seriously couldn’t wait for it to hit the shelves in a day or two.