Samsung’s Galaxy Note series phones have set benchmarks for the organization, featuring the complete best it has to offer in terms of mobile technology. The big differentiating factor from the S series continues to be bigger displays and the S-Pen stylus, and this formula has worked well for Samsung for years now. But ever since the Galaxy S6 Edge+, the company was fragmenting its S series too, offering multiple sizes, thus gradually bridging the gap between the S and the Note series.
The Note brand took a hit due to the fiasco which was the Galaxy Note 7, but clearly, Samsung loyalists weren’t going to let it fade into the history books. According to the firm, The Note 8 has observed a listing number of preorders which demand has been equally powerful in India too. Samsung has established the Galaxy Note 8 in India at Rs. 67,900, which is only Rs. 2,000 more than the price of the 6GB version of the Galaxy S8+ (Review). With hardly any price difference between the two – although the S8+ is presently available at a discount – common sense would suggest grabbing the Note 8 on the S8+, but is that all there is to it? Are the double cameras and S-Pen worth the weight and potential ergonomics trade-off? We find out.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 design and build
The Galaxy Note 8 is more than just a slightly stretched Galaxy S8+. Its body is much more rectangular and the curves at the corners are less pronounced. The metallic framework on the sides is also thicker, with complete width rising to 8.6mm. This phone is also heavier at around 195 g. On the other hand, the weight aside, we found it to be surprisingly easier to manage than the S8+. We’ve been using the latter for a long time now, and even with a silicone case, it’s still easy to take care of. The Note 8’s dimensions make it feel better to hold, and even without a situation, we have yet to accidentally drop it.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 feels robust and solid, but you must be prepared to this wipe the back every few minutes as the glass doesn’t seem to possess the identical degree of smudge resistance as the front. Dominating the front is a 6.3-inch QHD+ Super AMOLED display, with narrow bezels on the top and bottom and nothing over the sides, so the glass is totally free to blend in with the metal frame. Button placement is good if you’re right-handed, since the power and volume buttons line up nicely. There’s also the dedicated Bixby button on the left, which should prove more useful now that Bixby Voice is also coming to India.
The hybrid dual-SIM menu is placed on the top, which can accommodate either two Nano-SIMs or a single SIM and a microSD card (up to 256GB). At the bottom, we have the 3.5-mm headphone socket, USB Type-C connector, speaker grille, and a slot for the S-Pen. The Super AMOLED display is gorgeous and looks its best when you use it at its native resolution of 1440×2960. You’ll need to manually bump up the resolution because the default setting is Full-HD+. However, bear in mind that running games in the native resolution will cause a slight dip in performance, and the battery tends to drain a bit quicker as well. You may decide whether you want to pay this price.
One thing we wish the phone did was automatically switch to ‘Game Mode’ if you launch a game in the Game Launcher program. That way, you could have everything else running in the highest resolution and also have the phone automatically fall to Full-HD+ once you run a game. Presently, Game Mode needs to be triggered manually, which isn’t very ideal.
The S-Pen that comes with this Galaxy Note 8 seems and feels far more premium than before. It weighs a mere 2.8 grams and includes a finer tip. It’s also IP68 certified, just like the Note 8, and supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. The S-Pen clicks in and out of its silo, and unlike the Note 5, it only goes in the right way so there’s no prospect of it getting stuck or breaking up the mechanism inside. We are going to cover all the functions of this S-Pen in just a bit.
Round the back, we’ve got the double 12-megapixel cameras, which is a big deal as it’s Samsung’s first-ever phone with this feature. The heart-rate sensor and fingerprint sensor are placed beside the lenses.
The bundled accessories are of very good quality, especially the headset. We didn’t find the situation to be very helpful because it diminishes the expression of the phone, but your mileage might vary.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 specifications and software
The main specifications are similar to those of the Galaxy S8 and S8+. UI and app performance is blazing fast and we didn’t experience any slow-downs during the review period. However, a week’s worth of usage isn’t sufficient to judge that long-term, therefore we’ll have to see how it holds up over time. Benchmark numbers are similar to those of the S8+ (4GB). In AnTuTu, we got 173,680 points along with 30,253 points in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited.
The phone is also packed with an iris sensor in addition to the barometer and RGB light sensor. You also acquire dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, IP68 dust and water resistance, Cat 16 LTE, NFC, and GPS, although FM radio is missing. Exactly like the S8 series, the Note 8 additionally supports Samsung Pay for both, NFC and MST terminals. We have been using this feature for a while now and it works well pretty much anywhere.
Part of the reason that the Galaxy Note 8 feels so speedy is its software. This phone runs a newer version of Samsung Experience (8.5 vs 8.1 on the S8+) which is based on a more recent version of Android Nougat (7.1.1). It’s strange that Samsung hasn’t updated the software onto the S8 and S8+ yet. We’ve covered all of the features at great length in our S8+ review, so we’ll just skim them over here and focus on the S-Pen instead.
Swiping right in your home screen takes you to Bixby, while Edge Panels give you quick access to contacts, music, programs, etc.. You can even group two apps together add a combined shortcut to the Apps Edge so that they both open at exactly the exact same time, in split-screen mode. If you’ve Samsung Pay, then you simply swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access your registered credit and debit cards.
The only noticeable change in the Settings program is that the addition of a section for its S-Pen features. Here you can toggle different functions like Air View, which gives you a pop or preview of images, extra menu information, etc.. It is possible to choose what action to take when the S-Pen is eliminated from its silo. By default, a little carousel automatically pops up in the edge of the phone giving you shortcuts to core S-Pen features. You could even add up to 10 of your own app shortcuts (like for drawing apps) to the carousel.
Create Note gives you a blank canvas with basic writing tools, and your creations are saved in the Samsung Notes program. However, using the Samsung Notes program directly gives you additional functionality such as a ruled sheet, and the ability to add images and voice memos to your notes. Glance minimises any opened program to a small window; Bixby Vision lets you search for information about any object on the display by hovering the S-Pen over it; Magnify does just what the name implies. Smart Select allows you make a custom harvest for anything around the screen, which could subsequently be modified, saved as a note, or searched for online with Bixby Vision. Screen Write requires a screenshot and lets you scribble on it; Live Chat lets you draw or write custom messages and save them as animated GIFs; and finally, Translate enables you to select words to translate from one language to another.
Live Message and Translate are pretty useful for everyday use. Perhaps the most useful feature that we discovered is Screen Off Memo. You can even go in and edit these notes later on. We ended up using this over Google Keep, just because of its convenience. Even though you are able to take multiple notes and save them to the Notes program, just one may be pinned to the Always-on Display at a time.
The Galaxy Note 8 ships with lots of several apps like Samsung’s Galaxy app store and Microsoft’s suite of Office programs. However, it is possible to uninstall some redundant ones like Samsung’s custom Calendar app. You can also sign in to Samsung Cloud, which gives you 15GB of cloud storage for backing up contacts, photos, etc..
The iris scanner is quite quick at authentication, regardless of the ambient lighting. In terms of day to day performance of this Galaxy Note 8, we didn’t face any performance lags, and multitasking was quite speedy. Programs also loaded quickly. We hope that the large quantity of RAM will help sustain this fluid experience over the long run since we’ve heard first-hand reports of the 4GB version of this Galaxy S8+ developing slight lag and stutters after months of usage.
The Galaxy Note 8 gets warm quickly when apps utilize GPS or the cameras, or any time gaming, but not excessively so, not even after prolonged intensive usage. It also cools down just as quickly. The S-Pen is a practical tool to have, even if you’re not really into any serious sketching. Programs like Autodesk Sketchbook, INKredible, and Bamboo Paper are a Few of the must-have free programs for the S-Pen. Samsung’s own Notes app is quite versatile, allowing you to take advantage of the pressure sensitivity of the stylus. Games like Scribble Racer will also be more enjoyable with all the S-Pen. Your mileage will vary depending on your usage patterns. It can be a bit awkward at first to write comfortably when you’re holding the phone, thanks to its taller proportions, but you get used to it after a bit.
The large screen is ideal for watching videos. You can also enable a video enhancer feature, which boosts brightness and colors for programs capable of video playback. High-resolution videos play perfectly and also the Note 8 is currently officially endorsed by Netflix for HDR 10.
The speaker becomes loudly but the stereo experience is missing. Happily, audio performance with the bundled AKG headset is superb. The earphones manage voice calls nicely and also have a balanced sonic signature. Mids and highs are extremely detailed with considerable kick in the low-end frequencies. They are also incredibly comfortable to wear even for extended periods. Thanks to Bluetooth 5, the Note 8 can stream the same audio track to two wireless speakers in the identical time. There’s also something known as Independent App Sound, which can, by way of instance, play music from Apple Music onto a Bluetooth speaker, but be sure that other program alarms are observed only through the phone’s speaker.
On paper, the primary camera is identical to the one about the Galaxy S8 models, and all shooting modes like Guru, Panorama, Slow Motion, Hyperlapse and Food are handled by this detector. The second camera also has a 12-megapixel sensor but with smaller pixels and aperture (f/2.4). You receive 2x optical zoom along with a Live Focus attribute. Thankfully, this detector also gets OIS, which means that your zoomed-in shots don’t appear blurry.
Image quality with the main sensor is nothing short of amazing. Samsung appears to get dialled down the colors with this new firmware, therefore landscapes and close-ups don’t have exaggerated colors like they do with all the S8 series. On the other hand, the colour tone is still on the warmer side. Focusing is extremely quick, even at night. The main sensor manages exceptionally detailed landscapes and detailed macros, with good natural depth of field thanks to the f/1.7 aperture. Even in low light, it manages excellent details and precise colours.
The 2x zoom is just available in the Auto shooting mode and standard video recording style. Like most phones with dual cameras, the next sensor just kicks in if there is sufficient light; otherwise you just get a digital zoom through the primary lens and sensor. The Live Focus attribute works best on people. An onscreen message lets you know if it is available. If there’s not enough light or something blocking the main sensor, you receive alerts about this. In this manner, you can enable Dual Capture, which takes photos from both cameras so you can select which frame you prefer later on. Video recording maxes out at 4K in 30fps, and there are different options like 1080p at 60fps and 720p at 240fps.
Stabilisation is very good so long as you are stationary and only panning around. However, if you begin walking, videos tend to get a slight ‘jelly’ influence around the edges of the framework. The same holds for the telephoto sensor too. The leading 8-megapixel selfie camera also receives a f/1.7 aperture so low-light shots are pretty detailed.
Battery capacity is decreased a bit in contrast to the Galaxy S8+, to 3300mAh. The smaller capacity battery could be due to the fact that Samsung had to make room for the S-Pen, also needed to maintain its size and weight manageable. The results were as anticipated. In our HD video score evaluation, we managed 12 hours and 43 minutes, which is slightly lower than that which we got with the S8+. With regular use, the Note 8 nearly makes it a complete day on a single charge but it’s tough to find anything longer, even with regular use. There is rapid charging which takes the phone from zero to about 37 percent in half an hour, and up to 79 percent in one hour.
The launch price of this Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is Rs. However, it’s only a matter of time until Samsung eternally slashes the price of the S8 series in order to widen the gap between its two flagships. The Note 8 is yet another winner from Samsung. The S-Pen as well as the newest dual camera system provide enough benefits to justify the premium over the S8+. This does come at a small cost of weight but honestly, that is only a matter of getting used to.
The Note 8 also gives you the added benefit of having the latest version of Samsung’s UI, over its S8 sibling. While this may change going forward, how we view it, the Note 8 might continue to get preferential treatment since it is a matter of prestige for Samsung. It will also give the business an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to devoted fans. We’d typically expect a top-end phone to endure an entire day at the very least, but that’s tough to achieve this.
Let’s not forget the competition. Apple’s iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X are incoming, and also will be more expensive but will have their lovers. Then, we have the Google Pixel XL 2, which should be unveiled on October 4 and LG might slip the V30 in before the holiday rush. These launches in the upcoming few weeks might have a positive impact on the Note 8 pricing. Maybe waiting a bit may be a fantastic idea.
If you can’t wait a couple of months and have your heart set on an Android flagship, then the Galaxy Note 8 will not disappoint. It’s got fantastic build quality, excellent cameras, a stunning display, and also a useful stylus that just Note devices can boast of.