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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review: Excels in almost every aspect
After almost two years, Samsung is back with the new Galaxy Note device. The new Note is build to showcase the best from Samsung and to fill the void that Note 7 fiasco did to the company and to Note series' loyal fans. It is a phablet with company's first dual-lens camera setup and a smarter S Pen, features that the regular Galaxy S8 series fails to match.
- Gorgeous Quad HD screen
- Swift multitasking and smooth gameplay
- Excellent camera performance
- Water-dust resistant
- New S Pen is a great tool for content creators
- No Stereo sound
- Battery performance could have been better
- No dedicated micro SD card slot
- High Price
- Poorly placed fingerprint scanner
The new Note comes with top-end hardware and Samsung's best software till date which is tweaked to enhance your mobile user experience in every possible way you can imagine.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 comes at a hefty price tag of Rs. 67,900 in India with an introductory offer of one-time screen replacement and a free convertible wireless Charger. To further sweeten up the deal, the company has also announced 'Samsung Upgrade' program where consumers can trade in their old device for the Galaxy Note 8. Besides, data and cash back benefits are also included in the package for Note 8 buyers.
Keeping these offers aside, we know that a lot has been said about the Galaxy Note 8 and how its success can make or break a powerful smartphone lineup. So we decided to find out how good or bad is Galaxy Note 8, the most advanced mobile device from the house of Samsung. Let's find out.
Display: A mini tablet with a gorgeous AMOLED screen
Let's start with the obvious noticeable feature, the gigantic and gorgeous Super AMOLED screen of Galaxy Note 8. The almost bezel-less edge-to-edge Quad HD panel is possibly the most vivid mobile phone screen your money can buy today in the market.
The display curves remind us of the Galaxy S8 and S8+; however they are less prominent on the Note 8 giving it a flatter look and feel. The flatter design also makes the phablet look more professional than the curvier Galaxy S8 handsets.
Talking tech, the Note 8 sports a 6.3-inch Quad HD+ AMOLED Infinity Display. The screen has a high resolution of 1440x2960 pixels scattered on the taller 18.5:9 aspect ratio making Note 8 a perfect mobile device to watch movies, play games and to just stare in free time. The pixel density is 521 ppi, which is slightly lower than the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus due to bigger 6.3-inch size; however everything on this panel is super sharp and vivid.
Multiple Display Modes
Samsung sets the resolution to Full HD+ by default, but you can change it to Quad HD+ (WQHD+) within the settings or from the notification panel by just clicking on the Performance mode. There are four display modes in settings and we recommend using the Adaptive display in everyday use. The Adaptive mode intelligently detects the kind of content you are streaming and adjust the color tones to offer the best on-screen performance.
The screen is very responsive and bright enough to offer comfortable viewing experience even in direct sunlight. I did not face any problem using Note 8 outdoors; however I still feel that Galaxy S8+ offered a slightly brighter screen. The biggest problem with Note 8's display is its sheer size, which demands two hands for best use, per se typing a message or using camera needs both hands in action. Otherwise, the smartphone can easily slip off from hands.
Galaxy Note 8's Quad HD screen also supports HDR content. It supports HDR10 but not Dolby Vision (supported by LG G6). The HDR content is very limited and you would need Netflix subscription to stream the high dynamic range videos on Note 8. You can also try HDR content on YouTube with Note 8 by selecting HDR resolution from settings in the supported videos. Set it to maximum, i.e. 1440p HDR for some amazing visual results.
Overall, Galaxy Note 8 has the best-in-class screen ever seen on a Note device from Samsung. The wider color gamut, HDR support and high-resolution Quad HD panel will leave you spellbound during gameplay and video playback. The bigger size can be irritating for some, but if you have already made plans to buy a Note 8 then size is something you should not make complains of. Last but not the least; display is also protected by Gorilla Glass 5.
Design: Gigantic but still manageable
Galaxy Note 8 is big, big enough to the point that it dwarfs all the previous Note phablets. Weighing 195 grams, it is best suited for two-hand use, however you can still use it with one hand to dial a number, scroll your Facebook and Instagram timeline and to bring down the notification panel to access quick toggles. It can also slip inside your jeans pocket.
While the base design is still the Galaxy S8/S8+, Note 8 is more rectangular and has less curves on front and back. It's also slightly thicker and offers a more assuring and comfortable handling than the Galaxy S8+.
Samsung has tried to improve the fingerprint user-experience by slightly changing its placement; however it is still oddly placed and is very tough to reach. You can block the LED flash light and even the camera sensor while unlocking the device, which is really frustrating. The camera alerts you to wipe the glass in case it is covered with fingerprints.
Water-Dust Resistant Design
The all aluminum phablet is IP68 certified and also the stylus that fits inside the slot adjacent to the speaker unit at the bottom. The IP68 certification makes the phone and the S Pen water-dust resistant by up to 1.5 meters of fresh water for up to 30 minutes. The 3.5mm headphone jack, microphone and Type C USB port also sits at the bottom.
The dedicated Bixby button still takes the same spot on the left side and can interfere with the volume down button, which is bit harder to reach with index finger. The power button is positioned at right side and the dual-SIM card tray sits on the top. As it is a hybrid setup, you can use it either for two Nano-SIM cards or one SIM and a microSD card that can expand the inbuilt 64GB internal memory by up to 256GB. Overall, Galaxy Note 8 almost feels like the Galaxy S8+, but it's bigger and flatter.
Camera: Captivating Bokeh shots and appealing video results
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is company's first dual-lens camera smartphone. The primary camera is the same 26mm dual pixel 12MP wide angle lens (f1.7 aperture) that has shown its remarkable capabilities in Galaxy S8 duo. And much like Apple, Samsung has incorporated a telephoto secondary lens that comes with 2X optical zoom capabilities. This is a comparatively darker, non dual pixel 12MP lens with f2.4 aperture and 52mm focal length. It needs good amount of light to deliver results, which in this case is bokeh images, or as Samsung calls it- Live Focus Portrait mode. Both the lenses have optical image stabilization, making Note 8 the first mobile phone to boast such camera feature. This makes for less blurry shots and stabilized video recordings.
Talking about the camera performance, the primary lens delivers crisp and detailed images. The pictures shot in daylight show amazing clarity, detailing and vibrant colours. The good dynamic range, minimal noise and saturated colors make pictures look brilliant on Quad HD AMOLED screen.
Even the pictures shot in low-light are also very appealing as they take advantage of enhanced multi-frame image processing. The camera technology works on pixel level to offer bright images when light conditions are not favorable. The technology is also applied to 8MP front camera that also takes use of bright f/1.7 lens and delivers appealing selfies.
And while you will mostly rely on the primary 12MP dual pixel lens for everyday shots, the secondary lens will give you some really appealing bokeh effect. It's the ‘Live focus mode' that replaces the Selective focus and can be activated with just one tap on the main camera screen.
The camera app and hardware also allows you to adjust the level of background blur during and after taking an image, giving more control to you.
I have tested several dual-lens camera smartphones launched this year and Galaxy Note 8 manages to deliver the most realistic bokeh images, be it objects or people as your subject. But as mentioned earlier, there is one shortcoming. The telephoto lens needs a certain amount of light to deliver the kind of results I mentioned above.
The video capturing also works well in the presence of dual OIS as long as you are not jumping or running too fast. The maximum resolution is 4K at 30 fps. Besides, you also get various modes, filters and stickers that were previously seen in Galaxy S8 series.
S Pen: Smarter than ever and a great tool for designers and illustrators
Galaxy Note 8's S Pen is downright impressive. It is now water-dust resistant and smarter than ever. Samsung has added a couple of new features and the new S Pen now comes with improved pressure sensitivity. You can now add up to 10 shortcuts in the S Pen carousel; tweak S Pen actions within phone's settings and can send ‘Live Messages' to share animated texts or drawings across platforms that support GIFs. Moreover, S Pen also works as a personal translator and convertor where you just need to hover over text to quickly translate or convert units and foreign currencies. The phablet offers the translation output in up to 71 languages.
Screen off Memos
The S Pen works even when the phone's display is off. Samsung has added ‘Screen off memo' that allows to take up to one-hundred pages of notes, without even unlocking the phone. While it's a neat feature and allows you to write notes without unlocking the phone, it has one limitation. You cannot check the incoming notifications while creating the screen off memo. You have to save or discard the memo if you want to check the notifications and once the note is saved, you cannot bring it on the locked screen to continue with it. However, you can edit them within the notes itself.
S Pen also supports Bixby Vision
Samsung has also added Bixby vision in the new S Pen. With the feature turned on, you can simply hover the S Pen over a particular object on your screen to find out information about it on internet. The results are displayed in the form of similar pictures, web links, etc.
S Pen feels very responsive on the Note 8's screen and can be an amazing tool for design illustrators, artists or anyone who has to deal with lots of digital writing and designs. The content creators will simply love this piece of clever technology. It's much more durable and smarter than ever to make Note 8 a great high-end productive Android phone.
Software: Android 7.1.1 Nougat with several tweaks from Samsung
If you ask me about one specific characteristic where Samsung devices have really made a leap, it is the software. The new Note 8 runs on Samsung's latest Experience UI 8.5 deployed on Android 7.1 Nougat, which worked without any performance issues in my review time. It's the latest version of the Samsung's user interface that has been tweaked to take full advantage of big screen and S Pen for improved multitasking.
One really useful software tweak by Samsung is Apps Pairing. While Android Nougat allows you to place two apps simultaneously on single screen, Samsung has made it possible to create combos where you can pair two apps to open together with just one tap. These app packages can be placed in Edge Panel for easy access.
Besides, you also get Samsung Bixby virtual assistant that has now been optimized to understand English in Indian accents. I also used Bixby Voice on Galaxy Note 8 that worked quite well in analyzing my voice commands. You need to set your voice commands while setting up the Bixby Voice, which can be activated later by saying ‘Hi Bixby'. It can open web pages, set alarms, take you back from one app to another, make calls, send text message and do a lot more. It does recognize your voice commands and get the tasks done quickly.
Overall, the software performance is by far the best I have experienced on a Samsung Galaxy device. Galaxy Note 8 even feels faster and responsive than the Galaxy S8+ in everyday performance.
Hardware: Top-end hardware for swift performance
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has got all the flagship ingredients in terms of hardware. The phablet is backed by the octa-core Exynos 8895 chipset paired with 6GB of RAM and 64GB internal storage. There's no dedicated microSD card but the hybrid one that can be used to expand the storage by up to 256GB.
Galaxy Note 8 did not disappoint us in everyday tasks. The phablet brilliantly handles multitasking and heavy games runs with no frame drops. While there's no heating signs during regular tasks, Note 8 does get warm while playing games, using GPS, video recording and while executing other strenuous tasks. Apps fired up quickly and there were no app crashes in our review duration. The Iris scanner is fast but there were instances when it didn't work as expected and I had to use the oddly placed fingerprint scanner. The smartphone is also backed by Samsung Knox that promises to provide defense-grade security at the hardware and software layers.
Galaxy Note 8 lacks in audio via speakers as the sound does not complement the video playback experience. The mono speaker does get loud, but you will have to use the bundled AKG earphones to enjoy movies and games. The AKG earphones produce loud and clear audio.
As far as productivity is concerned, the big screen combined with high-end hardware and the new smarter S Pen offers unmatched performance. Galaxy Note 8 comes out as a great overall package for work and entertainment.
Battery and Connectivity: Samsung is extra careful this time with the battery on Note 8
Battery performance is by far the most crucial thing for Samsung with new Note device. Its performance can really decide the future of Galaxy Note series and Samsung by no means would have taken any risks this time. The company mentioned that the engineering team has conducted 8-step test procedure to make sure something like Note 7 did not repeat with the new phablet. The team even trimmed down the battery cells to make it safer for end-users.
The new Note 8 phablet is backed by a 3,300mAh battery unit that is a bit smaller than the Galaxy S8+. The battery backup is decent but not the best we have seen this year. Galaxy Note 8 can last for a day with moderate usage on a single charge. The battery would need a refill if you play games, use GPS a lot, watch videos or use phone as hotspot frequently.
Galaxy Note 8 managed to last for a good time; however I had to keep a power bank handy as my usage involves keeping the phone on hotspot quite often. And it is worth mentioning that like almost every other smartphone in the market, Galaxy Note 8 also gets warm with GPS and hotspot usage. It did not reach an alarming point during my review time, but in case you experience something unusual with your Note 8, do write to us and take precautionary steps.
As far as connectivity is concerned, the phablet comes with hybrid SIM card slot, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v 5.0 (LE up to 2Mbps), ANT+, USB Type-C, NFC, and GPS.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a great comeback device, as long as we don't come across any reported accidents claiming any battery issues. It's powerful, snappy and clicks excellent images. The design is durable, water-resistant and the Quad HD screen is best-in-class. The audio performance could have been and as there's no dedicated microSD card slot, you have to compromise either on secondary SIM card or on storage. The battery power has been trimmed down to avoid any mishaps and the phablet struggles to last for a full day on a single charge with heavy usage. You will love the S Pen and its features. You will love it even more if you are an artist or just like to play around with designs, colours and digital content.
This power packed phablet comes at a steep price of Rs. 67,900. If you do not need the stylus but seek almost similar performance and user experience, the comparatively affordable Galaxy S8+ can be a good option. Moreover, LG can launch its upcoming flagship LG V30 anytime soon in the Indian market which seems pretty interesting and is said to offer much better audio and similar camera performance. Then we cannot deny the anticipation build around the launch of Apple iPhone X, which will be even pricier but compelling enough to steal the lime light from Note 8. We advise you to wait for a while as Note 8 price might see a drop in the coming month.
For Samsung, Galaxy Note 8 has a lot on its shoulders and its success or failure will define the company's future in the global market. The price-point is certainly steep; however the overall package is loaded with new technology and some exclusive features which no other mobile device can match in the market. To simply put, Samsung has produced a winning Note this time.