The Galaxy Note Series is Samsung’s flagship lineup that’s focused more on productivity. Ever since the very first note came out, consumers were fascinated with the phablet. One of it’s key feature was the S Pen. A stylus that let’s you jot down, take some notes and more. As time went by, the whole idea became a lot more interesting. Samsung announced their Note8, which is the company’s latest iteration of Note device with a huge display, beefed up performance and improved S Pen. Is this the flagship device that we’ve been waiting for? Is it worth the buy despite it’s hefty price tag? Let’s find out in this complete review.
Design & Build Quality
For those who remember the NoteFE (or 7), the Note8 shares a similar design. It’s not as curved as it’s siblings, the S8. But the Note8 has a much more rectangular shape, which is also a shape of a real notebook. The design is nothing but subtle and luscious. But that’s just not it. The glass covered on the front and back is curved as well. It’s simply beautiful to see how it blends in with the metal frame on the sides. The craftsmanship on the Note8 is phenomenal. The metal frames on these devices follows the same color as the device. Except for the front glass which is black by default.
The moment you hold one in your hands, you’ll realize how solid the device is. The weight distribution is even. If you prefer a phone with some weight to it, you’ll like it because this phone isn’t light at all. It comes in at 195g. It feels durable when you hold it but the only thing that could keep you worried is whether it could handle a drop. Short drops should be fine. But if you’re constantly worried about it, you can get some of the cases that’s available in the market. The buttons on the device feels responsive and it’s tactile. So is the Bixby button.
Specification & Benchmark
In terms of specification, the Note8 is powered by Samsung in-house processor, Exynos 8895 Octa-core processor clocked in at 2.3 Ghz with 10nm processed with FinFET. This is also Samsung’s very first attempt to jump on to the 6GB RAM Bandwagon. It comes with 64GB of internal storage. The Note8 I reviewed came with one SIM Slot. But the Malaysian variant will come with one Primary SIM Slot and a secondary hybrid SIM Tray.
Also, we ran benchmarks on the device just to see how it performed. You can check out the scores below. Also, take note. Benchmark scores does not add up to daily performance as it could vary based on tasks you perform.
The Note8 features a 6.2″ QHD+ dual edge Super AMOLED display with rounded corners. The display on this particular device is on a league of its own. It’s gorgeous in every way possible. Do take note, as the display on this device is curved on both the sides, you’ll notice a slight color shift. But it’s totally normal because it’s due to the glass that’s sitting right on top of the display.
One noticeable thing about the Note8’s display is that it comes in an 18:9 aspect ratio. Also known 2:1 or the golden ratio (Fibonacci Sequence). The display on this is taller than wider. The taller aspect makes a lot of difference. You get to see more content in one glimpse and also opening up split screen with two application on this ratio is convenient. Reaching all the way to the top might seem a little bit inconvenient, but you can use the fingerprint sensor to swipe down to access the notification toggle.
The colors produced by the display looks amazing and has a sharper and vivid color tone. What makes this particular display appealing is the fact that it’s Mobile HDR Premium Certified. HDR contents will pop when you watch. For instance, watching your favorite series on Netflix and many more. This let’s you take a complete advantage of the display giving you true blacks and real tone.
Bringing the phone outdoors and using it under the bright sunlight is fine and easy to see. Thanks to the sensors that detects the external lights and maxes out the brightness to 100%. One thing I am very particular is how low the brightness could go. During my time using it, the low setting was comfortable to my eyes and didn’t making me feel like a vampire everytime I wake up and look at it.
AMOLED Display on the Note8 let’s you do more. They’ve included features like Always on Display and Screen off memos to make it a lot more useful.
When it comes to performance, expect the device to fly like a G6. Thanks to the 10nm processor that powers this device. It makes it sound like everything is easy. When I say this. I’m not exaggerating it. Applications opens up in a matter of seconds and its responsive as well. The device can handle multitasking really well and also has a memory of the app that I used earlier in the morning.
Games with intense graphics was handled really well. Some of the games that I enjoyed playing was Need for Speed: No Limits, LIMBO, Monument Valley II and many more. Only thing is some of the application crashed because it wasn’t in the 18:9 aspect ratio. Other application that requires more power to use like for instance, Photoshop and Lightroom was responsive despite the usual slight delay that happens when you load the catalog.
With a powerful processor, it also let’s you use it as a desktop. Which is also known as Samsung DeX. The DeX is a dock that allows you to bring your phone to a bigger screen with close to desktop capabilities. Microsoft has teamed up to make this part of the experience seamless and smooth as well.
Battery Life & Charging
Ever since the Note7 fiasco which Samsung went through last year, which was tragic. Samsung has implemented an 8-point battery inspection. This particular set of test allows them to check whether their battery has the potential to survive everything in its way. Kudos for that. The battery in the Note8 also went through the same series of tests. Under the hood, we have a 3,300 mAh battery that powers up this device.
The battery usage in my opinion is decent. I tested it on QHD+ and WHD+. The first thing that’ll strike your mind is the fact that the WHD+ Settings would give a longer duration and yes, it does. Under active usage, I was able to get almost 6 hours of SoT. Whereas in QHD+, I got around 5 hours of SoT. The battery can last a day for sure. But anything more than a day, you should consider enabling the HD+.
Note8 supports Adaptive Fast Charging. Both via Cable and wireless. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to try the wireless charging. The charging via cable works fine. It takes about 30 minutes to reach from 0-60. Complete charge takes about an hour+.
Rear Facing Camera
The Note8 is also the first phone from Samsung to jump into the dual camera configuration. They went for a much more practical setup that has purpose instead of going for a color and monochrome setup. The rear camera features dual 12MP Sensor with different configuration. The primary sensor boasts an aperture of f/1.7 with wide angle lens whereas the secondary sensor packs an aperture of f/2.4 with telephoto lens. What makes the camera even more intriguing is the fact that both of them has OIS.
During my time using it, I liked the camera because the color is sharp and nice. At times it pulls off a vibrant tone but that’s alright. Also, the exposure works fine. The 2X Optical Zoom works fine as well. It also supports live bokeh effects for those picturesque profile pictures. You can check out some of the samples below. The camera shoots video on 4K with 30 fps as well, which is a nice touch to have.
Front Facing Camera
On the front, Samsung went for a 8MP Sensor with an aperture of f/1.7 and it supports auto focus as well. The front front facing camera takes pretty good selfies and thanks to the autofocus, it balances the exposure. You can check out the samples below.
What makes the Note8 Noteworthy is the S Pen. As always, the S Pen has improved in a lot of ways. First of all, the S Pen has the same pressure points as it’s current younger brother, NoteFE. Which is 4,096 pressure points. The higher the pressure point, the more accurate the device input via the S Pen is. Not only that, the S Pen is also waterproof on its own. I used the pen on a daily basis, thanks to their new UI which comes with more features. Starting off with the Screen off Memo, which is by far the feature that I used the most. This particular feature lets you take quick memos right after the pen is removed. You can also pin these notes on your always on display for quick glance.
There’s more features. Live messages, which lets you draw these messages in an animated way and send it right away. The pen gets smarter when you add in Bixby features like translation, magnify and many more. You also have an app called Pen Up where it let’s artists to share their sketches from their Note. Also there’s a coloring book too.
The palm rejection was pretty good at most of the times but rarely it tends to think that there’s some sort of input from the hand. Samsung was smart enough, the moment you whip out the pen, your input from fingers will no longer be detected when you’re in apps like Pen Up and more. The Note8’s key feature got a whole lot better.
Other than the usual pattern, PIN and password to unlock the device, the Note8 features a fingerprint sensor on the back. My left hand is my dominant hand and reaching the fingerprint to unlock is easier. It’s a lot easier to identify the fingerprint sensor on this. It also features an Iris scanner that detects your iris and unlock right away. The first time when I registered, it took 3-5 seconds to unlock, which is normal. As time went by, the unlock duration became shorter. This is because of the following. The Iris Scanner learns your eyes in every single situation and adapts to it, making it quicker as day goes by.
UI & OS
The Galaxy Note8 runs Android N (7.1.1) on top of their custom skin, Samsung Experience UI. I’ll be honest, previously I wasn’t a huge fan of Samsung’s UI which has more duplicate apps than usual. But the UI that we are seeing today, isn’t anything like the previous version. The new Samsung Experience is intuitive, fluid and smooth as a baby’s skin. Everytime when I take the phone out of my pocket and start interacting with the device, it feels like I’m using a device from the future that has this punchy colors and minimalist right down to the scratch.
With the new UI, you don’t have a two of those same application that has the same function. You can choose to download what you want and what you don’t by choosing it yourself via Galaxy App Store or Play Store. Other than that, most of the native app has new design and it’s the same as the S8+ which I reviewed in May. The custom UI gives the S Pen and the curved display more features, like edge panel which I used rarely. The Note8 comes with Google Assistant and Samsung’s own AI, Bixby. Samsung Bixby is finally cooked and it’s ready to serve. I’ll talk more about Bixby in another article soon.
I hope the Note8 get’s Android O by the end of 2017 or in the Q1 of 2018.
The Samsung Galaxy Note8 is a smartphone with finesse. It’s a device that let’s you go beyond the limit and allows your inner creativity out. The Note8 sure does boast a hefty price tag, which makes it hard to recommend to everyone. But if you’re in the market looking for a new smartphone which packs a punch and if you find the key feature of the device something you need, without a doubt, this is the droid you’re looking for. There are some stores on 11street and Lazada that retails for a lower price tag too! I have to mention this. What makes Samsung sweet is the fact that they apologized for the battery incident. That shows how much they care about their consumers.
Alright then, time for me to head over to the store and get my Note8. Toodles!