Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review: Powerful Android Tablet/Phone

by Reads (441)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Price/Value Rating
      • 10
      • Total Score:
      • 10.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Excellent performance
    • Beautiful bright Panel
    • Great cameras
    • Useful intuitive features
  • Cons

    • Expensive
    • Fingerprint sensor location

Quick Take

With top-of-the-line specs, a gorgeous Infinity Display design, and loads of useful features the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a must buy for power-users.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is the company’s largest premium smartphone. That’s true not only in in the literal sense — as the 6.3-inch Infinity Display will be sure to catch your gaze – but a figurative one as well. The Note 8 is released in the wake of the company’s Galaxy Note 7 recall. After releasing the Note 7 to near-universal praise the company was forced to recall the device due to defective internal battery design that caused it to randomly catch fire.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 could have easily been the series swan song, but instead, it ends up marking a triumphant return. This powerhouse of a phablet takes every feature that was lauded in the Galaxy S8 and doubles down with beefier specs, a second rear-facing camera, and of course the beloved S Pen Stylus. With top-notch performance and a wide array of useful features this is one of the best smartphones you’ll find on the market. Just make sure you have your wallet ready because it comes at a steep $930 asking price.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Build and Design

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 incorporates the same stylish infinity edge design of the Galaxy S8. The device has removed the physical home button in favor of paper-thin bezels along the top and bottom portions of the device with the screen wrapping around the edges. This gives the phone a sort of curved stylish look, even with it’s rather large 6.3-inch rectangular screen.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Just 0.33 Inches Thick

What’s really impressive is that Samsung manages to fit that large screen into a svelte 6.4 x 2.94 x 0.33-inch frame. Often times phones with larger screens can feel unwieldy, but the slim rectangular design of the Note 8 sits nicely in your hand. In fact, the Note 8 may be even easier to hold and use than the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus despite having a larger display. The thin design also means that the Note 8 can fit comfortably in your pocket as well.

The button layout is pretty similar to that of the Galaxy S8. With the power button sitting along the right side of the device, while the volume controls and Bixby home button are on the left. The buttons have decent travel and great feedback. Along the top of the device, the expandable memory and SIM card can be accessed. While at the bottom edge there is the 3.5mm headphone jack, power connector, rear speakers, and the removable SPen. The Pen comfortably snaps in and out of place making it easy to access at a moment’s notice. Finally, along the back of the device is the dual-rear cameras and the fingerprint scanner.

We understand that Samsung was somewhat pressed for, but we still don’t love the placement of the fingerprint scanner. With the scanner being so close to the dual-cameras it’s still far too easy to accidentally smudge the lens when attempting to scan your finger.

Ultimately though that’s a relatively small gripe. NBR is more than happy to make the tradeoff for the incredibly large screen and comfortable slim design.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Display and Audio

As with the Galaxy S8, the Screen is the real the star of the show here. The Super AMOLED 3K (2960 x 1440) resolution display is absolutely gorgeous. Of course the same unique 18:5:9 aspect ration exists. However, NBRs fears with that were assuaged long ago with the Galaxy S8. Samsung has continued to do a wonderful job scaling everything to order and the longer ration actually proves to be a noticeable improvement when browsing web pages or reading documents. Of course, the company was also smart enough to offer and instant crop option to allow users to toggle between the normal 16:9 aspect ratio whenever you are viewing something in fullscreen.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Galaxy Note 8 Display

The screen boasts incredibly clear images with a 521 PPI density. Color accuracy and detail is impeccable. We were particularly blown away when viewing an image of Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle. The phone masterfully captures the blue azure sky and crystal clear white snow that surrounds the icy fortress.

Perhaps the screens most distinguished feature is how bright it is. With a brightness of around 1,200 nits, the Galaxy Note 8 performs wonderfully in direct light helping to reduce glare and increase readability. The panel is also High Dynamic Range (HDR) compatible, but much like with the Galaxy S8, NBR sees this more as a future proofing than a feature that users will get a whole lot of use out of right out of the box. Still, it’s a nice feature to have and helps ensure that this phone will remain a great option for viewing media well down the line. Samsung didn’t really change a whole lot when it comes to the display, but they didn’t have to. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has one of the best displays on the market bar none.

Despite the larger size, Samsung has also opted for a single mono bottom-mounted speaker. The audio isn’t all that robust, though it is capable of providing sound for a small group of people. The audio quality is surprisingly solid though, doing a good job of capturing both highs and mid with near pristine quality. While listening to the classical piece Histoire du Tango III. Nightclub 1960 by Duo Sonidos the phone did a masterful job of capturing the dueling violin and guitar without any noticeable distortions.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 S Pen

The S Pen is one of the major differentiators that sets the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 apart from other smartphones on the market. However, what may have started out as a fun little gimmick has quickly become a game changer. Samsung’s current S Pen is a tool of precision,  with a 0.7 mm tip and 4,096 levels of pressure the stylus affords an incredible amount of control. This makes the stylus not only ideal for jotting down notes but sketches and drawing as well.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Galaxy Note 8 S Pen

However, what really makes the stylus such a powerful tool is how well Samsung has designed the Galaxy Note 8 around it. The feature that really caught our eye is the Screen-off memos. This isn’t technically a new feature, but Samsung has expanded it to allow users to write up to 100 pages of notes all of which can be offloaded to other programs or later edited and revised. This simple feature actually turns your phone into a real-life notebook. No menus or apps, sifting through apps, simply remove the pen and the phone will prompt you to begin writing. From there everything can be saved in a PDF or emailed to a coworker. The ease and simplicity are what makes it so great. There are no hoops to jump through. Pull out the S Pen and write that’s it.

Pretty much every core stylus feature of the Galaxy Note 8 feels that way. The Pen is outfitted with a small button that loads a quick launch menu allowing the user to create notes, smart select a portion of the screen (as both a still image or an animated gif), write a message on the screen, write a live animated message or translated text. You can also add other features or functions to the quick launch menu if you’d like as well. What NBR likes most about these features though is that everything just works. It’s easy and intuitive to write a quick message on a screencap or to select a portion of web passage or email to then recall information when writing up a text message. There’s excellent utility here and even a bit a fun with the newly added Live message app. The application allows you to create a short quick animated text image to send. Certainly not revolutionary, but it’s a great a way to add some personality to a memo or liven up a text message.

These features may not be groundbreaking but they’re excellent quality of life boons that actually utilize the stylus in a way that most smartphones can’t and don’t imitate.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 OS and Docking Station

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 runs Samsung Experience based on Android Nougat (7.1.2), as opposed to the 7.0 version that shipped on the Galaxy S8. Not much has really changed from a visual standpoint.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung App Pair

That said, the new App Pair feature is a game changer. App Edge was something that we loved in our preview of the Galaxy Note 8 and our review of the Galaxy S8. It’s essentially another quick launch menu that makes it easier to access the people and apps that you use the most. It’s a great quality of life feature that can make navigating your phone easier and faster. App Pair makes that so much better.

The feature works exactly like it sounds, you can take two applications and have them launch simultaneously with the single push. The great thing is how easy it is to pair up individual apps with one another, and the screen slider allows you to adjust the screen ratios on the fly. This is great for web browsing while idly watching videos or more useful things such as pulling up a weekly conference call appointment with the dialer. The Note 8 has always excelled at multi-tasking and this feature honestly just pushes it over the top.

Samsung’s Dex docking station also makes a return. While the accessory comes at a steep $150 premium, it does allow the user to dock their phone to a monitor mirroring many actions of a standard desktop PC. Samsung has implemented a number of improvements including no longer needing to pair Bluetooth accessories before connecting, full mouse and keyboard support, and improved application support.

At the release of the Galaxy S8, the Dex felt more like a half measure. It was great for a handful of productivity apps, but many functions simply still ran with the phone’s interface copied over to a monitor. The Note 8, on the other hand, can run apps and games with full mouse and keyboard support. It’s capable of multitasking with a number of applications open at once. Obviously, there are still limitations due to the computing power, but the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is more than capable of filling in for a laptop in a pinch with the help of Dex.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Bixby

Bixby, Samsung’s answer to Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri is ready and available right out of the box. The voice-assistant was a bit slow to get off the ground, but even a few months out of the development the feature is showing serious promise. Honestly which of these features you prefer seems to be more up to personal preference, but we have been pleasantly surprised by Bixby so far.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Galaxy Note 8 with Bixby

Bixby does live up to Samsung’s claim that anything you can do with touch you can do Bixby Voice. Using this feature we were able to launch the Google Play Store and download the Geekbench 4 application with a single command. Like other voice assisted software it does require users to learn its language. There are specific commands and Bixby won’t be able to complete commands if you don’t know them. However, unlike other features, Bixby will often ask for clarification if it doesn’t understand what you’re trying to say. You can even go a step further and clarify if Bixby misunderstands what you’re trying to say.

We ran into just an instance while trying to run the Antutu Benchmark application. Bixby kept thinking that we were saying “and to to” instead of “AnTuTu”. Surprisingly enough after correcting Bixby a few times we were able to launch and close the application without fail numerous times using voice commands. Samsung even gamifies users, helping the voice-assisted tool to learn by giving out experience and having you gain levels as you interact with it. We can’t definitively say if this will fix every misunderstanding, but it seems to have worked for us so far.

Bixby continues to show a lot of promise and has already managed to match or exceed much of the functionality that we have see from similar voice-assisted features.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Biometrics

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 offers an array of biometrics to allow users to unlock and secure their phone. The phone features fingerprint, eye, and face scanning technology. We’ve already mentioned that we weren’t a huge fan of the placement of the fingerprint scanner, but location aside, the scanner works as desired.

One change that we did really like was the thicker border around the scanner itself, making it easier to feel where the pad is to get a precise scan. Our favorite has to be the eye scanner though due to the ease of use. Simply look down at the front-facing camera and phone is unlocked. Added security without the hassle is definitely the name of the game.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Camera

Perhaps the biggest difference between the Galaxy S8 and the Note 8 (excluding the S Pen) is the new dual rear camera design. If the display is the star of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 then the dual rear cameras come in a close second.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Galaxy Note 8 Rear Camera

Looking at the spec sheet, it may not seem like all that much has changed. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 houses an 8MP front facing camera along with the same 12MP Dual Pixel f/1.7 rear main camera seen in the Galaxy S8, but the second lens makes a world of difference. The Note 8 also features a 12MP lens with a f/2.4 aperture. However, what’s really interesting is that both of these cameras came used in tandem to offer 2x optical zoom, with both phones offer image stabilization. Helping you to shoot clear crisp images even when shaking or on the move.

The phone also supports a faux bokeh effect similar to what Apple has done with the iPhone 7 Plus, allowing users to adjust the focus with a slider. But the Note 8 allows users to process their images after they have taken them. Meaning you can clean up images well after adjusting the background image on the fly.

All of this culminates into an easy to use experience that captures beautiful images. The great thing about the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 isn’t that it takes great pictures, it’s that anyone can take a great picture with this phone.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Galaxy Note 8 Example Picture

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Performance

Equipped with the latest Qualcomm 835 Snapdragon 10 nm Chipset, with 6GB of DDR4, and 64GB of onboard memory with the ability to add up to 265GB of expandable memory the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a powerhouse. It’s currently the most powerful Android handset on the market, as phones absurd benchmark scores showcase. The phone tops every category, even beating out the Samsung Galaxy S8  by a sizable margin. Of course, industry-leading specs are somewhat expected given the $930 price point. You get what you pay for after all.

So what does all that mean for real-life performance? It means you’re going to have incredibly responsive and reliable phone. The Samsung Galaxy  Note 8 can handle games, applications, and multitasking without any issue. The phone is fully capable of running games and web surfing at the same time or handling more demanding productivity apps. The added RAM really does make the device feel a lot smoother when using the Dex docking station as well. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is an incredibly powerful handset that will likely only be dethroned when Apple releases the iPhone X.

Geekbench 4 is a cross-platform benchmark that measures overall performance. Higher score is better.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

AnTuTu is a cross-platform benchmark that measures overall system performance. Higher score is better.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

AnTuTu 3D is a cross-platform benchmark that measures graphical performance. Higher score is better.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

AnTuTu CPU is a cross-platform benchmark that measures complex app and multitasking performance. Higher score is better.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

AnTuTu RAM is a cross-platform benchmark that measures system speed. Higher score is better.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

AnTuTu UX is a cross-platform benchmark that measures experience. Higher score is better.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Battery Life

One area where the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 continues to be understandably tame is the battery. The phone houses a 3,300 mAh battery, which is even smaller than the battery residing the 3,500mAh battery found in the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus. The good news is, while the battery may not be as big, Samsung seems to have learned a few new tricks to help save battery life.

In video playback tests the Note 8 did come short of its predecessor lasting only 7 hours and 45 minutes while streaming Netflix over Wi-Fi, but that in large part thanks to the phones incredibly bright screen. Turning down the display brightness a bit and utilizing Samsung’s power saving options will help to greatly increase the battery life as we were able to get well over a full day use on a single charge.

It’s also worth noting that the Note 8’s fast charging isn’t quite as fast as it used to be. The Note 8 still offers rapid charging with it’s USB Type-C power port, taking roughly 118 minutes to charge to full, as opposed to the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus which can charge it’s larger battery reserve in only 101 minutes.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8’s battery life is still solid, but the device is no longer a market leader in this category like it used to be.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is the best tablet/phone on the market. It houses an impressive array of specs, with a gorgeous screen, a built-in stylus, and a cornucopia of useful features. This device takes everything that was great about the Samsung Galaxy S8 and expands upon it, but all of that does come at a steep asking price at $930.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

It’s a great device, but if you aren’t the type of person who’s going to take advantage of the multi-tasking capabilities or the stylus than you may be better served by the Samsung Galaxy S8, which still offers a lot of the same features at a far more affordable price point.

You might want to combine the S8 with Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 to have a great phone and a great tablet.

However, if you’re a power user or someone looking for top-notch performance and productivity in a pocketable device then you’re going to have a hard time finding a better smartphone than this.

Pros:

  • Excellent performance
  • Beautiful bright Panel
  • Great cameras
  • Useful intuitive features

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Fingerprint sensor location



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