The Andriod throne has been hotly contested in recent years, and Samsung have taken the calm and considered approach in once again reigning supreme. Enter the Galaxy Note 8. The top tier device in Samsung’s latest mobile phone range, features everything you think you’d need in a phablet and then some. This should be a smartphone reserved for those who plan to reap the full benefits of its extensive and intuitive functionality considering its price tag – unless of course the price tag is of no issue.
The 6.3” Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Infinity Display is big, very big. Enlarging screen sizes as ranges progress is standard practice in the world of phablets, sure, but what sets this apart from other brands is the quality and resolution. Vibrant hues, clear visuals and responsive touch give you a true sense of the sheer size of the device.
The Galaxy Note 8 claims to have the sharpest phone display on the market. Opting for the Note 8 as the screen of choice for a mid-commute Netflix binge alongside a few days of general use, proved this. The clarity is truly remarkable and is a worthy selling point for the visually inclined. Our only reservation here, while small, is that navigation can feel clumsy in landscape mode within some apps.
The touch capabilities feel natural with absolutely no lag, just as you would expect from a phone at this price-point. What sets this device apart from other contenders is the integration of the S-Pen, and the S-Pen itself. Aside from its ergonomic feel, it’s so responsive! Whether you’re handwriting notes or navigating two apps in Multi Window, the Galaxy Note 8 excels ten-fold here and can at least partially be attributed to the improved touch sensitivity. We’ve found ourselves opting for the stylus over tasks more practically completed with fingers.
There are two virtual assistants living on the Note 8’s Android platform. Samsung’s own, Bixby, and Google Assistant. While Bixby is supposed to be more intuitive and tailored toward Samsung specific help, it was easier to DIY through the software or use Google Assistant where applicable.
Making the most of Dual Window mode more often than not, this felt like navigating to and fro apps on a spacious tablet display rather than a phone. Samsung call it App Pair, it allows you to simultaneously launch two apps from the edge panel. Netflix and Tweet? No worries. Or how about a conference call with your notes open in Google Docs? Easy. The 6GB of ram and Octa-core 2.35G Hz+1.7GHz processor makes for light work when multitasking across a multitude of apps.
From our experience, the Galaxy Note 8 is fast and reliable during even the most rigorous testing conditions and ironically only slowed down when the inbuilt assistant, Bixby, tried to help. This is something that will most probably be streamlined in future updates.
Slow to the party on rear dual cameras, Samsung have come in hot with a pretty good debut. One has a wide-angle lens, the other has a telephoto lens; this allows for a number of powerful features across the camera and phone. Taking photos on the Note 8 almost made you feel like a professional, their Optical Image Stabilisation technology is no gimmick and produces some beautiful imagery regardless of how steady your hand is. We captured photos and videos using the Note 8 on a very loud shakey seaplane. And the results were stunning.
The Live Focus feature gives you great control of focus and bokeh, either while you’re taking a photo, or once it’s taken. They say good things come in threes, right? Let’s round off the rear cameras with Samsung’s Dual Capture mode, which takes a close-up and wide-angle shot simultaneously – a neat trick which comes into its own in editing mode.
The front-facing camera comes in at a respectable 8 megapixel and unlike its bigger brothers on the device’s backside, it does nothing less than a camera should do. Samsung’s camera app is also ridiculously expansive and is almost deserving of its own review; our highlight was the 180° virtual photo.
Expectations were realistic in terms of battery life for a device so large and rich in capabilities. This is the only area where the Galaxy Note 8 could stretch a little more. Expect to make it through a day of regular to heavy use, although you might be left disconnected from the digital world on your commute home.
Everything else… that we can fit in this review
In terms of aesthetics, the phone looks and feels great. As we mentioned, the screen is very large, although its size lies mainly in its length. This makes it not only great for widescreen viewing when held landscape, but also means that the device doesn’t feel too big in your hand – a problem many phablet owners have faced in the past. The exterior feels solid, and there’s a sense of quality from the moment you power on. It’s surprisingly light for a phone of its size, at only 168 grams.
The list goes on: it’s dust and water-resistant. Samsung claims to have tested it submerged for up to 30 minutes, which is good enough for us not to risk trying it. It’s compatible with Samsung’s VR products, and features Samsung Pay, of course.
The wrap up
If you’ve been holding out in anticipation of Samsung’s latest Galaxy product, we’re confident you won’t be disappointed. Aside from a few minor issues sporadically noted in this review, it performs with grace and speed.
The Note 8 comes at a price though, literally. A phone is only worth as much as the features you utilise, and spending $1,500 on a device if you’re only making calls and texts may not be in your bank account’s best interest. However, if you rely on your phone for work or creativity to make it through your day’s commitments, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is worth each and every hard earned dollar.