For seven years, Samsung has been consistent in releasing two flagship devices each year. In the spring, we get the Galaxy S model. This phone is Samsung’s bread and butter, ushering in the newest version of Samsung’s software and giving general consumers a sleek and powerful device. If you’re a true Samsung loyalist you probably know that the company’s fall release is typically the device you should wait for, but that’s not really the case this time around.
I think we can all agree that the prestige around owning a Note isn’t what it used to be. In the past people, bought the note because it was a bit ridiculous. It was substantially larger than mainstream devices and offered a battery which could easily last two days. But the screen on the new Galaxy Note8 is just 0.1-inches bigger than the Galaxy S8 Plus’ and the battery inside the phone is roughly the same size as well.
After the explosive demise of the Galaxy Note7, it’s quite evident that Samsung is playing things safe with the Note8.
It’s clear that Samsung’s done a lot of work to bring a unified design to its phones in 2017. If it weren’t for the S Pen on the bottom edge and the rearrangement of the camera and fingerprint sensor array on the back of the phone, the Note8 could easily be mistaken for the Galaxy S8 Plus. The placement of the fingerprint sensor is definitely awkward since you need to readjust your grip to reach it, but you should at least have fewer fingerprint smudges on the camera lens since Samsung placed the heart rate sensor between them.
As for everything else, the Note8 looks and feels like the S8. You get a metal frame that’s sandwiched between the front and back glass panels, a pretty useless Bixby button next to the volume rocker on the left edge, a power button on the right and the S Pen, USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom. And despite having all those holes, the Note8 is also IP68 dust and water resistant.
Overall, the phone looks and feels like a thousand bucks — as it should, since the phone sells for $929.
The Note8 is the most expensive mainstream Android device on the market, but that doesn’t mean that its specs are any better than what you’d get if you bought any other 2017 flagship device.
The phone runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. There are also 128GB and 256GB storage options for those who don’t mind paying a bit more, but you can always bump the storage capacity up later with a microSD card. The battery measures in at 3300mAh and it supports wireless charging as well as Fast Charging with Adaptive Fast Charging.
It also has a 6.3-inch, 18.5:9, Quad HD+ AMOLED display which features curved edges. Biometric security features include a fingerprint reader, an iris scanner and facial recognition with the front-facing camera.
The main camera setup features a pair of 12-megapixel cameras, both with optical image stabilization. The main sensor features a f/1.7 lens while the second one sports a f/2.4 lens with 2X optical zoom. Like the Galaxy S8, the front-facing camera on the Note8 features an 8-megapixel sensor which is paired with a f/1.7 autofocus lens.
The Snapdragon 835 that’s used in this phone is quite common, but Samsung’s done a bit more tweaking on the software to make sure it’s incredibly fast. In the past, Samsung has gotten a lot of flak for its bloated UI since it has always hindered the performance of its devices. While we expect this phone could run faster if it were running stock Android, Samsung’s software tweaks don’t seem to get in the way this time around.
Benchmark scores show that the Note8 is one of the fastest devices of 2017 and day-to-day use confirms that. There’s not even a hint of stutter or lag and it kills the competition when it comes to multitasking. Thanks to the phone’s 6GB of RAM (a first for a Samsung device), you can easily jump in and out of apps and even pick up a game exactly where you left off 2-3 hours ago without it needing to reload. Pair that performance with the phone’s 6.3-inch display and the included S Pen and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a device that’s better suited for multi-tasking.
The 6.3-inch AMOLED panel is absolutely stunning. It’s bright, crisp and doesn’t have any of the issues that we’ve seen on the LG V30 or the Pixel 2 XL. The 18.5:9 aspect ratio does take some time to get used to, but the taller display means that the Note8 is surprisingly manageable despite its obnoxious size.
Since the edges of the display aren’t as curved as those of the Galaxy S8, the visual appeal isn’t quite the same, but it’s definitely more functional since there’s a clear distinction between the actual display and the edge of the phone. Samsung says the curve was reduced to improve the usability of the S Pen. While that makes total sense, it’s interesting to see how the edge display seems to be getting smaller and smaller with every new Galaxy phone that comes out.
As with other AMOLED panels, you get extremely deep blacks. Unfortunately, the colors seem to pop a bit too much, but you can tone things down manually in the settings.
As you might expect, the battery life by the Galaxy Note8’s 3300mAh cell is a bit disappointing. Yes, Samsung is playing it a bit safe since it admitted that the demise of the Note7 was in part because it had crammed too large of a battery into the phone, but they could have done a bit better than this.
The phone will still make it through a full day with more than 4 hours of screen-on time, but I’ve come to expect a whole lot more from Samsung’s Note series. Making things worse is the odd inclusion of Adaptive Fast Charging that is equivalent to Quick Charge 2.0 when Quick Charge 4.0 is readily available. This means you’ll need to wait nearly two hours for the phone’s battery to fully charge.
Gone are the days when Samsung’s Note devices were known for exceptional battery life.
As mentioned before, the main camera on the Galaxy Note8 features two 12-megapixel sensors. We all know that Samsung is a bit late to the dual-camera game, but they are the first to include optical image stabilization on both sensors.
Like most other dual-sensor camera setups, Samsung is using the wide angle and zoom approach with a portrait mode which will digitally blur the background in the photo. But rather than just copy everyone else, Samsung’s phone can capture your shots with both sensors, allowing you to choose between the wide angle and zoomed-in image.
The results you get from the camera are quite impressive. Colors are well balanced, the edges are crisp and there’s very little noise in the shots unless you’re taking pictures in extremely low light situations. The auto white balance can be a little too cool at times, but that’s easily adjustable in the settings.
We were pretty impressed with the Galaxy S8’s camera earlier this year, but Note8 takes things to a whole new level.
While there are plenty of large phones on the market these days, the real reason to buy the Note8 is for the S Pen. There’s nothing stopping you from using a stylus with the phone you already own, but the experience will never match what the Note8 offers out of the box. And this year, the S Pen has learned a few new tricks. It can now be used for live currency and measurement conversion along with language translation within the browser and other apps when you use the S Pen to select the text.
If you want to jot down notes when the phone’s display is off, you can now write to your heart’s content since the feature has been updated so that users can write up to 100 pages of notes without having to turn the screen on.
And if that wasn’t enough, the S Pen also allows you to create animated notes which can be shared with your friends. Just jot down a quick note and sketch something out and the phone will save your stroke work as an animated GIF which can be shared via your favorite messaging apps.
But of course, the main appeal is still the basic note-taking functionality of the S Pen. We may be living in a digital era, but there’s still something extremely satisfying about writing by hand rather than punching it out on a virtual keyboard. And that’s really the only reason why you should buy the Note 8.
There’s a lot to love about the Samsung Galaxy Note8, but the only way you can really justify spending this much money on a phone is if you simply can’t live without the S Pen. The large display is nice and the camera is great, but there are other devices on the market with displays which are just as large or cameras which are just as good.
It’s a bit odd to say this about one of Samsung’s Note devices, but the Note8 would definitely be worth its $930 asking price to a lot more people if its battery life wasn’t simply mediocre.