Samsung’s Notes aren’t meant to be regular phones. The signature Note features like bigger-than-usual display, S Pen, and others all define and project this Samsung high-end series as a productivity-oriented or for those who do a lot on their phones.
On paper, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 isn’t radically different from the existing S-series flagship, but it’s still the most powerful phone from Samsung so far.
So, unless you are a ‘Note’ aficionado, why should or shouldn’t you buy Samsung Galaxy Note 8? Let’s talk about that in our Galaxy Note 8 review.
- Excellent camera
- Excellent display
- Great performance
- Water resistant
- Inaccessible fingerprint reader
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Specifications
|Samsung Galaxy Note 8
|6.3-inch Quad HD+ (2960 × 1440 pixels) Super AMOLED Infinity display, 18.5:9 aspect ratio; 83.2% screen-to-body ratio, HDR 10
|2.3GHz Exynos 8895 octa-core, Mali G71
|64GB, expandable up to 256GB
|Android 7.1 Nougat, with Experience UX 8.5
|12MP+12MP, wide-angle+telephoto lens, Dual OIS
4K@30fps; 1080p@60fps; 720p@240fps
|8MP autofocus front-facing camera with f/1.7 aperture
|Dimensions and weight
|162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm, 195 Grams
|3300mAh battery with fast charging both on wired and wireless
|4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11ac (2.4/5GHz), VHT80 MU-MIMO, Bluetooth v 5.0 (LE up to 2Mbps), GPS with GLONASS, USB Type-C 3.1, NFC, MST
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Design and Build
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a big phone, but that’s something it’s meant to be. It’s not a phone meant for one-handed usage and makes no bones about it. The large full vision real estate comes in handy as it helps fit more on the screen, and gives you more to work with.
Coming from the lighter OnePlus 5, it felt substantially heavy, but the weight is well balanced and we got used to it in no time.
Just as the S8+, most of the front is screen and there is Gorilla Glass 5 protection on either side. The metallic side frame is color matched. The new Note also has less rounded corners and feels blockier (or Note like?) than the Galaxy S8+. Samsung also bundles a workable plastic case in the Box. The phone is also IP68 water and dust resistant certified.
The S Pen, stereo speakers, Type-C and Audio jack are all present on the bottom edge. On top, there is just a mic for secondary noise cancellation.
We didn’t find ourselves accidentally tapping the Bixby key (which you can also disable) very often (or at all), but yes, it makes the Volume rocker a tad inaccessible. Talking of accessibility, the fingerprint sensor on the rear is the biggest casualty of the full vision display and of the dual cameras.
- Its big, but only because it’s meant to be. The extra display helps its case.
- The Infinity display helps with premium looks too.
- There is Gorilla Glass 5 on front and rear, which means it can resist drops better than scratches.
- It’s also IP68 water and dust resistant certified.
- The fingerprint sensor isn’t accessible.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Display
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has the best AMOLED display you can get on a mainstream phone as of today. The 6.3-inch 18:9 Infinity screen is HDR 10 compliant, has infinite contrast, can go twice as bright as the iPhone X, and shows accurate colors. The onscreen home button is 3D touch and gives haptic feedback when pressed hard.
The edges are curved on both sides and you can drag out the edge panel from the right one. The S Pen input on the display is based on Wacom solution and works flawlessly.
Samsung’s Always On display that allows you to peek at the date, time, incoming notifications, etc is something we appreciate a lot.
- This is the best AMOLED panel you can buy today.
- Always on display and 3D touch home button add value.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Performance and Software
As usual, Samsung is using its top of the line Exynos 8895 chipset, which is also the chipset you will get in the Galaxy S8. However, this time Samsung has added 6GB RAM and that should make a difference in the long run.
In India, you will get the 64GB storage variant with expandable storage (hybrid slot). As you’d expect, performance is top notch. The Note 8 can keep multiple apps cached in RAM and has been designed for heavy lifting.
The software is again refined TouchWiz similar to what we have seen on earlier Samsung phones this year and the major difference is the S Pen. For anyone who puts his/her phone to official use, the S Pen is, without doubt, a powerful tool. We ourselves find drawing it very often for screenshots and for navigating through certain apps.
Besides, software editions like app pair and side edge panel are other tools that help with effective multitasking.
- There is no UI Lag. The chipset is more than capable of heavy lifting.
- You can add SD card but the slot is hybrid
- 6GB RAM is a welcome upgrade.
- Software is multi-tasking friendly and so is the S Pen
- Samsung Pay is an added bonus too.
Unlocking Galaxy Note 8 and Bixby
The major peeve point is unlocking the phone. Since fingerprint sensor is largely inaccessible, you will have to rely on iris scanner or face recognition. The iris scanner works in the dark, is secure, but isn’t half as convenient as face recognition (especially if you wear specs). The face recognition works quite good when the lighting is could, but not in dark ambiance. If your phone is lying on your table and you are alone, you could also unlock Note 8 using Bixby and voice password.
All said and done, bespectacled consumers would end up with face recognition, and others probably would end up with the iris scanner. None is fully gratifying, though.
We do appreciate Samsung still retaining the fingerprint sensor, for that saves us the tedious process of logging in with our credentials in banking apps.
With the advent of Bixby Voice, Samsung’s much-ridiculed voice assistant makes a solid case for its existence. Among the existing alternatives, Bixby is best at executing complicated commands and thoroughly understands your phone. You can ask it to fetch any setting on your phone or open apps and perform specific tasks.
It still needs to get better with understanding regional accent and context. It’s also slower than Google Assistant and Siri.
- Unlocking isn’t perfect. We ended up using Face recognition.
- Bixby makes a solid case for itself with Bixby Voice.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Camera Performance
Samsung has been providing with Class-leading cameras for a few years and the Note 8’s contribution is the extra 12MP sensor with OIS. It’s an excellent camera and the extra sensor can make life a little simpler. At least it works better than digital zoom and would be preferred by users who don’t wish to bother with a separate image editing app.
The Live focus or Bokeh mode also works smoothly. You can adjust the intensity of background blur before you shoot and also shoot a parallel image with the single sensor simultaneously. The major camera strength is the low light performance.
Samsung has also integrated Bixby Vision and Social camera in the software. The former can help you scan QR codes using camera or use it as an OCR tool.
Even the selfie camera on the Note 8 (with Autofocus) is perhaps the best one that we have experience when it comes to low light photography.
- Camera quality is excellent. Dual Cameras further enhance the overall experience.
- Selfie camera is awesome too.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Battery Backup, Audio output, Connectivity
We have been using the display at FHD resolution, but haven’t resorted to any other means to conserve battery. All regular apps are synced, we have 2 SIM cards plugged in, Alway on display is active, and the location is perpetually on. With these settings, we can consistently get around one day of backup.
On heavy usage days, say, when we have to attend outdoor events. We work from the field, have 4G LTE data on, use GPS navigation, entertain ourselves with videos or music through the commute, and even have to click loads of photographs. On such days, the Note 8 ended up with around 35 to 40 percent juice by the time we made it back home in early evening. To put that in perspective, our OnePlus 5 could retain around 50 percent.
The point being, the Galaxy Note 8 battery backup isn’t stellar but it’s noticeably better than what we had on Galaxy S8. On heavy usage days, you will have to resort to mid-day charging. Fast charging is supported, but you will have to use the inbox charger.
Audio output is excellent. The loudspeaker is louder than the one on Galaxy S8+. The AKG headphone Samsung bundled with the Note 8 are pretty good for inbox earphones but don’t expect much. Call quality and connectivity are excellent too.
- Battery backup sees improvement
- Audio output and connectivity is excellent
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review
The Galaxy Note 8 is a great option for heavy users or for those who use their phones for professional purposes and like pushing it to its limits. Any which way you look at it, it’s the most powerful Samsung phone out there capable of delivering a premium Android experience.
Even generic users who don’t mind a big phone will cherish improvements over S8+ like the dual cameras, more RAM, better battery backup and better loudspeaker.
The S Pen, which is supposedly the biggest differentiating factor, is, in our books, a valuable addition and does make a difference. At the same time, if you don’t do much on your phone, you might as well find it to be a frivolous plastic stick that you rarely pull out. In that case, you might as well go for the Galaxy S8+ to save a few bucks.