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Samsung Galaxy Note 8: Full, in-depth review
- QHD+ Display
- Battery life burns down fast
- Exynos can't keep pace with Snapdragon
With the arrival of the Note 8, the brand has finally - and maybe inevitably - risen from the ashes to reclaim its past glory.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 features an edge-to-edge 6.3-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Infinity Display and, in Australia, 8 pairs up Samsung’s Exynos 8895 processor with a hefty 6GB of RAM.
Weighing just 168 grams, it carries a full IP68 rating against water and dust damage.
On the back, the Galaxy Note 8 touts a pair of 12 MP cameras with dual OIS, autofocus and 2x optical zoom. When it comes to video, it’s capable of shooting in 4K at at 30FPS and 1080p at 60FPS. For selfies, the Note 8 relies on an 8-megapixel autofocus shooter (f1.7) .
Meanwhile, internally, it boasts 64GB of storage and a 3300mAh battery (with support for both wireless charging and QuickCharge 2.0 via the device’s USB-C port). It's also got 3.5mm headphone jack and comes bundled in with a pair of AKG headphones.
Software-wise, it runs on Android 7.1.1 Nougat, filtered through Samsung’s own TouchWiz UI.In terms of voice assistants, the Galaxy Note 8 is packing both Google Assistant and Sammy’s own Bixby. It also supports all of Samsung’s various goodies and services, from GearVR and DeX to Samsung Pay and Knox.
Right out of the gate, the Galaxy Note 8 is remarkable in that while it makes exceptional use of the extra screen space afforded to it, it rarely feels like that extra space comes with much of a cost. Sure, on a mathematical and physical level, it is objectively a bigger device than the Samsung Galaxy S8. However, after a little bit of time with, it doesn’t register as all that much bigger. Just a little taller.
In the palm of your hand, it comes off as genuinely lightweight for a flagship phablet - and when it comes to raw ‘feel-factor’ of the thing, the smooth surfaces (more or less the same as the S8 and S8 Plus) on the Note 8 are hard to beat.
Thankfully, the smartphone has a display that lives up these strengths. To our eyes, video content feels like it hasn’t ever looked this sharp or bright, especially on a smartphone screen.
Samsung have gone and gotten the display certified by the UHD Alliance for Mobile HDR Premium, which means it's capable of playing all the same 4K and HDR content you’re able to watch on your home TV. Even if you don’t have the content ready to go, there’s a Video Enhancer feature designed to leverage this capability in more everyday ways - making images brighter and colors more vivid.
Even below the device’s lavish exterior, there’s no shortage of things to like about the Galaxy Note 8. I mean, there are feature-rich flagships and then there’s the Note 8. Whether we’re counting quality or quantity, it's pretty much got it all with only a few nascent exclusions.
Tired of unlocking your phone with the same old fingerprint scanner? The Note 8 has vocal, iris and facial recognition as alternatives. Want a dual-lens camera? Done. Need a suite of health-tracking and smart coaching apps? The Note 8 has pretty much every front covered. Even after our time with, it feels like we’ve only scratched the surface of what “the Phablet That Was Promised” has to offer.
This is why it’s so unfortunate that Bixby itself remains a bit of an underperformer. Although its ability to perform basic tasks (like turning on the flashlight) is reasonably consistent (and useful), the feature still feels like a work-in-progress. Two-step actions (for example opening an app and performing a task) is pretty much the biggest thing Bixby has going for it. Sadly, in reality, these are still kind-of inconsistent and inevitably limited by developer support. I often found myself only using Bixby for things I knew it had a good chance of succeeding at, and falling back onto Google Assistant for pretty much everything else.
In stark contrast, the S-Pen completely delivers on the potential afforded to it. In some ways, it might even be the strongest part of the Note 8 package. Popping out of the bottom of the device’s frame with a click, the S-Pen is a delight to hold between your fingers - let alone use. Drawing with S-Pen feels good and well-balanced. However, for our money, it’s writing where the stylus truly excels. When used to take notes, it feels responsive and naturally intuitive in a way that feels genuinely difficult to improve upon without pulling out a physical notepad.
As with the Note 7, Samsung have gone and integrated the S-Pen into pretty much every aspect of the Note 8 experience. Pulling out the S-Pen while the Note 8 is unlocked pulls out a contextual menu that lets you do everything from jump right into Samsung’s Note’s App, magnify small text, translate languages, take full or partial screenshots, write on the screen and send Live Messages. Alternatively, pulling out the S-Pen while the phone is locked allows you to quickly scribble something down and then save the note for later. While our delight with this feature is a little specific to our own note-taking needs, it’s still easy to praise. Again, it’s hard to imagine this being any more-streamlined or intuitive.
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