FROM BER­LIN TO BARCELONA WE GAVE THE NEW NOTE 8 A SE­RI­OUS WORK­OUT

SmartHouse - - FIRST LOOK | SAMSUNG - Writ­ten by David Richards

I have a new best friend, who has been with me from Ber­lin to Barcelona for the past week, the Sam­sung Note 8 is the ul­ti­mate travel com­pan­ion, but is it the best ever smart­phone?

On the road, this is a de­vice that not only al­lows one to eas­ily stay in touch but is ideal for quick flight in­for­ma­tion, maps an­swer­ing ques­tions such as “where the hell am I” while also be­ing able to shoot an ar­ray of stun­ning images and video.

While the 6.3” screen is big and bright it's also a de­vice that fits com­fort­ably in the hand. As for ca­pa­bil­ity, the Note 8 has more fea­tures built in than any other smart­phone we have tested re­cently.

It's su­per-fast, wa­ter­proof, has a great cam­era, wire­less charg­ing, mo­bile pay­ments which ac­tu­ally worked in both Ber­lin and Barcelona, pen in­put, fin­ger­print reader, VR sup­port and the choice of two voice com­mand sys­tems Bixby and Google As­sis­tant. Most phones lack a few things the Note 8 has them all and a whole lot more.

And when you are in a for­eign city and con­stantly look­ing for in­for­ma­tion this de­vice is se­ri­ously in its el­e­ment. Us­ing lo­ca­tion tracker and voice com­mands I was able to quickly find my way around at IFA in Ber­lin and later Barcelona.

This is not just a smart­phone that looks good, it's a tool­box that de­liv­ers a plethora of ca­pa­bil­i­ties which is why it's well worth­while hav­ing to fork out $1,400 + to buy the Sam­sung Note 8.

It's also a de­vice that is made by a Com­pany that man­u­fac­tures the screen, pro­ces­sors and mem­ory along with their own hard­ware such as the in­te­grated S Pen which is ex­tremely use­ful when trav­el­ling,

I used the S Pen of­ten to scrib­ble num­bers and room ac­cess codes on the screen which I later added to my S Notes.

The cur­va­ture of the 74.8mm wide screen and its harder cor­ners de­liv­ers a re­ally unique ex­pe­ri­ence, it's big but it doesn't feel big es­pe­cially as one can still use the de­vice one handed.

In com­par­i­son, the 77.9mm wide iPhone 7 Plus and the 75.7mm wide Google Pixel XL are big clunky and nowhere near hav­ing the style or flair that the Note 8 de­liv­ers.

As for the Sam­sung AMOLED screen, they don't get any bet­ter though the new OLED V30 from LG

is a close con­tender. Big, bright and bold, with rich colours, deep blacks and great view­ing an­gles. It's the best there is out there even in bright light con­di­tions.

On the back is a clus­ter of cam­eras, flash, heart rate sen­sor and fin­ger­print sen­sor that sits near the top of the de­vice. This is a ter­ri­ble po­si­tion for the fin­ger­print sen­sor due to the height of the phone the fact that most peo­ple like me don't have fin­gers long enough to grip the bot­tom of the de­vice and reach the fin­ger­print sen­sor.

An al­ter­na­tive is the iris scan­ner but this is a hit and miss af­fair.

One thing I can vouch for is that the Note S 8 can with­stands sub­mer­sion in a foun­tain pool as I found out in Barcelona when I sat down on the edge of a foun­tain and the de­vice fell out of my pocket.

As for grouches, I am still not won over by Bixby Voice, Google Voice works and works well, then there is the is­sue of Sam­sung In­ter­net. Chrome is ex­cel­lent and it's just one more piece of soft­ware that could eas­ily be re­moved. De­spite its size, the Note 8 has a smaller bat­tery than the Note 7 or the Galaxy S8 Plus (3000mAh rather than 3500).

I was eas­ily get­ting a 15-hour day out of this de­vice and that in­cluded us­ing it at the IFA trade show in Ber­lin to con­stantly search for stands and meet­ing lo­ca­tions.

The screen alone usu­ally ac­counts for up­wards of 50 per­cent of bat­tery life so short burst use can ex­tend the life of a bat­tery Vs us­ing it con­stantly for Maps and watch­ing movies.

A real big stand­out fea­ture is the tiny S Pen sty­lus, it's a nice, sim­ple tool though I do wish that Sam­sung had de­signed it to fit in the top of the Note 8 Vs the bot­tom right.

Sam­sung has cre­ated lots of soft­ware for the S Pen: write a note, turn it into a GIF, send it to your friends; se­lect some text to trans­late; take a screen­shot just by draw­ing a rec­tan­gle. Pop the pen out of its hid­ing spot in the bot­tom right cor­ner of the phone and it'll open a note, so you can jot down your thoughts with­out turn­ing on the screen.

The S-Pen is the best com­bi­na­tion of power, porta­bil­ity, util­ity and com­fort. It also has a no­tice­ably thin­ner tip and sup­ports up to 4,098 lev­els of pres­sure.

You can still write on the screen when it's off, which is in­cred­i­bly handy for tak­ing notes when you are trav­el­ling. There is also no lag when us­ing the pen, it's com­fort­able to use and is the best com­bi­na­tion of per­for­mance, size and con­ve­nience.

As I said ear­lier I would still like to see the pen at the top of the de­vice not the bot­tom.

Sam­sung de­vices run a mod­i­fied ver­sion of An­droid called Touch Wiz.

The Note 8 runs An­droid 7.0 Nougat. The Note 8 has a sim­i­lar fea­ture set to the Galaxy S8, in­clud­ing some handy ad­di­tions to An­droid such as the abil­ity to swap the or­der of the nav­i­ga­tion but­tons at the bot­tom of the screen, and Sam­sung's Snap win­dow, which cre­ates an over­lay of any video

on the screen so you can watch some­thing and mes­sage peo­ple at the same time.

A new fea­ture is the live mes­sage fea­ture, which al­lows you to draw or write out some­thing to cre­ate an an­i­mated gif to send via pretty much any mes­sag­ing app or email via An­droid's builtin share sys­tem.

THE CAM­ERA

There is noth­ing bet­ter out there in a large phone and even Ap­ple is go­ing to have a hard job get­ting close to the qual­ity that this cam­era de­liv­ers.

The only other de­vice that comes close is the LG V30 and in com­par­i­son, shots the Sam­sung Note 8 came out on top, but then the V30 is $600 cheaper.

What Sam­sung have done is de­signed the de­vice so that two 12-megapixel sen­sors work to­gether or separately. In both Belin and Barcelona Bixby Vi­sion kicked in to iden­tify ob­jects in the frame.

Vir­tu­ally all of my pho­tos came out clear, sharp, and well-fo­cused. As you can see from the sam­ples below.

The app is fast, the im­age sta­bi­liza­tion works won­ders on videos or at su­per-high zoom lev­els, even the burst mode is fast. An­other big ad­van­tage is the way that func­tions are set out on the screen. A sim­ple click and an im­age en­larges.

A Live Fo­cus mode, uses both cam­eras to ap­prox­i­mate a soft-back­ground por­trait sim­i­lar to the iPhone.

From the images above I chal­lenge whether a dig­i­tal SLR would de­liver pic­tures as quick and as good.

The Note 8 is a great phone with po­ten­tial to be an ex­cep­tional one, what their de­sign­ers have to do is get a tad closer to re­al­ity es­pe­cially with their fin­ger­print sen­sor. Then there is the is­sue of Bixby, while it works, does one re­ally need it. Tizen was sup­posed to be the next big smart­phone OS, it failed and I sus­pect Bixby will go the same way.

What was in­ter­est­ing at CES was that Har­man which is owned by Sam­sung chose to de­liver Ama­zon Alexa, Mi­crosoft's Cor­tana and a Google Home voice ac­ti­va­tion speaker, there was no Bixby. With the right light, the tele­photo cam­era is ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing some great por­trait or ob­ject shots.

The dual cam­era set up al­lows for some now fairly stan­dard fea­tures such as depth per­cep­tion for ar­ti­fi­cially blur­ring the back­ground of a por­trait. It works pretty well and uniquely al­lows the user to ad­just the level of ef­fect both dur­ing shoots and af­ter the fact in the gallery app.

CON­CLU­SION

Is this a re­ally great smart­phone? Yes, does it have flaws? Yes, the fin­ger­print sen­sor and Bixby are just two. But then so do some of the world's great lux­ury cars and peo­ple stick flock to them.

As a pre­mium prod­uct, this de­vice is well worth the in­vest­ment it's like the ul­ti­mate Swiss knife, it has ev­ery­thing you need, com­puter, smart­phone, cam­era, nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, note taker all built into one slick smart look­ing de­vice that last for hours be­fore need­ing a lit­tle bit of juice. While the ap­ple iPhone is ev­ery­one else's parts in­clud­ing a lot from Sam­sung the bulk of this de­vice is pure Sam­sung tech­nol­ogy that har­mo­niously works to­gether.

Fruit stall in barcelona, taken us­ing the Note 8 Cam­era

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