Samsung Galaxy Note8
THE NOTE RANGE HAD A ROUGH 2016, BUT IT’S BACK (WITHOUT A BANG), AND SAMSUNG’S SUPER-SIZED SMARTPHONE IS BETTER THAN EVER
RIGHT The S8 design ain’t broke, so Samsung didn’t fix it in the Note8
Okay, look, as much as we want to just dive into the stuff we love about the Note8, we need to talk about the slightly singed elephant in the room: the Note 7 debacle.
Last year’s battery problem is the reason this year’s Note contains a relatively meagre 3,300mAh battery, which is smaller than the Galaxy
S8. Room needs to be made for the (super) S Pen stylus too, we guess, but Samsung knows it has to go for a battery that’s super-reliable here, even if that makes it potentially weaker on paper. The good news, as we’ll come to – is that the lack of battery capacity actually doesn’t make much difference, compared to the battery life of its sister handsets.
And with that one concern out of the way, we can say that the Note 8 joins the Galaxy S8+ as one of this year’s very best phones. If you’re a fan of the Note series, you definitely won’t be disappointed.
Since there’s pretty much no difference between the size of this 6.3inch screen and the 6.2-inch display of the S8+, a big part of choosing the Note 8 is whether you’ll make good use of the S Pen stylus.
As with the S8+, the Quad HD+ 1440x2960 Super AMOLED display is an absolute stunner – it’s only ever so slightly less pixel dense than the S8+. And, as you’d expect, it’s HDR-compatible (Netflix has already updated its app to support it here). As with the S8 series, the screen fills almost all of the front of the phone and the trio of Android controls at the bottom of the display are part of the display (the buttons are in the traditional Samsung arrangement of App Switcher on the left, Home in the centre and Back on the right).
TOUCHWIZ AND GO
Being a Samsung Galaxy handset, the Note8 uses a TouchWiz overlay atop Android 7.1.1. The interface has improved a lot over the last couple of years and we’re now fans.
However, one irritation remains, and that’s the conflict between Samsung’s own software and Google’s, (which is a problem with Android handsets from other manufacturers too, to be fair).
Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the conflict between Google Assistant and Samsung’s own assistant, called Bixby. The Note8 features a dedicated Bixby button on its left side, so you can call it up easily. You can also swipe in from the left on the home screen.
But during the phone’s startup process, you’re offered the option to enable Google Assistant. After that, holding down the virtual home button gets you to Google’s app while swiping left takes you to Bixby. Samsung says it wants to provide choice, but this is more confusing than helpful a lot of the time.
As for Bixby voice control itself, it’s still too early to judge whether it can be a contender versus Siri, Alexa and the rest in the long term. It is now available in India (US English and Korean only for now).
The big problem is the lack of unique functionality with Bixby.
The Bixby screen is a bit like a less intutive Google Now at the moment, while Bixby Vision enables you to do a shopping search for things you take pictures of, or find images of the item online. Matches are still really hit-andmiss for this.