The Samsung Galaxy Note 8, €950
Consider this review a preliminary one. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is officially on sale tomorrow and there are very few handsets doing the rounds in Ireland. So my time with this one was fleeting: days rather than weeks, enough to discover that I like the concept and to show up some niggles, but not enough time for serious problems to make themselves obvious.
A cautionary tale is last year’s Note 7. Although the reviews were great, battery problems soon emerged with overheating leading to recalls. Samsung has taken steps to make sure the same issues don’t arise with the Note 8 – it has a smaller battery, and there are more stringent battery checks. That should go some way to allaying any fears, as should the successful launch of the Galaxy S8 and S8+.
The Note 8 is a return to brilliance for Samsung. It is beautifully designed, with a fantastic 6.3 ins AMOLED screen. It has 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage space, which can be expanded with a memory card up to 256GB in size. And it has the S Pen stylus, which seems even more accurate than before.
First up: the display. It’s quad HD+ resolution, which means crisp text, great movies and amazing colour reproduction. The “infinity display” Samsung has been pushing is in evidence, with the Note 8 getting those slightly angled edges. That 6.3 ins screen means it looks long, although in reality it isn’t a huge leap, mainly due to the smaller bezel.
Where you will feel it is with the fingerprint reader, which is a little awkward to reach comfortably on the rear of the device.
The Note used to have the big phone market almost to itself. But that has changed as more companies cotton on to big screens. However, the biggest competition Samsung may have could come from an unexpected source: itself. The Samsung Note 8 follows the launch of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, with the latter certain to eat up some of the Note’s previous market.
The Note used to stand out from the rest of Samsung’s range, mainly due to its larger size. But, with the launch of the Galaxy S8+, that has blurred somewhat. Sure, the Note 8 is less rounded than its S8 siblings, but the design is familiar.
Another differentiation between the handsets is, of course, the S Pen. Samsung’s stylus is back, and it’s still useful. You can use it to scribble notes on the screen – including when the phone is in standby – create GIFs, annotate screenshots, and access shortcuts. It’s compact, but if you move the phone too far away from the S Pen, it will trigger an alert, meaning you are less likely to leave it behind. When using the Note 8 as a work tool, the S Pen came in handy more often than I thought.
The Note 8 also gets a dual camera on the rear, with 12 megapixel resolution and an aperture of f1.7. That means good low-light images. And when you team it with the optical image stabilisation, the results are impressive. The second sensor gives you flexibility, mainly with distance from your subject.
There are some issues to note. The smaller battery has an impact. It won’t last as long as other phones, but it did make it through the day with some heavy use. As mentioned, this was a time-limited review and it would be interesting to see if the Note 8 kept up the performance on a day-to-day basis. Turn off the always-on display and you’ll see a difference; ditto with messing around with the screen resolution.
The display. I could look at it all all day – at least until the battery gave out. The S Pen is useful, the cameras impressive.
The not so good
Caution has ruled that the Note 8 run on a smaller battery. No one wants a repeat of the Note 7 debacle, but that decision is still going to have an impact on users. Also, the Note 8 comes with a serious price tag – about €950. Dig deep, Note fans.
Inside the box you get the usual: headphones, USB cable, USB plug. But the Note 8 is USB C, so Samsung has included two adapters in the box: one for turning your old micro USB cables into USB C, and a full-size USB to USB C adapter.
The Note 8 could be a great comeback for the brand, but the cost may turn off some potential buyers – especially when the S8+ is waiting in the wings.