ALAN COOPER

The Sunday Independent - - LIFE TECH -

AYEAR af­ter the Galaxy Note 7 burst onto the scene – lit­er­ally in some cases as it turned out – Sam­sung has un­veiled its suc­ces­sor, a de­vice it says will be the pre­mium large-screened smart­phone to beat in terms of specs and safety.

From what I saw of the Note 8 at the launch in New York on Wed­nes­day and live streamed glob­ally, it might be right. In­stead of down­play­ing the fiery fate of the Note 7, the South Korean tech gi­ant wisely chose to ac­knowl­edge the ele­phant in the au­di­to­rium.

Sam­sung mo­bile pres­i­dent DJ Koh thanked fans of the Note brand for their “re­lent­less pas­sion”, adding, “They’ve been a con­stant in­spi­ra­tion to us and we de­signed the new Note for them”.

The Note 8’s bat­tery – the Achilles heel of its pre­de­ces­sor – is smaller this time round (3 300mAh ver­sus 3 500mAh) and has been in­de­pen­dently vet­ted by safety cer­ti­fi­ca­tion com­pany, UL.

That’s in ad­di­tion to be­ing sub­jected the same eight­point bat­tery safety check the S8 and S8+ went through. As none of those have gone up in flames, Sam­sung will be hop­ing it’s fi­nally laid the Note 7’s fiery ghost to rest.

Among the phone’s many other at­trac­tions are its stun­ning good looks and “in­fin­ity” dis­play.

Even bet­ter, the good looks serve a prac­ti­cal pur­pose, al­low­ing you to com­fort­ably fit in your hand a screen that would just a cou­ple of years ago have re­quired a near-tablet-sized de­vice. Make no mis­take, this is a big dis­play – 6.3 inches of retina ca­ress­ing, Quad HD+ Su­per AMOLED good­ness.

Un­der the eye-candy ex­te­rior purrs a pow­er­house combo of an Exynos octa-core core pro­ces­sor and 6GB RAM, the most mem­ory Sam­sung has crammed into one of its glob­ally re­leased smart­phones. It runs ver­sion 7.1.1 of the An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem and packs 64GB of onboard stor­age, ex­pand­able with an af­ter­mar­ket mi­croSD card.

The Note 8 wouldn’t be wor­thy of the name if it didn’t have Sam­sung’s trade­mark S Pen, whose func­tion­al­ity has been re­fined over the years from a bit of a gim­mick into a mul­ti­task­ing work­horse. New fea­tures in­clude the abil­ity to take notes with­out pow­er­ing up the screen as well cre­at­ing nifty an­i­mated notes.

As be­fits a de­vice aimed at on-the-go pro­fes­sion­als, the new Note sup­ports Sam­sung’s DeX hub, in­tro­duced with the S8 line ear­lier this year, that turns the smart­phone into a desk­top com­puter when paired with a mon­i­tor, key­board and mouse.

There are also some nice en­hance­ments to the Note’s split-screen ca­pa­bil­i­ties, my favourite be­ing the abil­ity to launch at a sin­gle tap your choice of app pair­ings – for ex­am­ple email and cal­en­dar.

As we’ve come to ex­pect from re­cent gen­er­a­tions of Sam­sung’s flag­ship hand­sets, the Note 8 boasts IP68 wa­ter and dust re­sis­tance, so you won’t have to worry about drop­ping it in the drink when lin­ing up that per­fect pool­side snap when sum­mer re­turns.

Speak­ing of pho­tos, that brings me to what is ar­guably the Note 8’s most ex­cit­ing new fea­ture is its first dual-cam­era sys­tem, po­si­tion­ing it to take on the likes of LG, Huawei and, more re­cently, Ap­ple in this depart­ment.

There was dis­ap­point­ment among the faith­ful when the S8 and S8+ didn’t come out with dual cam­eras. Sam­sung said at the time it was hold­ing back on this fea­ture un­til it had some­thing spe­cial to re­lease. It seems it has de­liv­ered on the prom­ise.

Of the two 12MP cam­era sen­sors, the main sen­sor has a 2x op­ti­cal zoom, dual pixel sen­sor and an f/1.7 aper­ture, while the sec­ond sen­sor has a tele­photo lens and an f/2.4 aper­ture with 10x dig­i­tal zoom.

This will let users cap­ture im­ages with a Bokeh ef­fect, se­lect­ing which el­e­ments of the im­age they want in fo­cus and which to blur, as well as tweak­ing the in­ten­sity of the blur.

This is also the first du­al­cam­era set-up to use op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion for both rear cam­eras, a fea­ture de­signed to re­move un­wanted blur and cam­era shake. These and other DSLR-like abil­i­ties put Sam­sung back on top of the cam­era phone pile, at least un­til the new iPhone is an­nounced within the next few weeks.

Pre-or­ders are open on Sam­sung’s web­site, with the com­pany of­fer­ing six months of Sam­sung Mo­bile Care Ser­vice free for early birds.

The Galaxy Note 8 will land in South Africa on Septem­ber 22, but pre-or­ders will start to be ful­filled from Septem­ber 15.

If you want one, Be pre­pared to pay around R18 500 or bud­get for a suit­ably hefty monthly con­tract.

Fol­low Alan Cooper on Twit­ter @ alan­q­cooper.

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