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The Note8 has plenty of stor­age for all your files, with 64GB in­ter­nal as stan­dard and ex­pan­sion up to 256GB pos­si­ble via mi­croSD. That’s be­fore you take into ac­count any cloud stor­age – the Note8 comes with OneDrive and Google Drive pre­in­stalled.

Connectivity wise all the bases are cov­ered with dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Blue­tooth 5.0, Cat 16 4G LTE, NFC, GPS and GLONASS, OTG and USB-C. There’s also the afore­men­tioned heart-rate scan­ner, fin­ger­print scan­ner and iris scan­ner.

DeX sup­port means the Note8 is com­pat­i­ble with the DeX dock­ing sta­tion (an op­tional ex­tra), al­low­ing you to use it like a PC with a mon­i­tor, key­board and mouse. The DeX adds two USB ports, eth­er­net, HDMI and a cool­ing fan.

Cam­era

One of the key new fea­tures in the Note8 is its du­al­cam­era. This is the first Sam­sung flag­ship to fea­ture such a setup, and it’s also the first dual-cam­era to fea­ture 2x op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion on each lens.

Whereas the Note 7 had one 12Mp f/1.7 ‘DualPixel’ wide-an­gle cam­era at the rear, the Note8 adds a second 12Mp f/2.4 tele­photo lens. You can use the new pair­ing to play around with the bokeh ef­fect (in essence blur­ring the back­ground and thereby focusing in on the sub­ject), or to sim­ply cap­ture two images at once with Dual Cap­ture – one close-up, the other not so much. The Cam­era app is there­fore a lit­tle dif­fer­ent to what you get on the Gal­axy S8, now show­ing op­tions for Bixby Vi­sion, Live Fo­cus and Stick­ers di­rectly be­low the com­po­si­tion win­dow.

Take a photo with Bixby Vi­sion and it can serve up in­for­ma­tion about the prod­uct or place in view. Sam­sung says it can find prod­ucts on­line, search for sim­i­lar images, show no­table lo­ca­tions nearby, trans­late text, read QR codes and more.

We pointed the cam­era at a bot­tle of Evian, for ex­am­ple, and it was able to show us pho­tos of other bot­tles of water when we se­lected Images. How­ever, when we se­lected Shop­ping it of­fered us links to some Wahl clip­pers, a set of fab­ric marker pens, some chrome and sil­ver wall­pa­per, and a Bra­ban­tia Food Warmer, all of which we’re sure you will agree are a bit ran­dom.

Live Fo­cus re­quires you to stand at least 1.2m from your sub­ject, and you can ad­just the ef­fect us­ing a slider. You can see our test im­age here focusing on a Coke can here.

Stick­ers is also present in the Gal­axy S8, but less ob­vi­ous. It’s a bit like adding Snapchat live fil­ters to your self­ies, ex­cept they aren’t as good. Some peo­ple will ap­pre­ci­ate the ad­di­tion of the fea­ture, though we can’t say it’s some­thing we would use – they just don’t work as seam­lessly as they do on Snapchat.

Above the com­po­si­tion win­dow you have op­tions to tog­gle on Dual Cap­ture and Full-screen Cap­ture (18.5:9 rather than the Note8’s de­fault 4:3). Be warned that the cam­era will not shoot at the max­i­mum res­o­lu­tion in Full-screen Cap­ture mode, lim­it­ing your snaps to 7.9Mp.

This is the same for video, which is cap­tured at 2224x1080 pix­els in this mode. By de­fault video is shot in full-HD (1920x1080), but you can al­ter­na­tively con­fig­ure UHD (3840x2160), QHD (2560x1440) and full-HD at 60fps. The selfie cam­era maxes out on video at QHD. Video sta­bil­i­sa­tion is avail­able for all modes ex­cept 1:1 and VGA.

In this same top line is an icon for switch­ing to the selfie cam­era, which is also achieved buy flick­ing up from the bot­tom of the screen, and an op­tion to ac­cess the Set­tings menu. It’s here that you can al­ter the HDR set­tings – auto by de­fault, on all three cam­eras, but it can also be set to off or on.

Other shoot­ing modes are ac­ces­si­ble by swip­ing in from the left side of the screen. Sam­sung of­fers Auto, Pro, Panorama, Slow mo­tion, Hyper­lapse, Food, Vir­tual shot and an op­tion to down­load more. Real-time fil­ters sweep in from the right side of the dis­play.

It’s worth point­ing out that the ma­jor­ity of these fea­tures are also avail­able to the front-fac­ing cam­era,

which is an 8Mp f/1.7 model – ex­actly the same as what you get in the Gal­axy S8, though an up­grade over the Note 7. It ad­di­tion­ally fea­tures a dis­play flash and a face beauty mode.

So the app it­self is pretty good, but what of the pic­tures it cap­tures? The Note8, in our ex­pe­ri­ence, has a smash­ing cam­era.

In our test shots of St Pan­cras from our sev­en­th­floor roof ter­race the Note8 man­aged to cap­ture every lit­tle de­tail, right down to the in­di­vid­ual bricks and street names at ground level. Colours are nat­u­ral and true to live, and there’s no ev­i­dence of blur­ring even at the ex­treme edges of the im­age.

In low light the Note8 also did a great job of pick­ing out the de­tails on our scene of ran­dom ob­jects. The var­i­ous shades of black and grey on our dig­ger were clearly de­fined, the text on the bot­tle la­bel eas­ily read­able, and colours again very true to life.

Soft­ware

Run­ning TouchWiz on An­droid 7.1.1 Nougat (with Oreo com­ing soon) the Note8 has ex­actly the same soft­ware setup as the Gal­axy S8, with the ad­di­tion of some S Pen fea­tures. The dif­fer­ence here is the larger screen makes fea­tures such as Multi Win­dow – whereby you can use two apps on screen at once – much more use­ful.

App Pairs is a help­ful ad­di­tion and an ex­ten­sion of Multi Win­dow, al­low­ing you to dis­play two apps on the screen at the same time, but by tap­ping a sin­gle icon.

All the usual Sam­sung fea­tures are present, in­clud­ing: Smart Stay, which keeps the screen switched on while you’re look­ing at it; One-handed mode, which re­duces the size of the dis­play to make use in one hand eas­ier; fin­ger­print sen­sor ges­tures; the abil­ity to quick launch the cam­era with a dou­ble­tap of the home but­ton; Smart cap­ture, which of­fers

ad­di­tional op­tions such as crop and ex­tended cap­ture af­ter tak­ing a screen­shot; Easy mode; and Dual Mes­sen­ger, which lets you use two ac­counts on apps such as Face­book.

Mi­crosoft apps for Word, Excel, Pow­erPoint and OneDrive are pre­in­stalled, along with var­i­ous Google apps and some Sam­sung util­i­ties. There’s a Themes app and a ded­i­cated Sam­sung Apps store, for in­stance.

Per­haps the most in­ter­est­ing of all, though, is Bixby. Sam­sung’s own voice as­sis­tant was in­tro­duced with the Gal­axy S8, although it wasn’t un­til the day be­fore the Note8 an­nounce­ment that an English ver­sion of Bixby Voice be­came avail­able. So it feels much more like a new Note8 fea­ture than a Gal­axy S8 one.

We had feared Bixby would be an un­nec­es­sary ex­tra fea­ture, given that the Note8 also sup­ports the Google As­sis­tant, but it is ar­guably eas­ier to in­voke with the press of a ded­i­cated but­ton rather than hav­ing to say “Okay Google”. Un­for­tu­nately we have found that but­ton rather an­noy­ing, since we’re of­ten ac­ci­den­tally press­ing it and calling up Bixby when we don’t want to.

Bixby is ca­pa­ble of han­dling more than 3,000 com­mands, which in­clude things like set­ting re­minders, send­ing text mes­sages and ini­ti­at­ing video calls, show­ing you the weather and play­ing videos. It is also in­te­grated with the phone’s set­tings so you can turn on larger font size or a mo­bile hotspot, or bring up data from the heart-rate scan­ner, for in­stance.

In our brief ex­pe­ri­ence with Bixby it seems to be much like the Google As­sis­tant or Siri, and is happy to an­swer ran­dom ques­tions and of­fer up funny

re­sponses. It un­der­stands nat­u­ral lan­guage as well as those ser­vices do, and ar­guably bet­ter than Alexa. It doesn’t have Alexa’s Skills, of course, but Bixby does tie into all Sam­sung’s ser­vices and de­vices such as TVs.

And as we men­tioned in the pho­tog­ra­phy section, as well as ac­cept­ing a vo­cal- or text com­mand Sam­sung’s as­sis­tant dif­fers from Google As­sis­tant in that it can also ac­cept im­age in­put from the cam­era or gallery through Bixby Vi­sion.

Ver­dict

The Gal­axy Note 8 sure is ex­pen­sive, but the finest things in life don’t come cheap. The re­al­ity is the price will likely have dropped a good hun­dred pounds by Christ­mas, and you’ll pos­si­bly be look­ing to buy it on

a con­tract any­way. If you can stom­ach the price, we are re­ally taken by the Note 8. Un­til you see it you’ll find your­self won­der­ing why any­one would choose it over the cheaper Gal­axy S8+, but the S Pen alone jus­ti­fies this price dif­fer­ence for us. It re­ally is the kind of thing you need to see to be­lieve just how good it is, so we urge you to try out the Note 8 in a lo­cal high­street store if at all pos­si­ble.

Per­for­mance is bang-on as al­ways, the screen is amaz­ing, and pho­tog­ra­phy is dif­fi­cult to fault. Even Bixby has shown it­self to be any­thing but the over­hyped, un­nec­es­sary fea­ture we feared it could be.

If all we can throw against the new Note 8 is an ex­pen­sive price tag, a slightly awk­ward fin­ger­print scan­ner and a very tall glass body that could be more frag­ile than metal-body phones, we find it de­serv­ing of 4.5 stars. Marie Black

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 6.3in (2960x1440, 521ppi) dis­play with Corn­ing Go­rilla Glass 5

• An­droid 7.1.1 Nougat

• Exynos 8895 Octa-core pro­ces­sor

• Octa-core (4x 2.3GHz, 4x 1.7GHz) CPU

• Mali-G71 MP20

• 6GB RAM

• 64/128/256GB stor­age (mi­croSD sup­port up to 256GB)

• Dual 12Mp (26mm, f/1.7, PDAF & 52mm, f/2.4, AF), OIS, aut­o­fo­cus, 2x op­ti­cal zoom, dual-LED (dual tone) flash

• 8Mp, f/1.7, aut­o­fo­cus, 1/3.6in sen­sor size, 1.22μm

pixel size, 1440p@30fps, dual video call, Auto HDR

• A-GPS/GLONASS

• Wi-Fi 802.11ac

• Blue­tooth 5.0

• NFC

• USB 3.1 Type-C

• 3,300mAh non-re­mov­able lithium-poly­mer bat­tery

• 1162.5x74.8x8.6mm

• 195g

GFXBench T-Rex

Live Fo­cus

Auto set­tings

Low light

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