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.
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.
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.
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
• 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
• Wi-Fi 802.11ac
• Bluetooth 5.0
• USB 3.1 Type-C
• 3,300mAh non-removable lithium-polymer battery