Sam­sung Galaxy Note8

Think Galaxy S8+ with a clever pen and dual cam­eras. The Note8 is at once fa­mil­iar, yet Sam­sung at its best.

Tech Advisor - - Preview - JON PHILLIPS re­ports

Ahhh. I see what you did there, Sam­sung. By re­leas­ing a Galaxy Note8 that looks and feels re­mark­ably like the Galaxy S8+ (a phone most An­droid en­thu­si­asts would love to have in their pock­ets), you stand to dis­solve all the bad mojo as­so­ci­ated with the Galaxy Note 7 (a phone most An­droid en­thu­si­asts would con­sign to a fire­proof safe).

Se­ri­ously, with a 6.3in, curved-glass dis­play and re­mark­ably slim bezels, the Note8 is an S8+ dop­pel­gänger. It’s got the same 2:1 as­pect ra­tio – which de­liv­ers co­pi­ous screen real es­tate, with­out all the bulk—and only a 0.1in in­crease in dis­play size, a sec­ond rear cam­era, and the ad­di­tion of an S Pen re­ally dif­fer­en­ti­ate the Note8 vis­ually from its less pro­duc­tiv­ity-fo­cused sta­ble­mate.

The fin­ger­print sen­sor is even slapped on the back, just like on the S8 and S8+. It’s an­noy­ing as ever, right up against the cam­era hous­ing, where you don’t want any fin­ger­prints at all.

But, hey, a poorly po­si­tioned fin­ger­print sen­sor didn’t dis­suade S8 buy­ers, so why not build upon suc­cess? As Sam­sung told jour­nal­ists dur­ing our Note8 pre-brief, the S8 and S8+ helped re­store con­fi­dence in the Galaxy brand fol­low­ing the Note 7 bat­tery de­ba­cle.

In fact, one may rea­son­ably con­clude the Note8 has the safest smart­phone de­sign on the planet. Sam­sung now puts all of its phones through an 8-point safety check that specif­i­cally ad­dresses fail­ures with the Note 7 bat­tery. Plus, c’mon. Can you imag­ine a third bat­tery re­call? Sam­sung knows an­other bat­tery con­tro­versy would be an Ex­tinc­tion Level Event.

I spent just about an hour with the Note8, and my gut-level take­away can be summed up in a sin­gle ques­tion: Why buy the S8+ when you can have the Note8? The new flag­ship ph­ablet has all the ben­e­fits of the S8+, plus a bunch of fea­tures that com­pel you to do stuff with your phone, to get pro­duc­tive, and not just be a pas­sive par­tic­i­pant. Let’s get into the high­lights.

App Pair launches two apps at once

Some­times the smaller, more sub­tle fea­tures have the most im­pact. Case in point, I was re­ally en­am­oured with the new App Pair fea­ture that lives on the side of the dis­play in Sam­sung’s Edge panel. In the Note8, you can de­fine pair­ings of apps, and when you tap on one of them, the apps launch to­gether into a multi-win­dow ar­range­ment. For ex­am­ple, you could pair the phone di­aler and a cal­en­dar app (per­fect for pro­duc­tiv­ity sce­nar­ios), or Twit­ter and a stream­ing video app (so you can live-tweet some po­lit­i­cal de­ba­cle).

S Pen and Screen Off memos

It wouldn’t be a Note if not for Sam­sung’s S Pen, and in the Note8, the pen gets an even finer, more pre­cise 0.7mm tip, along with some new func­tion­al­ity.

For starters, the new S Pen taps into all the same Air Com­mands that I en­joyed in the Galaxy Tab S3, in­clud­ing a tool that cre­ates an­i­mated GIFs di­rectly from YouTube videos. Given that today’s kids are spend­ing more and more time alone with their phones, I ap­plaud any fea­ture that turns the phone into a creativ­ity tool.

The new S Pen boasts 4,096 lev­els of pres­sure sen­si­tiv­ity (just like ear­lier it­er­a­tions), and it’s op­ti­mized for creativ­ity apps like Re­color (a colour­ing book for adults) and Adobe Il­lus­tra­tor Draw. To think that Sam­sung, and not Ap­ple, is own­ing fine-art con­tent cre­ation in the smart­phone space.

S Pen also en­ables a new Live Mes­sage fea­ture that’s avail­able across mul­ti­ple mes­sag­ing apps. Just choose Live Mes­sage from an Air Com­mand, jot out

a hand­writ­ten note with the pen, and then ap­ply a spe­cial ef­fect, in­clud­ing Glow and Sparkle op­tions. The Live Mes­sage be­comes an an­i­mated GIF, which makes it fully trans­portable to other phones.

Okay, it’s not a se­ri­ous fea­ture, but sur­prise and de­light mat­ters too.

If you’re look­ing for some­thing less friv­o­lous, you can dig into Screen Off memos, an S Pen fea­ture that’s aimed squarely at pro­duc­tiv­ity junkies. Note8 own­ers will be able to jot down no fewer than 100 pages of dig­i­tal hand­writ­ing notes, all with­out ever un­lock­ing the phone. In­deed, as soon as you re­move the S Pen from its stor­age com­part­ment, you can be­gin writ­ing notes on the Note8’s al­ways-on dis­play.

The S Pen felt thin and wispy in my hand, but I still en­joyed the speed and zero-lag re­spon­sive­ness of the note-tak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. All of the notes are stored as dig­i­tal ink and can be edited post facto, and you can even pin a note to the Al­ways On Dis­play. For many peo­ple (my­self in­cluded), an al­ways-in-your-face hand­writ­ten re­minder is more ef­fec­tive than an au­dio no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Fi­nally, the S Pen pairs up with an im­proved trans­la­tion en­gine. You can now use the pen to trans­late not just words, but en­tire sen­tences in 71 lan­guages. This has to be at­trac­tive to worldly wan­der­ers, multi­na­tional busi­ness ty­coons, and, who knows, ran­dom State Depart­ment em­ploy­ees.

Dual cam­eras and Live Fo­cus

Sam­sung is late to the dual-cam­era party, as LG, Huawei and Ap­ple have al­ready re­leased phones with

tan­dem rear cam­eras. Nonethe­less, the Note8’s new Live Fo­cus mode ap­pears to one-up Ap­ple’s sim­i­lar ap­proach to depth-of-field bokeh ef­fects.

Let’s start with some raw specs dis­cus­sion. Each of the Note8’s rear cam­eras clocks in at 12Mp, but the ‘wide’ lens has an f/1.7 aper­ture and 77-de­gree field of view (26mm equiv­a­lent), while the so-called ‘tele­photo’ lens has a slower f/2.4 aper­ture and 45-de­gree field of view (52mm equiv­a­lent), giv­ing you an ef­fec­tive 2X op­ti­cal zoom. Both cam­eras of­fer op­ti­cal im­age sta­bi­liza­tion (OIS), and this should help en­sure crisp, prop­erly ex­posed, non-blurry images.

We haven’t yet put the Note8’s cam­era sys­tem to the test, but on paper Sam­sung’s specs and over­all phi­los­o­phy look great. Once we start us­ing the phone and can view full-res­o­lu­tion images on a PC desk­top, we’ll know a lot more. For now, I can only com­ment on Sam­sung’s Live Fo­cus app ex­pe­ri­ence, which of­fers a lot of use­ful flex­i­bil­ity.

Air Com­mands are back on the Sam­sung Note8

Credit: IDG

App Pair on the Edge panel launches two apps into mul­ti­win­dow mode

Credit: IDG

Sam­sung Note8 Live Fo­cus fea­ture al­lows you to ad­just the depth of field ef­fect af­ter the shot is taken

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