Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review: Hands-On & Initial Impressions

So the Galaxy Note 8 has launched, with Samsung’s big announcement taking place on August 23. The rumours were pretty much spot on, so all the specs and features Samsung unwrapped were things we already knew – there were no real surprises. The phablet is already up for pre-order, while the official release date is September 15.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 First-Look Review: Design & Display

I’m not really sure what to tell you guys to be honest; by now we’re all familiar with the fact that Samsung can make some pretty stunning looking, premium-quality smartphones fashioned from metal and glass. And then there’s the fact that Samsung pioneered the whole curved-edge Super AMOLED thing, so of course, that’s still present and correct.

Whether you love or hate Samsung’s aesthetic if you’ve handled or seen first hand any of its phones since the Galaxy S6 this is going to be familiar with the Galaxy Note 8 as well, as it’s much the same deal.

There are one or two distinguishing features though. It’s slightly more squared off on the corners, but crucially, like the Galaxy S8 series, the Galaxy Note 8 has a 6.4in, 18.5:9 aspect ratio “Infinity Display”, meaning the entire front fascia is dominated by edge-to-edge glass, with no Home key or other controls cluttering things up. This is a first for the Note series and gives you maximum screen real estate for doodling and scribbling with the S-Pen stylus. Samsung has mastered Super AMOLED and this huge expanse of screen is stunning to gaze upon with a QHD+ resolution; it’s insanely sharp and overflowing with rich colors, deep blacks, vibrant contrast, and punchy brightness levels.

Samsung has added some interesting new features for the S-Pen as well; the last few generations of flagships have feature Always-On display functionality and the Note 8 is no different, only this time as well as displaying the date, time, and notifications, it also allows you to take handy notes or create quick sketches while the phone is asleep. It’s a great idea whether you use the phone for meetings or if it’s your shopping list in the supermarket.

Other S-Pen functionality sees it being used to translate text from other languages, convert currency, capture and modify screenshots (this isn’t new, but it is cool), and a really interesting new one (though not so productive!) is you can make your own gifs and emojis.

Oh and one more thing, both the Note 8 itself and the S-Pen are IP68 water and dust resistant.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 First-Look Review: Software & Performance

As per usual on this kind of thing, I can’t comment in too much breadth or depth on the subject of the software and performance, as longer-term testing and exposure to the phone is needed. That said, I was impressed with how snappy and responsive the handset seemed when navigating the UI.

But none of this is too surprising, again, this is pretty much exactly the same deal as the Samsung Galaxy S8, and the UI and performance on that was fantastic. It’s more of the same here…just on a bigger scale.

Similarly, I can’t comment on the battery performance just yet. The Note 8 has a sizeable 3,300mAh battery inside and, if the Galaxy S8+ battery performance is any measure, this should offer some astounding run-time on a single charge. The chipsets are nice and battery friendly 10nm, although the QHD+ display resolution on a screen this size could be greedy. That said, again, as per the Galaxy S8 series, Samsung knows what it’s doing when it comes to optimising the battery with the software, OLED’s clever battery saving trickery, and the power-saving properties of these CPUs.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 First-Look Review: Camera

A brief moment toying with the camera isn’t really sufficient to give a proper idea of what it’s like, but Samsung has impressed me in the past with its approach to this area of phone tech. In particular, it has a habit of making highly intuitive camera UIs and the Galaxy Note 8 appears to be continuing in this tradition; again, it’s very similar to the Galaxy S8, which was a joy to use. There’s enough simplicity and ease of use for a novice to get great snaps easily, but enough depth for a pro to do some very nifty things indeed. 

What remains to be seen, and will need to wait until a full review and testing, is whether the addition of a dual-sensor camera has helped or hindered Samsung’s camera performance. Certainly the unique use of dual-OIS gives Samsung a good chance of doing something pretty special.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Specs & Hardware

  • Dimensions: 162.5 x 74.6 x 8.5mm
  • Display: 6.3in Quad HD+ Super AMOLED, 2960×1440 Infinity Display (18.5:9 Aspect Ratio)
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (10nm) octa-core CPU OR Samsung Exynos 8995 (10nm) octa-core CPU – region dependent
  • GPU: Adreno 540 (Qualcomm Snapdragon) OR ARM Mali-G71 (Samsung Exynos) – region dependent
  • RAM:6GB
  • Software: Android Nougat
  • Connectivity: 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Type-C USB, NFC, GPS, Fingerprint scanner, Iris Scanner, Face Scanner
  • Storage: 64GB, 128GB or 256GB – region dependent
  • MicroSD: Yes
  • Primary Camera: Dual-12MP, f/1.7 and f/2.4 apertures, 1/2.3″ sensor size, 1.55µm pixel size, Dual-Pixel Phase Detection Autofocus, OIS, 2x optical zoom, touch focus, face/smile detection, Auto HDR, panorama, 2160p video @30fps, 1080p video @60fps
  • Secondary Camera: 8MP with autofocus, f/1.7 aperture, Auto HDR, 1440p video @30fps
  • Battery: 3,300mAh
  • Other: IP68 Certified (Water & Dust Resistant), S-Pen Stylus

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 First-Look Review: Verdict

Obviously not a full verdict just yet, but I’m liking what I’m seeing so far. Samsung knows what works well for it and how to build on that, but is adventurous enough to try new things every once in a while. For the most part, this is quite by-the-numbers but in all the right ways; the display is fantastic, UI is neat, and performance is making all the right noises. The two things I’m nervous about are the battery life and the dual-camera performance, but I am hopeful nonetheless.

For the most part, this is quite by-the-numbers but in all the right ways; the display is fantastic, UI is neat, and performance is making all the right noises. The two things I’m nervous about are the battery life and the dual-camera performance, but I am hopeful nonetheless.

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