Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung’s latest flagship is here, and of course all eyes are upon it. It’s been sometime since Samsung released their S8 and S8 Plus which brought with them the infinity display and overall stunning design. More importantly, it’s now been a year since Samsung were forced to recall the Note 7 twice, and ultimately withdrawing the device from market

The Note 8 has big shoes to fill, as while the Note 7’s time on the market was short lived, it was still voted one of the best phones last year, and this year Samsung have some repairing to do for the series.

Thankfully, the S8 series did some of the ground work and introduced a new design that we simply loved we’re glad to see it return on the Note 8.

Let’s dive right in and take a closer look the specs for the Galaxy Note 8.

  • Software: Android OS, v7.1.1 (Nougat), Samsung Grace UX.
  • Display: 6.3″ Super AMOLED, 2,960 x 1440 resolution, 18.5:9 aspect ratio, 522ppi; HDR 10 compliant
  • Chipset: Exynos 8895, Octa-core CPU (4 x 2nd-gen Mongoose 2.3GHz + 4 x Cortex-A53 1.7GHz), Mali-G71 GPU, 6GB of RAM
  • Memory: 64GB, expandable with microSD cards
  • Rear Camera: Primary 12MP, Type 1/2.55″ sensor, f/1.7 aperture, 26mm equiv. focal length Secondary 12MP, Type 1/3.4″ sensor, f/2.4 aperture, 52mm equiv. focal length dual pixel phase detection autofocus, OIS; face/smile detection, Multi-Frame Image Processing; 2160p/30fps video; 2x zoom via secondary camera
  • Front Camera: 8MP, f/1.7 aperture, autofocus; 1440p/30fps video recording.
  • Networking: Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac MU-MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, USB Type-C (v3.1), GPS, Beidou, Galileo, 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Modem: Cat.16/13 (1Gbps/150Mbps)
  • Other: Fingerprint reader; iris recognition, face recognition, WPC (Qi)&PMA wireless charging,
  • Dimensions/Weight:  159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm, 173 g
  • Battery: 3,300mAh

The main difference over the S8 Plus are the inclusion of a second camera for an effective 2x optical zoom. 6GB’s of RAM, and of course the the inclusion of the S-Pen. The device has a slightly lower battery at 3,300mAh vs the 3,500mAh on the S8 Plus.

This is the only negative, as while Samsung made the phone slightly larger with a 6.3-inches display vs 6.2-inches. The S-Pen itself obviously needed some room, and as mentioned above the issue with last years Note 7 meant Samsung were’n’t going to press their luck by squeezing in a larger battery.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

The design of the new Note is of course taken directly from the S8 Plus and offers the same 18.5:9 ratio display and taller body. Samsung have changed the corners to be sharper to give a slightly more uniformed look.

We have the same curve on the front and back of the device that was first introduced with the Note 7. This gives the device a nice comfortable grip.

On the back we have the dual 12MP sensors with LED flash, heart rate sensor, and finger print sensor. While still position badly, and even more so with the size of the Note 8, the fingerprint sensor is at least not right next to the camera and less prone to accidental smudges.

 

The bottom has the S-Pen, speaker, microphone, USB Type-C connection, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Galaxy Note 8 much like the S8/S* Plus is one of Samsung’s best looking devices on the market. It shows a great aim at bringing a large screen ratio and keep an appealing design, with a comfortable grip for their largest device yet at 6.3-inches.

UI

Samsung’s own launcher and entire UI change with the S8 series for the better, and we’re glad to see the new improved UI on the Note 8.

We have a clean, beautiful and easy to navigate UI with excellent performance. The previous TouchWiz launcher was one of the poor sides of Samsung’s devices in the past, but thankfully their new Samsung Experience UX is now more than acceptable and actually rivals the best of them.

S-Pen

The included S-Pen is the foundation of the Note series, along with a giant display. Since general smartphones have gotten large displays, the S-Pen is the only feature beside of the stand out specs that separates the Note series from Samsung’s more general S line.

Samsung have included a finer tip with the S-Pen, making it even more pen like than before. We also have some new software features like highlighting and translating text anywhere on the device. Samsung also include a nifty live message feature that allows you to record your writing directly to a GIF and send it to anyone; gimmicky yes, but also very fun.

Anyone who enjoyed using the S-Pen is sure to continue using it with the Note 8, much like the Note 7, it’s the best S-Pen yet.

Camera UI

We typically see a new camera UI or changes made with the S-Series, and then their carried over to the new device, such any changes be made. This time around we have nearly identical layout compared to the S8 series. Thankfully whenever Samsung do bring out an improved UI; they tend to update older devices to include it.

The Note 8 also includes some changes to deal with the 2x optical zoom when using the secondary camera, and options for live focus. Bixby Vision is still very much present, along with stickers; all accessible above the shutter button.

 

 

Samsung continue to give the same great level of control and features we have seen before, the UI of which is still one of the best we have seen on a smartphone to date and easy to navigate.

Photos and Video

Now it’s time to take a look at some photos taken with the Galaxy Note 8. On the left we have HDR off, and on the right we have HDR On. This may show differently depending on your browser, so it may be HDR off first, and than HDR on below it.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secondary Camera

We took some shots with the secondary front facing camera by zooming in to 2.0x. The only issue with the secondary camera is that its usage isn’t always certain, as when certain lighting conditions aren’t good enough, it will simply revert to using the main camera for zooming full stop. This is simply due to the lower aperature that lets in less light. The main camera does a better job even when zoomed in with low-light conditions.

For that, we’re not really focusing too much on the benefits of the optical camera, mostly due to the fact that it will only work in well lit areas, and only when zooming in.

The live focus mode provides some interesting shots, that allow for a faux bokeh effect by allowing you to blur the background of any subject in the photo, it can even be controlled after the photo has been taken.

This is something we have seen before with other smartphones, but nice to see it with the Note 8 along with the extra zoom. Something that may be more beneficial to some. The only downsized is that while it uses both cameras for the blur effect, it uses the secondary zoom camera for the photo, which in turn means having to be quite far from the subject, and it great lighting. Might not be a huge benefit for everyone.

The above shot it the best example we can show using the live focus mode. The benefit here is very clear, showing exactly how good a photo with the bokeh effect can look. When done right, it will instantly look more professional and as if it was taken uses a more substantial lens, not bad at all.

Full size images

The above photos are resized for the site, but you can see full screen photos of the Note 8 here.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Full Size Photos

Videos

The Note 8 includes a huge range of resolutions and frame rates. We took a good few videos to demonstrate the quality of the device. When possible we alter the HDR and Stable options within the recordings.

1080p

1080P@60fps

1440p

4K

Benchmarks

Like always, performance is a key factor when it comes to any flagship device, and course we expected nothing short of top of the line from the Note 8, which is generally the case from the latest Samsung device. The included Exynos 8895 chipset is the same we have seen in the S8 and S8 Plus. This along with the 6GB’s of RAM should do nicely.

3D Mark Ice Storm Extreme 13652
3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited 31158
3D Mark Sling Shot 3462
3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme 2725
3D Mark API Overhead OpenGL Es 3.0 55273
3D Mark API Overhead Vulkan 89531
3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme 2711
Antutu 175622
Geekbench 3 Single-Core 1991
Geekbench 3 Multi-Core 6623
PC Mark Work 2.0 5664
PC Mark Computer Vision 3309
PC Mark Storage 3778
PC Mark Work 6112

Battery Life

Battery life is a big factor this year, as of course last years Note 7 had a serious issue. This time around Samsung have included a smaller battery than even the Galaxy S8+, which is a smaller device. The S-pen inside obviously takes up significant space, and real estate in smart phones is extremely scarce.

The included 3,300mAh battery should still hopefully get us close to the performance we got from the S8+, so let’s put the Note 8 through our usual 12 hour period of medium-heavy usage and see how it fairs.

Phone Calls20-30 Minutes
Text message/Chat/EmailsThroughout the day(checking) and 20-30 sent
Photos10-20
Video recording20-30 Minutes
Internet browsingThroughout the day(around 30-40 minutes total)
Gaming30 Minutes
YouTube/Netflix30-40 Minutes
ConnectivityWiFi and 4G; mostly 4G
Screen Brightness50-percent

Thankfully the Note 8 was able to hold it’s own with zero issues. We manged over 40-percent left through our battery test, which makes for an easy 2 day usage with minor changes, and absolutely a full day for complete heavy usage.

Conclusion

Its finally time to wrap up our review on the Galaxy Note 8. We’ve spent a lot longer with this device, and the review took a good bit longer to finalise, but none the less, we’re here now and finally ready to share the details on the Note 8. The breakdown is unchanged from the usual formula with Design, Display, Camera, Performance and finally overall.

Design

Samsung have gotten accustom to dropping new designs on the Galaxy S series, and then following up with the same design on the Note series a couple of months later. The S8/S8 Plus at launch had one of the best designs avaialble that brought with it the new 18.5:9 ratio, with an edge and curved display.

It was obvious that Samsung would continue the same design on the Note series, as it’s still one of the best looking devices available. The edge to edge display and near bezels design is simply stunning to behold. It also does wonders for the huge 6.3-inch device. While still not the easiest to hold one had, it’s more comfortable than any other devices with similar size displays. It looks like 18.5:9 is the sweet spot for smartphones now.

It’s rather easy to say that the Note 8 is one of, if not the best looking smartphone available on the market. The s8/S8 Plus being nearly identical, are of course up there as well.

Display

Best display we have seen on a smartphone. It was the same for the S8 Plus before it, and Samsung have simply repeated the same recipe. It’s bright, clear, sharp, has HDR, and looks incredible when watching content. Even Movies with 21:9 ratios look incredible. Netflix already takes advantage of the HDR support.

Camera

The new Dual 12MP sensor setup offers two cameras with different lens. The main camera is nearly identical to what we seen on the S8. The secondary 12MP 1/3.4″ sensor acts as a 2x optical zoom by including a f/2.4 aperture and 52mm equiv. focal length lens. This is also known as the portrait camera, by way of zooming in on the subject for a closer view.

The secondary camera also allows for live focus mode, which is best used in very bright areas, and at a distance from your subject, but does offer a decent version of background blur otherwise known as Bokeh. The blur can be altered even after the picture has been taken. Something we have seen before, but can be great addition along with the other benefits of a optical zoom.

Other than the extra camera, which offers great additional functionality. We have a similar quality and performance camera wise compared to the previous S8. That is to say we have extremely great sensors on the device and easily offer some of the best camera quality on a smartphone. The additional second camera is of course isn’t going to be a big advantage to everyone, but it is noticeable when it matters.

Performance

Inside we have the same Exynos processor in our Samsung Note 8 as we saw with the S8. This time around we have 6GB’s of RAM, which is actually pretty clear when it comes to leaving a lot of your apps running in the background. This basically mean your less likely to have to reload an app when you return to it, and it should simply continue where you left off.

Other than that, we have amazing performance that we have gotten use to with Samsung flagship devices. Everything from 4K recording, to intensive gaming were buttery smooth. The benchmark numbers back it up. We have a powerhouse of a device.

Overall

The Galaxy Note 8 is another step in the right direction for Samsung. it really does have a lot to offer, and includes a lot of the best features we have seen in a smartphone from design, display, camera quality, and performance. There really isn’t much more you can ask for when comparing devices. We’re also happy to see the 3.5mm headphone jack stick around.

The fingerprint sensor location is pretty much the only gripe with the Note 8, and possibly the battery capacity, but that is easily understandable, and not to remotely say battery life was poor (It’s not at all).

Ultimately we’re very comfortable saying that the Note 8 is easily one of the best smartphones currently on the market. It offers the best you could want from a smartphone, and does it with a gorgeous and elegant design. The Note 8 should definitely be on anyone’s list if their looking for a top class flagship device that has a great everything.

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Craig O'Sullivan
Craig O'Sullivan

Creator of Geektech.ie Passionate about Technology and always looking for that next cool gadget or app

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