Samsung’s Galaxy Note series phones have set benchmarks for your organization, featuring the complete best it has to offer in terms of mobile technology. The big differentiating factor from the S series continues to be bigger screens and the S-Pen stylus, and this formula has worked well for Samsung for decades.

The Note brand took a hit due to the fiasco that was the Galaxy Note 7, but obviously, Samsung loyalists weren’t going to let it fade into the history books. According to the firm, The Note 8 has observed a listing number of preorders which demand has been equally powerful in India too. 67,900, which is only Rs. 2,000 more than the price of the 6GB version of the Galaxy S8+ (Review). With barely any price difference between the two – although the S8+ is currently available at a discount – common sense would suggest grabbing the Note 8 on the S8+, but is that all there is to it? Are the dual cameras and S-Pen worth the weight and potential ergonomics trade-off?

The Galaxy Note 8 is much more than just a slightly stretched Galaxy S8+. Its body is much more rectangular and the curves in the corners are somewhat less pronounced. The metallic frame on the sides is also thicker, with complete width rising to 8.6mm. This phone is also heavier at around 195 grams. On the other hand, the weight aside, we found it to be surprisingly easier to handle compared to S8+. We have been using the latter for quite a very long time now, and even with a silicone case, it’s still easy to handle. The Note 8 dimensions make it feel much better to hold, and even without a case, we have yet to accidentally lose it.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 feels robust and solid, but be prepared to this wipe the back every couple of minutes as the glass doesn’t appear to possess exactly the same degree of smudge resistance as the front. Dominating the front is a 6.3-inch QHD+ Super AMOLED display, with narrow bezels towards the top and bottom and nothing over the sides, so the glass is totally free to blend in with the metallic framework. Button placement is great if you are right-handed, since the power and volume buttons line up nicely.

In the bottom, we’ve got the 3.5-mm headphone socket, USB Type-C connector, speaker grille, and a slot for the S-Pen. The Super AMOLED display is stunning and looks its best when you use it in its native resolution of 1440×2960. You’ll have to manually bump up the resolution because the default setting is Full-HD+. But, bear in mind that running games in the native resolution will lead to a slight dip in performance, and the battery tends to drain a bit quicker as well. You may decide whether you want to cover this price.

One thing we wish the phone did was automatically switch to ‘Game Mode’ when you launch a game in the Game Launcher app. That way, you might have everything else running in the highest resolution and have the phone automatically drop to Full-HD+ when you run a game. Currently, Game Mode needs to be triggered manually, which isn’t very ideal.

The S-Pen which is included with the Galaxy Note 8 looks and feels far more premium than before. It weighs a mere 2.8 grams and features a finer tip. It’s also IP68 certified, exactly like the Note 8, also supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. The S-Pen clicks in and out of its silo, and unlike the Note 5, it only goes in the right way so there is no prospect of it getting stuck or breaking the mechanism inside. We’ll cover all the functions of this S-Pen in just a bit.

Round the back, we have the double 12-megapixel cameras, which is a big deal because it’s Samsung’s first-ever phone with this feature. Both cameras have optical stabilisation, which again, is quite rare. The heart-rate sensor and fingerprint sensor are put beside the lenses.

The bundled accessories are of very good quality, especially the headset. We didn’t find the situation to be somewhat useful as it diminishes the expression of the phone, however your mileage may vary.

UI and program performance is blazing fast and we didn’t experience any slow-downs during the review period. However, a week’s worth of use isn’t sufficient to judge that long-term, so we are going to have to see how it holds up over time. Benchmark numbers are similar to those of the S8+ (4GB). In AnTuTu, we have 173,680 points and 30,253 points in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited.

The phone is also loaded with an iris detector in addition to the barometer and RGB light sensor. Exactly like the S8 series, the Note 8 also supports Samsung Pay for both, NFC and MST terminals. We’ve been using this feature for a while now and it works well pretty much everywhere.

Part of the rationale that the Galaxy Note 8 feels so speedy is its software. This phone runs a newer version of Samsung Experience (8.5 vs 8.1 about the S8+) which is based on a more current version of Android Nougat (7.1.1). It’s odd that Samsung hasn’t updated the software onto the S8 and S8+ yet. We’ve covered all of the features at great length in our S8+ review, so we’ll only skim them over here and focus on the S-Pen instead.

Swiping right on the home screen takes you to Bixby, while Edge Panels give you quick access to contacts, music, apps, etc.. You can even group two apps together add a combined shortcut to the Apps Edge to ensure they both open at the exact same time, in split-screen manner. If you’ve Samsung Pay, then you simply swipe up from the bottom of the display to get your registered credit and debit cards.

The only noticeable change in the Settings app is the addition of a section for the S-Pen attributes. Here you can toggle different functions like Air View, which gives you a pop-up or preview of images, extra menu information, etc.. It is possible to select what action to take when the S-Pen is removed from its silo. By default, a little carousel automatically pops up from the border of the phone giving you shortcuts to center S-Pen features. You could even add up to 10 of your own program shortcuts (like for drawing apps) to the carousel.

Create Notice gives you a blank canvas with basic writing tools, and your creations are stored in the Samsung Notes program. However, using the Samsung Notes app directly gives you additional functionality like a ruled sheet, and also the ability to add images and voice memos to your own notes. Glance minimises any opened app to a little window; Bixby Vision enables you to hunt for information about any item on the screen by hovering the S-Pen over it; Magnify does just what the name suggests. Smart Select allows you create a custom crop for anything around the display, which could subsequently be modified, saved as a note, or searched for online with Bixby Vision. Display Write requires a screenshot and permits you to scribble on it; Live Message lets you draw or write custom messages and save them as animated GIFs; and finally, Translate enables you to select words to translate from one language to another.

Live Message and Translate are pretty useful for everyday use. Perhaps the most useful feature that we discovered is Screen Away Memo. You may even go in and edit those notes later on. We ended up using this more than Google Keep, just because of its convenience. Even though you are able to shoot multiple notes and save them to the Notes program, just one may be pinned to the Always-on Display at a time.

The Galaxy Note 8 ships with many several apps like Samsung’s Galaxy app store and Microsoft’s suite of Office programs. However, it is possible to uninstall some redundant ones like Samsung’s custom Calendar app.

The iris scanner is quite quick at authentication, regardless of the ambient lighting. In terms of day to day performance of this Galaxy Note 8, we didn’t face any performance lags, and multitasking was quite speedy. Programs also loaded quickly. We hope that the massive quantity of RAM will help sustain this fluid experience within the future since we’ve heard first-hand reports of the 4GB version of the Galaxy S8+ developing slight lag and stutters after months of use.

The Galaxy Note 8 gets warm quickly when programs use GPS or the cameras, or when gaming, but not excessively so, not even after prolonged intensive usage. It also cools down just as fast. The S-Pen is a practical tool to have, even if you’re not really into some serious sketching. Apps like Autodesk Sketchbook, INKredible, and Bamboo Paper are some of the must-have free programs for the S-Pen. Samsung’s own Notes app is quite versatile, allowing you to make the most of the strain sensitivity of the stylus. Games like Scribble Racer are also more fun with all the S-Pen. Your mileage will vary depending upon your usage patterns. It may be a bit awkward at first to write comfortably when you’re holding the phone, due to its flatter proportions, however you get accustomed to it after a bit.

You might even enable a video enhancer feature, which boosts brightness and colors for programs capable of video playback. High-resolution videos play flawlessly and also the Note 8 is currently officially supported by Netflix for HDR 10.

The speaker gets loudly but the stereo experience is missing. Happily, audio performance with the bundled AKG headset is excellent. The earphones manage voice calls well and have a balanced sonic signature. Mids and highs are extremely detailed with ample kick in the low end frequencies. They’re also incredibly comfortable to wear even for long periods. Due to Bluetooth 5, the Note 8 may stream the same audio track to 2 wireless speakers in precisely the same time. There’s also something called Separate App Audio, which may, for example, play music from Apple Music onto a Bluetooth speaker, but be sure that other program alarms are observed only via the phone’s speaker.

On paper, the primary camera is identical to the one on the Galaxy S8 models, and all of shooting modes like Pro, Panorama, Slow Motion, Hyperlapse and Food are handled by this detector. The second camera also has a 12-megapixel detector but with smaller pixels and aperture (f/2.4). You get 2x optical zoom and a Live Focus attribute. Thankfully, this sensor also gets OIS, which means that your zoomed-in shots don’t appear blurry.

Harness for full sized Samsung Galaxy Note 8 camera samples

Image quality with the main sensor is nothing short of amazing. Samsung seems to have dialled down the colours with this new firmware, so landscapes and close-ups don’t have exaggerated colours like they do with all the S8 series. On the other hand, the colour tone is still on the warmer side. Focusing is extremely quick, even at night. The main sensor manages extremely detailed landscapes and detailed macros, with good all-natural depth of field thanks to the f/1.7 aperture. Even in low light, it handles excellent details and accurate colours.

The 2x zoom is only available in the Auto shooting style and regular video recording style. Like most phones with dual cameras, the next sensor only kicks in if there is sufficient light; otherwise you just get a digital zoom during the primary lens and sensor. The Live Focus attribute works great on individuals. An onscreen message lets you know if it is available. If there’s not enough light or something blocking the main detector, you receive alarms about this. In this manner, you can empower Dual Capture, which takes photos from both cameras so that you can choose which frame you prefer after on. Video recording maxes out at 4K in 30fps, and there are different options like 1080p at 60fps and 720p at 240fps.

Stabilisation is extremely good so long as you are stationary and just panning around. But if you begin walking, videos are inclined to get a slight ‘jelly’ effect around the edges of the frame. The same goes for the telephoto sensor too. The front 8-megapixel selfie camera also receives a f/1.7 aperture so low-light shots are pretty detailed.

Battery capacity is reduced a bit in contrast to the Galaxy S8+, to 3300mAh. The smaller capacity battery could be due to the fact that Samsung had to make room for the S-Pen, also needed to keep its size and weight manageable. The results were as anticipated. In our HD video loop test, we managed 12 hours and 43 minutes, which is slightly lower than what we got with all the S8+. With regular use, the Note 8 nearly makes it a full day on a single charge but it’s tough to get anything more, even with frugal use. There is fast charging which takes the phone from zero to about 37 percent in half an hour, and up to 79 per cent in one hour.

 

Verdict
The launch price of this Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is Rs. 67,900, which makes it a no-brainier within the 6GB Galaxy S8+. However, it’s merely a matter of time until Samsung permanently slashes the price of the S8 series in order to widen the gap between its two flagships. The Note 8 is still another winner from Samsung. The S-Pen as well as the newest dual camera system provide enough benefits to justify the premium over the S8+. This can come at a small cost of weight but honestly, that is only a matter of getting used to.

While this may change going ahead, how we view it, the Note 8 might continue to get preferential treatment since it is a matter of prestige for Samsung. It will also give the company an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to dedicated fans. The only thing slightly disappointed about is battery life. We would typically expect a top-end phone to last an entire day in the very least, but that’s tough to achieve this.

Let’s not forget the competition. Apple’s iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X are incoming, and also will be more expensive but will have their lovers. Then, we have the Google Pixel XL 2, which ought to be unveiled on October 4 and LG might slip the V30 in prior to the holiday rush. These launches in the next few weeks could have a positive impact on the Note 8 pricing. Maybe waiting a bit may be a fantastic idea.

If you can’t wait a couple of months and have your heart set in an Android flagship, then the Galaxy Note 8 will not disappoint. It’s got fantastic build quality, excellent cameras, a stunning display, and also a helpful stylus that just Note devices can boast of.

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