The Galaxy Note series is getting an upgrade in the form of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, though after a gap of two years. There’s no doubt, 2016 was a rough year for the Note brand. The Galaxy Note 7, which should have ideally been called Note 6, proved unlucky. But the Korean tech major bounced back from the disaster with the S8, S8+, both of which sport a new Infinity Display.
The new Galaxy Note 8 continues with a similar ‘bezel-less’ design theme and gets dual rear cameras on board as well. This phone, with its host of software and hardware features, is available in India ahead of the hallowed iPhone X, which won’t be in stores still November 3. So is Galaxy Note 8 the ultimate flagship in the market right now? Here’s our review.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 specifications: 6.3-inch 2K SAMOLED Infinity Display | Exynos 8995 octa-core 2.3GHz processor | 6GB RAM + 64GB storge (expandable to 256GB) | 12MP + 12MP rear camera (OIS on both) with telephoto and wide-angle lens and 8MP front camera| 3300 mAh battery |Android Nougat with Samsung TouchWiz on top | Bixby voice-assistant | S-Pen
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 price in India: Rs 67,900
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Design, Display review
Irrespective of how one feels towards a giant display smartphone, the Galaxy Note 8 is a thing of beauty. Even the Maple gold version, which some people in my house didn’t find as appealing, is bound to catch the eye. The glass metal design combined with the full Infinity Display on the Note 8 just stands out. Mid-range devices, be it OnePlus or Huawei’s Honor, still have some catching up to do.
However, the one thing in Galaxy Note 8’s design that doesn’t work for me is the bulkiness. Also, the full frontal glass display means the fingerprint scanner is now at the back and, as I discovered, completely out of reach. The problem was there with the S8, S8+ series, and it remains in the Note 8 too. If you plan to rely on the fingerprint scanner, you might find yourself fumbling as you try and locate it accurately.
Galaxy Note 8’s lack of bezels, and all-glass back also makes this a slippery one. It also meant I was constantly terrified of dropping the Note 8 and shattering that stunning front display. Be advised, you will have to invest in a sturdy cover for the front and back.
Galaxy Note 8’s display is 6.3-inches and watching YouTube, Netflix on this 2K SAMOLED display is one of the best experiences. The display is bright, the viewing angles are great and you won’t be disappointed. However, the crop to fit function doesn’t always have the most flattering results for all videos and even apps and the content can seem a bit stretched at times. Let’s hope the 18:9 aspect ratio becomes more common and apps can start taking advantage of this. Still, Samsung remains on top when it comes to the display quality with Note 8.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Performance review
Performance wise, Galaxy Note 8 gives no cause for complaints. My first day usage with the Note 8 involved some serious multi-tasking. This included live-tweeting from an event, switching between apps, taking loads of pictures and then instantly sharing them on two different social media platforms and taking notes with the S-Pen. Galaxy Note 8 had no hiccups while I carried out all of these tasks at super fast speed. There was no noticeable heating either.
Be it gaming or multi-tasking, the Galaxy Note 8 is a phone that lives up to the premium price it charges. In the benchmark tests this is right on top, just below the S8 series. Other aspects, like the facial recognition scanner for unlocking the phone work very well. I didn’t really bother setting up with the Iris scanner and stuck with the face recognition. Since I wear glasses, I had to often lift them up to unlock the phone, but it worked correctly most of the time, even in areas where the room was not so well lit.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Camera review
When I had used the Galaxy Note 5 as my primary phone, the camera had impressed me. The S8 camera is also something I enjoyed greatly. With the Galaxy Note 8, Samsung takes it a notch up, thanks to the dual-rear camera. Live Focus is the feature that lets this camera great a faux depth effect with a blurred background.
Samsung also lets users blur the background further after taking the picture. Or one can also convert this ‘Bokeh’ image picture into a ‘wide-angle’ shot. The results in some cases are astounding. The 2X zoom feature also result in some very nice shots. I experienced this at an event where I took pictures from a distance with 2X zoom activated, not-so-steady hands and poor lighting.
Of course with Live Focus, you will need to work on lighting and the object in question itself will determine success. But the Galaxy Note 8 performed well on both fronts. Yes, if the subject in hand is a puppy that refuses to stay still, Live Focus might not deliver, but that’s for pretty much any camera.
For low-light conditions, Galaxy Note 8 is still one of the best cameras in the market. So is the Live Focus perfect and flawless? I would say, not yet and there were moments when you could see parts of the object being blurred. Still for portraits of people, this camera doesn’t disappoint.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Software, S-Pen features review
Galaxy Note 8 is not just about the specifications and hardware. It has a host of software features, you won’t find in the regular S8 series thanks to the S-Pen. The S-Pen is now water, dust resistant. I’ve used a fair few styluses, especially on tablets, but they have never been my favourite thing. With the Note 8, the S-Pen does manage to accurately capture handwriting and that is something I really appreciate in this phone.
For those who need to take handwritten notes on the go, Galaxy Note 8 is the device that does it best. There are also new features like pinning notes to the top of the Always-On display, send a Live message to friends, which is basically a handwritten GIF via the S-Pen, the ability to write on the screen, etc. The creative types who want to draw, doodle on their phones, the Note 8 is the only option in the market, which will let you do a good job of this.
The other software highlight of the Galaxy Note 8 is the addition of Bixby, which has its own dedicated hardware button. To be frank, the button is annoying. I would keep pressing it accidentally while trying to reduce the volume. Bixby also has the voice update feature now in India and while I did set it up, this is still far from perfect. I’m guessing Bixby will take sometime trying to understand my accent.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 battery review
Once upon a time, Note phones were renowned for their long battery life. But now we have mid-range phones offering 5000 mAh batteries on board, so the Note 8 with its 3300 mAh seems underwhelming. It will last 12 hours plus with heavy duty usage (20 hours with more moderate usage), but on most days I felt the Note 8 should have done better.
I was getting around 2-3 hours of screen on time, which is not so impressive. In PC Mark test it lasts around 7 hours, which is good but nothing exceptional. The battery might be the weakest thing around the Note series, even though it is still far better than other premium phones.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Verdict
If you’ve been waiting to upgrade to the Galaxy Note 5, the Note 8 is a no-brainer. It offers a host of new features, a stunning camera, though the battery life might not seem so impressive. For Note fans, the upgrade will seem worth it.
For those who want a premium smartphone and don’t think the iPhone 8 is worth, Galaxy Note 8 is definitely a device to consider. It gave us no cause for complaints on the performance, camera front, and some of the new software features are interesting, though a bit gimmicky. But if you don’t want to spend Rs 65,000 plus just for the Infinity Display and dual-rear camera, then the S8, S8+ are still great options in the premium range.