Samsung Galaxy Note 8 packs the right hardware and software features for a flagship device, posing a stiff competition in the high end segment
The Samsung Note series of smartphones has been popular for two reasons: bigger screen size and the S-Pen stylus. While a screen size of 5.5 to 6 inch is becoming increasingly common, the stylus still remains a rare feature. The Korean manufacturer has brought the latest flagship, the Galaxy Note 8 to India -- and still reposes faith in the stylus as something users will like and pay for.
While the Note 8 is loaded with many features, the first thing that impressed us is the premium build and display quality. The 6.3-inch device has a bezel-less and full frontal glass body with a metallic rear. It sports a sleeker frame at 8.6 mm and weighs 195 grams. While it may seem to be a little bit on the heavier side, but in comparison to the other Note series device, the Note 8 is compact and light, but one can’t operate it with one hand. The infinity display adds to the aesthetics but has some earthy practicality as well: The 18:5 aspect ratio coupled with Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display (2960x144 resolution, 521 PPI) gives a better viewing experience, especially while watching sports or entertainment programmes. It also comes with a useful ‘Always On’ feature, which keeps the display live even after the phone is locked. For device protection there’s Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on both the front and back and the IP68 water and dust resistance.
Now for its USP, the stylus. Compared to what we remember of the Note 7, the S-Pen in Note 8 has improved pressure sensitivity with better rubber tip of 0.7 mm. The S-Pen now allows you to animate your pictures and create GIFs, this might interest those with creative bent of mind. You can also use it to translate other languages by highlighting the words. This can be a powerful feature when you are abroad and need a quick phrase, on the fly, to explain something to a stranger. Another cool tool: You can also make notes on the screen while the device is locked; we find this feature really convenient, especially if you don’t have a pen and paper around and want save an important message.
One note-worthy ( pun intended!) feature is Bixby, Samsung’s own voice controlled, virtual assistant, which is modified for Indian accents. Apple has Siri , Windows has Cortana so it would have been unusual for Samsung to be left behind. The company had announced this feature in the Galaxy S8 series, but in what seems like lousy planning, this will be available in India only from the end of this month. So we are yet to try this out.
We liked that the device comes has many options for user security. This is so often a matter of personal preference -- so Samsung is smart in offering a choice. There’s the fingerprint scanner located at the rear. Also, it has an iris scanner and facial recognition feature. The security set up is simple and all three provide quick recognition when we tried them out: you can choose from any one and set according to your preference. The face recognition will directly challenge the new iPhones launched this week -- and level the field, somewhat.
Samsung for the first time has a dual-lens set up with dual image optical stabilization for its rear camera. Here, one is a wide angle lens with F 1.7 aperture and the other is telephoto lens with F 2.4 aperture. While the 12+12 megapixels resolution may seem to be on the lower side, especially when compared to other dual lens devices currently in the market, it doesn’t significantly impact the picture quality. In Dual Capture mode, both rear cameras take pictures simultaneously—one close-up shot from the telephoto lens and one wide-angle shot that shows the entire background. It may take a professional photographer to appreciate this particular feature -- but we are guessing this alone will tilt the Note 8 in favour of many buyers, especially those who have semi-professional expectations from the camera.
It also comes with bokeh effect to focus on the subject by blurring the background but this is no longer a big deal. The front camera of 8 megapixels comes with Auto Focus and F1.7 aperture -- again fairly standard. However there’s a useful Live Message feature, which lets you add animated GIFs to your images. Overall, you can do a lot more with this camera image-wise and also click good quality images.
The device also offer other user-friendly features like the app pairing option that lets you run two apps side-by-side. You can create a custom shortcut on the Edge Panel to simultaneously launch two frequently used apps. This is really useful for those who like to do multi-task on their devices. Samsung has always pitched the Note series as productivity devices -- and surprisingly it still has a clear field in this respect with few competitors. These latest tweaks only consolidate this niche. It also supports Samsung Pay, the company’s own digital payment solution, that is becoming more visible at POS in India.
The 3,300mAh battery comes with wireless and fast charging capabilities. Without making a song and dance about it, the Note 8 offers the wireless charging feature that iPhone is showcasing this week. After the Note 7 fiasco, Samsung has put in an 8 point battery check, where all its devices undergo testing in extreme conditions. And in our experience, the device didn’t show any signs of heating after a day’s usage.
The Note 8 in India will come with the 10nm Exynos processor with 6GB RAM. It will be powered by Android Nougat 7.0. The device comes with a hybrid slot which can either have two SIM cards or one memory card with single SIM. The internal memory of 64 GB is expandable up to 256 GB. On the connectivity front it supports 4G, Bluetooth 5 and NFC.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 will be available from September 21 for Rs. 67,900. We feel that the device carries a lot of similarities with the Galaxy S8 series, except for the stylus. So if you have been a fan of the Note series and the S-Pen then the device has a lots to offer.
And yes, in its own way, Samsung is sending a subtle message that many of the gee-whiz features of this week's new iPhones are already there under the hood of its latest Note.