Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review

Reviews 24 Jun, 2013

Updated: This 8in marvel boasts great performance and usable stylus, but is it worth more than an iPad mini?

4
Price: 
£329 inc VAT (Wi-Fi only)
Pros: 
Excellent size; Lots of the great stylus-based features; Strong performance; Better than average battery life; 3G edition allows you to make calls
Cons: 
Plastic build; No 4G option; Display could be better; Expensive compared to similarly specced Wi-Fi devices (Nexus 7, iPad Mini, Asus Padfone 2).
Verdict: 
The Note 8 is the true goldilocks device of Samsung’s ever-growing Note range of tablets and smartphones. It offers excellent performance and it’s also rather eye-catching. We’re just not sure whether it’s worth more than the iPad Mini, however.

Samsung is the most prolific manufacturer on the planet. Hungry to build on its dominance of the mobile space, the Korean manufacturer continues to pump out hardware at a phenomenal rate and the latest device is the Galaxy Note 8.

The USP of the latest in a long line of Galaxy devices is the portable 8in form factor, the stylus support and the ability to make calls if you opt for the 3G edition.

Design

Samsung has opted to keep things familiar when it comes to the look and feel of the device. Like the Galaxy S4, Note 2, and Note 10.1, the Note 8 is built from plastics and finished with an attractive faux-metallic edging. It’s no iPad Mini in this respect but if you’re a fan of Samsung’s recent smartphones you’ll have very little to complain about.

The Note 10.1’s dimensions made it difficult to jot down notes when gripping the tablet with the one hand - you needed a desk or, failing that, your lap. With the Note 8, however, you can take notes or doodle wherever you are thanks to its smaller but still perfectly adequate dimensions.

Exact measurements are 210.8 x 135.9 x 7.95mm and the 16GB Wi-Fi version weighs 340g - so it's possible to hold the device in one hand.

On the front you have the Samsung Home key, which is flanked by two capacitive keys for Settings and Back. Unlike on the Note 2 and Note 10.1 - you can use the stylus to operate the Settings and Back keys on the Note 8.

The Stylus itself slots in the bottom right hand corner and further up along the right-hand side you have the power/unlock keys and volume rocker and the micro SD card slot is located on  the opposite side. The micro USB charging port found on the bottom side of the device and is flanked on either side by the Note 8’s stereo speakers. The 3.5mm jack input is the only breach along the very top edge of the device.

Like the Note 10.1, the Note 8 incorporates a rather thick bezel around its 8in display (half-an-inch on the sides and slightly more at the top and bottom). The Nexus 7 adheres to a similar design and for the most part it’s fine. Although any iPad Mini user worth their salt will tell you a thinner bezel, particularly on the sides, is the way forward these days. 

Specifications: 

OS: Android 4.1.2. Jelly Bean

Processor: 1.6 GHz Quad-Core Processor

Memory/Storage: 2GB RAM, 16/32GB, up to 64GB micro SD

Screen: 8in WXGA TFT (1280 x 800) display, 189 ppi

Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4 & 5GHz), Wi-Fi Direct, A-GPS / GLONASS, Bluetooth 4.0 (LE)

Other: Accelerometer, Geo-magnetic, Light Sensor

Bands: 2G GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900; 3G HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 210

Camera: 5MP rear with autofocus, 1.3MP front-facing

Battery: 4,600mAh

Size: 211 x 136 x 7.95 mm(WxDxH)

Weight: 340g (Wi-Fi), 345g (3G)

Disqus - noscript

The iPad's lack of a real stylus with pressure sensitivity is a deal-breaker for me, although I understand that some may be happy without it.

However, the ability to take notes, and for me as a designer to be able to sketch with a pressure sensitive pen is a massive plus.

I suspect that the iPad may introduce a proper stylus in the future, (there's been rumours) as opposed to the rather clumsy third party stylii being offered for it. If Apple does this, I may get one, I have no brand loyalty, whatever works best gets my vote.

There's a reason why humans created pens and other writing and drawing implements - our fingers are far too clumsy for precise work, or Da Vinci would have finger painted the Mona Lisa, right?