Samsung Galaxy Note 8 full review
People loved the Galaxy Note 7. I mean they really loved the Note 7. Its battery was known to be setting alight people's cars and homes, and even with Samsung bending over backwards to encourage people to return it still they would not. That's the kind of loyalty that makes a Labrador's love seem half-arsed.
A rather obvious point to make at the beginning of this article, then, is that the Note 7 is no longer on sale - at least not in its original configuration, and not in the UK. But the Note 8 now is (find the best deals), at a colossal £869 - is it worth it?
(You'll likely be buying it on a contract and so the price may not bother you so much, but buying the Note 8 SIM-free is still the cheapest way to buy it, of course.)
Samsung probably could have got away with more or less re-releasing the Note 7 with a processor upgrade and a new battery. Even a year on and by today's standards it was and should have been a a great phone. "Almost flawless," we called it in our review. Then the battery started exploding, and you know the rest of that story.
Thanks to this misfortune, the UK hasn't seen a decent Galaxy Note since the Note 4. The Note 5 was never officially released in the UK, and Samsung then skipped a generation to bring its numbering scheme into line with the S series.
The Note 4 is now a pensioner by smartphone standards, so it's against the Galaxy S8 Plus that the new Note 8 really needs to impress. Nevertheless, we've compared the specs between what we have now and what we should have had last year to help you see what's new in the Galaxy Note 8.
What's new in the Galaxy Note 8?
There are four key new features in the Note 8: a larger Infinity Display, a dual-camera, an enhanced S Pen and the Bixby assistant. Samsung has taken the opportunity to bump up the core hardware, so we now get a 10nm Snapdragon 835 processor and 6GB of DDR4 RAM. It's also shrunk down the battery a tad, so it's now just 3,300mAh rather than 3,500mAh.
The Infinity Display is the most obvious change in terms of appearance. While the dual curved edge became a standard feature with the Note 7, Samsung has enlarged it from 5.7- to 6.3in, and extended the screen at the top and bottom of the device to create a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio. It has accomplished this by moving the fingerprint scanner to the rear of the device, and implementing a pressure-sensitive home button in the display itself.
The basic technology is the same, with Samsung still favouring Super AMOLED and a Quad-HD resolution (here referred to as Quad-HD+ because of the extra pixels in the now taller screen). But the extra space available is better suited to enjoying games and media, or whatever you want to do.
There have been some enhancements to the Always-on aspect of this panel, too. In conjunction with some key S Pen stylus improvements - it's more sensitive to pressure, it has a refined tip, and it can translate entire sentences, units and currencies - you can now create, edit and pin notes to the Always-on display.
Something we've not had much opportunity to experiment with yet is Bixby, Samsung's own virtual assistant. This is because the UK version of Bixby Voice rolled out only a day ahead of the Note 8 launch, despite being a promoted feature of the Galaxy S8 that was unveiled in March.
Bixby is said to be much like the Google Assistant that is also built into the Note 8, offering a new way to interact with the device. You can ask it questions and give it commands, all in a natural conversational tone.
The processor is a strong choice, if mimicked by the majority of other flagships launching this year. The Snapdragon 835 is the first Qualcomm (actually co-built by Samsung) processor to be made with a 10nm process, which brings improvements to performance and efficiency, and therefore battery life.
Compared to its 14nm process, Samsung's 10nm method claims an up to 30 percent increase in efficiency, 27 percent increase in performance, and 40 percent decrease in power consumption.
So though we've lost 200mAh on the battery the difference should be negligible, while performance should be significantly improved over the Note 7 - especially given the extra 2GB of RAM.
The dual-camera is a first for Samsung flagships - and the fact each lens has optical image stabilisation is reportedly another first. Whereas the Note 7 had one 12Mp f/1.7 wide-angle camera at the rear, the Note 8 adds a second 12Mp f/2.4 telephoto lens. You can use the new pairing to play around with the bokeh effect, or to simply capture two images at once - one close-up, the other not so much.
We've compared the key specifications of the Note 7 and the Note 8 in the table below:
|Specifications||Samsung Galaxy Note 7||Samsung Galaxy Note 8|
|Display||5.7in, 16:9, Quad-HD, Super AMOLED, Always-on display||6.3in, 18.5:9, Quad-HD+, Super AMOLED, Always-on display|
|Operating system||Android Marshmallow 6.0.1||Android Nougat 7.1.1|
|Processor||Exynos 8890 (14nm)||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (10nm)|
|RAM||4GB LPDDR4||6GB LPDDR4|
|Storage||64GB plus microSD up to 256GB||64GB/128GB/256GB plus microSD up to 256GB|
|Primary camera||12Mp, f/1.7 wide-angle, OIS||12Mp dual-lens rear camera (12Mp, f/1.7 wide-angle + f/2.4 telephoto with 2x optical zoom), OIS|
|Selfie camera||5Mp f/1.7||8Mp f/1.7|
|Connectivity||802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, 4G LTE Cat 9, NFC, GPS, GLONASS||802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, 4G LTE Cat 16, NFC, GPS, GLONASS|
|Extra features||S Pen stylus, home button with integrated fingerprint scanner, heart-rate sensor||S Pen stylus, rear fingerprint scanner and heart-rate sensor, DeX support|
|Battery||3,500mAh with wired (USB-C) and wireless fast charging||3,300mAh with wired (USB-C) and wireless fast charging|
|Dimensions||73.9x7.9x153.5mm, 169g||162.5x74.8x8.6mm, 195g|
|Colours||Black, Blue Coral, Silver, Gold||Midnight Black & Maple Gold at launch; Orchid Grey & Deep Sea Blue may follow|
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Samsung Galaxy Note 8: Specs
- Android 7.1 Nougat
- 6.3in Quad HD display (2960x1440), 521ppi
- Dual curved edge Infinity Display
- Exynos 8895 octa-core processor (Snapdragon 835 in some markets)
- 6GB RAM
- 64GB internal storage
- Micro-SD card slot (up to 256GB)
- Dual 12Mp rear-facing cameras with OIS
- 8Mp front camera
- Pressure sensitive home button
- Fingerprint scanner
- Iris scanner
- Heart rate monitor
- 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 5.0
- 4G LTE Cat 16
- Headphone jack
- 3300mAh non-removable battery
- Wireless charging
- IP68 dust & waterproof rating