Samsung’s latest flagship phablet, the Galaxy Note 8, is one of the most expensive devices the company has ever released. The phone is available in Kenya for Ksh 105,000 or less depending on where you get it from. The Galaxy Note 8 is the successor to the Galaxy Note 7 that was discontinued a few months after it was unveiled.
With the disaster that was the Galaxy Note 7, there was so much pressure on the company to deliver and ensure the Note 8 lives up to our expectations. We have not heard any issues about this phone and this means that the company has done a good job so far.
Hardware and Design
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a premium smartphones and you can clearly tell from its design and build quality. The device borrows a lot from the Galaxy S8 and S8+ and that is not entirely a bad thing. The phone has the 18:9 aspect ratio that ensures it is taller than most other smartphones on the market. It is also thinner and this combination makes it easier to hold and use the phone even with just one hand. This is impressive considering the fact that this is a 6.3-inch display.
Just like the S8 and S8+, the Galaxy Note 8 has the infinity display that is slightly curved with very thin bezels. Not many manufacturers have been able to replicate this design and this ensures the phone is unique and will stand out not matter where you are. You will definitely attract eyeballs every time you take out this phone, everyone will want to know what phone it is as they have probably never seen anything like it before.
The back of the Galaxy Note 8 is made of glass that feels a bit slippery but also feels premium. This glass back cover is also useful in other areas as it makes it possible to charge the phone wirelessly. The back has the dual camera setup of 12MP each and the fingerprint sensor. I am not a big fan of the location of the fingerprint sensor as most of the times I confuse it will one of the cameras and this leaves my fingerprints on the camera. I would have been happier with the fingerprint scanner below the camera, that would have made more sense.
The power button is on the right of the phone with the volume keys and the Bixby key on the left. Bixby is the company’s new digital assistant that I did not use that much. Having a dedicated Bixby button is awesome but considering that I did not use this assistant that much, having a dedicated button that I could not remap to do anything else is disappointing. The SIM card tray is at the top together with the microphone while at the bottom we have the headphone jack and the speaker grille.
The overall design of the Galaxy Note 8 is refreshing. It is different from what we have seen on other smartphones and its build quality is worth the hefty price tag.
As I have mentioned above, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has a 6.3-inch display with very thin bezels. This is one of the best displays you can find on a smartphone if you ask me. Samsung is known for its amazing displays and the Note 8 is not any different. As you can expect from Samsung, this is a Super AMOLED display that is very bright and vibrant. I had no issues using it even under direct sunlight. Its viewing angles are also great as you would expect on a premium smartphone from 2017. The display has slightly curved edges giving it a smooth a comfortable feel.
A 6.3-inch display is more than enough for browsing through different websites and general media consumption. If you like watching videos on your phone, this is the display to choose. It is small to carry around but big enough to consume content comfortably. Since most videos out there have the 16:9 aspect ratio, you should expect black bars towards the edges. This is not that big of a deal as some platforms like YouTube have a pinch-to-zoom option that allows you to zoom out the video to take up the whole display for a better experience.
The display is very responsive and is not a fingerprint magnet. It feels very delicate but I did not scratch it during the review period. I can say the reason for this is the corning Gorilla Glass that is used on Note 8’s display.
Since the Note 8 has very thin bezels, the company decided to go with on screen navigation keys. The company also incorporated 3D Touch on the home button. With this, the virtual home button can perform like a normal physical home button to ensure it is comfortable and easier for those who are using it form the first time.
This is an Always-On display that displays some of the most important notifications, date, battery and time even when the phone is not being used or is in standby mode. This consumes battery but not that much, battery consumption is so low to worry most people. If it turns out to be a big deal, you can turn it off by reducing the performance of the phone.
Performance and Software
If you are looking for a premium phone with unrivalled performance, the Galaxy Note 8 is the device to choose. It comes with the company’s own Exynos 8895 processor paired with 6GB of RAM and at least 64GB of internal storage space that can be expanded using a MicroSD card.
Performance was not an issue during the review period, the phone handled everything I threw at it without any problems. Running heavy applications did not slow down the phone either. This is the kind of performance you expect from a premium phone and is the one you get with the Note 8.
Multitasking is also a breeze, I could switch from one demanding application to the other without any lags. If you are an average user and do not demand so much from your phone, you will see it fly through the different tasks and applications at a amazing speeds.
The Galaxy Note 8 comes with Android 7.1 1Nougat preinstalled with Samsung Experience 8.5 overlay. Samsung Experience is a bit lighter and user friendly than TouchWiz . It still comes with bloatware but not as much as we have seen from older devices from Samsung. This was my first time to interact with Samsung Experience and it wasn’t that bad. It is still a heavily forked version of Android but is easy to understand and use.
Samsung says that the phone is scheduled to get Android Nougat but that is yet to happen at this point. I am still confident that it will be getting the update very soon.
The one thing that sets the Note 8 apart from other devices from Samsung is the S-Pen. As with previous Galaxy Note devices, the S-Pen here helps with hands free use and specifically for note taking among other uses.
The one cool feature about the Note 8 and the S-Pen that I like is the Live messaging feature. This allows you to write animated messages turned into GIFs that you can share with your friends. The S-Pen also makes translating texts on the screen much easier. You just select the text you want translated and you are good to go. These are just some of the features you get with the S-Pen, its main aim is to improve productivity when using the device.
Even though its is a useful addition, I did not use it as much as I expect it to. I used it mostly during the first couple of weeks just to test it out and that was that. Except for the few times when taking notes or showing people what it can do, I never utilized it the way it was intended to. Even with that said, it is still an important addition to the Note 8 and will be important for those looking for a productivity angle.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has one of the best cameras on a smartphone at the moment. It has 2 cameras at the back, both with 12MP. One camera has a telephoto lens while the other one has a wide angle lens. The telephoto lens offers 2X Zoom optical zoom and not just digital zoom. Both cameras have Optical Image Stabilization, the Note 8 is actually the first smartphone with Dual Optical Image Stabilization.
With the two cameras at the back, you get really good photos that are worth sharing with your friends and family. Contrasts are good and colour reproduction is just on point. I was not disappointed even once with these cameras, they are just that good.
The front facing camera is also really good. Auto focus is quick and the photos are detailed even when the lighting is not so good. In such situations, you may experience some issues with the quality but nothing out of the ordinary.
The one area where the Galaxy Note 8 doesn’t live up to expectation is in the battery department. Samsung played it safe given the fiasco that was the Note 7 and its batteries exploding. The Galaxy Note 8 has a 3,300 mAh battery that is not small but considering the fact that the phone is a performance warrior, you can guess how quick it will suck the juice out of the battery. During most days, I could get it to last the entire day but after that I had to quickly plug it in before the start of the next day. This phone could not last me for 2 days at all. If this is bad for you, you can choose a different performance mode that will conserve battery but will not give you the same performance and experience as the regular mode that I had. Also, what is the point of having a high performing device like the Note 8 and not take advantage of all its features. I do get that you can activate a power saving mode not to run out of battery but you cannot have this feature on throughout.
The presence of the S-Pen also plays a role in having the smaller battery. It takes up some space that could have been occupied by the battery. The good news with the battery is that it supports quick charging so it doesn’t take an entirety just to charge it.
So, is the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 worth buying? In my opinion, yes, if you can afford it then go for it. The only issues I have with this phone is the small battery. If you can overlook that, then go for it. The phone handles everything else beyond expectations and is one of the best smartphones you can get at the moment. Performance, camera and display and some of the things the phone excels in and make the phone worth having.
Also Read: Huawei Mate 9 Review