The first half of 2017 was all about the Galaxy S8, a phone which I enjoy using a lot. (Full review here) So, what now for the second half of 2017? As usual, we got the new Galaxy Note device — Samsung Galaxy Note8. Unlike the Galaxy S series, it has been two years since we last got a new Galaxy Note device, we all know what happened to last year’s Galaxy Note7. Thankfully, the Galaxy Note8 is finally here! On paper, it seems that the Galaxy Note8 is the Galaxy S8+ with an S Pen. But is it really just all about the S Pen? We’ll find out in this full review.
The retail box design of the Galaxy Note8 is pretty similar to the Galaxy S8 — a black box with “Note8” text debossed in blue. As I mentioned last time, the box looks and feels quite premium, something you should expect, since this phone retails at a premium price tag.
Here are the items that came in the box:
- Samsung Galaxy Note8
- Hard Shell Case
- User Guide
- AKG Earphones
- Extra Ear Tips
- Tweezer and Pen Nibs
- Type-C to Type-A Converter
- Type-C to MicroUSB Converter
- SIM Ejector Tool
- Wall Adapter
- USB Type-C Cable
Surprisingly, there’s actually a hard shell case in the box, which means you don’t need to spend extra to buy a case for protection. Kudos to Samsung! The quality of the case is pretty good too!
A Piece of Art
In terms of design, you can see the Galaxy Note8 is actually a reminiscence of the Galaxy S8. The phone now sports a more boxy design, which still has the same design elements as the previous Galaxy Note devices. The 18.5:9 6.3-inch Infinity Display nearly covers all the front part of the phone. There are some spaces on top and below the display, though. Samsung has to fit in the iris scanner, earpiece, and front camera on top the display, while the space below the display purely just to make the phone looks balance.
Similar to the Galaxy S8, the left side of the phone has the volume rocker and Bixby button, while the right houses the power button. Moving to the bottom of the phone, you’ll see the 3.5mm audio jack (thankfully still here), USB Type-C port, a single mono speaker, and the place for the S Pen. As I mentioned in the Galaxy S8 review, the mono speaker is a compromise as it gets covered easily if you are holding the phone in landscape mode, which produces a muffled sound.
Moving to the back of the phone, you’ll see the awkwardly positioned fingerprint sensor once again next to the dual-camera setup. I have to admit that the fingerprint sensor is not located in an ideal position, but this is still a huge phone, so you will find yourself using this phone with two hands more often. Hence, the problem isn’t really as serious as the Galaxy S8. And like other glass back smartphones, the phone is pretty slippery and fingerprint magnet.
6.3″ Infinity Display
The Galaxy Note8 sports a 6.3-inch Infinity Display at 18.5:9 ratio. It remains one of my favorite features since the Galaxy S8. By default, the screen resolution is set at Full HD+, but you can change it to WQHD+ or HD+ in Settings.
Its Super AMOLED display is still a top-class display with deep blacks and eye-pleasing colors. Like the Galaxy S8, you can crop to fit the 18.5:9 ratio when you are watching a video. Some contents will be cropped, though.
Same SoC, More RAM
The Galaxy Note8 packs a 10nm Exynos 8895 octa-core processor, same as the Galaxy S8. However, it now comes with more RAM at 6GB (note that Malaysian variant S8/S8+ only has 4GB RAM). The 64GB internal storage can be expandable, by the way. As expected, everything runs buttery smooth without any hiccups and stutters, even playing games. With the extra amount of RAM, the device now offers a better multitasking experience.
We already talked about how painful to use the fingerprint sensor, even when registering your fingerprint. Thankfully, the device also comes with an iris scanner, which works well most of the time, even under low-light conditions as it uses infrared to scan. However, you’ll need to make sure to keep a distance between your eyes and the scanner, and it works from certain angles only. Duly note that the scanner might be unable to recognize your irises if you are using it under direct sunlight.
S Pen is Bae!
And here comes to the main selling point of the device — S Pen. The S Pen has been an iconic feature in the Galaxy Note series, sadly not many people actually use it. For this year, it seems to be the same as its predecessor, but with some minor tweaks for its ergonomics.
One of the features you can play with the S Pen is Live Message, a feature that I enjoyed using a lot. Basically, it records the strokes you draw and animates it into a GIF, you can send it to your loved one using this if you think text just can’t express what you want to say.
Drawing with the S Pen is definitely better than most third-party phone stylus in the market. Samsung states that it actually implements Wacom technology in it. Well, obviously it is still better to draw on a Wacom tablet with the Wacom stylus, but I was able to create some artworks with the Galaxy Note8.
Overall, having an S Pen is really a bae! If you bought any of the Galaxy Note series devices but didn’t use the S Pen, shame on you!
For the first time, the Galaxy Note8 packs a dual-camera setup — 12MP f/1.7 wide-angle camera + 12MP f/2.4 telephoto camera. What even better is, both rear cameras are aided with OIS. However, only the wide-angle comes with the Dual Pixel tech for a faster autofocus speed. Selfie wise, it has an 8MP f/1.7 AF front-facing shooter.
Let’s talk about the Live Focus feature first, known as Portrait Mode in other phones. It uses the telephoto lens to take the shot, which is actually pretty impressive especially the edge detection. You can adjust the background blurriness before or after you take the shot.
And if you think that the Live Focus photos aren’t that good, you can always change back to the wide-angle lens shot thank to the Dual Capture feature. While you’re focused on taking a Live focus photo, Dual Capture photographs what’s happening outside the frame. That way you get to enjoy the moments you might have otherwise missed.
In terms of image quality, I would say that the Galaxy Note8 has one of the top class cameras on a smartphone. Additionally, its telephoto camera is also capable of taking impressive shots, the best one so far on a smartphone.
If there’s one thing for me to complain about the Galaxy Note8, it is the battery life. The device packs a 3,300mAh battery, which is even smaller than the Galaxy S8+. Well, you can’t really blame Samsung for doing that since the company has to make space to slot in the S Pen, and they don’t want to repeat the same mistake from last year’s Galaxy Note7.
Based on my test, I was able to get nearly 4 hours of screen-on-time in Full HD+ mode. Yup, it’s kind of disappointed when the phone can do so many things, but the battery life is the one that lets you down. Overall, the phone can still last through a day if you are not really a heavy user.
Retailing at RM3,999, for sure this is the best device Samsung ever made. Once again, Samsung has achieved something nearly perfect, from the design to the camera, this is pretty much a phone that is close perfect. Of course, there’s no perfect smartphone in the world, the software is still not really my taste and heavy user like me has to carry a power bank with me all the time to juice up the phone. Don’t get me wrong, I really do like this phone, especially with the S Pen functionalities. However, paying RM4k for a phone is too over for me, it’s cheaper than iPhone X, though. If you like the S Pen functionalities but want to pay less, the Samsung Galaxy Note FE is a good choice.
- Impressive design
- Beast performance
- S Pen is bae
- Top class camera
- Software needs improvements
- Not so good battery life
- A little bit pricey