Samsung Galaxy Note 8 First Impressions

Enter Galaxy Note 8.

There is a lot of chatter about this phone; however, one statement that is not being put out into the atmosphere is, “This is not a good device.”  The Galaxy Note 8 is a wonderful device through and through.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

Hardware

The Galaxy Note 8 feels great in the hands and it is simply amazing that Samsung managed to package a 6.3″ screen into a body of this size (close in size to an iPhone 7 Plus).  Since the device has a glass front and back, it is very grippy and easy to hold — so although it’s size may be unwieldy to some, is easy to hold in one hand.  Additionally, although the screen is large, it is slimmer than most devices coming in at only 74.8mm wide.  We are looking at a smartphone that has 6 GB of RAM, 12 MP dual-camera system (OIS on both sensors), USB-C, a headphone jack (yes, I have to mention it), S-Pen (more on that later), IP 68 water and dust resistant, a bottom firing speaker that actually sounds really good, Fingerprint scanner (in the wrong place right next to the camera,  this is the only part of the design that is flawed, which ruins the look of the back of the device) along with a Super AMOLED display that is simply one of the best, if not best, in the business.


Performance

You can put the best specifications in the world, the most RAM the fastest processor and still have a terrible smartphone experience, many Android OEMs have been guilty of this in the past, including Samsung.

Not this year.

With my time spent with the device, the phone flat out screamed from the moment I picked it up, until I put it down.  One area of the operating system in Samsung’s “Samsung Experience”, renamed from TouchWiz that appeared to be much more optimized was simply opening the Camera app.  Nearly all Samsung phones of the past would experience a little lag when opening the app — yes, it’s a big deal a moment is exactly that, a moment and something that you do not want to miss out on one.  Opening apps, closing apps and multitasking were absolutely painless making  this phone very performant.  One of the only pain-points I saw in regard to performance was swiping to the Bixby page at the left of the launcher, nearly every time (even when it was loaded into RAM) it opened the phone was met with stutter and dropped frames.


Samsung Experience

Most Android OEMs add a few apps, launcher changes and more to differentiate their flavor of Android from it’s competitors and Samsung does it in a very tasteful and refined manner on the Note 8 with highlights on two in particular.

Edge Apps

Because of the Note 8 screen technology, wrapping over the edges to meet the bezel, Samsung makes use of this with “Edge Apps”.  Edge Apps allows to to select from certain “predetermined” apps on the device and create shortcuts to those from anywhere in the operating system.  Really love that Samsung Notes app?  Put it in the edge and you’ll be able to take notes from anywhere in an instant.  Additionally, we now have App Pairs, which were introduced with the Note 8 and this allows you to pair commonly used apps together in a “pair” that will be launched together in split screen mode (6.3″ screen here, really making use of the extra real estate).

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Samsung “App Pairs” shown, above. (Note: In my experience the device did heat up a bit when two apps were on the screen in App Pairs.)

S Pen

While it is unknown of the actual usage statistics of Samsung’s S Pen, it is certainly a valuable addition to the device and where it gets its “Note” name from.  The S Pen makes it easy to jot down notes quickly and efficiently.  The phone doesn’t even have to be awake.  Need to capture some info?  Pull out the S Pen from the device, and start writing on the screen with “screen off memos” — these will be saved to a new note ready for you to reference later.  The S Pen does have it’s drawbacks, as the input lag is real here when drawing lines on screen and is somewhat intermittent when swiping between homescreens.

Source: Tim Schofield


Camera

Since when have you ever known of Samsung to slouch in the camera department?  It started this year, kidding.

The Note 8 takes fantastic shots.  With my experience, under Best Buy lighting, the pictures were crisp, focused and contained plenty of detail.  Video capture was nice and smooth as well; however, playback appeared slightly choppy on the Note 8.  Check out this very thorough camera review below:

Source: Andru Edwards


Nitpicks

There is so much to like about this device; however, I’m yet to have a perfect smartphone experience (seen my rants on iOS 11 lately?).

Let’s get this over with:

  • Smaller battery than the smaller Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus (likely due to battery issues in the Note 7)
  • Some photos appear to be over saturated, while pleasing to the eye, these pictures are not the most “true to life”
  • Disappointing S Pen performance lag

TLDR

Right now, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is the best Android phone that you can go into a store and buy, period — no questions people.  The overall package of performance, camera quality and excellent build make it an all-around winner.

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