Samsung isn’t taking no for an answer, and they have now left the Note 7’s issues behind with the release of the Note 8. It expands on everything we loved about its predecessor and more. Can it win back critical acclaim in 2017? Let's find out.
The Note 8 is still the plus-sized Android phablet, with an edge-to-edge 6.3in QHD+ display, the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor (or Samsung’s own Exynos 8895, depending on region), 6GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. The major upgrade – aside from the bezel-less screen – is a set of dual 12-megapixel cameras found on the rear.
Price and competition
Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 is a seriously impressive smartphone. Crammed with up-to-date internal bits, including Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor (or Samsung’s own Exynos 8895, depending on region), and comes with with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. It also features Samsung's new 6.3" display. Not only that, but the Note 8 also provides dual-cameras for the first time, with a 12-megapixel f/1.7 wide angle camera working in tandem with a 12-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto snapper on the back. To top it all off, you get Samsung's excellent S-Pen too, for superior note-taking.
Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 launched with a mighty price tag of £869. That's a quite staggering price point - especially when you can pick up the iPhone 7 Plus, complete with 256GB of storage for around that price. The S8 Plus too, which is essentially the same device without the dual cameras and stylus, currently circles around £630. The Galaxy Note 8 needs be near perfect to compete at this price.
Design and display
The Galaxy Note 8 is a visually stunning handset, as we have learned to expect from Samsung. It’s an area where Samsung excels.
The Galaxy Notes have always had large screens, but not like this. Just like the Galaxy S8’s stunning bezel-less design, the Note 8’s front is all display, and it’s looks great.
Now there is a massive 6.3in QHD+ display – and it’s a great screen. It benefits from Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology, so we're getting effectively perfect contrast levels and unparalleled image quality.
After putting the Note 8 to the test with our X-Rite colour calibrator, we found it covers 98.2% of the sRGB colour gamut space. The Note 8 produces wholly accurate colours across the board, even if images are slightly overexposed.
Because this is an AMOLED panel, contrast levels are unbeatable, at a perfect Infinity:1, and maximum brightness reaches a respectable 330cd/m2. Switch on adaptive brightness, and that figure creeps up to an awesome 981cd/m2.
The Note 8 still has the familiar perfect chamfered, rounded edges, complete with a tapered edge on either side. Pair that with a slim 8.6mm profile and you get a device that’s not only effortlessly elegant but also comfortably to hold in your hand.
Samsung's excellent S-Pen stylus - the pointing stick that gives the Note its name - can now be used to jot quick notes on the screen while it's off, for on the fly note-taking. Among other things, handwriting and doodles can also be converted to GIFs and emoji should you wish, and you can now hover the S-Pen over any text or sentence to translate it, or use it for currency conversions. A very handy and practical tool especially for frequent travellers.
Dual-sensor arrangements are nothing new for Samsung's competitors, but the Note 8’s twin-camera setup is a first for Samsung. One is a wide-angle 12-megapixel f/1.7 camera, while the other has an f/2.4 telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom; both are equipped with optical image stabilisation (OIS) making for very stable shots.
As for image quality, you won't be disappointed, it is superb. The quality of the wide-angle camera is at the same level as the Galaxy S8's which is to say it's as good as it gets. It copes well in differing light conditions, offers versatility and quality pictures/videos - a real plus for the new Note.
The dual cameras work together to help to produce a bokeh-like effect. Samsung calls this effect "Live Focus", softly blurring out the background and putting the subject front and centre. The Note cameras can adjust the amount of blur both while taking the picture and when viewing the image in the gallery.
That telephoto lens is an excellent addition to the Note, producing clear and crisp images with great detail.
Internally, you’ll find the new technology that is the 10nm CPU, which is the same as the Galaxy S8 uses. There’s also 6GB of RAM for heavyweight multitasking, and 64GB of onboard storage, expandable up to 256GB via microSD.
Europeans owners have Samsung’s own Exynos 8895 chip installed, as for US owners they get the latest Qualcomm processor, a Snapdragon 835.
The Note 8 is one seriously powerful handset. Running the Geekbench 4 multi-core and single-core tests, the Galaxy Note 8 reached 6614 and 2008 respectively - the highest figure we've seen on an Android handset ever.
Graphics performance is truly exceptional. The Note 8 breezed past the GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 test, scoring a 42fps average at native resolution, and 64fps offscreen at 1080p. That will make any Android game fly along with plenty of room to accommodate future games; as they inevitably will become more processor and graphics hungry.
The battery reached 16hrs 25mins in our continuous video playback test with the screen set to our standard 170cd/m2 brightness is pretty typical of Samsung. The Galaxy S8 Plus outperforms it considerably lasting well over 20 hours, l would have expected the Note to be on par with the S8. That said it will last long enough for a heavy days usage.
The Galaxy Note 8 is superb phablet which has no equal at present. It is sleek, quick and really looks the part. Its bezel-less display highlights the sheer beauty of the Note, combined with latest internal wizardy, it really is a force to be reckoned with. The new and improved S Pen features and versatile dual rear cameras add the finishing touches, to make this a truly top-of-the-range device.
It may well take the world by storm and leave the nightmare of the Note 7 well and truly behind, but you will have to pay a premium price for the privilege of owning the Galaxy Note 8.