Samsung Galaxy Note 8 hands-on: The Cautionary Follow-up


A dark, stormy cloud hung over Samsung's head for a good time leading up to the announcement of the Galaxy S8 earlier this year. That's because the company was still enduring the fallout from its failure with the Note 7 during the crucial holiday season last year. Initially, it seemed as though the phone was going to rocket to stardom thanks to positive reviews from critics around, but things went off on a tangent once reports started surfacing about Note 7 handsets exploding. 

Eventually, it was determined that battery faults were the culprit in the phone's issue, but the more pressing manner was Samsung's approach to addressing the issue. And after numerous recalls and attempted fixes, the handset was discontinued entirely – bruising Samsung's reputation in the process. Nearly a year after that debacle, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is finally here to help rebuild the reputation that the handset has established over the many years it's been in existence. 

Does the Note 8 have what it takes to make us forget? More importantly, though, can the Note 8 set the bar for the rest of the year to fend off the fierce competition on the horizon? Let's dive right into this hands on and find out!

Design


Samsung Galaxy Note 8 hands-on: The Cautionary Follow-up
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 hands-on: The Cautionary Follow-up
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 hands-on: The Cautionary Follow-up
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 hands-on: The Cautionary Follow-up
Looking at the Note 8 for the first time, it can be mistaken for the Note 7 – there's just a lot of resemblances here that can make anyone do a double take. Don't get us wrong, the Note 8 is a beautifully crafted phone with premium qualities all around for the eyes to see. From its glass and metal construction, to its incredibly svelte body (for its size), and rounded edges that make it comfortable to hold, the Note 8 is majestic both visually and aesthetically. 

All of this shouldn't be any surprise, but as we looked at it closer, it honestly looks very much like the Note 7; almost an exact facsimile. While many of the same design qualities remain intact here, like an IP68 water & dust resistant construction, there's very little in terms of major changes to the overall design. Like we said, it's great looking phone worth its cost, but it doesn't have nearly the same level of changes that we saw from the Note 5 to the Note 7. 

The only noticeable change that most people might be able to distinguish is the phone's slightly longer length, which is needed to accommodate its even larger screen. Adding to the design are the usual arsenal of goodies we've seen before, like an iris scanner and fingerprint sensor, which unfortunately for the latter is still situated next to the new camera (more on that later). Out of the gate, the Note 8 will be available in four colors –midnight black, orchids grey, maple gold, and deep-sea blue. However, we're told that the US will be getting the first two colors, while the latter two will be reserved for international markets.

Display


As we've mentioned already, the Note 8's slightly longer length means it's able to sport a larger display, which in this case is a 6.3-inch 1440 x 2960 (Quad-HD+) Super AMOLED Infinity Display. We're rarely ever disappointed by Sammy's screens, so this one is no exception with its immense details, solid clarity, and piercing color tones. Adding to the beauty are the subtle curve edges on its side, aiding in the ergonomics of the phone in our hand. 

From our quick look, the display exhibits all the stellar qualities we're constantly exposed with Sammy's line of Super AMOLED panel. That's further accentuated by the Infinity Display's near bezel-less appearance with its left and right edges – while the top and bottom sport very narrow ones as well. What's impressive, though, is the phone's screen-to-body of almost 83%. In comparison, 2013's Samsung Galaxy Mega seems wasteful at 74% with its equal sized 6.3-inch display. 

User Interface


Samsung Galaxy Note 8 hands-on: The Cautionary Follow-up

Superficially speaking, Samsung's interface on the Note 8 sports the same cleaner, more refined approach that we saw first introduced with the Note 7 last year, which was tweaked even more with the S8. The result here is no different, as the phone is running Android 7.1.1 Nougat. Most of the changes to the interface comes in the form of software features that center on the S Pen and the Note 8's productivity-centric features. 

Starting off with the S Pen, which now features a narrower tip of 0.7mm, users can expect a new way of sending messages to people with "Live Messages." This new feature essentially allows you to create a message (or drawing), which is then converted to an animated gif and sent to a recipient via email, text, social media, and much more! There's a bar at the top of the message to indicate how much jotting 'time' is left before the gif is complete. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 hands-on: The Cautionary Follow-up
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 hands-on: The Cautionary Follow-up
Secondly, they've enhanced the screen off memo functionality by now enabling you to pin a message directly to the 'Always On Display' feature. Once a screen off memo is made using the S Pen, the phone's display will continue to breathe it – so it's essentially a quick way of accessing or remembering these notes.

As for the other new software features, they relate to the edge screen functionality. Now that side-by-side apps multi-tasking is something that's offered natively by Android, the Note 8 now leverages the edge screen by allowing users to instantly launch two apps simultaneously using the edge screen access. Rather than having to launch two separate apps, you can now prepare a shortcut that's pinned to the edge screen to access them right away. 

For the most part, the new features introduced here by the Note 8 aren’t ground breaking by any means. Instead, they simply enhance the existing foundation that the series is most notable for – and that's productivity. Over on the hardware side, it's packing a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 with 6GB of RAM and a healthy 64GB of internal storage. Leveraging the newest chipset and all, you can expect the Note 8 to perform smoothly with all sorts of applications – more so when it receives the latest Android software too! 

Camera


Samsung Galaxy Note 8 hands-on: The Cautionary Follow-up

A first in the Note line, as well as the Galaxy line as a whole, the most notable difference with this year's Note 8 over its predecessor is its new dual-camera system – a notable addition to the Note 8's arsenal. Sporting dual 12-megapixel cameras, they break down to a wide-angle one with an aperture of f/1.7 and a telephoto one at f/2.4. Following the implementations we've seen incorporated into other dual-camera wielding phones, like the iPhone 7+, Huawei P10, and OnePlus 5, Samsung doesn't tread too far because it follows in similar fashion. 

Basically, the end result with the dual-camera system is to achieve a digital zoom of 10x and the option to produce bokeh through its "live focus" mode. Behind the scenes when you snap a shot, the phone captures both wide-angle and telephoto shots, which can then allow you to select the focus area and the amount of background blur surrounding it. The whole thing was seamless in our quick hands on, as the phone does a nice job of capturing sharp, in-focus subjects – with the background exhibiting that out-of-focus look. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 hands-on: The Cautionary Follow-up
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 hands-on: The Cautionary Follow-up

Worth mentioning, too, is the fact that the cameras here both offer built-in OIS; a first of its kind we're told. And from what we saw against an iPhone 7+, the Note 8 does a better job with its stabilization – whereas the iPhone 7+ appeared adversely affected by the shakes. It'll be interesting no doubt to see how the new camera stacks up, so we'll be reserved with our judgement until it receives a full testing from us.

Battery


Above all, the biggest question surrounding the Note 8 is its battery, which in this case is a 3300 mAh one. Despite the negativity that surrounded the Note 7's battery issue and eventual recall, Samsung has made it clear that they're investing a ton of research, development, testing, and quality assurance that the Note 8 won't suffer the same fate. They seem confident in that because they went so far to hire a third party to validate the Note 8's 8-point battery check, which in this case is Underwriters Laboratories. 

The capacity is a slight dip from the Note 7's 3500 mAh battery cell, but we imagine that the optimizations to the software, processor, and screen should help it to achieve the same levels. Complementing the new battery, there's also rapid charging via its USB Type-C port, as well as a new fast wireless charging feature. 

Knowing the backlash Samsung received with the Note 7 debacle, you can absolutely be assured that there isn’t going to be a repeat. We hope! 

Expectations


The Note 8 in Orchid Gray, Deep Sea Blue, Gold, and Midnight Black

The Note 8 in Orchid Gray, Deep Sea Blue, Gold, and Midnight Black


If there's one word that best describes the Note 8, it has to be none other than cautionary. Every year since its inception, it seemed as though Samsung kept on outdoing itself with each release, but for once, we're not completely blown away. That's strange for us to say, given how the Note series has continued to be a force to be reckoned with in the landscape. However, due to all the problems that arose with the Note 7, and consequently the recalls, bans, and eventual discontinuation of it, Samsung's reputation has been bruised in a way it hasn't before. 

And with the Note 8, it makes perfect sense for them to take caution. Rather than attempting to redefine or make an evolutionary leap, the Note 8 seems more like a v2.0 edition of the Note 7, especially with all the minor iterative improvements we've seen thus far. The new dual-camera system in tow should do nicely, but in the grand scheme of things, the Note 8 doesn't seem like a game changing thing. 

Galaxy Note 8 vs iPhone 7 Plus

Galaxy Note 8 vs iPhone 7 Plus

Note 8 vs S8+

Note 8 vs S8+

Then again, the whole cautionary approach is exactly what Samsung needs to do to win over the respect of consumers who were burned by the Note 7 debacle. In terms of pricing, Samsung has yet to officially announce it – albeit, the carriers will be the ones to reveal that. Regardless, you can bet that the Note 8 will fetch for a premium. That price point may very well be north of $700, in order to justify its worth over the S8+. 

Preorders for the phone begin on August 24th, with general store availability by September 15th. Now, what's interesting here are the promotional bundles that Samsung will be offering for those who pre-order the phone. It'll break down to two options we're told – one that comes with a Samsung Gear 360, and another that'll include both a wireless charger and 128GB microSD card. Those should be great incentives for those on the fence about buying the phone! 

Will all of this be enough for the Note 8 to push ahead of the pack this upcoming holiday season?



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Galaxy Note 8
  • Display 6.3" 1440 x 2960 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2350 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3300 mAh(22h talk time)

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83 Comments

1. AVVA1

Posts: 228; Member since: Aug 01, 2017

The kraken has risen

28. jacky899

Posts: 392; Member since: May 16, 2017

Nothing we didn't already know. Very disappointed with the lack of new features. I was hoping Samsung would have a revolution in the Note series this year to redeem their Note 7 user's trust, which includes myself. I'll have to wait for the LG V30 and Iphone 8 to decide if I should stick with the Note line this time around. Iphone 8 has AR support and V30 might have a better camera.

33. Jason2k13

Posts: 1447; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

IPhone 8 has AR support and LG v30 might have a better camera? Those sounds better to you? lol

38. jacky899

Posts: 392; Member since: May 16, 2017

Iphone 8 will have many other new features. Not sure what LG has up its sleeve for the V30 also. Note 8 is very boring this year. Only advantage is the pen.

42. adi90

Posts: 554; Member since: Dec 21, 2015

Iphone 8 features will look new to ios users. An android user like you must have already used most of the "new" features on iphone 8.

72. ColinW

Posts: 412; Member since: Jun 04, 2014

The majority of new features on the iPhone will be ones common on Android phones already. Nothing special about that.

41. Xilam unregistered

To be honest - I'm the opposite, I'm a fan of iOS, but design of iPhones since the 6 is underwhelming, and latest features are more of gimmicks than something we actually need. I love 3D Touch - the rest is "meh". So, leaning toward Note series to adorn vs the upcoming iPhone 8. God knows I cannot afford either one - just adorn and hope one day they're as cheap as my little flip phone.

2. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 1005; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

The color limitation is ridiculous

4. JasontheVeteran

Posts: 51; Member since: Jun 05, 2017

I agree. Gold, Black and Silver. Eek. Lets see some greens, orange, red, etc. Branch out for ph\/cks sake Sammy!

21. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 1005; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

I'm referring to Deep Blue and Gold being exclusive to international

47. adi90

Posts: 554; Member since: Dec 21, 2015

I think green and red variant will come after few months.

62. zunaidahmed

Posts: 1182; Member since: Dec 24, 2011

I loved the s6 emerald green back then, really hope samsung brings that to note 8

24. Bankz

Posts: 2491; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Befitting title tbh.. Meh.

3. PhoneInQuestion

Posts: 496; Member since: Aug 20, 2017

"Cautionary Follow-Up" That headline though.

5. PhoneInQuestion

Posts: 496; Member since: Aug 20, 2017

Also who would mistaken this for a Note 7? That had a home button and larger top/bottom bezels...

20. g2a5b0e unregistered

I agree. They share few similarities from the front or back. Not sure what the author is smoking here.

69. Skizzo

Posts: 403; Member since: Jul 14, 2013

I agree. I think he was referring to the more "squared" look, and the general form factor, which is definitely a "Note" thing, but all Note's have had a more square design aesthetic compared to the 'S' line, and that's fine (some may even prefer it ;) ). If anything, I think this Note 8 looks more similar to the 'S' series than Note series has ever looked. This Note can be called an S8+ with a stylus, and you'd be closer than saying it's a Note 7. Either way, Both Note 7, and S8/S8+ were/are great phones, so no doubt that the Note 8 will be as well, even if I personally think it's a little...underwhelming.

10. QWIKSTRIKE

Posts: 1457; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

Just a little drama is all that statement is. At any rate I will grab black and the Gear 360. I still have the 256gb card from Last year. Can I hear about the gear s4 please.

58. CableTelcontar

Posts: 86; Member since: Nov 19, 2014

*\!**\'! party pooper. Just trying to crash Samsung' parade

6. Jeradiah3

Posts: 1149; Member since: Feb 11, 2010

I'll wait to see it in person, but overall.............its cool

7. Cat97

Posts: 1766; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Boring. Basically absolutely nothing new. It does look better than the S8/+, but it's just wayyy too tall. And with only a 3300 mAh battery for this size, when LG crams a 3300 battery inside the much smaller G6 ? No thanks.

11. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

Note8's 3300 mAh will beat G6's 3300mAh by miles in battery test

19. adecvat

Posts: 623; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Yeah, nothing new. Disappointed.

39. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Why are you comparing this to the G6? Does the G6 have a 6.3" display? Does the G6 have the Note pen and capabilities? No! So I fail to see what the comparison is. If you want a G6 just go buy one.

70. Skizzo

Posts: 403; Member since: Jul 14, 2013

He was just stating that the two had the same battery size, otherwise yes, I agree that they are completely different phones. The Note 8 is a great phone, but I do wish that it had a bigger battery though. We'll see how it performs I guess, maybe the optimization is top notch.

9. JoePhoto

Posts: 49; Member since: Feb 27, 2012

Where is the speaker ??? If not FRONT facing, I am not getting it !!!

13. QWIKSTRIKE

Posts: 1457; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

Who places front facing speakers on a bezel less screen

84. AmashAziz

Posts: 2891; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

It's not bezel-less......for your kind info. And it doesn't have to be dual front-facing speakers. It can be a setup like the iPhone 7.

12. Tziggy14

Posts: 623; Member since: Sep 02, 2014

Does the the larger size of the phone represent more "fire"power?

14. QWIKSTRIKE

Posts: 1457; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

So juvenile.. If you don't like it keep it moving. I never go to Apple post and make foolish remarks because I don't want one. As a true techie even though I don't want one I respect their technology. I think they have a great piece of technology even if it's locked down. When I spend my money I want to do with it as I choose. You won't find me making foolish remarks about that in Apple post though... I keep it moving.

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