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Samsung Galaxy Note 8: should you upgrade to it?

Samsung Galaxy Note 8: should you upgrade to it?

It is finally here — the Samsung Galaxy Note 8! The first new Note in 2 years that we should be able to buy without having to return it soon after or needing to import an obscure edition only sold in South Korea. It's also the phablet that has the hard task of washing away the black smudge left by the Galaxy Note 7. If you are a fan of the S Pen-toting line, you have probably been waiting for this moment for a while. Or, you probably have a Galaxy S7 / edge and didn't go for an S8, but wanted to see what the new Note is going to offer you.

Whichever of those is your case, we will now be looking at the question “Should you upgrade to the Samsung Galaxy Note 8?”. Let's dive in!

Design


Samsung Galaxy Note 8: should you upgrade to it?
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: should you upgrade to it?
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: should you upgrade to it?
As you can expect, we have got yet another glass-and-metal sandwich. If you own any Sammy flagship from the past 2 years, you'd be used to the premium materials and build here. The Note 8, however, also adopts the 18.5:9 display ratio from the Galaxy S8, which results in a taller screen with a diagonal of 6.3 inches, just slightly larger than the 6.2-inch one on the Galaxy S8+. We've also got the curved edges here — Sammy's signature futuristic look for its top-tier phones. Also, unless you imported a Note FE or managed to stash away a Note 7, the Note 8 is the first dual-curved member of the line you can get.

So what's the judgment on design? In all honesty, Samsung's top-tier phones from the last couple of years still look great, so we don't think the device's looks will play a major factor in your choice. If you are still wielding a Note 5 and want to (finally) get a curved Note, it's a good time to upgrade. If you are just tired by your old Galaxy S6 edge or Galaxy S7 edge and want a refresh — the Note 8 will definitely deliver.

On the other hand, many users still dislike that fingerprint scanner placement — off-center in the back of the device. If this bothers you, you may want to hold on to your phone with a nice physical scanner smack dab on its front. Next year's flagships may just deliver something much more awesome (yes, we are talking about a fingerprint scanner embedded in the display's glass).

Display


Samsung Galaxy Note 8: should you upgrade to it?
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: should you upgrade to it?
As mentioned, we've got a 6.3-inch screen here. It's got a resolution of 1440 x 2960 pixels (QHD+) making for a super-dense PPI ratio of 529. Nothing new in the top-tier Galaxy family. Sammy's Super AMOLED screens have been consistently awesome over the past 3 years, so you won't be getting a mind-bending upgrade in terms of color-reproduction or sharpness over the Note 5 or Galaxy S7 / edge. So, is it worth upgrading?

The Note 8 doesn't have a flat screen variant, so if you are still hanging dearly to your Note 5 and you cherish its plane screen, you might want to hold on a bit longer. On the other hand, if you find the curvy screen to be super-appealing, especially with the few software features it unlocks, now's the time to make that jump.

If you are considering upgrading just for the widescreen standard, which is just now picking up — we would advise to not take it as a serious point just yet. The hardware standard is still too young and it may take a while for most media producers to catch up and convert to it en masse. The same goes for HDR10 support.

Now, if you are an early adopter who always wants to ride the edge of the new tech wave, by all means, ignore what we said above. You can still watch 16:9 media on an 18.5:9 display and having HDR10 support doesn't hurt anything anyway.

Hardware


Samsung Galaxy Note 8: should you upgrade to it?

Needless to say, we've got the latest and greatest in phone internals here. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (or Exynos 8895 if you buy it outside of the US), a whopping 6 GB of RAM, and a choice between 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB of internal storage. Naturally, if you are one who wants to have the biggest and best in commercially-available hardware, upgrading to the Note 8 is a no-brainer.

However, it's worth noting that both the Note 5 and Galaxy S7 can still hold their own in modern times. The Exynos 7420 in the Note 5 has aged well and is still a pretty respectable piece of hardware and its 64 GB of storage and 4 GB of RAM are nothing to smirk at. It is, however, missing the microSD card slot for storage expansion, which you may be feeling by now.

Camera


Samsung Galaxy Note 8: should you upgrade to it?
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: should you upgrade to it?
Here's the juicy stuff — the Note 8 finally adopts the dual camera module, which Samsung has been rumored to be working on for months. It's a regular (wide-angle) and telephoto lens setup, meaning it's meant to work like the iPhone 7 Plus and OnePlus 5 — the secondary lens provides a narrower field of view, a 2x optical zoom, and unlocks that sweet “portrait mode”, which blurs the background and makes your subject pop. Samsung has also enabled the user to tweak the amount of blur, so you can fine-tune your picture to your liking. The regular camera has the Dual Pixel tech for super-fast focusing. Both sensors are 12 MP in resolution and both are assisted by OIS, which is a big deal when it comes to taking a sharp snap when making use of that optical zoom.

If you are a shutterbug, you will definitely enjoy the new camera, especially if you are coming from the Galaxy Note 5. You will get better low-light performance and faster focus times as the most notable improvements. The selfie camera also gets autofocus — the Galaxy S8 had the first auto-focusing front-facing snapper on a phone and the Note 8 inherits that feature.

Compared to the Galaxy S7, the differences fade out a bit, but the Note 8 still does have the upper hand with that secondary telephoto camera.

Interface, functionality, and other tidbits


Samsung Galaxy Note 8: should you upgrade to it?


Samsung Galaxy Note 8: should you upgrade to it?
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: should you upgrade to it?
Of course, Samsung added various little improvements here and there to make the Note 8 its most advanced device. The S Pen gets the new super-thin pen tip, which the Note 7 had. Not many users got to enjoy it before the phone went under, so it's sort of a new feature.

A new App Pair feature for the Edge Panels allows users to quickly launch their favorite pairs of apps in split screen. When taking a Screen off memo, you can now expand the note up to 100 pages without ever having to unlock your phone, which is a major improvement that would definitely make the feature more useful. The Translate feature that lets you translate words just by hovering your S Pen over them now works for whole sentences and also does real-time currency conversion. But we don't see a reason for those features to not be added to the good ole Note 5 via an update.

Water-resistance is something that Galaxy S6 or Note 5 owners will be new to. It's a pretty awesome feature, which pretty much every modern flagship has (with small exceptions). While it's still not recommended to go ahead and test its underwater lifespan, you can rest assured that your phone will last accidental splashes and not get any dust stuck under its camera glass through mysterious means.

We've also got support for Samsung DeX here — the dock that allows you to get a desktop PC experience from your phone. Just find a keyboard, mouse, and monitor and hook up the Note 8. Of course, it's a bit limited, but works fine for basic tasks like text files, spreadsheets, some photo editing, video conversations, et cetera. It is for sure something that digital nomads should appreciate.

And, of course, we've got Bixby with its dedicated hardware button. Now, that's a controversial “upgrade” as many will argue Bixby still doesn't feel especially superior to the Google Assistant, which is baked into the Android 7.1.1 OS that the phone comes with (and available on the Note 8), but hey — it's there.

Final judgment: should you upgrade?


We probably didn't sound extremely enthusiastic throughout this article. But this is not because the Galaxy Note 8 isn't a stellar device. On the contrary — it is powerful, it is beautiful, and it's a fantastic top-tier handset that belongs in 2017. But the thing is, right now, mobile technologies have hit a sort of a plateau and the jump from a Note 5 to a Note 8 is just not that extreme (compare the jump from Note 4 to Note 5). And, when we consider the near-$1,000 price tag, we can't flat out recommend that you go out and buy it without saying this first.

But, if you have the money to spend and you've got your mind set on upgrading, you will definitely enjoy the shiny new design, the huge new Infinity Display, the awesome dual camera, the most powerful hardware you can get on an Android phone right now, and Samsung DeX (if you shell out for the dock), and all the small improvements littered throughout the software.

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