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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review

Samsung Galaxy Note 8
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Interface and Functionality

S Pen support adds a welcome new chapter to the Samsung Experience

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review

If you've already played around with the Galaxy S8, Samsung's interface on the Note 8 is going to feel very familiar: it's the same Samsung Experience software on top of Android 7.0, and just like it was on the GS8, here it also manages to strike a nice balance between power, flexibility, and ease of use.

That said, there are some real improvements here. Part of that has to do with timing, and the Note 8 lands with fully fleshed-out support for Samsung's Bixby virtual assistant. When the GS8 got off the ground, Bixby wasn't quite ready for prime time, a situation that's slowly been improving over the last few months. Now with the Note 8's debut, Bixby's finally ready to show what it can do right when you take the phone home, making for a much more satisfying user experience. And if you're in the US, that also includes Bixby Voice, giving you some powerful tools to control the Note 8 just by speaking to it.

The syntax that uses can take a little while to learn, as it's just different enough from the Google Assistant that you'll have to think about crafting your requests properly, but Samsung goes to some effort to help train users and get them on the right path.

Multi-window support has been a mainstay of the Note series since even before it was integrated into standard Android, and here with the Note 8 Samsung continues to stay ahead of the curve. With App Pair, you can choose a set of two apps and configure a one-button shortcut that will open them both at once. It's not exactly revolutionary, but it's just so convenient that it has us multi-tasking more than we ever did when we had to jump in and out manually.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review
With its curved-edge screen, the Note 8 also gets access to Samsung's Edge Panels, a deceptively powerful tool for putting app shortcuts, contacts, news, and information all just an easy screen-swipe away. It's deceptively easy to take for granted, and new Note 8 users owe it to themselves to spend a few minutes customizing those panels to their tastes, in order to get the very most out of the phone.

S Pen: What's New

S Pen has a finer tip and new tricks

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 comes with an improved S Pen that has a finer tip, better sensitivity and a few neat new software tricks up its sleeve. And yes, thank God, the S Pen can't go in backwards (this was a real issue on the Galaxy Note 5 back in the day).

The Air Command center is displayed automatically when you pop out the S Pen: it is a dial with all the available functions. This year it is picking up some extra modes like Bixby Vision (just hover over the screen to highlight an image and use Bixby to search for matches), and here is a look at everything that you can do with the S Pen:

  • Translate and Convert: hover over text to translate not just individual words, but whole sentences into 71 languages.
  • Smart Select: use the S Pen to select and share animated GIFs.
  • Live Message: create animated GIF messages with the S Pen. GIF is a nearly universally recognized format, so it's easy to share GIFs with friends on social media.
  • Magnify: hover the S Pen to take a closer look at something.
  • Screen off memo: quickly jot down or edit notes pinned to the Always-On display.
  • Coloring: the Note 8 comes with PENUP, the social network for S Pen-created art, pre-loaded. It features coloring books that are fun for both kids and adults, and are a great time killer.

We also see the return of screen-off menus, tapping into the convenience of the S Pen to transform the Note 8's screen into a there-when-you-need it notepad for quickly jotting down memos. Screen-off memos are actually improved from before. You can now save up to a 100 pages of notes for some truly detailed note-taking, and you have easier access to notes from the lockscreen.

Processor and Memory

Extra RAM may not be a game changer, but still gives the Note 8 a little bonus “oomph”

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review

As a Galaxy-class flagship, the Note 8 is outfitted with some of the most powerful silicon around, and for the Note 8 that means either a Snapdragon 835 chip (like in the US) or an Exynos 8895 (in international markets). While that sounds a lot like what we got on the Galaxy S8, for a big phone like the Note 8 Samsung's also super-sizing system memory, boosting RAM from 4GB up to 6GB.

Subjectively, the Note 8 feels crazy fast – as fast as any other high-end Android device out there. But if we're going to be picky, it's not clear that the extra RAM makes a huge impact on performance – a little extra flexibility, sure, but don't think that this 50-percent increase in system memory is going to make multitasking run 50-percent faster than on a 4GB phone. Think: five-to-ten-percent boost, at best.

Using some benchmarks to back up those impressions, we can confirm that Note 8 performance is very, very good, and up near the top of even other phones running 835 chips. It's not the very fastest we've ever seen, but also knowing how easy it can be for some devices to game benchmark apps, we're not getting too hung up over those numbers.

Just like the Galaxy S8, Samsung gives the Note 8 a 64GB base storage level, which we've got no complaints about whatsoever. Internationally, you can track down options as high as 256GB, and while that does have us feeling all sorts of jealous, there's nothing stopping you from popping a big microSD card in even a regular 64GB Note 8.

Connectivity


Last year, the Galaxy Note 7 stepped up to enter the world of USB Type-C. That was a particularly important milestone, as the Galaxy S7 was still clinging on to its aging micro-USB port. While the Note 7 itself wasn't destined to stick around, Type-C has stood the test of time, and it's back here in top form for the Note 8. Better still, Samsung's family of accessories has also been evolving over the course of the past year, and more and more are similarly getting on board with this now-very-much-standard new way of connecting and powering mobile devices – no need to carry around multiple cable types.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review

Wireless connectivity is nice and well-rounded on the Note 8, and even after last year's upset, all the major US carriers have lined up to welcome this new Note into their lineups, complete with support for their own networks.

Once again, Samsung also makes it easy to connect the Note 8 with their existing phones, and the phablet's Smart Switch feature is ready to start importing files and data. What's really great is how the Note 8 ships with extra adapters to make this process as seamless as possible, and not force users to pick up new hardware for a task they'll probably only need to do once.

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PhoneArena rating:
8.9Excellent
Display6.3 inches, 1440 x 2960 pixels (522 ppi) Super AMOLED
Camera12 megapixels
Hardware
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2350 MHz, Kryo 280 processor
6 GB RAM
Size6.40 x 2.94 x 0.34 inches
(162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm)
6.88 oz  (195 g)
Battery3300 mAh, 22 hours talk time

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