The Big Comeback
With Samsung's Note 8, the Korean giant's phablet series are back on track
Samsung's Note 8 certainly had its task cut out for it after the Note 7’s fiery (and very public) demise last year…and Samsung has responded with aplomb with the big comeback story that is the Note 8. And I mean big, quite literally — the Note 8’s screen is massive, one that looms over just about any smartphone out there in terms of sheer screen real estate. Courtesy the Infinity Display design from the S8 series, this screen is packed into a phone body that’s about the same size as the iPhone 8 Plus. The screen curvature is less pronounced than that on the S8+, which give the Note 8 a bit of a boxy and arguably slightly less sexy feel. That said, the flatter sides make the device easier to grip, which is crucial for a device with such a tall 18.5:9 aspect ratio. Like the S8+, the big screen tradeoff is the lack of a physical home button, and while the on-screen button works fine, the fingerprint sensor is still awkwardly located off-center on the rear. The alternative — an iris scanner — works but takes a tad longer than a fingerprint unlock.
Now, as I’ve come to expect from recent Samsung flagships, the screen is possibly the best part of the device — big, bright, packing punchy colours and deep blacks, Samsung’s Super AMOLED panel makes content come alive on the Note 8, and there’s the Netflix-supported HDR 10-compliance as well for better colour accuracy and contrast. New to the Note 8 is Samsung’s App Pairing feature that lets you take advantage of the large screen by pairing two apps together — both open in split-screen windows whenever the shortcut is opened, making for a well-thought-through addition to its multitasking capabilities.
Over the years, the Note faithfuls have flocked back to the series for yet another reason — the S Pen stylus — and the Note 8 doesn't break from tradition, adding a thinner tip, water resistance, and a bunch of new software tricks. You can now write longer lists with the screen off, make precise screen selections and send live messages animated in your own handwriting, all of which make pulling out the stylus worth its while.
Samsung’s also used the Note 8 to launch its first dual-rear-camera setup, with two cameras packing 12MP sensors, one of which is a normal field-of-view shooter and the other with a 2x optical zoom. While the standard camera shoots like any other Samsung flagship, which is to say it’s an excellent all-rounder with good low-light performance, the telephoto end is a bit of a mixed bag in less than optimal lighting. Where the second camera really delivers is with excellent portrait shots with deliciously blurred out backgrounds, and the Note 8 even allows you to adjust the level of effect both while shooting and after the fact.
Under the hood, the Note 8 shares the same top-shelf Exynos 8895 chip as the S8, but with 6GB of memory, a nice nod to the Note’s fan base of power users. Performance on Android Nougat (7.1.1) is, as expected, blazing fast and the battery manages a full day of heavy use, but no more. Maybe it was to fit in the S Pen, maybe Samsung was playing safe after last year.
In all, the Korean giant’s phablet series is back on track, and makes a great case for itself for Note fans who know they will use the stylus a lot…else you could snag a good deal on the sexier looking S8+.
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