Phablet lovers, rejoice! Your beloved Samsung Galaxy Note series is back and this time around, it looks like the new Galaxy Note 8 is here to stay. For many, the wait has been frustrating. Given the sad fate of the Note 7, you were stuck with the old Samsung Galaxy Note 5 for nearly two years! But that’s no longer the case, as the new Galaxy Note 8 flagship has officially been announced and you can pre-order one as soon as tomorrow.
We already know a lot about the device, thanks to the hundreds of leaks in the past few months. So, let’s directly get on to the important stuff.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ were two beautiful flagships with its infinity displays up front. Things are pretty much the same with the new Galaxy Note 8. The company has used a 6.3-inch screen up front with curved edges. It’s similar to the S8+ in its size, but has sharper corners, making it look taller. I love the infinity display on the S8+, so I’m happy to see the design continue over to its Note series sibling.
While the front looks beautiful, I can’t say the same about the back. The Note 8 comes with a fingerprint sensor at the back and it’s placement is still as bad as the S8. Further, the black bar that houses the dual cameras, flash, and fingerprint sensor is in black, which means, it stands out in colors other than Midnight Black. There are three other colors available, Orchid Gray, Maple Gold, and Deep Sea Blue. To be honest, the Note 8’s design isn’t extraordinary, but that’s fine, because what you get inside is quite impressive.
Some things to note: The phone has a USB Type-C port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, MicroSD card slot, and also a dedicated Bixby button. And yes, the phone is IP68 certified.
If you have seen Galaxy S8’s infinity screen, you’d know what to expect with the Note 8’s Quad HD 6.3-inch Super AMOLED display. It comes with a 18.5:9 aspect ratio as well. Important thing to note here is that the Note 8 continues with the pressure sensitive home button, first seen on the S8. So, you can press the bottom center of the device to get back to home, even when you are watching a video or working on an app.
The Galaxy Note 8 comes in two versions as expected — a Snapdragon 835 powered model for the US market and an Exynos 8895 powered model for the other markets. The RAM is increased to 6GB and you get 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB storage options.
The battery is surprisingly smaller than even the S8+’s 3500mAh — just 3300mAh. Personally, I would have loved to see a larger battery on board, but can’t blame Samsung for playing it safe this year.
While the design and display may not be unique, what’s interesting about the Note 8 are the new rear cameras. Yes, I said cameras, because it comes with two rear camera setup, one wide angle and another telephoto one. This is a familiar setup that we have seen on many phones before. So, there’s a 12MP f/1.7 primary sensor and another 12MP f/2.4 telephoto lens with 2X Optical Zoom. This means Samsung has finally joined the elite dual camera flagship club. But there’s more, the Galaxy Note 8 comes with OIS on each of these lenses, making it the first such smartphone in the market.
There are multiple camera features on board, the most prominent one being Live Focus. This is Samsung’s take on the portrait mode that we have seen on dual camera flagships in the past few months. What’s interesting about Live Focus is that it allows control over the amount of background blur, both while taking the shot as well as after you’ve taken it. Then there’s a special dual capture mode that takes both these shots simultaneously.
Coming to the front, you get an 8MP shooter with autofocus.
S Pen & Software
If you think the above features can be found on practically most flagships, this is where things change. The S Pen has been one loyal partner to the Note series and it makes a comeback in the Note 8 as well. Specs wise, it’s similar to the Note 7 with 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, but software is really where the pen makes all the difference. Things like screen-off memo (take notes on your always on display) and Live messages (send gif like animated replies) make the S Pen unique and interesting. Given that there’s no real competitor to the S Pen in the smartphone market, the Note 8 is your best bet for a stylus equipped smartphone.
As for the software, you are still stuck with Android 7.1.1 with Samsung’s Experience UI on top. There’s a special App Pairs feature which launches two apps in a split screen format using just a tap. It aims to make full use of the phone’s large screen to increase productivity. Finally, there’s Bixby on board and with its dedicated button, the personal assistant is at your service 24 x 7.
Galaxy Note 8 Pricing & Release
The Note 8 goes on sale on September 15 and pre-orders start tomorrow. As expected, the phone isn’t cheap and starts at $930 unlocked in the US. That’s a premium price to pay for the dual cameras and S Pen stylus.
The Galaxy S8+ could be a pretty solid buy (~$200-$250 cheaper) instead of the Note 8 if you can give up on the stylus and dual cameras. What’s your take?