Last year, when the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was launched, it won over the hearts of reviewers and consumers alike. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after the launch before Samsung was forced to recall every single unit in circulation due to a faulty design that cost more than a handful of units to explode and/or burst into flames. Naturally, this has left a bit of a sour note in the mouth of consumers that Samsung is still trying to wash down. I thought Samsung would possibly abandon the Note branding, but here they are launching the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8; arguably the most specked out, feature-packed device on the market today.
If we slide off the outer shell of the box and fold open the main compartment’s flap, we’ll find the Galaxy Note 8 sitting right on top in all of its 18:9 aspect ratio glory. It does rest on top of some Samsung and T-Mobile paperwork and a SIM card ejector tool is kind of bundled with this paperwork. Since this phone starts at $930 off-contract, I was really glad to see that they did not skimp out on the accessories. We’ll find some AKG branded earphones, which feature a braided cable that should help keep the tangling down and durability up. There are some different sized ear tips for these earphones, there’s a USB-C to USB-A charging cable and a fast-charging US wall wart. Since the Note 8 does come with a Stylus, Samsung has included replaceable Stylus tips here as well with a tool to help the replacement process. Last but not least, there are some USB-C adapters included in the box, which is really nice to see.
If we take a closer look at the build of the Note 8 and peel off that protective plastic, we’ll find some similarities to the Galaxy S8 and S8+. It features a tall, slender build thanks to the 18:9 aspect ratio display that features hardly any bezels. There’s a very narrow top and bottom bezel but the sides are pretty much all display. Gorilla Glass 5 is on the front and back and an aluminum frame stretches around to all four sides. The phone feels extremely premium and the separation materials is hardly noticeable. You can hardly differentiate the aluminum frame from the glass, which is a pretty impressive design feat; given all of the curves of this device.
The biggest difference aesthetically from Samsung’s previous phones is the more boxy look. The Note 8 is certainly more boxy than the S8+. The curved 6.3-inch Super AMOLED QHD resolution display is beautiful and is only slightly bigger than the S8+. It is, however, HD-R 10 compliant and it gets 22 percent brighter than the S8. So even though it’s going to look more or less the same as Samsung’s other displays upon first impressions, there are some noteworthy improvements. DisplayMate actually gave the Note 8 its first ever A+ grade. That’s pretty impressive.
The Note 8 is running TouchWiz on top of Android 7.1.1 Nougat. TouchWiz has been improved quite a lot over the years and most of you are familiar with its layout and its features. I do want to talk about the S Pen’s software features because this is a Note device after all. Samsung has made it so that you can add up to 100 pages of notes on your homescreens. There’s also a neat feature where you can animate drawings and send them as GIFs to your friends or family or whomever you want. And in addition to there being a physical button on the left hand side of the phone for Bixby, there’s Bixby Vision built into the S Pen’s toolbar so you can hover over items and Bixby will try and figure out what they are and cater info to you based on that item so it’s kind of neat, kind of gimmicky. There’s also a host of other features we’ve seen in previous Notes that we’ll dive into more in a separate video, some of which include Smart Select, Screen Write, and Translate.
The Note 8 is being powered by a Snapdragon 835 chipset with 6GB of RAM that is 2 more GB of RAM than the S8+, which should help it better manage running two applications at the same time. But it’s hard to say how much RAM TouchWiz uses up. It’s a pretty demanding skin.
The Note 8 is also the first Samsung phone to feature dual-camera sensors. There’s a 12-megapixel main shooter and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens and both of which do feature Optical Image Stabilization, which is a first for any smartphone and it greatly improves the clarity of images. Usually the second camera sensor does not feature OIS. But this is a huge feature because it improves the quality of images to create more steady shots.
Under the hood, we have a non-removable 3300mAh battery. I wish it were a 3500mAh battery similar to the S8+ but given how the Note 8 has battery issues and there needs to be room for the S Pen, of course, Samsung has decided to be conservative it packed inside this phone. Only time will tell how it holds up. Wireless charging and fast-charging are supported though, which is super neat.
One of the biggest complaints I have with the Note 8 and various other smartphones is the speakers. There’s only a bottom-facing speaker. I would have liked to have seen dual front-facing speakers or just some sort of front-facing speaker combo.
Samsung’s latest smartphone does cost a pretty penny. It starts at $930 off-contract for the 64GB model, which makes it one of the most expensive smartphones on the market. It’s beautiful, powerful, capable, but it’s also nearly $1,000. In our full review, we will determine whether or not it is worth its price.