Coming after the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 debacle last year, the new Galaxy Note 8 launched today was always going to be under the microscope, if the flagship phablet wasn’t already.
Yet, the closer you look, the more you realise Samsung is sticking to a formula that has brought it success, particularly this year with the smaller Galaxy S8 and S8+.
The difference, as the Korean phone maker will remind you, is that the Note range pushes the envelope when it comes to introducing new ideas to the consumer market.
For starters, you get the latest hardware. This includes an Exynos processor together with 6GB of RAM for the engine.
There’s 64GB of storage, expandable through the microSD card slot to up to 256GB. A 3,300mAh capacity battery will probably let the phone chug along fine for a day of light to moderate usage.
On first glance, the Galaxy Note 8 looks so similar to the Galaxy S8+. Yes the Galaxy Note 8’s 6.3-inch Quad HD screen is bigger than the Galaxy S8+ but the difference is just a hair’s breadth at 0.1 inch.
Except for the slightly thicker build to accommodate the S Pen stylus, the phablet looks almost like the Galaxy S8+ with the curved edges that are a signature of top-end Samsung phones now.
When it comes to the imaging department, the Galaxy Note 8 introduces Samsung’s first dual sensor camera system. Its twin 12-megapixel sensors work the same way as most dual-sensor systems now out in the market. The sensors are paired with a wide f1.7 lens and a tele (zoom) f2.4 lens.
The best piece of news is the inclusion of an optical image stabilisation (OIS) system within the camera, something I have been clamouring for in smartphone cameras when it comes to a telephoto lens.
When shooting from afar, the camera is more susceptible to camera shake and that blurs the images if the shutter speed is not fast enough. The OIS helps to reduce the shake and capture a sharper photo.
From a quick comparison test of the Galaxy Note 8 with the phones I had with me, the image quality is still good although it presents the usual saturated look that Samsung is known for.
The S Pen has always been something that makes the Galaxy Note lineup stand out from the pack and this latest iteration is no exception. It lets you take down notes without having to unlock the phone, a handy feature that Samsung’s own Galaxy Tab S3 tablet previously showed off as well.
The other fun feature is the ability to create a GIF image using the pen. You can write a short note and share it on social media very quickly.
However, for all the usefulness of the S Pen and the beauty of the curved screen, Samsung’s S$1,398 asking price for its latest phone is going to make many potential buyers think twice.
Although it is just S$100 more than the Galaxy S8+ at launch, the two phone are very similar. If you value the dual-lens setup on the new Galaxy Note 8, then that may seem reasonable.
That, of course, assumes that you already agree with Samsung’s pricing for its flagships, which are much higher than the S$1,000 or so that’s asked for by other Android phone makers.
But perhaps Samsung is banking on its status as the top phone maker, one driven by heightened demand rather than comparative pricing. Much like how Apple prices its iPhones more highly than rivals.
If that’s your game, then get ready to pre-order the Galaxy Note 8 from August 25. In Singapore, it comes in three colours – Midnight Black, Orchid Gray and Maple Gold.