Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Note 8

August 24th, 2017 | by Wilson Wong
Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 8. PHOTO: Handout

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.

The Galaxy Note 8 (left) and Galaxy S8+ next to each other. Except for the rounded edges and the slightly thicker Galaxy Note 8, the screen size is almost identical. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

The presence of a headphone jack is very welcome. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

The first dual-sensor camera from Samsung features two 12-megapixels sensors. The wide angle lens has a f1.7 maximum aperture to go with the f2.4 telephoto (zoom) lens. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

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.

Shot with the Samsung Galaxy S8+ PHOTO: Wilson Wong

Shot with the Galaxy Note 8. Very identical when it comes to how the phones process the images. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

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 stylus that has been a feature of Galaxy Note phones of the past is souped up on the new phone. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

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.

Shot with the Galaxy S8+. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

Shot with the Galaxy Note 8. The skin tone exhibits the saturated colours that Samsung fans welcome. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

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.

Maple Gold, Orchid Gray, Midnight Black are the three colours available in Singapore for the Galaxy Note 8. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

Would the latest Samsung be worth its price? There are other options such as LG’s G6 and Huawei P10 Plus that promise similar features such as a dual-lens camera.

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.


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