Samsung’s Galaxy Note series phones have set benchmarks for the company, featuring the absolute best it has to offer in terms of mobile technology. The big differentiating factor from the S series has been bigger screens and the S-Pen stylus, and this formula has worked well for Samsung for years now. However, ever since the Galaxy S6 Edge+, the company has been fragmenting its S series too, offering multiple sizes, thereby slowly bridging the gap between the S and the Note series.
The Note brand took a hit because of the fiasco that was the Galaxy Note 7, but clearly, Samsung loyalists weren’t going to let it fade into the history books. According to the company, The Note 8 has seen a record number of preorders and that demand has been equally strong in India too. Samsung has launched the Galaxy Note 8 in India at Rs. 67,900, which is merely Rs. 2,000 more than the price of the 6GB version of the Galaxy S8+ (Review). With barely any price difference between the two – though the S8+ is presently available at a discount – common sense would suggest grabbing the Note 8 over the S8+, but is that all there is to it? Are the dual cameras and S-Pen worth the weight and potential ergonomics trade-off? We find out.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 design and build
The Galaxy Note 8 is more than just a slightly stretched Galaxy S8+. Its body is more rectangular and the curves at the corners are less pronounced. The metal frame on the sides is also thicker, with overall width rising to 8.6mm. This phone is also heavier at around 195 grams. However, the weight aside, we found it to be surprisingly easier to manage than the S8+. We’ve been using the latter for a long time now, and even with a silicone case, it’s still easy to handle. The Note 8’s dimensions make it feel better to hold, and even without a case, we’ve yet to accidentally drop it.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 feels robust and solid, but be prepared to the wipe the back every few minutes as the glass doesn’t seem to have the same level of smudge resistance as the front. Dominating the front is a 6.3-inch QHD+ Super AMOLED display, with narrow bezels on the top and bottom and nothing on the sides, so the glass is free to blend in with the metal frame. Button placement is good if you’re right-handed, as the power and volume buttons line up nicely. There’s also the dedicated Bixby button on the left, which should prove more useful now that Bixby Voice is also coming to India.
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ (left) and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (right) side by side
The hybrid dual-SIM tray is placed on the top, which can accommodate either two Nano-SIMs or a single SIM and a microSD card (up to 256GB). At the bottom, we have the 3.5-mm headphone socket, USB Type-C connector, speaker grille, and a slot for the S-Pen. The Super AMOLED display is gorgeous and looks its best when you use it at its native resolution of 1440×2960. You’ll have to manually bump up the resolution as the default setting is Full-HD+. However, keep in mind that running games at the native resolution will cause a slight dip in performance, and the battery tends to drain a bit quicker as well. You can decide whether you want to pay this price.
One thing we wish the phone did was automatically switch to ‘Game Mode’ when you launch a game from the Game Launcher app. That way, you could have everything else running at the highest resolution and have the phone automatically drop to Full-HD+ when you run a game. Currently, Game Mode needs to be triggered manually, which isn’t very ideal.
The S-Pen that comes with the Galaxy Note 8 looks and feels a lot more premium than before. It weighs a mere 2.8 grams and features a finer tip. It’s also IP68 certified, just like the Note 8, and supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. The S-Pen clicks in and out of its silo, and unlike the Note 5, it only goes in the right way so there’s no chance of it getting stuck or breaking the mechanism inside. We’ll cover all the functions of the S-Pen in just a bit.
Around the back, we have the dual 12-megapixel cameras, which is a big deal because it’s Samsung’s first-ever phone with this feature. Both cameras have optical stabilisation, which again, is quite rare. The heart-rate sensor and fingerprint sensor are placed beside the lenses.
The Galaxy Note 8 ships with a Type-C cable, power adapter, AKG earphones, SIM ejector tool, extra pen nibs and a tweezer to insert them, a clear plastic case, a Micro-USB to Type-C adapter, and a USB Type-C to Type-A adapter. The bundled accessories are of very good quality, especially the headset. We didn’t find the case to be very useful as it diminishes the look of the phone, but your mileage may vary.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 specifications and software
The main specifications are similar to those of the Galaxy S8 and S8+. In India, we get the 10nm Exynos 9 Octa (8895) SoC along with 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64GB of storage. UI and app performance is blazing fast and we didn’t experience any slow-downs during the review period. However, a week’s worth of usage isn’t enough to judge that long-term, so we’ll have to see how it holds up over time. Benchmark numbers are similar to those of the S8+ (4GB). In AnTuTu, we got 173,680 points and 30,253 points in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited.
The phone is also loaded with an iris sensor in addition to the barometer and RGB light sensor. You also get dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, IP68 dust and water resistance, Cat 16 LTE, NFC, and GPS, though FM radio is missing. Just like the S8 series, the Note 8 also supports Samsung Pay for both, NFC and MST terminals. We’ve been using this feature for a while now and it works well pretty much everywhere.