Samsung’s Galaxy Note8 is a return to form after the unfortunate events around the Note7 last year as their latest phablet offers a raft of improvements all around including a significantly enhanced dual rear camera array, with both cameras packing optical image stabilisation.
Out of the box, the Galaxy Note8 comes with a comprehensive array of accessories which goes quite aways to salve its impressive asking price of RM3,999 in Malaysia when it hits local stores on 21 September 2017. On top of the phone, you get a top-shelf pair of AKG series headphones, a USB Type C cable and charger, a SIM card pin, a pair of tweezers and extra nibs for the S Pen Stylus, a set of extra optional earbuds for the AKG headphones, a free rigid translucent plastic casing (not pictured but it does come with the Galaxy Note8 for free), a micro USB adaptor and a USB adaptor too which covers most of the bases of needed to get the most out of the Note8. The adaptors come in particularly handy with legacy microUSB chargers or reading data off USB flash drives on the phone. The addition of the free casing and the headphones means you can immediately deploy it straight out of the box.
Externally, the Note8 looks bears somewhat of an aesthetic resemblance to the Galaxy S8+ with its svelte and elongated rectangular design. The Note8’s humongous Infinity display takes up the entirety of the front bar a tiny smidgen on the top and bottom. Like the S8 and S8+, the Note8 lacks a physical home button and instead has it under the glass of the touchscreen at the base of the phone. While it looks similarly sized as the S8+, the Note8’s display manages to be slightly bigger than the S8+ with a 6.3-inch Super AMOLED display with a 1,440 x 2,960 pixel resolution, a blisteringly sharp 521ppi and an impressive 83% screen-to-body ratio. Also located on the front is an iris sensor akin to that first seen on the Note7 for unlocking the phone and an 8-MP selfie camera with an F/1.7 aperture.
The right side of the Note8 is unadorned save for a power button inset just slightly north of where the middle of the phone is while the left comes with a Bixby shortcut button and a volume rocker. The base of the phone has a 3.5mm audio jack, a USB Type-C charging port, a speaker grille and a stylus well for the phone’s signature S Pen stylus that pops out on demand with the press of a button. The top sports a hybrid SIM card for Malaysia-issued variants.
The rear is an otherwise smooth expanse of mirrored glass with Samsung’s logo and the rear dual camera array which pairs of two 12-MP cameras both packing optical image stabilisation. One is optimised as a telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom while the other has an F/1.7 aperture with both working together for their ‘Live Focus’ mode that lets you dial in background blur on demand when taking shots via a handy slider. To Samsung’s credit, they have managed to make the camera housing flush with the casing, reducing chances of it getting scratched or damaged when placed flat on a table. Placed next to the camera array is the phone’s fingerprint reader that is slightly recessed into the casing; new users will likely inadvertently touch the camera instead until muscle memory kicks in.
The S Pen stylus stays securely in its stylus well at the base of the phone and pops up with a click when needed. Like prior examples on earlier versions of the Note series, the S Pen is angular in nature with replaceable nibs when they wear out with a side-mounted button. One pleasant new feature on the Note8 is its Screen Memo mode that lets you jot down notes immediately when they come to mind the moment you pull the pen out.
In terms of specifications, the Galaxy Note8 has hardware somewhat akin to the Galaxy S8 in the form of an Exynos 8895 octacore processor though it has quite a bit more RAM with a hefty 6GB RAM available to move things along and a decent 64GB of storage expandable via the aforementioned hybrid SIM card. Minus the OS, you have about 51GB of effective space to run things which is plenty.
When held, the Note8 is a beautiful affair that is very grippable while packing one of the largest screens integrated into a smartphone. The phone has an even heft and the build quality is, as expected, excellent with the rounded edges offering excellent tactility though the mirrored rear finish is a fingerprint magnet that requires frequent wipedowns.
What makes it appealing is the fact that the Note8 is rated IP68 for water resistance so you’re able to, should you deign to do so, snap pics in the pool in up to 1.5 meters for up to half an hour tops. The fact that it is able to do so without requiring clunky rubber ports and whatnot while having an open 3.5mm jack and Type C port is quite an achievement. This makes using the Note8 a more practical affair versus having to coddle it like an egg. It’s pricey, certainly but compared to the likes of what Cupertino just announced, it actually sounds downright reasonable seeing what the Note8 has to offer. Stay tuned when we put it through its paces in a thorough field test and review!