Hands on Review: Big, bad Samsung Note 8 | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 16, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:37 AM, November 11, 2017

Hands on Review

Big, bad Samsung Note 8

We test the priciest Note from Samsung. Does it deliver all the goods?

The world isn’t getting any bigger but everything inside is. The Note 8 comes with more of everything so you can do more. That’s the goal.

First impressions:

It’s a joy to hold. Despite featuring a 6.3 inch display with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio, it doesn’t feel that big at all. The screen delivers vibrant colours and dark blacks. 2,960 x 1,440 (3K QHD+) means it simply cannot notice anything more sharp beyond this point.

Smooth glass back and front has less curvature on the corners than before. Despite the glass it doesn’t feel slippery at all. I haven’t dropped it yet and that includes carrying it with me on runs. [Update: It fell face first on pavement but survived].

Power:

Exynos 8895 assisted by 6 GB RAM obviously means nothing fazes it. That’s all you need to get other geeks to say ‘oooh’ and ‘aah’. Bloatware is minimum and so far, I’ve never faced a hiccup. At this price point, I would be thoroughly disappointed if it did. While the Snapdragon 835 chipset is set for USA and CHina markets only, most scores show the Exynos to slightly better the other chipset. Standby times are usually better with the Exynos also as it is known to consume less power. Forums are generally excited about this as it is likely to get more custom roms. So we're getting just the right unit in Bangladesh for those looking to tweak their devices. One thign is for certain, Samsung as usual will be late in getting Android updates.

The magic trick:

The best feature I found was the S Pen. It is the same hardware as the previous model, has a clickable top and a 0.7 mm ballpoint-sized tip. This is what makes the Note8 a special tool for artists. It has more than 4,000 levels of pressure sensitivity. That means you can accurately draw just about anything in any style you wish. Download the right app and off you go. This is the reason why I would own a Note. It allows me to draw just like I do on pen and paper. The only thing to beat its fluidity is Wacom’s range of touchscreen graphic tablets.Flaws show up when you want to make finer adjustments. Very intricate curves amidst details often feel frustrating to draw although keep in mind this is not menat for pro artwork. Despite that, you can still chalk up stunning pieces quickly.

Another neat feature is how you can draw or write without even unlocking the device. Pull out the pen and start sketching white line son the black screen surface. Brilliant.

Push out the pen and start taking notes without even turning the phone on. Saves as a black on white background image.

Camera:

The other reason you really want this. They finally do the dual camera thing everyone else is doing. One camera is a wide angle, telephoto lens while the other is another telephoto lens offering 2X optical zoom. Nope, not your software BS here. Both units feature optical image stabilization and are 12 MP with f/1.7 aperture on the main sensor and f/2.4 on the secondary. All your photos should come out well if you don’t jump around too much. Daylight shots are the best. They come out with very well preserved detail and subtle but well executed noise suppression. Colours are vivid wihtout being overdone. Autofocus is fast and in the day time it locks on instantly as is the auto exposure control.

Samsung is offering a feature called Live Focus that allows you to take multiple shots to be edited later. This includes taking shots with both the wide angle and telephoto lens simultaneously so you don’t lose a moment trying to capture an image flipping between lenses. Cool.

Photos are fantastic and selfies will automatically make you look a little better, realistically. Yes, there is some inherent smoothing going on but it will not intrude like an over zealous plastic surgeon. DXOmark currently rates it at 94 points for a mobile device which makes it one of the top two current devices on the market. THe other being the new Pixel 2 by Google.

Photos in very low light with S-Pen drawing inputs. Damn cat won't get out though.

What else?

Standard fare throughput with a bit of an upgrade here and there. Fast wireless charging, Bluetooth 5 and IP68 certification allows you to connect while underwater. Not sure why or when you would want to do that though. Considering the amount of flooding in Bangladesh’s cities this year, perhaps that set of features will be coming in handy sooner than you think. “Aye Boss, I’m currently under drain water in Dhanmondi, but here’s the correction to the layout you requested. I shall try to be in office soon as the rain ends and I have taken enough antibiotics to fight the bacteria I swallowed. BTW S-Health suggests I swim.”  And while we’re at it, it also has a headphone jack. For now.

What you won’t like:

It’s a tall phone. When you fish it out of your pocket you want to unlock with a touch. Good luck finding the fingerprint scanner at first go. It is placed near the top, off to the right. Most people grab a phone by the bottom and their index finger simply won’t reach the scanner. You will need to caress the back of the phone rather intimately to get to the scanner. It has a slight recess to make it easier to find but a couple of tries will be required. 

You can opt for face detection but it will not work if your face is in the dark. I tried unlocking it that way while out on a run. Our dark streets are not very helpful. There is also a quick iris scanner which works but each time left me feeling a little jab in the eye. Many people have reported that the iris scanner causes discomfort. I would rather stick to the finger print scanner which is also placed next to a heart rate monitor.

Battery:

It has a 3,300 mAh battery, not quite what I expected from a phone sporting such impressive power and a QHD display. Average screen-on time is just barely over 5 hours. I move around a lot either using Uber, Pathao or when I go on my own runs. Having GPS and bluetooth along with data during that time quickly eats up a good chunk of power. I'm a little stumped as I was expecting better. On an average usage of calls, a lot of texting and some browsing will manage to see you through a day. Any readers have other experiecnces to share, feel free to mail me at the address below.

What about Bixby?

Samsung’s assistant Bixby is still developing and has improved over the last time I used it. Does well with phone related tasks but not so much when it comes to online queries.

Verdict

Samsung Note 8 Camera

If the new Note 8 was a superhero, it would be the Hulkbuster upgrade to Ironman. It’s bigger, badder and more powerful. What are you going to do with it though? People claim that now they are more productive using it courtesy of the excellent pen tool. Business will be profitable, charities will be saved and so on. On a more realistic note, this device is a huge leap forward in terms of bragging rights. It has processing power you cannot fully use up right now, a screen that is gloriously sharp and a design that cleverly does away with the bulk. The original Note introduced the world to ‘bigger is better’ mantra for phones. But Samsung seems to have taken a smart step backward. Sleek is better. The phone is large but not unwieldy. It will fit as stylishly into a businessman’s formal tailored pants as it will into a Gucci purse. Coupled with one of the best mobile phone cameras around and that beautiful stylus perfect for artists, this device is unbeatable.

The caveats include an unbeatable price also meaning it will not be beaten down in any way. It’s a lot, more than any other Note before. The fingerprint scanner is annoyingly placed and the battery isn’t as stellar as the price would suggest. But I feel most people will consider these minor issues when they can have one of the fastest, best looking and sleekest phablets in the market. If you’re in the market for the perfect android device, and you won't haveing anything other than Samsung, you ask yourself a question. “Do I want sleek bigness and a fantastic pen tool or the slightly smaller S8 that does everything else just as well?” 

Price: Tk 94,900/-

Sample images and specs below.

Ehsanur Raza Ronny is a confused dad, all-round car guy, and cartoonist. He is also Editor of Shift (automobiles), Bytes (technology), and Next Step (career) of The Daily Star. Mail him at ronnyraza@gmail.com

Samsung Note 8 SPECS

Body Dimensions 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm (6.40 x 2.94 x 0.34 in)
Weight 195 g (6.88 oz)
Build Front/back glass (Gorilla Glass 5) & aluminum frame
SIM Single SIM (Nano-SIM) or Hybrid Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)

 

- IP68 certified - dust/water proof over 1.5 meter and 30 minutes

- Stylus
Display Type Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 6.3 inches, 101.1 cm2 (~83.2% screen-to-body ratio)
Resolution 1440 x 2960 pixels, 18.5:9 ratio (~521 ppi density)
Multitouch Yes
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  - HDR10 compliant

- 3D Touch (home button only)

- Always-on display
Memory Card slot microSD, up to 256 GB (uses SIM 2 slot) - dual SIM model only
Internal 64 GB storage, 6 GB RAM
Platform OS Android 7.1.1 (Nougat)
Chipset Exynos 8895 Octa - EMEA

 
CPU Octa-core (4x2.3 GHz & 4x1.7 GHz) - EMEA

 
GPU Mali-G71 MP20 - EMEA

 
Camera

Primary

Dual 12 MP (26mm, f/1.7, PDAF & 52mm, f/2.4, AF), OIS, autofocus, 2x optical zoom, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, check quality
Features 1/2.55" sensor size, 1.4 µm pixel size @ 26 mm

1/3.6" sensor size, 1.0 µm pixel size @ 52 mm

Geo-tagging, simultaneous 4K video and 9MP image recording, touch focus, face/smile detection, Auto HDR, panorama
Video 2160p@30fps, 1080p@60fps, 720p@240fps, HDR, dual-video rec., check quality
Secondary

8 MP, f/1.7, autofocus, 1/3.6" sensor size, 1.22 µm pixel size, 1440p@30fps, dual video call, Auto HDR

Comms

WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, EDR, LE
GPS Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO
NFC Yes
Radio No
USB 3.1, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector
Features Sensors Iris scanner, fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, heart rate, SpO2
Messaging SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM
Browser HTML5
Java No
  - Samsung Desktop Experience support

- Fast battery charging (Quick Charge 2.0)

- Qi/PMA wireless charging (market dependent)

- ANT+ support

- Bixby natural language commands and dictation

- MP4/DivX/XviD/WMV/H.265 player

- MP3/WAV/WMA/eAAC+/FLAC player

- Photo/video editor

- Document editor
Battery   Non-removable Li-Ion 3300 mAh battery
Talk time Up to 22 h (3G)

 

 

 

 

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