The race to the top continues, and Samsung has brought up a long awaited improvement regarding premium devices – the Note8. After we’ve seen the S8 and the S8+ in March, which brought InfinityDisplays to the market, we didn’t see anything new for almost half a year. However, the wait was worth it, because the successor to the infamous Note7 really promises a lot. An InfinityDisplay, double camera setup, and the biggest advantage of the Note series – the S Pen – are all here. All this is built into an amazingly designed metal casing with glass on the back. The size of the Note8 is only slightly bigger than the S8+ - around 3mm higher, 1.5mm wider and 0.5mm thicker.
Many users will bring up an argument that the Note8 is just a little bigger S8+, which is somewhat true, but we can’t disregard the S Pen and its advantages, as well as the double camera setup. The battery has slightly lower capacity compared to the S8+’s, and since this is a device with a very big display we should expect a bit weaker battery results. A rich factory box has for a long time been a virtue of Samsung’s premium devices, and the Note8 also comes with an excellent package: Samsung charging adapter, Type-C cable, Type-C to microUSB connector, OTG connector, 3.5mm AKG in-ear headphones with spare earbuds and user manuals. In our test we have the Midnight Black color option with a DualSIM tray. Next to this color, also available are: Maple Gold, Orchid Grey, Deep Sea Blue and Star Pink.
Definitely, the main characteristic of the Note8 is its incredible display. It is still the InfinityDisplay panel we could see in the S8 and the S8+. This time we have a 6.3” WQHD+ resolution panel, which is exactly the same resolution we could see in the S8 and the S8+, but with 0.1” bigger diagonal compared to the S8+. As it was the case with the previous premium devices, we can also change the resolution of the Note8’s panel to: HD+ (1480 x 720), FHD+ (2220 x 1080) and WQHD+ (2960 x 1440). The aspect ratio of the screen is 18.5:9, and the number of PPI is 521. The resolution of the screen is out-of-the-box set on FHD+, so if you want to see the panel in its full glory, you need to manually adjust it to WQHD+ through the settings.
The size of the panel is ideal for web surfing and video viewing, but it is not completely adequate for one handed use. Simply, the device is just too lengthy, and the edges are unreachable. Thankfully, there is the One Handed Mode which mitigates this issue. This time we have HDR10 support which is another advantage is terms of future-proofing, since the HDR content is scarce nowadays. Of course, the panel is SuperAMOLED, it shows up to 16 million colors, and views on the screen are – absolutely fantastic. Sharpness is perfect, colors are amazingly reproduced with excellent blacks, and the visibility on the sunlight is also great, just as expected from one Samsung device. Brightness of the display is great, and if set on AUTO mode, the display can be up to 20% brighter than the S8/S8+ (up to 1200nit). Changing viewing angles doesn’t mean much to this display. Videos reproduced on this device look unbelievably good, and will leave everyone speechless, and we are sure that this is the best display you can find on a mobile device, which is also confirmed by DisplayMate. If, for whatever reason, you’re not satisfied with the views on this display, you can adjust the views through the Screen Mode menu which contains 4 options: Adaptive Display which supports RGB settings and color warmth, AMOLED Cinema, AMOLED Photo and Basic.
Blue Light Filter is here by default, and because of this system, the stress on your eyes during use will be turned down to the minimum. The screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. We must not forget the Edge screen which offers People Edge and Apps Edge. People Edge are basically your favorite contact readily available by the swipe on the Edge screen, and Apps Edge is basically the same, but for applications. We’ll talk a bit more about that later. Always-On display is here, and it is very practical since it shows missed calls, messages and notifications with no need to “wake” the device up.
Hardware and OS
Speaking of the hardware in the Note8, everything is more or less already seen. The device comes in two variants: with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (USA and China) and Exynos 8895 octa (EMEA) – exactly the same as the S8 and S8+. We, of course, have the Exynos 8895 Octa version which consists of 8 physical cores divided into two clusters: 4 x 2.3 GHz and 4 x 1.7 GHz. The GPU is a real treat and combined with the enormous display and crazy resolution it represents a perfect match. It is the 20 core ARM Mali-G71 chip which is more than capable of executing any task put upon it. We had a chance to see this chip in the S8 and the S8+ as well, and even after 6 months, we still have nothing to complain about. A thing that is new for all markets is the implementation of 6GB LPDDR4 RAM memory, while the internal storage options are: 64, 128, and 256GB. Note8 with this hardware provides excellent user experience.
All tasks are executed with no signs of stuttering or lag, the device doesn’t overheat, and it even provides remarkable performance in very demanding applications, as well as during heavy multitasking through the App Pairing. Thanks to amazing hardware, we have no doubts that this will be the case in the years to come, which is another thing that makes the Note8 a “future-proof” device. Multitasking has reached new heights through App Pairing. The App Pairing option can be accessed through the Edge part of the display. App Pairing offers an option to freely choose two application which can, on demand, run simultaneously. This option can be extremely useful if, for example, you’re driving the car and you need some maps while simultaneously your co-driver is watching a music video. We consider this an excellent way to use up the enormous 6.3” display of the Note8. App Pairing works great, also with no lag and perfectly fluidly. The S Pen is a special segment of this device. For example: the phone sits on the desk in front of you, it is locked and you receive an urgent information that needs to be jotted down immediately. If you simply pull out the S Pen, your device instantly turns into note taking device and it enables an option to write directly on the screen. Perfectly practical! If your device is, however, unlocked, pulling out the S Pen will open up a circular menu which offers options to: create new notes, view all notes, Smart Select (taking selective screenshots), Screen Write (writing over screenshots) Live Message (an area you can write on which later can be shared as a GIF file), Translate (translates the text in real time as you write), and Bixby Vision.
Regarding security, the device has both a fingerprint scanner and an iris scanner. Same as in the S8 and the S8+, the fingerprint scanner is located on the back, but this time it is separated from the camera sensor with the LED flash. The device runs on Android v7.1.1. Nougat which has been customized by Samsung. The Note8 has the Samsung User Experience 8.5 and offers basically the same look a functionality as the S8 and the S8+, except the S Pen panel. Security patches are dated for August 2017. The Note8 is waterproof, as it is IP68 certified, meaning that it guarantees safe submerging under 1.5m of water for 30 minutes.
We can definitely see the trend of implementing a dual camera setup into smartphones. Samsung has decided to, for the first time, step into this area with the Note8. The Note8 has two 12MP camera sensors, one of which is wide angle, while the other one is the telephoto sensor. The wide angle sensor is the same one we have had a chance to see in the S7 and the S7 Edge. The aperture of f/1.7, as well as the high speed DualPixel autofocus are both still here. OIS is also here, and it does a perfect job. The second, telephoto lens also has 12MP resolution, but it has smaller aperture, f/2.4.
It also supports optical image stabilization (OIS), and combining these two sensors, the device is capable of zooming the picture up to two times with no loss of quality. Another advantage of the double camera setup is amazing BOKEH effect for portrait photos, which we could see for the first time in the iPhone 7 Plus. For low light shooting conditions Samsung has provided a two tone Dual-LED flash. The quality of photos is excellent. When taking photos in well-lit environments you will get photos with plenty of details, amazing colors and low levels of noise. Thanks to the big aperture (f/1.7), the photos will turn out great in low light conditions as well, even if you’re not using the LED flash. Also, if you’re taking photos with over-exaggerated segments, the HDR is here to fix the things. HDR also has the Auto-mode, which is very practical in case you forget to manually turn on the HDR. Videos are, of course, captured in 4K resolution at 30fps, and they are precisely as you would expect from a device of this level; they are perfectly fluid with plenty of details, low noise and a stable framerate. Next to the default 4K mode, you can also take 1080p FullHD videos at 60fps, as well as Slow Motion videos in HD resolution at 240fps. Video HDR is supported. There is also an option take photos in 9MP resolution during video capturing.
The front facing camera is borrowed from the S8 and it shoots photos in 8MP resolution, and has the aperture of f/1.7, which makes it well-prepared to shoot amazing selfie photos even in low light environments. Auto HDR is supported here as well, and it also has Auto-focus, which guarantees perfectly clear and sharp selfies. Photos made by this camera have great dynamic range, saturated colors and plenty of details. Noise levels are also kept low. Videos are captured in 1440p resolution at 30fps.
This specific device we have here is DUOS, meaning that if supports two SIM cards simultaneously. It is a hybrid slot that uses nanoSIM cards, and microSD card expansions up to 256GB. Samsung stood up to the challenge, and retained the 3.5mm headphone port, and next to it we can also find the Type-C connector which slowly becomes the standard in Samsung’s offer. NFC is also here, as is wireless charging through Qi/PMA Samsung wireless chargers. Wireless connections implemented in the Note8 are:
- WiFi 802.11 (HotSpot)
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Qi/PMA wireless charging
Supported frequencies in SM-N950F/DS version are:
- 2G GSM: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
- 3G WCDMA: 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 MHz
- 4G LTE
The Note8 has a slightly smaller battery compared to the S8+, so it has the capacity of 3300 mAh compared to 3500 mAh in the S8+. However, the results are in line with the S8+ due to slightly better adapted software. It is the Li-Po battery. The device supports fast charging through the adapter which is shipped inside the factory box. Also, wireless charging is supported through wireless chargers. Full charge takes around 1 and a half hours through the cable. Results are:
- around 22 hours of 3G talking time
- around 16 hours of video reproduction
- around 74 hours of music reproduction
In short: the Note8 is the true image of a modern Android device, which will render everybody speechless at first sight. Modern design with an “infinite” display, double main camera and the S Pen all together make up a complete premium device. A thing that could be taken as a disadvantage is the size of the chassis itself, but taking into account that this is a device with 6.3” screen diagonal, it is definitely forgiven. The true downside is the lack of stereo speakers, although it provides really amazing sound. Is there a point in switching from the S8+ to the Note8? Not really, unless you see a huge advantage in the S Pen. But if you are a photography geek, you’re using an older flagship, it is time for an upgrade and you want nothing but the best – the Note8 is the right device for you!
Advantages and disadvantages
Reasons for and against it
no stereo speakers