By Santiago J. Arnaiz
The Galaxy Note 8 is Samsung’s latest flagship phablet, featuring an incredibly nifty stylus, a fantastic camera, and its game-changing 6.3-inch Infinity Display.
As a longtime Android user, I was excited to see what the market leader was putting up against the iPhone 8 Plus and rumored Google Pixel XL 2. Under normal circumstances, the bar would’ve been quite high already, but as a direct successor to the now-discontinued Note 7, the pressure was on for Samsung to deliver something remarkable.
The question on the table: Is the Note 8 a strong enough comeback to shake off the ghost of its predecessor?
The Galaxy Note 8 is stunningly designed. Its sharp and clean lines are more rectangular than its cousins on the S-line, making for a very professional looking device. And its sloped edges make it easy to hold despite being so large.
The phone is water and dust-resistant and comes in two variations: Maple Gold and Midnight Black. While I prefer my devices more understated, the gold version manages to hint at luxury without being overly-indulgent.
The first thing you notice about the device is its incredible display. Doing away with a physical home button, the Note 8 offers a completely unobstructed edge-to-edge screen they call the Infinity Display. Images on the screen are razor sharp and colors are wonderfully vivid.
By stretching out the display, however, the Note 8 does away with standard screen ratios. That means videos and images not taken on the device are cropped slightly to make the most of the Infinity Display.
My only real gripe is the odd placement of the fingerprint scanner — right along the rear camera panel, and about a half-inch wide. Given the phone’s size, it’s a bit of a stretch to reach and quite inconvenient for something designed for ease-of-use. Though its lightning quick once you find it, I found myself opting for the pattern lock instead.
As the name suggests, the Galaxy Note series is designed with note-taking in mind. To that end, Samsung’s suite of proprietary software make the S-Pen a delight to use. While nowhere near the sophistication of the Apple Pencil, it’s lightweight and works wonderfully with the Note 8.
By sliding the stylus out of its enclosure, you get a radial menu of tools for you to annotate your screen, share handwritten messages on the fly, and even jot down notes while the phone is locked. It’s an incredibly streamlined process, making it clear that the Note 8 was built around this core function.
The Note 8 packs a powerful mobile processor and 6 gigabytes of RAM, making it lightning quick and capable of running multiple apps simultaneously. This shines especially bright when booting up Bixby, Samsung’s onboard virtual assistant.
There are some overlaps between Bixby and Google’s own offerings on the Note 8, leading to some redundancy. This is largely due to the Note 8 running on the slightly-dated Android Nougat (the latest version being Oreo, still only available on the Pixel and select Nexus models), which has elements of the Google Assistant built into it.
I personally found Google’s eponymous Google Assistant speedier and capable of understanding more conversational commands. But Bixby shines in its own right as well. To illustrate this, I asked both Google Assistant (onboard the Pixel) and Bixby to install Instagram. Whereas Google Assistant brought me to Instagram’s product page on the Google Play Store, I watched Bixby boot up the app store, open Instagram’s page, and install it, punctuated with a friendly voice prompt.
For camera enthusiasts, the Note 8 is a powerful device. The phablet boasts twin 12 MP rear cameras — a wide angle and a telephoto lens — with optical image stabilization on both. I put it up against last year’s picture-taking standout, the Google Pixel, and found the Note 8 took consistently great pictures and even outperformed the Pixel in low-light conditions.
Lastly, the battery. The Note 7 was discontinued for its battery’s penchant for blowing up, so much so that it’s still blacklisted in some airports. In response, the Note 8’s battery is largely average. While a full charge often lasted me a full day of use, power users streaming videos and listening to music all day may be left wanting.
Overall, the Galaxy Note 8 is a fantastic return to form for the Note series, packing a beautiful display, a powerfully flexible stylus, and a superb camera — all with enough processing power to make a laptop insecure.
For the tech-savvy professional looking for a slick device to take notes on, this is a clear winner. The Galaxy Note 8 retails for P49,990.
DISCLOSURE: The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review unit was provided by Samsung.