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Posted on February 26th, 2013 by Jonathan Bray

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review: first look

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

We were as surprised as everyone else at MWC when Samsung quietly announced the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 a day before the show began. So, as soon as we had the opportunity, we scuttled down to the Samsung stand to get hands-on.

If you don’t know already, the Note 8 is the Samsung’s big play in the “phablet” market. It’s an 8in tablet that can also make phone calls. It has a 1,280 x 800 resolution PLS (Plane-to-Line Switching) display, a 1.6GHz Exynos Quad 4412 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 5-megapixel rear camera and 1.3-megapixel snapper at the front, plus an absolutely enormous 4,600mAh battery. Wireless connectivity comprises 3G (not 4G), dual-band Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.

So much for the specs. The burning question is, does it make sense? As a phone, our first impressions were that it definitely doesn’t. It’s absolutely huge to be used as a phone; we doubt you’ll be holding it up to your ear on the train unless you’re keen on being laughed at in public.

We found we were just about able to hold it in one hand, but it was uncomfortable, making it tricky to film our overview video (embedded below). The Note 8 may have an earpiece speaker and integrated mic, so you can do your Dom Joly act on the bus, but using this device as a phone in the normal sense is silly. Very, very silly. We recommend a Bluetooth headset.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

Perhaps if Samsung had marketed it purely as a tablet – with the ability to connect a headset via Bluetooth to make calls – we wouldn’t be scoffing quite so much, because in the flesh it’s rather fetching, looking very much like a massive Samsung Galaxy S III. As a tablet,  it makes far more sense.

In that space it’s going head-to-head with the iPad mini, and it outdoes Apple’s baby in a number of  ways. It has a higher-resolution display, and its PLS technology (a variant of IPS) is bright and clear. Even viewing the display under the bright spotlights at the Samsung stand was comfortable.

Although it feels big for a smartphone, the 8in diagonal is the perfect size for a compact tablet. The build quality is typical Samsung, with an all-plastic frame and glossy white plastic rear panel – but for all that plastic, it doesn’t feel cheap. Twist it this way and that, and there’s barely a creak.

As the name suggests, the Note 8 also comes equipped with Samsung’s active stylus technology and accompanying apps – a technology Apple has so far abstained from introducing on its tablets. The S Pen itself is stowed in the bottom right-hand corner of the device, and after a short play with the onboard note-taking app, we found ourselves pleasantly surprised with how well it worked.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

The palm rejection seems to operate flawlessly: not once did resting a hand on the screen while doodling or scribbling activate a button or other onscreen control, allowing us to concentrate entirely on scribbling the simple message you see in the photo above. It’s also highly sensitive. Aside from the slightly weird feeling of writing on a slippery glass surface, the size of the display makes taking notes much more practical than on the smaller Samsung Galaxy Note II.

In other respects, it’s a similar experience to using any of the other handsets in the Galaxy range. It runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, with Samsung’s TouchWiz UX customisations, and it’s slick and responsive, with no discernible hesitation or slowdown. We were able to run the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark while we were giving it the once over and it returned a breakneck score of 1,025ms.

So, it’s a hit-and-miss affair for the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. As a phone, it’s unwieldy and we don’t think it’s a practical replacement for both smartphone and tablet. As a tablet, with the occasional ability to make phone calls in emergencies, however, it’s a far more sensible proposition. The key will be the price, although with these specifications we don’t expect it to compete at the same level as the similar Asus Fonepad.

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25 Responses to “ Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review: first look ”

  1. JohnAHind Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Argh! You just couldn’t resist that picture of some idiot trying to use it as a hold-up-to-the-ear phone could you! It has often baffled me why tablet manufacturers do not allow tablets with 3-G chipsets to work as emergency voice phones as it would cost virtually nothing. Now I see it – they do not want journalists reviewing them as impractical phones rather than as great tablets and comparing the size with smartphones!

    This baleful influence journalists have on product design really irritates me. There is another on-line tech site that never fails to mark a gadget down if it ships without a USB charger, so just to avoid that, manufacturers throw in a cheep, inefficient wallwart which most users throw straight in a drawer and never use!

  2. aa111 Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Is the charger connector standard micro-usb?

  3. David Wright Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    I agree with John. I’ve always wanted a 7 – 8″ tablet that could double as a phone.

    Why? Because I spend 99.9% of my time using the smart capability, with 0.1% of my time using it to make or receive calls.

    For that either Bluetooth or using it as a speakerphone would be fine.

  4. John Smith Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    “As a phone, it’s unwieldy and we don’t think it’s a practical replacement for both smartphone and tablet”
    An 8″ 3g tablet tablet with an option to work as emergency voice phone IS NOT a phone.
    It’s nice to see Samsung adding this feature though but it’s sad to see journalists like you Jonathan making fun of it and reviewing it as an oversized phone.

  5. Mike Baldwin Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Ha.ha.ha..Welcome back to the 80’s Yuppie Phone bricks ! :-)

  6. russell g Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Who is this designed for? Dom Joly?

  7. darrenj Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    I cannot seriously believe people are complaining that pcpro are pointing out that it’s an oversized phone… well guess what it is.

    JohnAHind – I don’t think the ‘influence journalists have on product design’ is the reason for it, I think it’s more common sense;
    most people realise they would look pretty silly trying to use this sort of device as their primary phone, infact looking at the picture I don’t think it would last very long before being dropped.

  8. Kevin Phillips Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Looks good to me… I have been waiting for an update of my Samsung Tab 7.7 and the Note 8 just went on my shopping list. I had the original 7″ Tab and that could be used as a phone but of course the intention was that it was a back up rather than a main phone. How many of you gadget addicts only have ONE phone? Really?

    Personally I Skype on my Tab 7.7 all the time and have no problem with the idea of being able to call from a tablet using a handsfree bluetooth or even a wired headset. Does make me laugh to see a “journalist” trying so hard to look amusing.

  9. Martin Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    My Galaxy Tab 7.7 also has the ability to be used as a phone, and sounds like roughly the same size as this Note 8 (fits in my jacket pocket quite nicely). It’s actually a genuinely useful solution as it allows me to use a local sim for data and voice calls, whilst keeping my “primary” mobile on roaming so I’m always contactable on my normal number.

    Do I feel silly with my face pressed to a tablet? Not really, although perhaps a bit conspicuous. Oh, and I’ve never dropped it.

  10. iCrappled Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Lately too many of these so called “tech-journalists” are on some fruity sack.
    This is a TABLET, NOT a PHONE. It has the ability to make and receive calls (just like the Tab2 7.0). It’s a great feature to have on any tablet/pad — with added bonus of being able to use internet wherever (3G+).

  11. toyzoo Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    How old is this journo? of course no-one is going to use it mainly as a phone. If you need to, then an earpiece will suffice. some objectivity please.

  12. jeff ankin Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Crazy guy, all you journalists ever do is slate the Galaxy note series & theyve sold millions. There fantastic, look at the note 2 Appple have no hope of keeping up, they cant even find there way to the high street shop. loving this Galaxy Note 8

  13. mark Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Of course knowing PC Pro recently if Apple had introduced it they would have been all over it saying what a fantastic device/idea (or have they now copyrighted iDea?).

  14. Andrew Farmer Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Like some of the other posters I can really see a use for this.
    I rarely use a phone for calls nut have to carry it and a tablet anyway.
    This should be a great compromise and also with a nice mount a good touch screen satnav in a car!
    I was surprised to hear the Tab2 is call vapable thought. Might check it out instead.

  15. Andy Read Says:
    February 27th, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I have been looking for the most suitable Tablet for my requirements for some time. Now I’ve found it !!!!
    I can’t wait for it to become available.
    This might just kick the S**t out of Nexus 7 and iPad Mini sales as it has included what they so far refuse to, expandability and mobile communication.

  16. jemma gledhill Says:
    February 28th, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    I agree with the above posters about calls, and will def be upgrading my 8.9″ tab to this. I hardly ever make/receive calls and will love the convenience of texting from a big enough screen (I know I could do that now but only want to run one number). It will also be great to be able to ditch the seperate paper notepad for taking notes at seminars. I do find this the perfect size, my current 8.9 tab is rarely out of my hands. Being so much lighter than the iPad(s) means that it’s also perfect as an eBook as well – portable but still big enough for proper work too.

  17. meow Says:
    March 2nd, 2013 at 12:41 am

    just use flexible oled or 2 screens like 3ds so when it’s fold it is 4 inch like a phone and when you open it, you have got a 8 inch tablet. This way you truly have a 2 in 1 device

  18. Ken Says:
    March 14th, 2013 at 10:21 am

    What a gr8 tab.the best so far. Truely better than any of the ipads. I think Jonathan is working for Apple, it is intensional wickedness and an OVERSIZED effort to discredit samsung by calling it an oversized phone.The 3G is basically for internet related activities. The call function is a plus. Always give a unbias review.

  19. Mahendra Shah Says:
    March 16th, 2013 at 3:40 am

    if Samsung bring this out witha user remvable battery then I will buy it…otherwise tough luck. ….I hope samsung consider this above FACTOR. Ijust cannot understand why a tablet has to have a sealed battery which can only be removed by the manufacturer or their repair/maintenance agent. In all other respects well done to Samsung.I must also add that if Note 3 has a sealed back with a non removable battery. ..then NO MORE SAMSUNG FOR ME….!!!!.

  20. amen Says:
    April 9th, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    i don’t think there is anything wrong with Galaxy note 8 also being a phone it is a smart and welcome addition to the tablet

  21. Mizan Says:
    April 20th, 2013 at 7:11 am

    This is which I am waiting for…. I can’t but wait. To make a phone call with this a bit weirded. But it’s ok. Totally it will be a fantastic choice.

  22. opy Says:
    May 27th, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    I am so in luv with d S note 8.0 and I’m so getting it. I don’t have a problem with it being used as a phone, since we can use a bluetooth or ear piece with it. Though I totally agree with the guy that spoke about the removable battery. It would be a plus.

  23. zino Says:
    July 26th, 2013 at 8:55 am

    I think this GNote 8 is great. Let’s just see the ability to make calls with it as an added advantage. You could use an earpice for it when it comes to that and still have your other tab functions going on. As journalists, I guess we are taught not to be biased which this journalist is, that’s bad. Now, I agree with d guy on the battery. It should be removable. Samsung, pls note this. I am totally loving this note 8. Xxxx

  24. Ayce Says:
    January 17th, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    I have this tablet since 5 months, it does worth way more than its price.

    If you r a college student that has lots of Powerpoints, PDFs, taking notes instead of your copybooks, putting all the books your have in it, then I highly recommend it for u..the tablet is very easy to carry with one hand, very easy for note taking and etc..
    from the time I bought it until now,I use it as my primary mobile phone as well, I have no problem with making or receiving my phone calls or texting via SMS.. what is wrong with that guys??
    it is more than what I expected. the battery life is amazing.. my friend bought the same after she saw how useful is this tablet.

    If i could give it stars as a user, I would give it 7 stars… seriously.

  25. Marius Says:
    August 27th, 2014 at 10:03 am

    lol, great tablet, only your brain is in the shape of a phone


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