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Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

Verdict

The best compact tablet on the market, but it comes with a rather hefty price tag

Review Date: 23 May 2013

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £283 (£340 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £192
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

We first caught sight of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 earlier in the year, right at the start of Europe’s big mobile technology show. The market for compact tablets was already heating up then, but in the interim it’s become positively red hot, with Amazon launching its Kindle Fire 8.9in, Asus unleashing its 7in Fonepad, HP coming out with the Slate 7, and Acer with its 7.9in Iconia A1.

It’s tough to stand out in such a crowded space, but the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 has no trouble at all, and that’s principally due to its Wacom-based S Pen technology. Its stylus, which stows neatly in a slot in the bottom-right corner of the tablet, is pressure-sensitive and far more accurate than a capacitive stylus, making the Note 8.0 ideal for writing notes, sketching creatively or fine photo-editing tasks.

It’s even possible to enter text via handwriting recognition, using a panel built into the stock Samsung keyboard, something that works surprisingly well. In fact, where the S Pen feels a little gimmicky on the smaller Samsung Galaxy Note II, it’s far more practical here, where the larger screen makes writing on the screen far more comfortable.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

Another unusual feature is the ability to use the 3G model as a giant phone, much like the Asus Fonepad. Alas, we weren’t able to test this as Samsung only sent us the Wi-Fi model to review, although at only £40 or so more, it isn’t that much more than the standard version.

Physically, however, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 treads familiar ground. The rear panel is constructed of glossy plastic – just like on its flagship smartphones for the past couple of years – the trim is silver plastic, and the glass front is smooth under the finger. The whole shebang weighs 340g and, although it flexes a fair bit when twisted, it does feel well put together. In terms of size, it’s taller, wider and thicker than the iPad mini, but we’re not talking huge differences here. In fact, the broader screen surround makes the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 the more comfortable device to hold one-handed.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

As with Samsung’s flagship smartphones there’s plenty of practicality, too: there’s a microSD slot for expanding the device’s 16GB of onboard storage, the micro-USB socket on the bottom edge is used for charging the device as well as data transfer, and the tablet is stuffed with software, covering everything from DLNA music streaming to photo editing. The Note runs Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay on top of Android 4.1, and this is packed with tools and features, too, although at first it does feel a little overwhelming.

As this is a premium product, it’s no surprise also to find it has both front- and rear-facing cameras, although there’s no LED flash to help out in low light. The snapper on the rear is a 5-megapixel unit that shoots 720p video, and the one on the front captures 1.3-megapixel images. Quality from the rear camera is surprisingly good, with crisp, well-balanced images produced in good light. Low light performance is much less impressive, though, with photos becoming soft, blurry and lacking in contrast.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 - camera samples

The screen is a high point, however. Although the resolution is a mere 800 x 1,280, quality is superlative. Measuring the maximum brightness with our X-Rite i1Display 2 colorimeter returned a luminance of 500cd/m2, significantly brighter than the iPad mini, which we measured at 389cd/m2. Side by side, the Note 8.0 looks noticeably more vivid.

Performance is excellent, too, although there’s less difference between it and the iPad mini in this department. The iPad mini produced a better time in SunSpider (1,445ms versus 1,780ms) and a superior frame rate at native resolution in the GFXBench T-Rex test (6.7fps versus 6.4fps); however, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 gains higher scores in the CPU-intensive Geekbench (2,113 vs 764) and the HTML5 Peacekeeper test (736 versus 508).

In real-world use, the Note 8.0’s 1.6GHz quad-core Exynos 4412 CPU and Mali-400MP graphics are clearly up to the job, with smooth frame rates in all the games we threw at it. All this power does take its toll on battery life, though. In our looping video test, it lasted 7hrs 44mins, which is still acceptable, but well short of the mini’s 11hrs 26mins.

In all, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 is a superb compact tablet. Its screen, camera and performance are all superb, and the stylus capability is genuinely useful and usable. However, there is one big problem, and that’s the price. At £340, it’s £71 more than the equivalent iPad mini, and pricier even than the larger Nexus 10. That doesn’t make it particularly good value for money.

Author: Jonathan Bray

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User comments

Almost bought this...

I was seriously considering Note 8, but at the end decided to go for Acer W510 Windows 8 hybrid. Although Windows Store app ecosystem is pretty poor, having power of full x86 desktop + keyboard more than outweighs this.

By aa111 on 24 May 2013

Wot no Dom Jolly reference?

Can I just congratulate you on getting past the 'giant phone' part without the obligatory Dom Jolly reference (or worse photo)?

Following Mr Graham-Smith's column a month ago, maybe journalists are at last beginning to get it: there is no sharp distinction between tablets and smartphones, they are all hand computers now (could we make "HC" stick do you think?). If a device has cellular radio then it costs nothing to include voice call capability even if it rarely gets used. And there are many ways of making voice calls without holding a device to your ear.

By JohnAHind on 24 May 2013

I brought it

My lovely favourite is Galaxy Note 8.0 'coz. I was read the review from http://galaxy-note8.blogspot.com/ and after read them, I brought it.

By ryker on 25 May 2013

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 at Forsmartphone

Very attractive article and analysis.
It's also a nice device worth to possess one at pocket.

By atsad141 on 25 May 2013

Galaxy Note 8

Recently bought an Asus Memopad, which was very good, but my daughter "stole it". Noticed the appearance of Note 8 and got it. Not a lot to say....fab!! Easy to add the Micro card and work superbly as USB host. Connected USB sticks etc and they worked without any problems. The Pen is very good and makes for interesting exploring. Can't find anything wrong with the device, although price is on the high side. Screen is good and I found the speakers very acceptable. All in all, I would buy it again.

By iststen on 6 Jun 2013

Galaxy Note 8

Recently bought an Asus Memopad, which was very good, but my daughter "stole it". Noticed the appearance of Note 8 and got it. Not a lot to say....fab!! Easy to add the Micro card and work superbly as USB host. Connected USB sticks etc and they worked without any problems. The Pen is very good and makes for interesting exploring. Can't find anything wrong with the device, although price is on the high side. Screen is good and I found the speakers very acceptable. All in all, I would buy it again.

By iststen on 6 Jun 2013

Galaxy Note 8

Recently bought an Asus Memopad, which was very good, but my daughter "stole it". Noticed the appearance of Note 8 and got it. Not a lot to say....fab!! Easy to add the Micro card and work superbly as USB host. Connected USB sticks etc and they worked without any problems. The Pen is very good and makes for interesting exploring. Can't find anything wrong with the device, although price is on the high side. Screen is good and I found the speakers very acceptable. All in all, I would buy it again.

By iststen on 6 Jun 2013

Poor QC on Samsung Note 8.0

I live in Thailand and bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 a week ago because for me the stylus is something I will get a lot of use and benefit out of, but:

1. I am now on my 5th Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 in a week with all of them exhibiting a manufacturing QC fault of a portion of the screen being non-reactive to the stylus unless it is pressed quite hard against the glass.

2. The Samsung Thailand website has no English language content at all, not even contact details

3. The packaging and warranty registration cards provided with the product are entirely in Thai language

4. There is a phone number for a call centre on the warranty card but the greeting and instructions are entirely in Thai and selecting numbers at random merely gets you to a Thai speaking agent who promptly returns the call to the queue as soon as they hear English language

On the plus side the hand writing recognition is extremely good, the processor fast, and the tablet a nice size for taking everywhere.

If not for the unresponsive section of screen and soft keys for return and backspace requiring additional screen pressure to activate I would be delighted with the product, but five out of five units all having the same problem and not being able to communicate with the company at all indicates to me that Samsung is being extremely brave pitching the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 at a price point equal to an IPad mini here.

If my money isn't as good as a Thai persons money and Samsung can't provide even English language contact details I'll stay with the Japanese and American manufacturers who don't discriminate and provide dual language warranty details and websites.

My fifth Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 will be returned to the store for refund today and I'll wait for someone to bring out a better stylus-equipped 8-inch tablet.

By photo_journ on 7 Jun 2013

@photo_journ - same problem in the UK

I played around with a Galaxy Note 8 today in John Lewis in London and it exhibited exactly the same behaviour. There was an area in the middle of the screen where the stylus simply wouldn't work. Even the rather embarassed Samsung sales assistant who was there couldn't get it to work.
It looks like there might be a manufacturing problem and it is worth waiting to see how this plays out. Unfortunate for the early adopters, of course, because it is a lovely piece of kit.

By Pedronow on 9 Jun 2013

Re: Poor QC on Samsung Note 8.0

Went to get a refund on the fifth and decided to try a sixth. Everything worked fine in the store and then the dead screen section returned.

Further testing has shown that the unresponsive screen sections are an engineering flaw resulting from insufficient magnetic shielding inside the devices case and caused by the small button magnets used on cases to hold the screen flap in place.

The shielding is so poor that even cases in close proximity - several centimetres away - interfere with the screen and there is a short term memory effect even if the device is removed from the case.

The unanswered question is what the long term effect of this will be, in addition to what effect older airport x-ray machines in use by less developed countries will have on the device, or its contents.

Definitely not up to the engineering standards of an iPad while Samsung as a corporation are the most unresponsive electronics manufacturer I've encountered in the past 25 years.

Emails even as high up the chain as the office of the Samsung president ( officeofpresident@sea.samsung.com.) have gone unanswered.

By photo_journ on 16 Jun 2013

Re: Poor QC on Samsung Note 8.0

UK update: I did in the end decide to risk it and get one. After I had tried another one in a different John Lewis shop (same problem) I purchased it from Currys after realising that the 2-year warranty is given by the manufacturer (so no reason to insist on John Lewis). Took it home, charged it and screen works absolutely fine. I did notice that resting the hand on the screen as your writing can sometimes confuse it and you end up with a mark where your hand was, not the tip of the pen. But other than that the handwriting recognition is great. Another bonus is the 16gb SD card in the box which changes the value for money equation a little.
As a Galaxy S3 user I felt instantly at home, too. Seem to be turning into a Samsung fanboy ... oops ;-)

By Pedronow on 11 Jul 2013

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