Friday, March 2, 2018

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review: Champion in his own class

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 enters a heavy legacy and must make forget the disgrace of the Note 7. In the test, we also wanted to know whether the Mega-Phablet can convince even note newcomers.

Actually, my colleague Franzi should test the Galaxy Note 8, as she is the Samsung expert in the editorial department. However, due to their tight schedule, the stylus with the stylus landed on my desk, and for the first time ever, I had the honor of focusing on a device from Samsung's famous range of notes.

Reference class in design

With a screen diagonal of 6.3 inches, the Note 8 is one of the "biggest" smartphones of all time and I was really worried about how well the Phablet would feel in my hand. But even when unpacking the relief came: The Galaxy Note 8 is by no means as monstrous, as the display dimension suggests and it is also very good in the hand thanks to its excellent ergonomic design.

Samsung's design is very much based on the Galaxy S8. So the front of the smartphone is almost completely covered by the huge AMOLED display. The side edges are bent like the Galaxy S8 Plus, creating the illusion of a truly borderless screen. In fact, there is a slim metal frame that wraps around the device. Up and down, the Note 8 has very narrow edges, leaving no room for a Home button or a Samsung logo. Since the display is held in the format 18.5: 9, the smartphone has an almost slim and elongated shape.

The back is also completely covered with rounded glass on the side and is only loosened up by the dual camera and the fingerprint sensor. The latter is as on the Galaxy S8 right next to the camera, but this time much better to feel. However, his position is problematic and uncomfortable for left-handers. Here I would have found a more practical design better. Overall, however, the look and finish of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 are the absolute benchmark and, with the exception of the Galaxy S8, no other smartphone out there.

The most beautiful display of the smartphone world

The title says it all: In the Super AMOLED display of the Note 8, the South Koreans once again outdone themselves. No other screen at the time of the test offers similarly intense and vivid colors and such a good contrast ratio. Thanks to HDR support, owners of the Note 8 can even stream corresponding content from Netflix and YouTube and make the most of every pixel.

Hardware power and software

For the hardware I would like to not at this point lose too many words, because this is almost identical to the Galaxy S8 except for the large memory of 6 GB of RAM. This means in practice a top performance with decent power reserves even for demanding games. You find the exact Specs in the info box under the test.

Samsung has really surprised me in some ways with the software. So I find the revised user interface of the Galaxy Note 8 really chic, clear and very stylish. Gone are the days of colorful and overloaded interfaces at Samsung.

It is a pity, on the other hand, that there is still a lot of bloatware on the Note 8. Sure, there are the usual Google and Samsung apps, with some still doubling. But then there is also Facebook, which I almost never use on my smartphone and a folder with Microsoft apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and LinkedIn. The latter are good in themselves, but certainly not for every user. All the more annoying is that they can not be uninstalled.

The S Pen and its functions

One feature that has always distinguished the Note range from the mass of smartphones is clearly the S pen stylus, based on the technology of graphics specialist Wacom. The pen can be like the predecessors pull out of the bottom right bottom. As soon as this happens, the Note 8 automatically switches to a separate input mode for the S Pen and presents the compatible apps. Personally, I mainly used the notes app to write things down and maybe garnish them with a little graphic. Incidentally, short notes can also be made when the screen lock is activated.

The use of the pen is wonderfully intuitive and with a little practice you can even write and draw really well on the screen. However, I have noticed that the S pen is not a killer feature for me, but I'm not the one who takes many notes in everyday life. For people who often use their smartphone as a digital notepad, there is no device more suitable than grade 8.

Smartphone security: Unlock as desired

As for the biometric unlocking of the Galaxy Note 8, Samsung is launching heavy guns. It does not matter if it's a fingerprint, iris scan or face scan - the Phablet offers its users a wide variety of options for easy unlocking.

The fingerprint is still the fastest and most reliable method because the scanner is not affected by light or brightness. Just stupid that the scanner was placed comparatively unfortunate next to the camera. Why Samsung has not decided similar to Huawei, LG or Google for a placement below the camera, remains a mystery.

The iris scanner is probably the best replacement for the fingerprint and also does a good job. In the test, the technique worked well in almost all cases and only took a little longer to unlock the Note 8 in some very bright environments. However, one disadvantage is that the smartphone always has to be held in front of the face in a certain minimum distance to unlock it.

As a third option, Samsung finally also offers a face recognition. How safe and reliable this method really is, I still can not say after my multi-day test. Feels like it works a bit more inaccurate than the iris scan, but at least I did not manage to trick the scanner with a photo.

Also, you can combine the different biometric unlocking methods and I would use the Galaxy Note 8 longer in everyday life, then I would probably put on a combination of iris scanner and fingerprint sensor: the iris scanner as standard and the fingerprint, if this once failed.

Class dual camera with many features

If in addition to display and design in recent years, there was an area where Samsung was really strong, then the camera. The Galaxy Note 8 is no exception and even offers more features than its predecessors or the current S8 models thanks to the dual camera . All in all, the two 12-megapixel sensors capture a lot of light and create sharp photos with very natural colors. Especially in weaker light conditions, Samsung once again shows the assembled competition where the hammer hangs.

The combination of different focal lengths with wide-angle lens and telephoto lens, the Note 8 offers a double optical zoom, as it has, for example, the iPhone 7 Plus. The game with the depth of field dominated Samsung: Just like the iPhone, the Huawei P10 or the Nokia 8 can take pictures with bokeh effect. The sharpness or blurring level can be fine-adjusted even after the actual photographing via the software. However, I found the use of this feature unusually cumbersome, simply because Samsung had hidden it for my taste a bit too good in the system.

Incidentally, video fans will also get their money's worth. For the first time in a smartphone with dual camera both lenses have an optical image stabilization. What this technique does in practice is more than just a bit impressive and should impress hobbyists. But a real gimbal can not replace image stabilization.

In my personal top list of the best smartphone cameras, the Galaxy Note 8 is still at the top and only has iPhone, Pixel and HTC U11 next to it. Even in the age of dual cameras, Samsung is thus the manufacturer to beat it once.

Some minor weaknesses

After the battery disaster on the Galaxy Note 7, Samung apparently opted for a conservative approach this year, using a slightly smaller battery. With a capacity of 3300 mAh, the battery of the Note 8 is anything but small-sized, but it is also a large device with a giant display and many features. The battery life is therefore only average overall.

Annoying is also that the separate Bixby button can not be freely occupied. I understand that Samsung wants to offer its own language assistant for markets in which Google is not particularly active. Why the company thinks it's a good idea, however, to tie the untranslated software to Note 8 buyers in Germany is a mystery to me. Another negative: stereo speakers, such as the current iPhone, does not have the grade 8. But this is actually only relevant for those users who like to use their smartphone as a Beatbox replacement. I definitely do not belong.

Conclusion: A champion in his own class

Could the Galaxy Note 8 convince me in the end? Well, partly already. For example, after my test, I'm convinced that we're dealing with one of the best smartphones ever built. Overall, performance, camera and features are clearly a reference class and probably never was a smartphone so elegant yet idiosyncratically designed.

The only major weakness I could make the only average battery. Other things, such as the somewhat unfortunate placement of the fingerprint scanner and the fact that Bixby is still pointless in Germany, did not succeed in disrupting the overall positive impression.

However, I was not completely convinced by the S Pen. But that's not because this feature would be bad, it's just not for me. If I had to choose, I would probably rather buy the slightly smaller, but meanwhile much cheaper Galaxy S8 Plus .

Overall, the note in the eighth generation is no longer a smartphone that hovers over things. The competition from Apple, Huawei or LG offers its own top phablets with some outstanding performance data. Samsung remains with the Grade 8, although just about the class leader now calls with just under 1000 € but also a more than proud price. What makes the Phablet continue to shine unrivaled, is the S Pen. There is simply no comparable device in the market for pin fans. The Galaxy Note 8 is thus virtually the champion in its own class.

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