Indian consumers were never able to lay their eyes on a Galaxy Note 7, as Samsung’s ill-fated 2016 Note flagship was recalled twice and then cancelled before it could go on sale in the country. The Galaxy Note 8, thankfully, is set to hit Indian shores less than a month after its global announcement, and at Samsung’s official launch event for the Note 8, we were able to get some hands-on time with the phone.
The Galaxy Note 8 is an important device, not just because it has to prove that the Note lineup isn’t going anywhere, but also because it’s Samsung’s first smartphone with dual rear cameras. The other thing that it has going for it is the 6GB of RAM that, for the first time, will be seen on the device in every market. Of course, it also comes with Samsung’s S Pen stylus, while keeping everything else that made the Galaxy S8 such a futuristic and impressive smartphone.
The Infinity Display this time around is a 6.3-inch screen, and it’s as good as the one found on the Galaxy S8. However, Samsung has made further improvements to the display, and a highlight here is that the Note 8’s screen can go up to a whopping 1200 nits of brightness, which means it should offer an even more appealing experience when viewing HDR videos. The display is surrounded by the same glass and metal body as the S8, only the Note 8 is less curvy and looks more professional (which is deliberate, given the Note line has always been aimed at professionals and the businessmen). The phone feels great in the hand, is well built, and overall gives off the same premium vibe as the Galaxy S8.
Now, let’s talk about that dual camera. As has already been widely reported, the Note 8 comes with a standard wide 12-megapixel lens with f/1.7 aperture and a telephoto lens with f/2.4 aperture. Both lenses are optically stabilized, a first for a phone with a dual camera, and Samsung is offering a Live Focus mode that takes portrait photos with background blur similar to the iPhone 7 Plus and pretty much every other dual camera phone other than those made by Huawei. The dual cameras also enable 2X optical zoom for getting in close to a subject without physically moving towards it or compromising on image quality.
The level of background blur in Live Focus mode can be controlled from the camera app, and initial testing suggests the phone can throw a few tantrums when you aren’t at the distance the camera requires you to be for Live Focus to work properly. However, we’ve only had an hour or so to play around with the phone at the time of this writing, so we’ll refrain from passing judgement on the capabilities of the dual camera. As for the front camera, Samsung hasn’t made any changes compared to the S8, but again, we’ll reserve judgement for later on.
So, what about that S Pen? If you have used the Galaxy Note 5, you won’t find the stylus on the Note 8 to be much different. It’s a bit lighter, but the highlight here is that the stylus now works even when the display is wet, a natural extension of the waterproofing that Samsung has offered on every flagship since the Galaxy S7. Samsung has also built in a couple of features to enhance its usefulness, like the ability to hover on text in the browser or elsewhere and have it instantly translated. There’s also a Live Messages option that lets you doodle and draw something on the screen, which the phone then saves as a GIF file that you can share online.
The Galaxy Note 8 isn’t all too different from the Galaxy S8, but it does have a good amount of features that set it apart. There are some flaws, like the smaller-than-the-S8+ battery and the still oddly placed fingerprint sensor, but none of them are likely to be deal breakers. Considering the last Galaxy Note that went on sale came out two years ago, the Note 8 is even more special, and anyone upgrading from a Galaxy Note 5 (or even a Note 4) will find the Note 8 to be a galactic jump in almost every aspect.
But does it have what it takes to be the next big thing for Samsung and make up for the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco? Well, that is something we will answer in our full review, so stay tuned. Have some questions about the Note 8? Leave a comment below, and we’ll try our best to answer them.