Last known price of Samsung Galaxy Note 8 was Rs. 42,990. This phone is available in 64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB storage variants.
2016 was an unlucky year for Samsung. The Korean manufacturer came the closest to making the perfect phone with the Galaxy Note 7, but lapses in quality control saw the Note 7 meeting an early demise as complaints of the device burning up because of a faulty battery started pouring in from all corners of the world. Many thought it would bring about the end of the Galaxy Note line, or at least result in Samsung opting for a new name. Instead, the company apologised for the goof-up and decided to make a solid comeback with the next Note flagship.
If you look at the Galaxy Note 8's spec sheet, it's easy to think Samsung has succeeded. The Galaxy Note 8 takes after the impressive Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ and adds numerous features on top, including the company's first dual rear camera setup and the hugely popular S Pen stylus. The beautiful Infinity Display seen on the S8+ has been slightly enlarged for the Note 8, and on paper, Samsung's latest flagship has all the makings of a winner.
Well, that's unless you take into account the smaller battery compared to the S8+, which sticks out like a sore thumb. The small battery isn't enough to take away the fact that the Note 8 is packed to the brim with flagship features, but does it have what it takes to make consumers shell out close to Rs. 70,000 on a smartphone that doesn't have an Apple logo at the back?
Let's find out.
The Galaxy Note 8 follows the same design language that Samsung has been using for its flagship lineup for the past year or two. It's made of glass on the front and back and metal on the sides, with IP68 certification for water and dust resistance. If you've seen the Galaxy S8+ in person, the Note 8 is best described as an S8+ with lesser curves, resulting in a design that looks and feels more professional while managing to look as beautiful. As with all of Samsung's previous Note flagships, the more sober look is deliberate and in keeping with the Note line's focus on those who consider their smartphone a tool for getting things done.
The Note 8 is noticeably heavier, too, but to me the added heft felt reassuring. It doesn't take away from the premium feel of the handset, and I'd say the Note 8 also feels better than the S8 to hold because the entire body is smoother. So smooth, in fact, that I dropped the phone once simply when setting it aside on my work desk. Thankfully, on our black review unit, the Note 8 seems to do a good job of keeping fingerprints away. You'll still be leaving marks on it in regular usage, but they aren't as bad as to require regular cleaning (unless you're a victim of cleanliness OCD).
Unfortunately, the fingerprint sensor on the Note 8 is in the wrong place, just like the S8. It's right next to the rear camera, and reaching for it is an exercise in frustration. The Note 8 is taller, so the fingerprint reader is slightly higher up on the body, and you must move the phone around in your hand to use it. It's just not a natural experience, even for those who have unnaturally large hands.
But Samsung is the only manufacturer doing the 'bezel-less smartphone' design just right. The Note 8 has uniform bezels above and below the screen; there's no iPhone-like notch to ruin your web browsing or late-night Netflix binges, nor an oddly placed front camera as seen on the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2. In my eyes, the Note 8, and also the Galaxy S8 and S8+, are the best-looking flagships in the Indian market, which may not change anytime soon.
Samsung makes the best smartphone displays in the business, and the 6.3-inch Super AMOLED display on the Note 8 surpasses even the top-notch Infinity display found on the Galaxy S8. The display is vibrant, has great viewing angles, and can go up to a whopping 1200 nits of brightness in automatic brightness mode. I've never seen any phone display be so clear and legible outdoors, and it's just a joy to use the Note 8 for even the most mundane tasks thanks to the excellent AMOLED panel.
As expected, the colours aren't close to accurate by default, but you can change that with a quick visit to the display settings. The Note 8 display is also HDR capable. That continues to be a not-so-useful feature thanks to the lack of HDR content that people want to see, though. Your favourite TV shows and movies are probably not available in HDR format yet, so you will need to look at regular HDR videos on YouTube or Netflix to see the kind of difference they make.
But thanks to the all-black front and the stunning display, watching any high-quality video is a rewarding experience. So is viewing the images taken by the rear cameras, which I'll talk about in detail later on. The screen's curved edges don't cause much distortion, either. The curves are rather subtle on the Note 8, and I even found the Edge screen features Samsung bundles on its flagships were turned off by default, suggesting the company doesn't think those are too important anymore.
Or, well, Samsung wants everyone to use the S Pen stylus instead. Sadly, the Note 8's narrow screen makes writing or drawing with the stylus a tad inconvenient. While it helps handling despite the tall display, there's not enough space to rest your palm, which affects how well you write or draw. Seasoned Galaxy Note fans will find the reduced screen width to be a problem, and I guess this is just another example of form taking precedence over functionality. Making space for the stylus is probably part of the reason for the reduced battery capacity as well.
The rear camera is where the biggest change has taken place for Samsung's smartphone lineup. The Note 8 is the company's first phone with dual rear cameras. There's a standard 12 MP wide-angle 26mm primary lens, with f/1.7 aperture and Dual Pixel autofocus, and a 52 mm telephoto lens of the same megapixel count. The telephoto lens has an f/2.4 aperture (which means it can capture less light), and both lenses are optically stabilised.
The telephone lens allows for 2x optical zoom and the Live Focus feature, which is the name Samsung has chosen for the camera's portrait mode that blurs out everything in the background while keeping the subject in focus. I'll just get this straight out of the way: The Note 8 can produce some great looking portrait shots in Live Focus mode, but it's simply not as perfect as it should have been with the extra time Samsung has taken to get a dual camera phone out on the market.
The Note 8 does a fine job of differentiating a subject and everything else when you're taking photos of people, but inanimate objects can sometimes be a challenge. It's all good if the object you're capturing is near a wall and is captured from an angle, in which case the camera only has to blur out half the scene (as you can see in the photo of the clock below). But when you put them right in the front and centre, there can be a few artefacts. It's also a bit iffy with blurring things around a person's hair.
You have to make sure you maintain at least 1.2 meters distance from the subject; Live Focus also fails if there's too much light in the background or foreground. As for the 2x zoom shots, the Note 8 does an impressive job at bringing subjects closer in all but the poorest of lighting conditions. In extremely low-light scenes, the phone just uses the primary camera for zooming in. Thankfully, zoom photos are usually blur-free thanks to the built-in optical image stabilisation.
Now, before I forget: Regular photos taken by the primary camera come out great. There's ample detail, vibrant colours, and minimal noise. Focusing is ultra quick and never an issue, and low-light shots are among the best on any phone. HDR photos aren't as good as the ones taken by the Google Pixel. Like the S8, the Note 8 is unable to maintain as much of a contrast between dark and light areas at times. But the automatic HDR works great at detecting when HDR needs to kick in, and saving photos is instant even with HDR on.
For selfies, Samsung is offering an 8-megapixel camera, same as the Galaxy S8's. It's got software-based autofocus that can be a hit or miss at times, but overall quality of the selfies is pretty good. There's sufficient detail, and the wide-angle lens can fit in a large group of people. The front camera also has a dedicated mode to capture photos with background blur, but it didn't seem to work for me unless I took selfies in broad daylight.
Video recording is handled well by both the front and back cameras. The rear cameras get optical and electronic stabilisation for videos, and you can zoom in and out on-the-fly. Shooting at 60 frames per second is possible only at Full HD resolution. That might seem like a limitation to some, but are we really getting to watch 4K videos as they're supposed to be watched on our computer or TV screens, even at fewer than 60 frames per second?
Samsung's software has come a long way over the years when it comes to optimisation, but even here in 2017, one of the first questions many folks ask about a new Samsung flagship (or any phone from the company in general) is whether it will lag a few months down the line. Well, I can't answer that question without revisiting things in a few months, but out of the box, the Note 8 runs great. Samsung probably throws in more optimisation on its Note smartphones, and as a result, the Note 8 performs better than the S8 did.
Animations are smooth with nary a hint of stutter, apps launch quickly, and the phone just feels fast overall. Not as fast as an iPhone or the Google Pixel, but certainly better than Samsung's own 2017 Galaxy S flagship. I guess the 6GB of RAM also helps; it certainly ensures that a lot of apps remain in memory at all times. Again, a Google Pixel or an iPhone would easily match the Note 8 in this regard despite lesser RAM, but Samsung's latest flagship doesn't do a bad job, either.
It's also worth pointing out that the phone keeps things running smoothly even when you whip out that S Pen and get creative. Okay, so actions such as opening a previously saved note or saving your drawings might take a while, but at no point does the phone stutter. And yes, you can play even the most demanding games without worrying about frame drops, at least as long as the game itself is well optimised. In that regard, Gameloft's Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 5 are shining examples of impressive graphics that scale well, and both run without issues on the Note 8 and look great on the phone's gorgeous display.
The fingerprint sensor that Samsung is using on the Note 8 isn't any different than the one found on its flagship phones from two years ago, and if you can reach it, it does unlock the phone quickly, if not as quickly as the competition. I would suggest using the iris scanner. It's accurate and quick, and while you would think it would fail in the dark, it only falters when you're outside and there's a lot of sunlight. It even works with some sunglasses, so that's an added bonus. Oh, and the Note 8 also offers facial recognition, but it doesn't work in poor lighting conditions and fails far more often compared to the iris scanner.
As far as audio quality is concerned, I'm afraid Samsung is a couple of steps behind companies like Apple and HTC, especially when it comes to the loudspeakers. There's a single speaker at the bottom, and while it can get really loud, it's far from impressive in terms of quality. There's a bit of depth, but the overall output isn't worthy enough of the phone's price tag. The supplied AKG (Harman) earphones do a good job, though, even if these are tuned for the higher frequencies (treble) as well. They're certainly far better than the default earphones you get with an iPhone, and they are comfortable enough to not be a problem in a two-hour flight.
This is one area where the Galaxy Note 8 surprised me. The phone lasted an entire workday for me on Wi-Fi, leaving enough juice to allow me to get home and use it a bit more before having to worry about charging. It even endured long bouts of LTE usage with aplomb. In fact, I saw better battery life compared to the Galaxy S8, even with two SIMs active. Samsung has no doubt worked in extra optimisation to make the smaller battery a non-issue, though continuously heavy usage can drain the battery considerably faster.
Thanks to new technology inside its phone batteries, Samsung says the Note 8 will last nearly 95 percent as long as it does on the first day even a year down the line. There's no danger of it blowing up, either, as there has not been a single such report. The Note 8 just don't charge as quickly as batteries on competing phones, however. Samsung is still sticking to Quick Charge 2.0 (or Fast Charge, as the company calls its own implementation). 0 to 100 is still fast, taking around 1 hour and 30 minutes, but you won't see it jump from 0 to 50 percent as quickly as, say, the OnePlus 5.
Oh, and a word of advice: Don't use the phone or keep the screen on while it's charging. Samsung's implementation of Quick Charge 2.0 falls back to regular charging when the phone is in use, a rather glaring disadvantage that not many folks are aware of. Too bad that it can be hard to put the Note 8 down for long, at least in the initial few days. Just use all the willpower you have to avoid using the phone while it's charging, or the charging times will noticeably increase.
Samsung has managed to put all its Galaxy Note 7 problems behind and make a near-perfect smartphone in the form of the Galaxy Note 8. It has an industry-leading bezel-less screen, sleek and sexy design with dust and water resistance, fast and smooth performance, excellent dual-camera, all the creative S Pen related features, and good battery life. The only thing I wanted more from the Galaxy Note 8 is a set of stereo speakers. but I am really nitpicking here. The Galaxy Note 8 has risen from the ashes of the Galaxy Note 7 to be one of the best smartphones released in 2017. Let's hope Samsung brings even more advancements and refinements in its successor next year.
|Processor||Samsung Exynos 9 Octa 8895|
|Display||6.3 inches (16 cms)|
|Front Camera||Single (8 MP, f/1.7, Wide Angle Camera(25 mm focal length, 3.6" sensor size, 1.22 m pixel size))|
|Rear Camera||Dual (12 MP, f/1.7, Wide Angle Camera + 12 MP, f/2.4, Telephoto Camera(52 mm focal length, 3.6" sensor size, 1µm pixel size))|
|Launch Date||September 22, 2017|
|Dimensions||6.4 x 2.94 x 0.34 inch (162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm)|
|Build||Back: Gorilla Glass|
|Water Resistant||Yes, Water resistant (up to 30 minutes in a depth of 1.5 meter), IP68|
|Colors||Midnight Black, Maple Gold, Orchid Gray|
|Chipset||Samsung Exynos 9 Octa 8895|
|No of Cores||8 (Octa Core)|
|CPU||2.3GHz, Quad core, M2 Mongoose + 1.7GHz, Quad core, Cortex A53|
|Operating System||Android v7.1.1 (Nougat)|
|Internal Memory||64 GB|
|Expandable Memory||Yes, microSD, Up to 256 GB (Hybrid Slot)|
|Resolution||1440 x 2960 pixels|
|Size||6.3 inches (16 cms)|
|Display Type||Super AMOLED, Curved Display, HDR Display|
|Protection||Corning Gorilla Glass v5, Scratch-resistant glass|
|TouchScreen||Yes, Capacitive, Multi-touch|
|Color Reproduction||16M Colors|
|Screen to body percentage||83.24 %|
|Pixel Density||522 pixels per inch (ppi)|
|Rear||Dual (12 MP, f/1.7, Wide Angle Camera + 12 MP, f/2.4, Telephoto Camera(52 mm focal length, 3.6" sensor size, 1µm pixel size))|
|Sensor||CMOS image sensor|
|Flash||Rear (LED Flash)|
|Front||Single (8 MP, f/1.7, Wide Angle Camera(25 mm focal length, 3.6" sensor size, 1.22µm pixel size))|
|Camera Features||Auto Flash, Auto Focus, Face detection, Touch to focus|
|Shooting Modes||Continuos Shooting, High Dynamic Range mode (HDR)|
|Image Stabilization||Yes, Optical Image Stabilization(OIS)|
|Video||Rear: 3840x2160 @ 30 fps, 1920x1080 @ 60 fps, 1280x720 @ 240 fps|
|Fast Charging||Yes, Quick, v2.0, 15W|
|Talk time||Up to 22 Hours(3G)|
|USB OTG Support||Yes|
|SIM Configuration||Dual SIM (SIM1: Nano) (SIM2: Hybrid)|
|Wi-Fi||Yes with a/ac/b/g/n/n 5GHz, MIMO|
|Network||4G: Available (supports Indian bands), 3G: Available, 2G: Available|
|Voice over LTE(VoLTE)||Yes|
|Wi-fi features||Wi-Fi Direct, Mobile Hotspot|
|GPS||Yes with A-GPS, Glonass|
|USB||USB Type-C, Mass storage device, USB charging, USB On-The-Go|
|Fingerprint sensor||Yes, Rear|
|Other Sensor||Light sensor, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer, Barometer, Compass, Gyroscope|
|Audio Jack||Yes, 3.5mm|