It’s the time of the year that all the iPhone and Note reviews are taking the world by storm. I’m a Nexus user but this year I have used iPhones, cheap Nokias and now, my most expensive phone ever a Galaxy Note8. Time for a recap.
Samsung revamped their flagship lineup with the longer Infinity Display that makes everything else look outdated. The curved bezel-less display is the one to beat at the moment. Samsung has also stepped up their game with the build quality since they last visited my daily driver treatment. Starting from the Galaxy S6, Samsung has been crushing the build quality game with glass and metal sandwich that allows features like wireless charging in an absolutely beautiful body. The Note8 is the first Samsung to rock a dual camera setup. Also onboard, is the S-Pen, an iconic Note feature for precise control over the huge screen. This should be the ultimate smartphone of 2017.
Starting from the packaging, Samsung really wants this to be a Premium device. Included in the box are USB on-the-go adapter, type-C to micro-USB adapter, S-Pen replacement tips, premiumish AKG earbuds and a surprisingly low-amp charger. I would personally appreciate a case of some sort as at least now, the 3rd party cases are very poorly available in Europe, and even the Samsung’s own high-priced cases are out of stock everywhere. The rear glass needs protection for sure. The Gorilla Glass 5 is a tiny bit softer than the Gorilla Glass 4 and at least the 4 is very easy to get scratched by just laying it down to a wrong place with any kind of stone or sand nearby.
Physical features are brilliant. We have the 3.5mm headphone jack down at the bottom next to the USB type-C charging port, a mono speaker and the S-Pen silo. On the top, is the dual nano-SIM or one nano-SIM and a microSD slot. Buttons are great but there’s one too much of them. Luckily the single press feature of the Bixby button can now easily be disabled. The home button is now virtual but thanks to the pressure sensitive display, it’s available even when the screen is off or the navigation bar is hidden.
At this point, I decided to keep this review a bit shorter, and get to the critic part of the review. Continuing with the navigation bar. Why would anyone want to hide it on this long display? Samsung hasn’t made the navigation bar transparent or even match the color to the content. There are only a few lame options. Continuing with the software, the device maintenance is, to be honest, annoying. The darn thing wants to shut down apps I use. One day I took almost 900 photos and in the evening, I uploaded them to my Google Photos and OneDrive. Samsung software just shut them down for consuming too much power. Thanks. Also, the device maintenance always reminds me in the notification bar because it wants to disable my Freedome VPN. There is always an orange number on the settings button to show the number of the so-called problems.
The weirdest thing is the amount of Samsung bloatware. If Google already provides apps for everything, why does Samsung waste resources to thing like browser, calendar, calculator, clock, app store, SMS-app, phone, email app and so on and so on. A Nexus user just didn’t settle. I tried to setup my Action Launcher and disabling a bunch of Samsung bloat but no, I’m going back to the Nexus once again.
I’m not saying the Note8 is a bad phone, I just didn’t get used to it. This is a $1000 phone, I shouldn’t get used to it, it should be perfect. The display for example, is stunning. Of course, I turned on the maximum resolution and upped the brightness to a reasonable level and what can I say, can display be better? Blacks are black, colors are either oversaturated or accurate depending on your choice. The max brightness is so high that some would even consider throwing in a Note7 joke here.
The camera is great. I wouldn’t take 900 photos one day, if the camera wasn’t great. Shutter lag is minimal, portrait mode works fine, videos are brilliant. There’s just something missing. The images are a bit soft to my liking but very comparable to the iPhone 7 I have in my other pocket. In low light, at least with the current software, the Note8 seems to make everything washed out. While my Nexus 6P and the iPhone can find black from a very dark scene, the Note produces quite grey result. The front facing camera is decent, nothing groundbreaking here.
Not able to add iPhone’s photo here because of the file type. You can check the low light comparison at my Instagram or Twitter.
Nothing groundbreaking under the hood either. The Note8 packs the same SoC the S8/+ had. There’s 2 gigs more RAM thought, making it to a total of 6 gigabytes. In some scenarios this is noticeable. For example, I have never had to reload my Chrome tabs. Even after a lot of cameraing, photo editing, Twitter, Instagram and so on, when I get back to Chrome, all my ten tabs are still there, ready to go. Being Samsung though, that’s not consistent. For example, leaving Instagram to send a message in Messenger, the Instagram sometimes randomly reloads and loses the place I was. Optimization issue probably.
The Note lineup used to be great for power users, content creators and consumers, and road warriors. However, after last year’s catastrophe, the Note8’s battery is relatively small in capacity. The 3300 mAh package didn’t make it through the day too often. The display is very power hungry, and all the Samsung features use power in the background. Those days I made I to the bed time with one charge, there were 10-20% left and 2.5 hours of screen-on-time. Keep in mind that I’m in Finland and no phone has ever lasted more than 3,5 hours SoT in my testing. Could have something to do with the cellular thingies.
One more interesting note, I have all three phones on my desk at home connected to my WiFi. When I get a notification, email, YouTube, whatever, the iPhone wakes like 10 seconds before the Nexus. Samsung is probably trying to save some juice with the update frequency as the Note8 gets the same notifications another 10 seconds later.
In the Android smartphone market, manufacturers do different things to differentiate themselves from the mass. Lately, the newest trend is super premium class of smartphones on top of the normal flagship lineup. Note8 is Samsung’s super premium phone coming in at $1000. Note lineup used to be something else. For some reason, Samsung thinks it can charge a $1000 for a phone that really only has the best display on the market. Everything else is just a little bit of meh. But I bought one, now Samsung thinks it’s okay to price a phone at $1000. Personally, I think that Samsung had a better change to outsell Apple by lowering their prices, not by following iPhone pricing.