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Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

The Galaxy Note 8 continues Samsung's quest in providing the leading large-size smartphone since the very first Galaxy Note was launched. This year, it improves in almost every area. 

Note 8 inherits the Galaxy S8's sleek design. This is the third device showcasing the Infinity Display with edge-to-edge technology and it is also the one which I think has the best implementation of rounded edges.

It's uncanny how this, a big honkin' smartphone, manages to feel thinner and more manageable in the hand than competing products that have smaller displays.

 Note 8 matches the iPhone 7 Plus' dual camera technology. All the aspects of this high-end and premium-priced device, which starts at $1299.99, unlocked, have been given a complete revamp.

Key features this year are the large 6.3" Infinity Display which feels like the tallest display in the market right now. The slimmed-down form factor and rounded edges help make the Note 8 a device you can hold in one hand. 

The 2960 x 1440 pixel super-AMOLED display is, as expected, stunning, bright and immersive. It shines even more now that there are wisps of bezel at the top and bottom.

Power is abundant with a Snapdragon 835, Octa core (2.35GHz Quad + 1.9GHz Quad), 64 bit, 10 nm processor with 6GB of RAM. Battery is a 3,300 mAh battery with quick charge functionality. It is designed not to catch fire.

The SPen, once the biggest differentiator for the Note line, is carefully ensconced and accessed by pressing its spring loaded mechanism. Fans of the SPen will be happy to see an even wider range of functionality as well as more precision in drawing and writing.

Being able to quickly annotate notes, write on webpages or documents and even sign PDFs and other documents is convenient and the Note line has had a monopoly on pen-based smartphone computing.

I'm very impressed that Samsung got the dual camera functionality, specially the 'bokeh' effect, or what the company has called Live Focus right out of the gate. The ability to choose the level of bokeh after the photo has been taken is clever and seems quite accurate.

The feature makes it possible to separate a subject by blurring the background. It proved to be more accurate than Apple's initial attempt (which, in all fairness, was released first as a beta). Samsung did get a year to do this right and I think that they did.

Samsung offers more user control for photos. Shooters will love the ability to capture RAW images. Instagrammers will like in-depth editing and even some cutesy filters which add some real-time effects to photos.

Samsung's pedigree as a camera manufacturer is evident. The Note 8 is a very good camera and managed to take some striking landscape, portrait, macro and panoramic shots even on the automatic setting. Coupled with the striking display and now with less bezels, it made going back to my daily driver device and camera feel like a substantial step back.

The Note 8  cameras can match the iPhone 7 Plus in most cases and situations, but seem to fall short once low-light conditions are in play. The Note 8's optical image stabilization leaves a lot to be desired, specially when compared to the iPhone 7 Plus and the Pixel XL, phones that are a year old.

The Note 8 continues where the Note 5 and the Note 7 left off, yet improves the experience in every way thanks to a sleeker design improved water and dust resistance plus a phenomenal camera solution.

This brings us to pricing.

The Note 8 seems to be making users pay for the Note 7's loss of sales by spiking the price to a jaw-dropping $1299.99 (Bell, no contract). 

This greatly limits the Note 8's appeal to smartphone enthusiasts who are clamouring for a large, pen-capable smartphone, or that display and dual-camera combo.

I don't doubt there are Galaxy Note fans who will pony-up the money for the latest iteration, but this really brings into question how insane premium smartphone pricing has gotten. And how we can think that this is okay.

This isn't going to change, either. The iPhone 8 is expected to ring in at about the same price-point, however that device is expected to deliver a laundry list of new features to the market. At least that is the expectation given Apple has ridden on the same design with incremental feature upgrades for three years now.

Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 is an iterative triumph, a successor to the large screened Note line that makes it the ultimate answer to the iPhone 7 Plus in the Android world. The Note 8's camera and software are arguably better than last year's iPhone 7 Plus, even if it falls short in terms of optical image stabilization and low-light shooting performance.


Samsung has succeeded in acknowledging past mistakes while addressing battery issues and refining the design and capabilities of the Note 8.

This, is how you bounce back from a scandal. With a much-improved device that delivers on the promise of its failed predecessor, while pushing the segment forward. It is just unfortunate that the pricing will push users to possibly wait or look elsewhere.

The device's very high price makes it difficult to reccomend. Specially when the Samsung Galaxy S8+ is similarly capable and offers many of the same features including the large Infinity Display and many of the software features for less.

 Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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