/Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review – Is 8 The Great?

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review – Is 8 The Great?

 

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Thanks for stopping by! Anyways, lets dive in to the review, shall we.

A BEZEL STORY

The Note series is a controversial one, to be sure. That’s how its always been, dating back to 2011 when the first one launched, in an era where 4-4.3 inch screens were pretty standard, something like Samsungs own Galaxy S2 being a 4.3in screen, The G2 and HTCs EVO 3D all clocking in – for a device to be launched in the mainstream market with an entire inch larger – hold the comedic one liners – was fairly standard. Not long before, Dell tried to pull a similar feat with the often forgotten Streak 5, especially being a landscape mode device really threw people off. In fact, I remember being in high school and getting countless questions ranging from “Is that a PC” to “Can you hook it up to a monitor and play Crysis on it?” of course neither of these questions having potential answers – it showed you just how new the form factor was. The giant bezels paired with capacitive keys, made it quite an interesting device.

Back in those days, and even until recently, having a 60% Screen-to-Body ratio was standard, the Streak 5, Galaxy S2, Evo 3D all floating around 60%, the G2 had an insane 76% which was impressive for its time and certainly still is now – the Note 8 having an 82% STB ratio.

However, back then we didn’t really consider these things important, in fact nobody really cared about that part of phones as a whole until sometime in late 2014 when things like the Sharp threw the world by storm with the Aquos Crystal – that’s where it all began. Samsung began trying to capitalize on that movement with the S6 lineup, with the base S6 having a 70% STB ratio, and the S6e+ catching up to LGs G2 at 76. The race continued across various OEMs in 2016, but really taking off in 2017, including the whole 18:9 trend – which has no doubt led to interesting developments and a rampant amount of criticism towards any OEM who dare have bezels in the year 2017 – HTC and OnePlus being notable for such obscene bezels – though its now fixed with the U11+ and OP5T, both way too late to market to really capture attention, one of which won’t even be released in the US!

Anyways, I’ve spent enough time talking about bezels, which brings us to 2017, where this review has spent roughly 20x the recommended amount of time rambling about bezels and screen sizes, my god.

NOTEWORTHY DESIGN

When you pick up the device for the first time, something about it really strikes you – the beautiful AMOLED screen, the fact that your finger can actually reach the fingerprint sensor without constantly hitting the camera lens, ruining your photos. The lack of bezels, the dual cameras, the how-did-they-make-such-a-giant-screen-without-an-unsightly-notch and yet manage to be so usable. Make no mistake, this is definitely still a two handed device. There is just no getting around it, but what you get is rewarding. Watching a Feature Film on Netflix, YouTube or just about anything else that supports the crazy aspect ratio – which take note, isn’t a large variety but as this form factor gets more and more popular, and at some point people will start filming in it as standard, which will be amazing no doubt.

There really is a lot of buzz surrounding this device, as the Note lineup has quite the cult following, on top of being subject to many an Internet joke – due all in part to the Note 7 fiasco, which unless your name is Patrick Star and you’ve been living under a rock, have definitely heard of.

One of the areas this has certainly caused a hit is in the battery department – fearing a repeat of 2016 and an effort to regain consumer trust, Samsung has gone with a slightly smaller battery – down 200mAh from the 7, which touted a hefty 3500mAh, to a more standard 3300mAh. Now you may be asking yourself “What’s the big deal?” well, it definitely suffers compared to the V30 according to many a Internet folk, or so they’d have you believe! I won’t press on too much here in design, but lets just say it has fairly surprising endurance despite the otherwise normal capacity.

Speaking of noteworthy, why is having a headphone jack in 2017 such a staple? I’m not sure. You’d think OEMs wouldn’t rush so hard to get rid of it – especially since there really is no true alternative just yet. Glad to see this still sticking around, and if Samsungs recent acquisition of HARMAN for nearly 8bn is any sign – if anything, they will improve upon it, rather than discard it, since Samsung is more known for starting trends rather than just catching up with them at the tail end.

6GB OF PERFORMANCE

Quite possibly the quickest Samsung device in existence, though there’s always the argument of “Does a phone really *need* 4, 6, or even 8GB of RAM” well here the answer is yes. Samsung has been known for generations to be lacking in consistent performance, at least in the US Snapdragon variants. Not to mention, people get lost in numbers – Dare I introduce this into your head – It’s simply not the same as having an equivalent amount of RAM in a Laptop/PC. People across the Internet tend to get lost in this, when its simply foolish, much like the whole Megapixel wars.

When you focus too much on numbers, be it RAM size, capacity, megapixels, pixels, whatever it may be, you can easily get lost in the gritty technical bits that go in to making these things what they are. Fortunately though, this phone can back up the beefy spec sheet, for once! The spec sheet paired with the DEX station, The Vulkan API and the vast Samsung ecosystem really make this one of a kind – That is if you don’t mind being tied to Samsung.

So what exactly can you do with the Note 8? Well, I’d like to throw one of my favorite Reddit comments in the mix – credits to Reddit user exelero88 comment found below.

That should give you a fair idea of the Note 8 prowess, and if you were to actually attempt that, here is what that would look like.

 

Needless to say, the Note is an absolute powerhouse in day to day performance, and since we’re talking about benchmarks, here’s how it does! The three apps we’ll be using are GeekBench 4, Antutu & AndroBench. First up is…

GEEKBENCH! 

As you can see, it fares standard for an 835 device, nothing surprising and the extra 2GB of RAM doesn’t show an immediate advantage in benchmarks, but of course benchmarks are not an indicator of real world usage, and should be taken only as… yknow, a benchmark for comparison. Though it certainly helps in day to day usage, as this is probably the first time since owning a Samsung device, that I haven’t wanted to throw it against a wall in 2 weeks due to excessive lag. It’s also worth noting this is my first major Samsung flagship on T-Mobile since the S2, rest were on AT&T, who isn’t exactly known for giving their users a good software experience, especially on heavily skinned devices due to *cough* COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF BLOATWARE *cough* – With that being said, anyone who knows me, I’m a huge fan of Sense, OnePlus and Essentials approach to Android – at least I was in the past. The Note 8 is genuinely causing me to change my tune on the matter.

While we’re waiting for Antutu to finish (yes, this is being typed in real time) Let’s have a quick comparison against the past 2 devices I’ve reviewed. First time failed due to a strange force close, lets try that again.

The 2017 Moto Z2 in Antutu fared 172k, The HTC U11 did 169k, so I expect to see the Note 8 hover right around that mark, if not potentially beating it due to the extra RAM.

In Geekbench Moto Z2: 1908 Single, 6399 Multi – HTC U11: 1908 Single, 6178 Multi – Finally, even though its literally right there, Note 8 did 1802 Single & 6362 Multi! Important to note these were relatively lightweight, stock based devices. So in synthetic benchmarks, and generally in real world performance, Samsung seems to lose out a tiny bit, and this holds true into Antutu.

Here are the results! Performs exactly as I’d have expected.

Now, on to Androbench! It is a Samsung phone, so here it should have the clear advantage – though we’ll see.

Home

Though benchmarks don’t quite do it justice, the only real way is through a live demonstration of apps, but you can find that all over YouTube. So I won’t bother here.
Just kidding, If I did that, I might as well quit now, as there’s billions of other tech reviewers out there doing exactly what I am – of course without the priceless humor. (jk)

CLASS LEADING OPTICS

Quite possibly the most important part of any smartphone out there – something that was once seen as a luxury is now a make or break feature. We’ve seen this all over, and OEMs are constantly competing for their precious DxOMark scores, but what does this all mean? Well, it doesn’t mean anything if:

  1. It’s not incredibly quick, both to focus & take photos.
  2. The photos are blurry, over-exposed, over-saturated or just outright unusable.

Fortunately neither of these are the case on the Note 8, while Samsung does have a reputation for “punchyness” it seems the mass audience tends to prefer this approach – as we take and share photos to social media, we want to feel capable of taking incredible photos no matter our skill set, and todays modern smart-phones do not disappoint in that department, the Note 8 being no exception.

These samples are courtesy an IWP writer, who for the sake of this example, has much more appealing surroundings to photograph at the immediate moment.

Anyhow, I’ll keep quiet for a moment – sit back, grab a glass of wine and enjoy these photographs.

Now for my NYC shots!

This one was the most interesting. Doing a test of the optical zoom found on this phone. This image below is shot at normal, then the one below it is shot using 2x. Very mixed on the effectiveness of the sensor in low light.

As you can see, I’m not actually sure it was utilizing that secondary sensor at all – at least to my eyes the image looks destroyed. Especially on the top monitor, there’s all kinds of what appears to be aggressive oversharpening going on – something Samsung is well known for. Then a couple more for the races.

For my final test – here’s a hyperlapse I did walking on a structure in Times Square.

 

Back to what I mentioned earlier – the phone does indeed shoot very fast and is fairly sharp even in lower light conditions. There’s a reason Samsung is hailed as one of the better smartphone sensor/software combos, because they just don’t disappoint. In short, to drag it out – the Note 8 is an incredibly powerful camera, whether you’re shooting scenic landscapes or hoards of people surrounded by lights and cars.

However, Times Square is a great reminder that even the strongest of software processing coupled with an incredible sensor – often falls short in what I’d consider to be general territory for tourism but less than stellar (though acceptable) results and that no matter how great cameras on smartphones get – they have a long way until they catch up to the dedicated ones. Mega-pixels aren’t everything folks.

BATTERY 

Perhaps the single most important aspect of any smartphone – after all, If it cannot last you through an entire day of usage, then what good is it? Doesn’t matter how powerful the processor is, the screen, anything. If you can’t count on it, its just air.

I’m going to say this – it’s not great. While it could generally get me into the earlier parts of the evening – I often struggled to get any further without plugging it in. Fortunately I always keep a charger in my car, but not everyone has access to an outlet 24/7 where this could be passed as a solution. My specific variant would average 15h uptime with roughly 4.5-5.5h SOT. Though it is worth noting the Exynos variant does perform much better.

To give even more thought to this – I’ve asked a few folks who daily the Exynos variants of the Note 8 to send me screenshots of their battery usage. As you’re about to see, the Exynos performs well beyond the Snapdragon. This of course is a large reason why I wish we could dump Qualcomm in the USA, especially when the OEM chipset is superior – at the very least in terms of power efficiency, because they have much more vertical control over hardware and software. When it comes to optimization for the US versions, they’re largely at the mercy of Qualcomm to provide proper drivers and to generally improve upon the chipsets each year – something they don’t exactly have the best track record of doing.

Just to show – here’s one users average.

As you can clearly see in the first example, the Snapdragon performs much worse. This is where the Exynos really shines. It’s a shame then, that the Exynos isn’t more widely available to us American users – while I realize that other countries tend to get similar treatment, just goes to show you how much you can really benefit from this type of integration.

 

THATS A WRAP

In short, the Note 8 is a fantastic device, despite the battery shortcomings. Fortunately, the battery life has improved with the last update, though not significantly enough to be a tidal shift. The true takeaway here is that you really won’t find a better combination of hardware and software on the marketplace today. Samsung has really stepped their game up in including valuable software features to differentiate it, while seeming at least in the short term to no longer suffer from the typical Samsung lag I’ve been accustomed to in the past – its much too soon to say it wont crop up in the future.

With that, between Samsungs Quality Control, the OLED Display, the S-Pen, Camera, the improved software. Its just incredibly enjoyable to use – coming from someone who has spent many years advocating against Samsung “Experience” and heavily favoring Pixel/OP/HTC tailored experiences, they really have shown they can change, and that change is doable if you commit yourself to it.

Keep pushing forward, Samsung. Truly remarkable progress thus far!

Thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed this review. Feel free to engage in the comments below, as they will be regularly monitored. Goodnight.