Overview, Design & Features
Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.0 is an 8-inch Android 4.1.2 tablet with an integrated Samsung S Pen stylus, similar to the old Galaxy Note 10.1, making it ideal for those with productivity in mind (or anyone still playing Draw Something). It is however rather expensive at S$588 for the Wi-Fi 16GB version and S$788 for LTE 16GB model. We find out if it's worth the extra money.
Note: We will be reviewing the 16GB LTE version in this review.
Key highlights of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
Design and Features
The Galaxy Note 8.0 is essentially an oversized version of the Note II, sporting the same plastic build and rounded corners, as well as a physical oblong-shaped Home button. The Note 8.0 also gets touch-sensitive Menu and Back buttons on the left and right.
The silver trim running around the edge of the device looks extra plasticky, despite an attempt by Samsung to put a 'brushed metal' paint job on it. The back of the device sports a plain white, glossy plastic finish - some texturing would have been nice to aid grip as it can be a bit precarious to hold one-handed (although the 8-inch form factor is definitely easier to handle than the 10.1-inch Note 10.1). Samsung describes the Note 8.0 as the perfect size to accompany you on the go as it is "diary sized".
The 8-inch TFT LCD touch display isn't up to the standard of the Super AMOLEDs seen on some of Samsung's other devices but it's not bad, with a resolution of 1280 x 800 and a pixel density of 189ppi, making it slightly better than the iPad Mini's 1024 x 768 resolution (163ppi) and on par with the 2012 ASUS Google Nexus 7, ASUS Fonepad and Toshiba Regza AT270 - although, do note that, with smaller displays, these tablets have a higher pixel density count. The display on the 2013 ASUS' Google Nexus 7 is much better, with a full HD 1920 x 1200 resolution (323 ppi).
In usage, the Note 8.0's display is fairly bright with good color reproduction, decent viewing angles and reasonable contrast, although at maximum brightness, there is some noticeable backlight bleed that can make blacks look a bit washed out. Fortunately, it isn't too bad at lower brightness levels.
It's hard to see any noticeable difference in clarity between the Note 8.0 and smaller tablets with the same resolution, but compared to the 2013 Google Nexus 7, the Note 8.0 was clearly inferior. In everyday general usage, the Note 8.0 is sufficient but there are definitely better displays out there.
Audio is supplied via two speakers located at the lower edge of the device. Overall audio quality was decidedly average, and somewhat on the quiet side. Additionally, the positioning of the speakers isn't the best for watching videos in landscape orientation.
The Note 8.0 comes with an integrated S Pen stylus that slots into the lower right corner. Removing the stylus automatically launches the S Pen home screen, which shows all of the installed apps designed for use with it.
The stylus itself is slim, with a flat edge on one side, and a rounded profile on the other that makes it comfortable to hold. The flat edge also helpfully prevents the stylus from rolling away. Stylus input is pressure sensitive and accurate but can be slightly laggy, especially if your hand writing is particularly fast.
Like the Note II, the Note 8.0 has 'floating point' technology that detects the stylus when its about an inch or so away from the screen. Hovering over certain elements results in extra options, like picture previews in the gallery app. The display also has palm rejection recognition which makes it easier to write and draw on.
The Note 8.0 includes dedicated apps to use the stylus with, such as S Note, a note taking app which you can also draw in, S Planner, a diary/calendar app and Paper Artist, a fairly comprehensive drawing app.
A button on the side of the stylus can be used to open a quick command box by drawing an upwards line on the homepage. This uses handwriting recognition to let you search the internet, maps, email contacts and call or message people. Surprisingly, the handwriting recognition is quite good and the Note 8.0 was able to decipher most of this writer's chicken scratchings fairly successfully.
The Note 8.0 is running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean and Samsung's TouchWiz interface, which includes all of the usual tweaks, including the ripple effect on the lock screen and pull out shortcut bar on the left side of the screen, which you can access by pressing a small tab. You can also hide the tab by holding down the back button. The Note 8.0 also includes a few features taken from the Galaxy S 4, including Smart Stay, which uses the front-facing camera to detect whether you're looking at the device and keeps the screen on if you are.
Samsung has included a Reading Mode for the Note 8.0, which is stated to automatically optimize the display for a better reading experience. By default, only Samsung's own Reader's Hub is set to turn on Reading Mode automatically, however, you can add other apps to the list. Unfortunately there aren't any options for configuring Reading Mode (it's either on or off), but it appears to dim the display and make colors a bit warmer.
There's some multitasking functionality available with Samsung's MultiWindow app that allows for two apps to run simultaneously onscreen with a fairly deep pool of compatible apps, including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
As mentioned above, the Note 8.0 also includes an IR emitter, which can be used with Samsung's SmartRemote app to turn the Note 8.0 into a universal remote.
One thing we did note was that the OS and pre-loaded apps seem to take up a rather large amount of internal storage space. Our 16GB unit, fresh from the box, had only 8.68GB of available storage remaining.