Samsung Galaxy Note8 review: So good you'll forget the Note7 ever existed
Overview, Design, Display, & Audio
Note: The Samsung Galaxy Note8 is now widely available in retail stores, hence we've republished the review.
A year on from the disastrous Note7 launch, Samsung is back with a new Note. The Note8 boasts all of the features that made the Note7 so good, and also includes the new, taller bezel-less Infinity Display design from the S8 and S8+. It also sports Samsung's first ever dual rear camera setup, which includes OIS on both lenses - currently the only phone on the market to do so.
But is the Note8 good enough to make consumers forget about the Note7? Let's find out.
|Samsung Galaxy Note8|
The Note8 uses basically the same Infinity Display design as the S series, with the display curving at both edges and cascading over the sides like an infinity pool. There are no physical buttons on the front and only tiny bezels at the top and bottom. I absolutely loved this design when I reviewed the S8, saying that "it really feels like you're holding just a display in your hand" and that's just as true with the Note8.
There are some subtle differences between the Note8 and the S8 but they're hard to spot. First of all, the corners of the display aren't as rounded as they are on the S8. According to Samsung, the more squarish corners are designed to give the Note8 a more professional look. Secondly, the curved edges on the side of the display are steeper than they are on the S8; this change is to give you a larger surface area to use the S Pen.
The Note8 has a 6.3-inch display, making it just 0.1-inches bigger than the S8+. In hand it feels almost identical to the S8+. The phone measures 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm making it a tiny bit longer and wider, and 0.5mm thicker than the S8+. At 195g, it's also 22g heavier than the S8+. Compared to last year's Note7, the Note8 is also slightly longer and wider, but also quite a bit thicker and heavier. Of course, like the S8 it's IP68 dust and water resistant, which means it can withstand up to 1.5 meters of water submersion for up to 30 minutes at a time.
Like the S8 and S8+, there's a dedicated Bixby button on the left-side of the phone, just below the volume rocker. Unfortunately, it seems like there's still no option to remap this button.
The power button is once again on the right side, while the 3.5mm headphone jack and USB Type-C port and single speaker remain on the bottom. As usual, the S Pen port is also tucked away here.
On the rear of the phone, there's a glass panel that also curves at both sides, mirroring the design of the front display. Back here, you'll also find the Note8's standout new feature: a dual rear camera setup that pairs a 12-megapixel telephoto f/2.4 lens with a 12-megapixel wide-angle f/1.7 lens.
Unlike the S8, which had each of the rear camera's individual elements embedded separately into the rear of the phone, all of the Note8's camera elements, as well as the fingerprint scanner (yes, unfortunately, it's still awkwardly positioned back here), sit inside a black rectangular module. This arrangement looks fine on the Midnight Black color but the big black box is a bit of an eyesore on the rest of the colors, especially with the box inside a box design to include the fingerprint scanner.
Speaking of colors, the Note8 is available locally in three colors: Midnight Black, Orchid Grey, and Maple Gold. A fourth color, Deepsea Blue, which is a darker version of the S8's Coral Blue, and probably my favorite color - if not for the unsightly black camera box - is not currently available in Singapore, but we expect it to be launched at a later date. Personally I'd probably buy the Midnight Black color just because the camera box blends in so much better.
Like the S8 and S8+, the Note8 has an always-on QHD Super AMOLED panel, with a 18.5:9 aspect ratio and a 2,960 x 1,440 pixels resolution (~522ppi). Like the S8 and S8+ the unusual ultra wide screen ratio means that the total screen size isn't actually as large as a traditional 16:9 screen. When viewing regular 16:9 content on the Note8, it looks about the same size as a 5.7-inch screen.
The unusual screen ratio also means that many apps will display with black bars at the edges, as they're made with a 16:9 ratio in mind. Having said that, since the S8's launch, quite a few apps have been updated to support 18.5:9 ratio so the problem isn't quite as bad as it was before.
As for the screen itself, Samsung's Super AMOLED panels are among the best in the business, and the Note8 is no exception. The display is sharp, vibrant and bright, and easy to see even under direct sunlight. As usual, contrast is also fantastic with ultra deep blacks. Like the S8, the display is also ‘Mobile HDR Premium’ certified.
The display is an always-on panel, so you'll see the time, date, battery life and any notifications when you're not using the phone. Edge panels are also back; if you swipe in from the curved right side of the phone (if you're a lefty you can change it to the left side) you'll get access to more app shortcuts, contact shortcuts and other tools including news feeds, Quick Tools (which includes a compass and ruler), Reminders and Smart Select, which lets you easily capture part of the screenshot as a screenshot or animated GIF.
Like the S8, the Note8's display also has the same spot of pressure sensitivity right over the virtual home button. This spot lets you push harder on this part of the screen to wake the display or return to the home screen at any point, even when you're using a full screen app that doesn't have a home button displayed.