When it was reviewed, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 was very impressive across the board and proved that it can make you forget about the Note 7. I’ve now been using the Samsung phone for quite a while to find out how it fares in everyday use in the long run. Here, I’ll to introduce my five most important pros and cons of the Galaxy Note 8 after 100 days, switching back and forth between the pros and cons.
Pro: The design
Smartphones usually look very similar, so it’s hard for a design to really stand out. Samsung was able to do this with the Galaxy Note 8 in all respects. The flowing forms of the curved glass in the front and rear, the slim aluminum frame in between, hardly any display bezels, everything perfectly finished – it’s just wonderful. I don’t particularly like the blue version, but the golden one looks really outstanding.
As fancy as the Note 8 looks, its usability is a different story. The smartphone is simply huge, heavy and also relatively thick compared to others in its class. With such a large body, the small details are the determining factor when it comes to whether the phone will fit well in your hand. With the Galaxy Note 8, nobody who's held the phone in their hand thought it was a success in this regard. The corners are too pronounced and the edge of the frame is too prominent. This mixture doesn’t seem to go well together. Lastly, when the Note 8 is in a case, it’s just too big for most pockets, as well as for my daily use.
Pro: The display
I’ll lay all my cards on the table here: the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has the best display that is currently available in any smartphone. The only exception might be the Razer Phone for gamers with its 120 Hz display, but really only a select few need that high of a refresh rate. The Super AMOLED panel in the new Note has everything that makes a good screen: black level, color display, contrasts, viewing angle stability, brightness – all at the next level. I would gladly see Samsung do away with the sharp edges on the corners, but they don’t bother me in the Galaxy Note 8. The display is just such a feast for the eyes. Nice work, Samsung!
Con: The biometric unlocking
Samsung has decided to offer three biometric unlocking mechanisms for the Galaxy Note 8: a fingerprint sensor, facial recognition and iris scan. These features are great in and of themselves, but I’m not that impressed with them in everyday use. Facial recognition has too many problems with sunglasses, hats and especially in low lighting conditions. The iris scanner takes too long to unlock, and the phone always has to be held awkwardly in front of your face. In the end, I had to use a good old PIN again, and that takes two hands because of the phone’s sheer size. Doing this several times a day is bound to strike some nerves.
Pro: The camera
The Galaxy Note 8 is one of the best smartphones on the market. In everyday life, I was particularly impressed by the speed at which the smartphone focuses, triggers and saves photos. I take a lot of pictures of my energetic kids, and no other smartphone has ever led to fewer blurry pictures than the Galaxy Note 8, and the quality is also really good overall. The effect with the blurred background in portrait shots doesn't always work, but if the phone correctly recognizes all levels of depth, the pictures come out great. Though I think the double zoom is mostly useless, since I can just as easily take a step forward, if it helps me render a nice bokeh effect and that’s enough for me.
Con: The speaker
In contrast to the camera, the Galaxy Note 8’s speaker doesn't meet high demands. The small mono speaker, which sends sound downwards, isn’t suitable for listening to music or a podcast on the go. The volume is too low and the sound is too shallow. Moreover, the smartphone speaker rattles if you really want to turn it up.
Pro: The S Pen
I’ll admit it: when Samsung unveiled the pen with the first Galaxy Note, I thought it was a pretty stupid idea. But a few generations later, I’m a real fan of the S Pen. I don’t use it everyday, but more often than I thought I would. With the Galaxy Note 8, I especially appreciate the option of taking notes on the lock screen. Even for those users who aren’t constantly drawing their masterpieces on the digital canvas, the S Pen is a sensible alternative when it comes to operating the device in a controlled way. It’s a beautiful detail that nobody besides Samsung can offer.
Con: The battery
After the Galaxy Note 7 was such a disaster, batteries are now a highly sensitive issue for Samsung. This should’ve been reason enough for the Korean brand to play it safe with the new Galaxy Note, in order to avoid outcries about burned smartphones. It’s understandable, but still annoying for users that the Galaxy Note 8 doesn’t have the best battery life. This is a real disadvantage, especially since the smartphone is primarily intended for high-demand users who use their devices frequently. Although the Note 8 never let me down before the end of any given day, the battery also wasn’t able to pleasantly surprise me. Things were different with the earlier Notes.
Pro: The performance
The Samsung Exynos 8895, which is built into the Galaxy Note 8, is one of the strongest smartphone chips on the market and can easily cope with any app out there. The 6 GB of memory ensures that you’ll never get the feeling that the phone is too slow. Samsung also did a bit of work on the software. Just a few years ago, the Samsung UI acted a bit like a brake pad and many users were bothered by the expensive flagship’s jerks and delays. Those days are long gone, and Samsung’s layer on top of Android doesn’t affect the Note 8’s performance. So, you can rest assured that this phone won’t weigh you down in a few years’ time.
It’s 2018. Android 8 Oreo is already four months old. It’s ridiculous that the Android smartphone industry leader still hasn’t been able to manage to update its most expensive flagships with the latest Google software. A Galaxy smartphone that comes with Oreo is still not in sight. But it does seem like Samsung is pushing itself to finally support Project Treble. The bottom line is that a luxury class smartphone like the Galaxy Note 8 should have reasonable software support, and Samsung still doesn’t have it.
Conclusion: A phone for everything, but not for everyone
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 hasn’t disappointed me in everyday use. I've quite enjoyed looking at the fantastic display and scribbling with the pen. The performance is also outstanding in all respects, there’s no doubt about that. Nevertheless, I didn’t have a hard time putting my SIM back into another smartphone, especially one that’s a bit smaller, more comfortable and more convenient. The bottom line is that it’s a matter of taste. If you’re into really big smartphones and don’t shy away from the disadvantages of an XXL format, you’ll be pretty happy with the Galaxy Note 8.
What do you think of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8? Are you completely satisfied with it or do you you still think there’s room for improvement?