The Note brand has always been aimed squarely at geeks. It was a huge phone before huge phones were cool, and powerful enough to replace not just a tablet, but maybe a laptop as well. Samsung had a lot to prove with the Note 8 following last year’s recall, and for the most part the phone delivers: the dual camera system is impressive, the pen is greatly improved, but flaws are still here too.
Once again, Samsung has built a beautiful looking phone that is almost all screen. The display wraps right up to the edges, with small slivers of bezels top and bottom. Samsung’s AMOLED displays are the best in the business and with HDR built in it has better specs than my TV.
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 had probably the best camera in an Android phone. With the Note 8, the company has joined Apple and Huawei in adding a second telephoto lens to the standard wide-angle, allowing you to switch to a two-times zoom close-up, or combine in software to mimic the depth of field available from a DSLR.
Samsung’s implementation is closer to Huawei’s than Apple’s, in that it allows users to adjust the depth of field on the fly while taking a picture. You can adjust the focus after the fact, too.
Both lenses have optical image stabilisation for better low-light shots and smoother video. All in all, this is one of the best cameras in a smartphone.
The S-Pen has dramatically improved. It supports 4096 levels of pressure with a much smaller tip, at just 0.7-millimetre diameter. That makes for more detailed drawing and note-taking, allowing you to fit more scribbles on the screen. You can even jot on the lock screen.
Inside the phone is a modest battery, which struggles to make it through a day powering the massive screen and very powerful processor, under heavy use.
The Note 8 is a solid update for the true believers of Samsung’s massive phone line.