Samsung unveiled its new, highly anticipated Note 8 device at an event in New York City today and, as tends to be the case with mobile phone launches these days, the rumour mill was spot-on when it comes to the key features. A dual-camera setup, 6.3in “Infinity Display”, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage (expandable by a further 256GB via microSD) and a slew of new software features are all present and accounted for.
Most importantly, we’ve also got confirmation on pricing for South Africa: the Note 8 will set you back R18,500 if you buy it outright.
So, what’s the Note 8 got to offer for the cash? Everything we expected, and a little more.
The pen is mightier
Jumbo screen-size aside, the reason to get a Note has always been the S-Pen stylus, and with the Note 8 Samsung’s further bolstered its usefulness. It, like the handset, has an IP68 rating for waterproofing, so you can scribble down your next brilliant business idea in the hot tub, if that’s your thing. There’s also a new feature, Live Translate, that’ll translate text or convert currency on the fly in any app by highlighting it with the S-Pen. Live Messages let you animate hand-drawn messages into GIFs and whip them off to your work WhatsApp group. Neat-o.
The Note 8 boasts a 6.3in version of the Infinity Display we saw on the S8 and S8+, and though it’s only 0.1in larger than the S8+ display, it feel bigger thanks to the less rounded corners. The Super AMOLED display also has what Samsung’s calling an “optimised edge design” for note-taking. Basically, there’s more space to write because the screen doesn’t wrap quite as deeply as before. It’s also got the same 18.5:9 screen ratio as its 8-series siblings — Samsung’s QHD+ OLED looks just as good here as it does on the S8 family.
Slimmer and trimmer
At 74.8mm wide the Note 8 is slimmer than the 76.1mm Note 5. Samsung’s also used the same curve front and back, so it feels as good in hand as the S8 devices. Up the top of display, in the impossibly thin bezel, is the front-facing camera and iris scanner for biometric unlocking. And like the S8 handsets there’s a fingerprint reader next to the camera on the device’s rear. You’re going to wind up poking the lens by accident at least a few times a day.
We were as surprised as anyone when the S8 handsets eschewed the industry trend for dual cameras, but we’re not surprised at all to see a second 12MP camera on the rear of the Note 8. It offers 2x optical zoom and, with it, a new depth-of-field/bokeh feature of the sort Apple introduced with the Portrait Mode on its iPhone 7 Plus. Of course, being Samsung, it’s had to try and up the ante. An on-screen slider lets you adjust the bokeh effect in real-time while taking a photo, and a new setting lets you adjust it after the fact, too.
The standard camera tech has seen some tweaks as well, besides adding a second camera. Both camera sensors are 12MP and feature optical image stabilisation, but only the wide-angle f/1.7 lens uses dual-pixel autofocus. The other, f/2.4 telephoto lens uses plain old phase-detection autofocus. The effects, though…
The Note 8 is packing the sort of power we’d expect from Samsung’s front line. That’s an Eynos 8895, the same chipset found in the already blinding Galaxy S8. Or a Snapdragon 835 if you live in a country that gets the Qualcomm innards. The Note 8 does get 6GB of RAM, making more and more desktop PCs feel inferior, and there is 64GB of storage right off the bat. Want more? Yeah, you can do that. Just drop a microSD into the provided slot.
DeX-ter: Season Two
Samsung’s DeX is sticking around for another round and Samsung are improving their mobile desktop replacement by giving the dock a few new tricks. No, none of them involve collecting microscope slides.
Rather, users will be able to expand their apps to use more of the screen at once. Even older apps, which might be more reluctant to do so, will take up more screen real-estate. Samsung will take care of that. Outside of appearances, DeX and the Note 8 will offer more keyboard shortcuts, making working on your smartphone feel… less like working on your smartphone.
Speaking of productivity, Samsung are launching App Pairs with the Note 8. Users can launch two apps, side-by-side, by swiping out the Edge Panel and launching two items at once. Wanna get your music on while you’re setting best times in Strava? Yeah, you’re going to need to take fewer steps to get there.
Elsewhere, Samsung has trimmed the fat from their version of Android even further. (Further) gone are the days when we clutched out heads at the mere mention of the word ‘TouchWhiz’. It’s looking remarkably bloat-free.