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Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Review: Best Android Tablet Experience To Date

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Review!
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Review!

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Review

We first met the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 when it was on display at the exhibition floor of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Our initial impressions were, for the most part, positive. In fact we felt a bit “bitin” with the time with it on the floor so we made it a point to request for a loaner review unit from Samsung Philippines when we got back. Fast forward to today — the Note 8.0 was launched over this weekend, Bianca Gonzales was unveiled as the product brand ambassador, and we’ve spent over a week playing around with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0. After using and abusing it thoroughly we can say that as of this writing, we found the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 to be the best Android tablet experience to date. Yes, it’s that good. Find out why we loved it so much in the full review below.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Spec Sheet

  • 1.6GHz Exynos 4 Quad-core Processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB or 32GB Storage, expandable via microSD
  • 8-inch TFT display, 1280 x 800 resolution, 189ppi
  • 5-megapixel rear-facing camera
  • VGA front-facing camera
  • WiFi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS, GLONASS, HSPA+
  • Can call and SMS
  • 4,600mAh Battery
  • Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with TouchWiz UX
  • S Pen
  • 210.8mm x 135.9mm x 7.95mm
  • Php23,990

Hardware: Samsung has mastered plastic-crafting

Samsung: Plastic-crafting Level 10!
Samsung: Plastic-crafting Level 10!

Samsung has made so many plastic products that they’ve actually taken plastic-crafting to an entirely new level, lol. They’ve learned a lot from their previous plastic products and kept on refining and improving their hardware designs to maximize the benefits of using the material while at the same time addressing the issues. With the Galaxy Note 8.0 you get a very light (thanks to the materials), crazy thin, and solid plastic tablet. Samsung was able to achieve the solid chassis by making the device very compact (reducing space in between plastic and innards). In short, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 is the best plastic tablet we’ve ever seen.

When it comes to the form factor, the Galaxy Note 8.0 takes a lot of design cues from the Galaxy Note 2.0 and the Galaxy S3. Samsung retained the curved edges which makes it a joy to hold the device in your hands. There are no solid edges that will bite into your flesh. All the usual ports and buttons are there with the addition of the IR blaster (for universal TV remote control function) and of course the S Pen slot.

Very thin form factor
Very thin form factor
What the back looks like
What the back looks like

The 8.0-inch form factor also makes it a very portable device. It’s not as big and unwieldy as a 10-inch tablet nor is it too small like a 7-inch one. We found 8-inches to be the perfect balance between “big smartphones/phablets” and legacy tablets (9.7-inches and above). It was easy to bring out to use and then just as easy to slip in the bag.

The portability angle truly shines when you consider what the device can do. Samsung packed the Galaxy Note 8.0 with so many features so that it can replace several items that you usually bring with you.

Display Quality: Big Improvement versus Note 10.1, better than the iPad Mini

Note 8.0's display quality is far superior compared to the iPad Mini
Note 8.0’s display quality is far superior compared to the iPad Mini

On paper the Galaxy Note 8.0 has a resolution of 1,280 x 800 on an 8-inch screen. That comes out to around 189 pixels per inch. You’re probably think that it sucks and we did to also but it’s actually better than both the Galaxy Note 10.1 and even the iPad Mini (1024×768 IPS display, 163 pixels per inch).

Our only complaint with the display quality is that it’s quite poor when in direct sunlight. Better find some sort of shade or just stay indoors when using the Galaxy Note 8.0. Otherwise you’ll accelerate the degeneration of your eyes, hehe.

Blazing fast and smooth Android Jelly Bean experience

Antutu benchmark scores of the Galaxy Note 8.0
Antutu benchmark scores of the Galaxy Note 8.0

The Samsung 1.6GHz Exynos quad-core processor combined with the 1GB of RAM plus the optimizations brought about by Project Butter made the Galaxy Note 8.0 a powerhouse. If you want it quantified, the Galaxy Note 8.0 scored well over 16,000 on the Antutu Benchmark Test. Those numbers got us an unbelievably buttery smooth Android tablet experience on the device, one that we haven’t felt in previous tablets that we’ve reviewed. We daresay that this is the first Android tablet that can actually compete head on with the iPad… and if you’re actually the practical type you will be able to see through Apple’s distortion field and see that the Note 8.0 is even superiors in some ways.

Let’s quickly go through some of the feature highlights of the Galaxy Note 8.0:

Basics: Browsing, Social Networking, Calls, and Texts

When it comes to the core services the Galaxy Note 8.0 delivers in spades. The powerful machinery inside it offers a virtually lag-free Android experience regardless if you’re playing graphics intensive applications (gaming, image editing, video editing, etc) or core functions like social networking and e-mail.

Another important feature that we want to highlight is the fact that you can send text messages and make phone calls on the Galaxy Note 8.0. Of course it is highly recommended that you use a Bluetooth headset or earphones with mic when you make your calls otherwise you’ll look like a complete moron with an 8-inch tablet on the side of your face. While we’re not totally crazy with the calls, we loved the built-in SMS function. If you want to carry just one device the Galaxy Note 8.0 makes a compelling product proposition by offering everything you need in one gadget.

Multi-View: Not just a gimmick anymore

Multi-View: Open two apps in separate windows on the same screen.
Multi-View: Open two apps in separate windows on the same screen.

When Samsung unveiled Multi-view on the Galaxy Note 10.1 it was practically gimped because you could only use it with a few apps. They expanded app coverage with the Note 2 but the 5.5-inch display was too small of a canvass to fully enjoy the feature. The Galaxy Note 8.0 is the perfect gadget for it. During our short time with it we were sending and reading SMS on one window while browsing, tweeting, or Youtubing on the other one.

Reading Mode: Perfect for e-bookworms

Activate Reading Mode for a better e-reading experience!
Activate Reading Mode for a better e-reading experience!

The 8-inch form factor makes the Galaxy Note 8.0 an excellent candidate for a great e-reading device. Other than the form factor though (lightweight and thin), Samsung put in a special mode that auto-tunes the settings for an optimal reading experience. Called “Reading Mode”, this will reduce the eyestrain of e-bookworms. It sounds good on paper but don’t think that it’s competitive against the Kindle’s e-ink. There’s a noticeable improvement though compared to other LED-based e-reading devices.

Awesome Media Player

It goes without saying that the Galaxy Note 8.0 is perfect for media consumption. It’s lightweight and thin making it easy to hold in your hands for extended periods of time. It offers expandable storage via microSD, up to 64GB, which means you can stuff it with TV series, movies, music videos, and tons of photos. The display, while not Retina, is still superior compared to the iPad Mini and a lot of other tablets. Heck you can even use the S Pen to grab images from your videos and send them as postcards, lol.

Over-all we’re happy with what the Note 8.0 offers as a standard Android tablet. Notice that we haven’t mentioned the S Pen at all so far? That’s because we wanted to drive the point home that even as normal Android tablet, the Galaxy Note 8.0 is flagship-title worthy. Now let’s go to the S Pen!

Doodle… doodle… doodle! S Pen!

S Pen holder
S Pen holder

One of the major selling points of the Galaxy Note 8.0 is the S Pen. Just like previous Galaxy Note devices, the S Pen uses WACOM digital technology to deliver the best stylus experience on a mobile device. Yes there are a few good options available for the iPad but they all pale in comparison to the effectiveness of the S Pen. Not only is it terrifyingly accurate, it’s also pressure sensitive.

So, how does one use the S Pen? For the purpose of this review we’ve divided it into two main categories: Artist and Non-Artist. For Artist it’s simple really: the S Pen is the best way to draw and illustrate on a mobile device. Regardless if it’s an effortless doodle or an image you have to make for work or presentation, the S Pen is your best option for tablets.

Built-in S Pen Apps like Paper Artist
Built-in S Pen Apps like Paper Artist

For Non-Artists’ use the S Pen offers a great note-taking experience and a cool image grabber/clipper. On the note taking aspect there are a bunch of background templates you can use built-in the Note 8.0. Just pick the one you fancy and start jotting away your notes. My favorite use of the Note 8.0 was mind-mapping. It was an excellent device to brainstorm with especially since I could get images and paste them on the mind map.

Speaking of image grabbing, you just hold down on the button of the S Pen, trace any image on your screen, and then save it on your S Note. You can do this for websites, pictures, videos… anything being displayed on the screen.

Doodle on your schedule? Lol.
Doodle on your schedule? Lol.

If you’re serious about it, the S Pen can really be a helpful tool for both work and play. There’s a learning curve to it but it’s not that steep and Samsung has made big strides in improving the over-all use of the S Pen with the Galaxy Note line. Makes for the perfect cherry on top of an already delicious cake.

Camera: Nothing special

The Galaxy Note 8.0 packs a front-facing 5-megapixel camera and a front facing VGA shooter. There’s no LED flash on the back. This is probably one area for improvement especially if Samsung envisions the Galaxy Note 8 to be an all-around device. It takes decent pictures in good lighting but then again almost all digital cameras can do that these days.

Battery Life: Major point of improvement

If there’s one complaint we have about the Galaxy Note 8.0, it would be the battery life. We barely could get 7 hours out of it which means if you’re going to use this as a primary device be ready to have a charger with you. That 4,600mAh battery just ain’t gonna cut it with the HSPA+ radio, calls, texts, and other stuff you’re going to do on it.

Video Review of the Galaxy Note 8.0

Before we get to the verdict you might want to see our video review of the Galaxy Note 8.0. Check out episode 16 of the Unbox Video Podcast which we’ve embedded below. Just jump to 15:34 if you want to skip straight to the review.

Verdict: Deserves to be a Flagship Tablet, worth the Php23,990 price tag

Two thumbs up!
Two thumbs up!

After a week of thorough use we can conclude that the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 is a fantastic product. It delivers a near-flawless implementation of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and the features packed into it makes it a very versatile and functional device. It’s like a smorgasbord of mobile gadget features packed into just one tablet: calls, SMS, gaming, browsing, watching videos, listening to music, IR remote control, doodling, mind mapping, etc… the list goes on and on. It would have been the perfect day-to-day one-gadget-that-rules-them-all had it not been for the battery life. At Php23,990 though it’s already a good deal. 🙂

Carlo Ople

Carlo is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Unbox.ph. During daytime he’s the Managing Director and Partner of a Digital Marketing Agency in the Philippines and by nighttime he’s living out his passion as a gadget enthusiast and story teller through Unbox.

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