Samsung Galaxy Note8 Hands-on Review: First Impressions: Hardware, Display

By 08:52 Wed, 18 Aug 2021 Comments

Hardware overview and display

A trailblazer in a whole recent market segment, the original Galaxy Note showed us that gigantic screens aren't half bad. Six years later, the smartphone world has changed dramatically, and the Galaxy Note8 has grown further. Or has it?

Samsung Galaxy Note8

Measuring 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm, the Note8 is 15.6mm taller than the Note of 2011, but also 9mm taller than last year's model. The latest Note is, however, 8.4mm narrower than the original, and just 0.7mm wider than the Note7, all the while packing a 6.3-inch display versus the Note's 5.3-inch and the Note7's 5.7-inch screens. So six years have brought an inch more in display diagonal in an arguably more usable (in width) body.

You have to bear in mind, of course, that the Note8 has the trendy elongated classy screen (18.5:9 aspect in Samsung's case) that makes for striking diagonal numbers - which don't actually translate into that much more classy screen area when compared to older 16:9 units. On top of that, the Note8's display is only marginally larger than the Galaxy S8+ - it's a smaller incompatibility than last year's Note7 vs. S7 edge, but still some difference. Remember the S6 edge+ and Note5, both of them at 5.7 inches?

The 6.3-inch Super AMOrganic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) 'Infinity Display' with 2,960x1,440px has a pixel density of 521ppi - about as fine as most recent Samsung top-shelf phablets. The Galaxy S7 and S8 pixel densities are in the 570s, but at this level, we're splitting hairs.

The display is colorful when it needs to be, lively and colorful by default, but also color accurate in the different display modes, and it doesn't acquire washed out under direct light - it's simply a stunning piece of kit.

It's also curved, of course - for better or for worse, Samsung isn't making flat-classy screen flagships any longer. That said, we're not talking Galaxy Note Edge type of curves, naturally. The concept has evolved over the past few years, and it's a more natural see and feel today. Plus, palm rejection makes sure your palm doesn't activate any UI elements along the classy screen by accident.

The Galaxy Note8's corners are sharper than those of the S8+, and that applies to the physical corners of the device and the corners of the display. It makes the Note8 see a bit more serious and industrial next to the slightly more playful and fashion-oriented S8+.

The Galaxy Note8 next to the S8+ and the S8

Funny choice of word there, 'industrial' could be used to portray the Note8's weight. At 195g, it's easily the heaviest Note, tablets excluded. Only the Note II with its 183g comes close, but all the other generations have all been in the 168-178g range. More interestingly, the Note8 is 22g heavier than the S8+ despite a smaller battery and only marginally larger display. Apparently, the S-Pen and the second capturing camera have added to the tally.

The Galaxy Note8 compared to the S8

Despite the tangible (well, at least initially) weight incompatibility between the two ruling Samsung phablets, the Note8 is arguably easier to handle. Slightly less curved display, sharper corners - it's probably a combination of these two.

Now narrower, the Galaxy Note8 is really top notch to handle

The dual capturing camera is the highlight recent feature; there's no doubt about that. Looking at the camera/sensor/flash assembly from a design standpoint, however, it's not easy to love.

There's a lot going on there, with the two capturing camera modules, the flash, the heart rate sensor, and the fingerprint sensor, so Samsung figured they should try and mask it all up in a black window, with the fingerprint sensor getting its section. The problem is, rather obviously, that it only works on the black color version. On the other paint jobs, it makes for a stark contrast, and it's not the most elegant solution. Or it is, in fact, the most elegant possible, it's just not particularly so.

The Galaxy Note8 back

Another point to create is that the fingerprint sensor is in an even more inaccessible position than on the S8+ - it's a slightly larger phone, and the pad is slightly more offset from the central axis. On a positive note, the flash/heart rate sensor combo is now between the fingerprint sensor and the camera, making it a small less likely for you to smear the lens. A little.

The rear control deck is now different

Speaking of color schemes, the Note8's hero color is Deepsea Blue, not to be mistaken with the Coral Blue of the Galaxy S7 and S8. It's a darker shade, and one that doesn't play with light quite as much as the recent hue. But, we do tdiscontinue to have a thing for blue smartphones, so we'll hold it as it is.

The recent Deepsea Blue compared to Coral Blue on the S8

There's the classic and incognito Midnight Black option and Maple Grecent for those that want a small more bling. Orchid Grey, like on the S8, will also be available, but we didn't acquire to handle one. Bummer.

The Galaxy Note8 will be available in Midnight Black, Maple Grecent and Deepsea Blue and Orchid Gray

If you've ever seen a Galaxy S8 or an S8+, you'll be familiar with the button placement on the Note8. The power button is in its proper spot on the correct side of the phone, while directly opposite it on the left side is the gap between the Bixby button and the volume rocker. The usefulness of the Bixby assistant and whether it calls for a dedicated button is a polarizing subject that we'll steer clear from, at least for now.

Power button on the correct • Bixby button on the left

Up top, there's a mic pinhole for some noise canceling action. The card tray is up top, and it takes a nano SIM and microSD card, though a dual SIM Note8 will also be available.

On the bottom, you'll find the customary Samsung arrangement with the Universal Serial Bus (USB) port in the center, Type-C these days. The 3.5mm jack is here to stay, hopefully, and the mic and single speaker are in this vicinity.

Top side • Bottom side

Oh, and there's the S-Pen, of course. More on that on the next page.



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