It seems like we’re saying this too much lately, but we have another member of the Galaxy family. We actually have another member of the Galaxy Note family. Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily the one most people are waiting for. No, it’s not the Galaxy Note 3, but the Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet – the smaller derivative of the Galaxy Note 10.1 we tested at the end of last year.
When it was announced at MWC back in February it took a lot of flack because of the fact that it can make phone calls. To be honest, we agree in this regard. No one would be caught dead with this behemoth on their ear. But in fact, it won’t be predominantly used as a smartphone, but as a stylus enabled tablet easier to handle than its larger sibling.
Here are some of the key features:
- 8.0″ 16M-colour LCD capacitive touchscreen of 800 x 1280 pixel resolution
- Android OS v4.1.2 with TouchWiz launcher
- 1.6 GHz quad-core Cortex-A9 CPU, Mali-400MP GPU, 2GB of RAM, Exynos 4412 Quad chipset
- S Pen active stylus with deep system integration
- 5 MP wide-angle lens autofocus camera with face detection
- 720p HD video recording at 30fps
- 16/32/64GB internal storage, microSD slot
- Stereo Bluetooth v4.0
- microUSB port with USB host and TV-out (1080p) support, MHL, charging
- Accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensor
- 1.3MP secondary video-call camera
- 4600 mAh battery
Is this device any good? We have spent quite some time with it, and we feel that we have a verdict. It has many positives, but the list of negatives isn’t non-existent. Let’s investigate further.
Design and Build
Let us talk about the first things first. We tore the Galaxy Note 10.1 to shreds because of its shoddy build quality. The plastic was ugly, felt unpleasant and it would creak and bend under normal use. It was a massive let down from a company that was on the top of the world when it came to smartphones but was still trying to get a foothold in the tablet market. Luckily though, the Note 8.0 is built more like the Galaxy S range and it makes a world of difference.
While we are still not massive fans of the design of the Galaxy S range and then by extension, the Galaxy Note 8.0, it is a massive improvement on the larger tablet’s design. That being said (and we have said this multiple times before), we feel this design language is now starting to become dated, even though Samsung decided to stick with it for the Galaxy S4. We are really getting tired of the plastic aesthetic; hopefully the Galaxy S4 was the last of its kind.
Overall the device feels very similar to the Galaxy Note 2. Whether that is a good thing we will leave to you to decide, but using it was quite comfortable. It is also very light, which helps a lot.
The battery comes in at 4600 mAh, which seems like a pretty substantial amount of juice. Considering the screen doesn’t have a massive resolution we certainly expected it to last a couple of days under regular use.
Unfortunately that was not the case. Use it sparingly and you will get about two days’ worth of use from the battery. Under normal use though, don’t expect to get much more than a day. Heavy users might need to plug in every night.
As you might have guessed with the name Note 8.0, the screen is now 8 inches in size. It has a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution and the quality is actually quite nice.
The Note 8.0 has a standard LCD – Samsung has given up AMOLED in tablets for the time being with the Galaxy Tab 7.7 remaining its only attempt so far. And this is said not without regret. AMOLED screens are now reserved for the Note phablets, while tablets get LCDs. The one in the Note 8.0 gets the job done.
While the display quality is understandably far from what you’d see on a new 1080p flagship smartphone, for example, it’s fairly crisp to the naked eye, and offers a sharper image than many of Samsung’s other tablet offerings, such as the Tab 2 7.0. It also beats out Apple’s iPad Mini in terms of ppi, or pixels per inch, coming in at 189 ppi.
The Galaxy Note 8.0 has a 1.6GHz quad core processor and it runs on 2GB of RAM. It is a powerful device suited to the multitasking capabilities it is meant to handle. Samsung is touting this capability more than ever and believes this is the direction tablets have to take to become a fully-fledged computing machine.
While we found the performance of the operating system adequate, it inevitably had the same problems we have seen with every iteration of Samsung’s Touchwiz interface. In some strange places you do tend to have a bit of a lag, which is a shame with these kind of top notch internals.
We won’t hammer on about the incompetency of certain aspects of Touchwiz – we have done it on many other Samsung devices. How about a quick summary? Well, Touchwiz is a double-edged sword. There are many redeeming qualities to it, but ultimately, they include more options and settings than we care for or will ever use and TouchWiz really is more of a mess than ever before. Some are new to this Note.
Now that it is done and dusted, we can move on and look at the positives. The biggest change Samsung has made in this Note variant is the ability to trigger navigation using the soft keys with the S-Pen, which many Note users have been asking for for years. This makes a big difference in your everyday use of this Note, and it is the easiest Note to use. With previous Notes it was quite cumbersome to be using the stylus on the screen and then suddenly needing an option from one of the soft keys where you then had to use a finger. While this might seem like a small change or enhancement, it actually completely changes the effectiveness of how you use a Note and we are sure it will be included in the Galaxy Note 3.
It runs Android 4.1.2 out of the box and comes with all the bells and whistles we saw with the release of Jelly Bean, like the brilliant Google Now and enhanced Google Maps.
WatchOn, a programming guide and remote control app turns this Note into a universal remote. Functionality in SA is still a bit limited, but we have hopes that it will increase with time. It also comes with a reading mode, where it adapts this Note for e-reading which takes away the harsh light of an LCD screen. Then we have air view; while this isn’t anything new it now works on the Note’s custom Flipboard app which is pretty neat.
Overall it is the same Samsung UI experience we have seen in the past couple of years with a couple of minor changes and tweaks. If you didn’t like the Samsung interface before, steer clear from this Note variant.
The Samsung Note 8.0’s main camera can capture stills of up to 2592 x 1944 pixels and 720p videos, while the one on the front takes 1.3MP pictures and VGA video.
The interface is typical for a Samsung droid – a right column with the essential controls (virtual shutter key surrounded by a still/video mode toggle and a gallery shortcut) and a left column with six customizable shortcuts.
The camera app offers a bounty of features including geotagging, touch focus, Panorama, Smile shot, face and smile detection with Best faces, low-light mode, scenes, effects and more.
The actual image quality is pretty good for a 5 megapixel camera. There’s lots of fine detail and the noise levels are kept under control. Colours are decent too if slightly on the cold side. That being said the Note 8.0 is by far not the most comfortable device to take out and about and shoot a lot of photos with, as we have said with all tablets in the past.
In the end, the Galaxy Note 8.0 likely isn’t the standout tablet with the potential to be positioned as Samsung’s flagship slate. It isn’t the Galaxy S4 of tablets. It is a terrific addition to Samsung’s tablet lineup though, and it fills a gap between 7-inch tablets and larger 10-inch tablets. The Galaxy Tab 7.7 used to fill that gap in Samsung’s lineup, but the new Note is better in every way.
While flawed, there may be many people out there that will really get great use out of it. It is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is one of Samsung’s better forays into the tablet world.