The Galaxy Note 8.0 expands the Galaxy Note II’s screen to 8.0 inches, bringing it firmly into tablet territory, and competition with the iPad mini and Google Nexus 7.
The “8” in the name refers to the size of the screen, but it could refer to the thickness of the device, impressively slim at a sliver under 8mm. That, along with the rest of the proportions, is more or less the same as the iPad mini and it’s a shame that Samsung couldn’t have got the weight down still further at 340g it’s equal to the Nexus 7, but heavier than the iPad mini’s 308g, despite that device’s metal casing. That said, it’s not an outrageously heavy device, and it’s comfortable to hold and work on, even for extended periods.
The smooth back could perhaps have done with a more textured surface to aid grip, but it’s no deal breaker. Still, it feels sturdy and robust, though you’ll want to shell out a little more on a protective case after you’ve splashed for the premium price this isn’t a cheap device, not in comparison with its rivals. On the sides are a power/sleep button, volume rocker and a Micro SD memory card slot hidden behind a plastic grommet, plus a 3.5mm headphone jack on top. There are stereo speakers on the bottom along with a micro USB power/sync slot.
The 8-inch TFT touch screen may not be the most super of Super Amoleds enjoyed by siblings like the Galaxy S4, but its sharpness, brightness and sensitivity make it a joy to look at and to use. Delivering a not quite full HD resolution of 1,280×800 pixels, it manages 189ppi, which puts it a little ahead of the iPad mini’s 163ppi (not that you’d notice without referring to the specs) but behind the Nexus 7’s 216ppi (same resolution, but the ppi is bumped up by having an inch less screen).
* Features and performance
Samsung’s TouchWiz interface adds a few good-looking tweaks, including the ripple effect on the lock screen, and a shortcut bar that appears at the left hand side of the screen when you press the protruding tab. You can add up to 19 shortcuts and scroll through them, but if the tab’s getting in the way, you can hide it by holding down the back button.
The S Pen software that works with the slim, accurate stylus is well integrated, with dedicated programmers S Note and S Planner, but you can also use it to draw on WebPages and documents.
Samsung’s AirView system, which senses your fingers coming near the screen on the S4, only works with the stylus here you can see the size and color of the nib before you actually touch the screen. In S Planner it will reveal pop-up windows before you press on an event and you can see previews of pictures and videos from your gallery.
Press the button on the side of the stylus and you get extra functions, like the quick command box that pops up when you draw a line on the homepage and uses (pretty good) handwriting recognition software to let you search the internet, maps and your email contacts.
Picture in picture means you can play a video in an insert window while you’re browsing the web or checking your emails at the same time. There’s a lot going on, but TouchWiz’s many tweaks to the basic Android system means the Note 8 is likely to be towards the back of the queue for software updates, certainly well behind the Nexus 7, whose pure Android interface will get them first.
And speaking of which, the Note 8.0 is running Android Jelly Bean 4.1, just a whisker behind the very latest 4.2 version enjoyed by the Nexus 7. You’re not missing out on much, just a few updates and tweaks rather than anything major, but if you’re keen to have the very latest, this can feel just a wee bit lacking, especially since the next incarnation, 5.0 Key Lime Pie, is due in the next few months.
The quad-core processor does a lot to make up for it though, with speedy opening of apps and powerful performance even when running several apps at once. HD gaming held no terrors either and high-speed racer Real Racing 3 was smooth and responsive throughout.
It’s available with 16GB of onboard memory initially, though a 32GB version is meant to be on the way. Whether that will prove popular is debatable however, since you can add a Micro SD memory card up to 64GB, which will be more than enough for most, and puts it ahead of the fixed-memory iPad mini and Nexus 7.
The 5.0 mega-pixel camera doesn’t have an LED flash, but it’s packed with lots of tweaking features and effects. It’s not in the same league as the snapper on the Galaxy S4 but it’s in a similar league to the 5-megapixel model on the iPad mini (the Nexus 7 makes do with only its 1.2 mega-pixel webcam). Picture quality is decent rather than spectacular, with accurate colors and a fair amount of detail. Noise can creep in a bit too much in low light conditions, but no more than you’d expect.
While it’s nice to have a decent camera on board, it’s debatable whether a device of this size is really the best place for it most people find it easier to use a more standard-sized phone to take pictures.
There’s a whopping 4,600mAh battery on board, but that powerful processor and big screen take their toll. Still, we managed to get close to two days’ worth of fairly heavy use out of it, which is perhaps a bit more than you’d normally expect from most high-end smart phones, which need a juice boost virtually every day.
As a tablet the Galaxy Note 8.0 is considerably more expensive than Google’s Nexus 7 and even the never knowingly underpriced Apple’s iPad mini. Still, it has a fine, big screen, powerful processor and the S Pen with its well designed attendant software, as well as a pretty decent camera if drawing’s important to you, it’s worth a look, but its rivals can do most of its other tricks for less.