Look and feel
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.0 is the perfect size for clutching one-handed, while your other hand gets busy with the S Pen stylus. It’s a solid and attractive tablet, with a glossy plastic finish.
Ease of Use
The combination of responsive stylus, spacious touchscreen and intuitive multi-tasking makes the Galaxy Note 8.0 a great and effortless way to stay productive on the move.
Along with the S Pen, the Galaxy Note 8.0 packs in plenty of apps and features that make the most of it. The 5MP camera lacks a flash but takes decent photos in a pinch, and there’s a front-facing lens for Skype chats.
A quad-core processor backed up by 2GB of RAM keeps everything ticking over nicely. You can multi-task or game to your heart’s content.
You’ll get a full day of moderate use, or five hours of video streaming, from each charge.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,2/26/2013 12:53:03 PM
Ease of use
Great size for one-handed use;
Bright, colourful screen;
Display not as sharp as some rivals;
Average media battery life
Samsung’s Galaxy Note range has evidently proved popular, given the rate Samsung is smashing out these stylish stylus devices. For the uninitiated, Galaxy Notes have two things in common. The first is the S Pen stylus, which can be used to modify documents on the move or get creative if inspiration strikes. The second is a grandiose design. At 5.5 inches, the Galaxy Note 2 is the smallest member of the new batch, barely compact enough to get away with its smartphone credentials. At the other end of the scale is the Galaxy Note 10.1 (now available in an LTE flavour), a fully-fledged tablet boasting a stunning screen.
The Galaxy Note 8.0 sits in the middle, too large to use as a smartphone (despite supporting SIM cards), but more compact than the existing Galaxy Note tablet. Considering it’s supposed to be used with a stylus, this size seems a lot more logical than the ten-incher. We found we could comfortably grip the Galaxy Note 8.0 one-handed, leaving our other hand free to sketch, poke, prod and whatever else. In this respect it’s like the iPad Mini compared to the full-sized iPad.
If you’re looking for a portable tablet, the Galaxy Note 8.0 is a fine choice. At 340g it won’t weigh you down, while the body itself is only a little bulkier than the likes of Google’s seven-inch Nexus 7 tablet, and will easily slip into a bag. Battery life is strong enough to keep you going all day if you’re browsing the web or emailing, while streaming video gives a respectable five hours of playback. That’s about average for a tablet, and means commuters are more than covered.
In terms of looks, the Galaxy Note 8.0 is similar to previous models. The glossy white plastic sports minimal design elements, with a tiny ‘Samsung’ logo on front and back practically the only markings. We like the simple, curved finish, which looks striking enough to attract glances when you pull it out in public, and it feels solid in all areas, except for a tiny bit of flex around the memory card slot. That Micro SD slot can be used to expand the 16GB of in-built storage, and there’s Micro USB for charging. There’s also a 3G/4G LTE version with a SIM card slot if you need reliable web access on the move (which of course requires a data contract), but we tested out the Wi-Fi only model.
Android 4.1 is just as slick and responsive as usual, coated in Samsung’s delicious TouchWiz interface. The desktops are bright and colourful and fully customisable, right down to the shortcuts at the bottom of each screen, and the notifications bar gives you quick access to the most important settings, as well as informing you of any new messages and other bits that need attention.
You can fully personalise the desktops and other screens with your own wallpapers, and even select which app shortcuts to place on the lock screen. As usual you get an excellent selection of widgets to scatter around the desktops, and Samsung has piled tons of apps onto the Galaxy Note 8.0, which gives you plenty to play with (or uninstall while grumbling to yourself, if you hate bloatware).
As well as the TouchWiz interface, Samsung’s usual array of intriguing bonus features once again make an appearance. Smart Stay, for instance, can detect when your eyeballs are looking at the screen and keep the tablet from hibernating. It’s a neat tool, although you need to hold the Galaxy Note 8.0 head-on for it to work. There’s also S Motion, which allows you to control the tablet using gestures – for instance, pause a song by placing your hand on the screen.
S Pen is back
The star of the show is of course Samsung’s clever little S Pen, a stylus that measures how hard you press on the screen. This allows you to craft all kinds of creative documents, with help from the excellent range of supported apps. ‘S Note’ is your dedicated sketch pad which gives you a range of templates, including diary, recipe and greeting card layouts, and lets you scribble away to your heart’s content. You can change the brush type, size and colour, and even get busy with shapes and formulae. You can also create funky-looking masterpieces in mere seconds with ‘Paper Artist’, which transforms photos into arty designs ready for tweaking.
Examples of the scribbly fun you can have with Samsung's S Pen...
Productive types will love ‘S Planner’, your all-purpose calendar/diary which allows you to scribble notes and generally organise your life. The S Pen also works with non-Samsung apps such as Flipboard, giving you the latest headlines when you hover over a category, and you can even scrawl directly on the desktop by holding down the stylus’ side button, in case you need to take down some emergency notes (for example, write down some details as you’re taking a call).
The S Pen works perfectly in partnership with the bright and colourful eight-inch display. We were surprised when Samsung announced it would only be 1280 x 800 resolution, as we were hoping for a boost over the Note 10.1’s pixel density. However, the reduced screen size means images are still pleasingly crisp, and we love the rich, stand-out colours.
With a 1.6GHz quad-core processor (backed up by 2GB of RAM) stuffed into the Galaxy Note 8.0’s shiny shell, it’s no surprise that it can effortlessly multi-task. Hold down the ‘back’ button and a handy menu of compatible apps pops up on the left edge of the screen. You can drag two onto the desktop to run them side-by-side, which proves incredibly helpful if you want to check your calendar while composing an email, or browse your photos while watching a movie, or chat over Google Talk while surfing the web. You can resize the windows to give preference to one of the apps, and swap them around with a quick tap. It’s intuitive, satisfying and a great use of the Galaxy Note 8.0’s spacious screen.
Bring up the multi-tasking apps menu and you can open two apps at once, and resize each window
That great performance is good news for gamers too. We blasted our way through some of the latest action-packed games, which played without a hitch.
The 5 megapixel rear camera takes respectable photos that are sharp with realistic tones when viewed back on a larger screen. Occasionally we found that brightness levels were a little off – some shots were overexposed, while others were a little dim – but compared to most tablets out there, the Galaxy Note 8.0’s camera is a strong little snapper. Just don’t plan on taking night time shots, as there’s no flash.
You have a handful of funky options to play around with, including the ability to take cartoony shots or add other bizarre filters. You can also capture panoramas, enable voice shutter activation and of course shoot HD video. The Galaxy Note 8.0’s standard photo editing options are limited, but you can download the free and feature-packed Samsung Photo Editor to give them a serious going over, before sharing them online or with Samsung’s ‘Buddy Share’ feature.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.0 is our new favourite S Pen device, thanks to its handy size for clutching one-handed. If you demand a tablet for doing multiple things at once, and staying both productive and creative on the go, you’ll love the Galaxy Note 8.0.