Note 8.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 brings features a-plenty and the beauty that is the S Pen to the small tablet form factor. But is the $399 price too much to justify?

The Galaxy Note 8 is Samsung's latest small form-factor tablet, and it checks in with a $399 price point. That's important, and we'll be referring back to the price several times during this review. Why? Because there are two great tablets at this size that the Note 8 is directly competing against -- the $200 Nexus 7 and the $330 iPad Mini.

Price aside, the Note 8 is one of the best tablets Samsung has offered. It's full of the same great features that we're used to seeing in the Galaxy Note line, and it's hardware is plenty fast enough to make the experience pretty good overall. And of course, there's the S Pen to consider. Stop thinking of it as a stylus, because it's deeply integrated into the software and brings things to the table a regular stylus never could.

Is that enough to justify the $399 price? To answer that, hit the break and see what we think of the Galaxy Note 8.

The Good

The Note 8 has a better display than the Nexus 7 or the iPad Mini. It's not going to knock you out, but it's also not going to be horrible for daily use. TouchWiz is feature-rich, and more important is that the features are easy to turn off when you find some you don't want to use. The S Pen works incredibly well, and makes the Note 8 not just another small Android tablet.

The Bad

$399 is just too much for an 8-inch tablet. The Nexus 7 is a much better value at half the price, and the iPad Mini has a better selection of tablet specific applications for the same (or lower) price. After a few hours of use, I find myself wishing Samsung had went with their 7-inch form factor, which is easier to hold with one hand.

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is the best use of a digital pen I've ever seen. If you're interested in computing this way, rather than standard touch input with your fingers, this is the tablet to get. If you're not interested in using the S Pen, save a few dollars and get the Tab 2 7-inch or the Nexus 7.

Hands-on with the Galaxy Note 8

The Galaxy Note 8 hardware

Note 8.

Because Samsung decided to go 8 inches with the Galaxy Note 8, the tablet "holds" different than the 7-inch Tab and Tab 2 we've seen before, as well as the Nexus 7. To be honest, it's a little awkward at first, reminiscent of holding the iPad Mini. Unless you have hands a bit on the smaller side, you'll get used to it, but it's still not as natural feeling because of the wider frame. The Note 8 feels like it's made in the same style as the Note 10.1, which means the plastic is a little thin and creaky. This is simply a user-preference thing, because it's not going to break or fly apart no matter what you might have read on the Internet about plastic things. Samsung has been successful making devices out of plastic, and we don't expect this to change any time soon. There is nothing wrong with the way the Note 8 is built, but it doesn't give the illusion of quality that some of the other tablets with metal and rubberized surfaces do.

Note 8.

The bezels are generous without being too big. After using it, I think Samsung has found the perfect mix between bezels big enough to hold the tablet without triggering the screen on accident, and being so big that wasted space becomes an issue. On the top bezel you have the front facing camera and the device sensors, on the bottom you have the three interface buttons -- a physical Home key in the center, and a menu and back key. Unlike the previous Note devices, the S Pen will trigger the capacitive menu and back buttons. This is a welcome change indeed.

Note 8.

On the bottom of the Note 8 you'll find a pair of speaker openings, the microUSB port, and the S Pen slot. On the right side is the microSD card slot, and on the left is the power button, volume rocker, and the IR blaster. The very top houses a 3.5mm headphone jack. The buttons and controls are easy to find and use, and there is no wiggle or any signs of them being prone to breakage.

Galaxy Note 8 performance

Note 8.

The Note 8 runs atop a 1.6GHz quad-core Exynos 4410 CPU with 2GB of RAM. It ships with Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) running Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. Also included is support for 802.11 a/b/g/n (in both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz modes) Wifi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and a sensor package consisting of a gyroscope, an accelerometer and a compass.

The device's 8-inch screen has a 1280x800-pixel resolution, which checks in at 189 pixels-per-inch (ppi). That's noticeably better than the 163 ppi screen on the iPad Mini, which I feel is the Note 8's main competition in the market. The screen is nice and sharp, and the PLS panel is plenty bright. Reading is one of the things I spend a lot of time doing on a tablet, and the Note 8 renders fonts very nicely, without any of the jagged edges you find on other tablets. The inclusion of three screen presets (Dynamic, Standard and Movie) adjust the brightness and contrast to the appropriate settings for each use, and generally things work very nicely. While I want tablets built in 2013 to have a bit higher resolution than 800p, the Wacom digitizer probably dictates the resolution on the Note 8. I can't knock the tablet for that, and think Samsung did an excellent job with everything else about the screen -- making the less-than-1080p resolution easy to accept.

The UI is nice and speedy. Swiping between home screens or turning pages in an e-reader app is smooth and absolutely lag-free. The only hesitation I'm seeing is when you press the Home button to return to your home screen from an application, but even this is negligible. The Mali 400 GPU may not be the latest and greatest chip, but it performs more than well enough for gaming. Running my very non-scientific test of playing Riptide GP until the battery runs dead, the game is responsive, looks great, and was an overall pleasant experience. The only issue I ran into is that I end up hitting the back button while playing the game (it's a landscape-only affair), which of course creates a frustrating moment where you exit out.

Android CentralThe advertised 14-hour battery life is a bit of a stretch. During my testing -- comprising a bit of Riptide GP, surfing the web, and a little time on Google+ -- I could get about five hours of non-stop screen time and still have enough juice left for an hour or two of reading before bed and needing to plug the Note 8 into the charger. This is slightly less than I get from my personal device, which is a Nexus 7. If you use it more, especially for processor-intensive 3D gaming, you'll need to plug it in sooner.

The 1.3MP front-facing camera is pretty poor, useful only for video conferencing. The rear camera is slightly better, but you'll not want to use the Note 8 as your go-to camera unless you have to. And that's a good thing, because nothing is worse than being that guy who holds up his tablet to take pictures.

The sound is also adequate. There are two speaker openings, but the sound is clearly not stereo and the speaker placement puts everything off to one side while watching video or playing a game. Of course, this is easy to overcome by plugging a pair of headphones into the tablet, which sound just fine. Hopefully, future devices all follow the lead of HTC's One and the Nexus 10 and point the sound at us while we're looking at the screen.

The S Pen

Note 8.

The S Pen is simply one of the best accessories / features ever built into a portable computer. If you're thinking it's a stylus, just stop. The S Pen is a pressure-sensitive tool that is perfectly integrated into the software of the device, and actually makes the Note 8 a compelling buy. Little things like taking screen captures, opening an application's menu, or even navigating the UI can be done by holding the button on the S Pen and making the appropriate gesture against the screen.

Even more useful, albeit not for everyone, is how responsive the tablet is between when you touch the S Pen to the screen and when things happen on the tablet. This makes the S Pen perfect for writing or drawing, giving the user the natural control needed to do either fluidly. Software specially built for the S Pen make it even better, allowing you to write out words instead of typing them, or changing the width of the virtual pen tip based on the amount of pressure you're using against the screen.

Things have come a long way since the original Note and its S Pen, and other than a few occasions when the tablet's palm-rejection feature failed me, it was a great experience. If you've a need for a tablet with any sort of pen-style input, this is the one.

Galaxy Note 8 software

Home

For the most part, the Note 8's software is a mirror of what we see on the Note 10 or Note 2. Additions like Air View and Reading Mode work particularly well, while some things like the device's head tracking features and slightly high learning curve still need a bit of work.

You'll feel right at home if you've used any modern Samsung Android device, as TouchWiz is out in full force here. I'll leave the arguments over whether that's a good thing or a bad thing to the reader, but it does lead to a more consistent look and feel across Samsung's wide range of devices. The same highly-colorful, ultra-configurable, and slightly over-complicated feel you would get from the Galaxy S line of phones or the previous Galaxy Note devices is alive and well on the Note 8.

Samsung's multi-window feature is a really nice addition when you have 8-inches of screen real-estate to work with. With more applications compatible with the multi-window mode (including Chrome, Twitter and Facebook) you can do two things at once, while still being able to actually see what the hell you're looking at. What was a bit of a gimmick at 5-inches turns into something useful at 8-inches. Using the S Pen to move and resize the windows is easy, and the whole affair feels like it was designed with the device features in mind. Well done, Samsung.

Multi-window  Multi-window

Another favorite of mine has been the S Pen to text "translation" feature of the Note 8. Open an application that can take text input, say for example the browser, and enable the feature through the device software keyboard settings. After this, any time you tap a text-entry field in your browser, instead of the keyboard popping up you'll get a notepad that you write on with the S Pen. The Note 8 then translates your input into text and fills in the field. It's been consistently accurate, and I've found that entering text with the S Pen is better for me than using the keyboard.

Perhaps my favorite feature is the new Reading Mode. It's a fairly simple little tweak that really works well. What it does it change the background of the e-reader application to closer resemble real paper instead of a glowing white background. It then adjusts the intensity of the effect based on the amount of ambient light the sensor picks up. It works well, and makes a big difference while reading -- both in bright light and in darkness.

Disable apps

Other features like the Awesome Note HD version specially built for the S Pen and Samsung's various hubs and apps are also on-board, and work well enough for those that will want to use them. I found that my own choices from Google Play were better for me than the bundled apps, and S Note in particular was better than Awesome Note HD. Your mileage may vary, and it's easy enough to disable the applications you'll not want to use.

The bottom line

Note 8.

The Note 8 is one of the most expensive small-form tablets available. If you're looking for a good all-around tablet to play a few games or for general Internet-foolery, don't spend $400 on it. Yes, I'll go on record with that. The price is too high, and for about the same amount you're better served with an iPad Mini, or if you're an Android fan the Nexus 7 is a much better buy for half the price.

That all goes out the window if you think you'll need or enjoy using the S Pen. Nothing else comes close to the tight integration and many productive features Samsung has built into the Note 8 when coupled with the S Pen. If you're into drawing, or need a way to sign digital documents, or just need precise control that you can't get with your fingers the Note 8 is one you'll want to look at. It really does put the Note 8 into a class by itself.

 

Reader comments

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

54 Comments

I bought this for my wife on launch day, and I have to say I am extremely impressed with the total package. With that said I still prefer my Note 10.1 over the 8.0, but I am 6'6" and the 8 seems to small. 399 is nothing if the s pen is useful to you, we live in photoshop and s note so it was a no brainer.

I got note 8.0 Actually I am writing everything On it right no... So easy to take notes
so impressed with this tablet software and features
of course I wish the Screen Was 1080p
I wish l had it in black & at a lower price or free...
but @400USD this thing is worth much more
This is an amazing tablet...

I am also happy with my Galaxy Note. Bought it for 388 in Amazon and I want to say that it worth its price, more than that I think that the price is not that high for this device and its cool features.

Galaxy Note 8 is light, mid size and very comfortable to use. I was so happy and impressed with it, so I created a review for those people who are hesitating to buy it or not:

My Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Feedback

Can't wait for the Rumored Nexus 10 with better processor, hope it stays the same but has more power and ram

$300 and EVERYONE should consider it. This isn't a regular tablet that just has a touch interface like all the rest. When you get the digitizer included and the functionality of the S Pen, the extra cost is more justified. Sure, 399 is too high. But if they dropped it to 349, I think that would be perfectly priced. 300 would be an absolute steal. If this tablet was 300, the Nexus 7 lines should be 199 for a 32 GB model.

$175 and it's a deal. Anything priced above a Nexus 7 and I'd get the Nexus 7. I agree with your larger point that the value of those components is high, but the compromises (the rest of TouchWiz, the physical buttons, etc.) diminish it's value too much in my opinion. For a 7" or 8" tablet, $250 is about the highest I can justify given that the some of the best 10" tablets (Asus, Nexus 10) begin in the $300-$399 range. At $399 you compare it to other like-priced items and you would default to the much better Nexus 10... at least I think.

I bought the Note 8 to complement my Note 2, which it does very well indeed. I was initially quite disappointed with the specs of the Note 8 which didn't seem to offer much in power over the Note 2, but in use the superb form factor makes a huge difference in comfort as a proper tablet... without the bulk - I can easily hold it in one hand while writing with the other.

I bought the 16GB Wi-Fi only model, added a 64GB microsd card and pair it with my Note 2 as a Wi-Fi hot spot when I (rarely) need mobile comms away from Wi-Fi. I also use the Tablet Talk app to pair it with my Note 2 to send/receive texts which works great!

Altogether, I'm very relieved that I didn't wait - the Note 8 is worth every penny, even though I don't seem to be using the pen too much at the moment, having it available is priceless...since there is simply no competition - Samsung have a killer feature with the S-pen.

One final point, you're right about it being over priced... I thought long and hard about my purchase, but haven't regretted paying the full amount for one second. If you can afford it, go for it - you will be very glad you did.

I totally agree with everything you just said....seriously love mine....yes $350 is a more realistic price but i've enjoyed mine and would pay the $400 again in a heartbeat.

What about the phone functionality? Is it completely absent from the North American version? If so, when is the international version due to be released?

I have to say this is a pretty good assessment. Phone function is not included in the US model. If anyone has specific questions hop into the forums and I'll be glad to answer you. I am writing this from the Note 8 so if I do not have the answer I will figure it out for you.

For about $50 more (currently on sale at Best Buy and Sam's Club for $445, probably elsewhere too), the Note 10.1 is a better overall value IMO. :)

Not if you are looking for a smaller form factor. the 8 is the perfect size for me. i also have a transformer prime which i found i was not using much because it was just a bit too big. I was using my note 2 way more, now however, the 8 has taken over and i use it more than the note 2 except when talking on the phone or texting.

I love the Note 10.1 and if I had the money i'd consider either this or waiting for the Note 3. I understand that most people will compare these tablets to the Nexus 7 or iPad mini, but you're really doing yourself a disservice by believing they are in the same realm. Jerry did a good job of expressing how completely different they really are if you have need of the S Pen. It completely changes the entire experience as opposed to buying a dumb aftermarket stylus for a cheaper tablet.

I'm writing this on my Note 8.0 and love this thing. I sure paid more than $400.00 on my 64GB Blackberry PlayBook shortly after launch, and it carried me for all this time, albeit without a lot of the features the Note has. I do miss the sound quality of the PB though, true stereo. I think this tab IS a bit expensive, but hey, I wanted it, and I got it. Now if I could find a 32GB S4, I'd be set.

I bought this tablet and don't regret it at all. Yeah it's $400 but to say that you're better off spending that on an iPad mini? I disagree. Although I have a Mac and really do like apple products, I rather have the Galaxy Note 8 and feel that it is a better product than the iPad mini. I came from an Asus Transformer Prime tablet and am very happy I made this change. Other than that last statement about the iPad mini, this is an overall good review. Thanks.

@Jerry Hildenbrand

Thanks for the details post.

yeah Samsung Note 8 is a cool stuff from Samsung and very powerful in the note category with S pen.

Thanks in Advance

What about a 32gb version for the Samsung Galaxy Note 8? I see reference to it, but no word on when. 16gb for $400 is a real turn off.

Sounds just like the ipad doesn't it? The ipad may have a bigger screen but there are alot of 10 inch tablets that are cheaper alternatives. i have the note 8 being a highschool senior it does help with taking notes and studying. Its worth the price, I'm happy every moment i use it.

There are too many apps that only reside on internal memory - that you can't move to an SD card. 16gb is useless these days.

While I love the Nexus 7 I still think the 7.7 or 8 inch tablets are the better size just for overall browsing. 7 inch display always feels just a little cramped.

I have the 10.1 , I had the ipad 3 , I have a nexus 7. People who say nexus 7 is better than this tablet is on fanboy crack. It's not even close.

Let's start with the 10.1 over ANY ANDROID TABLET. MicroSD (64gig -EXFAT FORMAT) says hi. The 10.1 with multi-window is the best thing to happen to tablets and I bought it and sold my ipad 3 the moment I saw how good it was. Also, the fact, i can put all my movies on a sdcard and take it on a flight. The Spen is the reason why you buy the note and it's the best pen input available. PERIOD.

Now lets go to note 8 which i sold my 10.1 for. It's more of a blown up note 2 than a shrunken 10.1 but the multi window feature is still there but the spen usage is much better. the 10.1 should cause issues with you accident pressing the status bar because NOBODY WRITES WITHOUT THEIR HAND PLANTED unless you less like shitty looking font. THe accuracy is just as good, i'm talking mm size writing. no stupid "zoom" box needed. It's the same micro sd. and the display is the best tablet display outside of nexus 10 and ipad 4.

the nexus 7 is 199. It's also an outdated processor. no expansion upgrade and no spen. The spen alone is 100 bucks. if you don't believe it, consider this pen as accessory would sell for 60 bucks if it was possible to sell.

Is it a bit expensive...i agree with you. But not that much more. ipad mini is 329 and for 70 bucks more. you get quad core, spen, expansion that plays any 1080p mkv movie. and its very portable.

WIN.

Google owns phones (nexus brand). Samsung totally is understands how to make a mini tablet. Boom bitches. I'm out.

and to complain about you are having a problem holding a tablet with one hand. I'm asian I can do it.......tsk tsk.

I have waited for a long time to buy a tablet and the Note 8 was my first tablet purchase. I have to say I am very pleased with the device. The S-Pen is fantastic and the suite of apps provided have been very productive for me. The screen looks fantastic, performance is buttery smooth, and I think 8 inches hits the sweet spot when it comes to tablets. I have also enjoyed using the IR Blaster to control my various gadgets around the house. Overall a great buy out of a sea of smaller Android tablets despite the higher price tag.

Anyone who says meh to S-Pen is misinformed. NO OTHER Tablet can compete. If you say you can hand-write just as good with your finger and/or some other weak apps that allow you to use that eraser tip type stylus, your crazy. It's as awkward and unnatural as all get out. The S-Pen is natural feeling. Not everyone wants to type. Hen pecking with 2 fingers is not always as fast as handwriting with one. While listening to a talk or a lecture, I can be writing down notes, recording the lecture, and surfing Wikipedia on the same subject ON THE SAME SCREEN AT THE SAME TIME!! Please don't tell me that switching back and forth to each screen is a better design because I'll just lose all hope. An iPad with an S-Pen seems to be so easy to implement, yet they're too stupid to try it. Yay for Samsung!

I'm also informed that unlike the Note 2 or 10.1 you can use the S-Pen on the capacitive buttons on this device. That is the only niggle I have with the S-Pen on my Note 2. I have to adjust the way I'm holding it in my hand to go back or open the menu in an app.

Was going to purchase this but saw that the Nexus 7 32 gig was 229.00. Decided to go with that instead.

Samsung keep dangling interesting kit and I love the possibilities of the Spen. However - Is the Note 2 phone or 10.1 tablet are actually the better format for practical use?

I will waiting for an updated Nexus 7 or the Note 3 Phone then judge. Why rush?

Hi Jerry

I totally agree that 7" is a better size. I am a big FAN of carrying a 7" tablet In a front pocket everywhere I go. Been doing it for almost 3 years starting with NookColor, then HTC Flyer and currently Nexus 7, I like to think of it as "ONE DEVICE" where it could free up a front pocket for keys and a few coins. Think of all the advantages of a single device. Only one device to keep all your apps upated and being easier to find an app as locations are always different on a smaller screen phone. For calling, my current choice for BT HF is the White LG around the neck set with magnetic ear buds. I have been looking for a short pen like pocket clip HF device as when taking any ringing phone out of a pocket, I manage to frequently drop the call. Think of a clip that when ringing and removed from a shirt neckline or pocket automatically answers the phone. Likewise, hangsup when the pocket clip is again insulated from the barrel. The monthly carrier cost is also lower for a single device and one less device to purchase. Lots of advantages in my book.

The just announced 7" Tab 3 is a big disappointment in the spec department such as Screen, MHz, Cameras, etc... Since only ONE DEVICE needs to be purchased, I would be willing to pay al little more and get best in class performance. Look forward to see if anyone has similar interests.

The ElderTechTutor

As someone who sold their Nexus 7 and bought this a few days after its release, I can say that this is a very fair review and also that I haven't regretted my purchase one bit. The Note 8 is a wonderful tablet.

Galaxy Note 8.0 is best tablet I've used for my purposes. Busy executive, lots of meetings, notes, emails, cloud access, and easy to handle. And the stylus is the game changer.

At this price i should have got at least :1) 8 mp camera of course with a flash with all the soft ware gimmicks that is in note 2 camera .2) a much much smaller bezel .
3) a much much more battery juice .but i simply didn't get any of these . any way i already got it ,so i am having fun with the s pen , the remote control and mostly the ram and processor i m not having any lags or twitches at all.bottom line i give it 75/100 on my satisfaction scale

I would have bough this tablet in a heartbeat if it had
1. 32GB OR 64GB of internal storage
2. Higher resolution screen - 1080P would be nice
3. Much better battery life (currently battery life is relatively pathetic according to reviews)

Waiting for the next iteration of the Note tablet

Actually the internal storage problem could easily be remedied if you plug in a micro-SD card (it can be up to 64GB).

I would have to say that the Galaxy Note 8 (although expensive) is an excellent investment if you really want a high end tablet. With that said, you can even use it as a computer replacement :). The Galaxy Note 8 can technically handle anything, from Web Browsing to 3D gaming. The tablet comes with Polaris office which is 100% with Microsoft office.

The only drawback is that the device only supports 16GB of onboard storage, which is inadequate for some hardcore users.