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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review, 11 months on: Big, powerful, and due for a refresh

Our Verdict

Original review score: 4Price: $749Bottom line: Samsung's Note line continues to be the company's dominant phone in terms of mind share, if not market share. Excellent hardware is filled with top-end specs and all sorts of hardware features that you desire, and the icing on the cake is the super-powerful S Pen stylus. There are a few quirks in the software and with the fingerprint sensor, but you can look past those to get an amazingly capable phone. The only question is whether you want to spend extra over the better Galaxy S9+ just to get the S Pen.

For

  • Best screen available today
  • Very good camera
  • S Pen is a truly unique feature
  • Great set hardware features
  • Top-end specs

Against

  • Software can be overwhelming
  • Battery life not good enough for the size
  • Fingerprint sensor is tough to reach
  • Doesn't offer the same value as the Galaxy S9+

Perhaps it's all of the similarities between Note and Galaxy S releases nowadays, but it sure doesn't feel like it's been 11 months since I published our Galaxy Note 8 review. But now, as we approach the launch of the Galaxy Note 9, here I am using a nearly year-old Note 8.

Before we're all wrapped up in the hype of its successor, it's worth taking time to see how well the Note 8 has held up since the start of September 2017.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Mostly great

Galaxy Note 8 What's held up

Y'know, the Galaxy Note 8 has some damn nice hardware. Sure it's huge, and a bit tougher to use than the Galaxy S9+ — but the hardware is delightfully solid and of course beautiful. Just because it's near-identical to the Galaxy S8 from earlier on in 2017 doesn't mean it isn't any less impressive or nice to hold. I particularly like it in black, which I've been using, because the sides, back and bezels all sort of meld together into a monolithic vibe. It's a little slab-like, and the glass gets slippery, but despite the size I've managed to figure out over time the right hand and wrist contortions to make sure I can use it (mostly comfortably) with one hand when needed.

I don't care how 'old' this design is, the Note 8 has damn nice hardware.

Coming back to the Note 8 a couple weeks ago after a couple brief stints on other devices, it was refreshing to have a headphone jack and wireless charging again. Despite the fact that I use Bluetooth almost exclusively, it's still great to have that option of plugging in headphones when I need to — because I never have a USB-C headphone dongle with me. Every time I come back to my Samsung phones I fall right back into a routine of using wireless chargers, too, particularly on my bedside table at night. These are the little things you take for granted when you have a Samsung phone.

I have to revisit the robustness of the glass build of the phone. As I found in my seven-month report on the phone, the glass back has held up pretty well. Unlike my Galaxy S8 and S9 I don't use the Note 8 in a case all that often because it's so big to begin with — as such, I'd expect the glass to be more scratched ... and it isn't. There are the typical few deep scratches visible at any angle, but that's normal. The rest of the fine scuffs take a far closer examination to show up. After almost a year of moderate use, I'd say that's good.

No matter your thoughts on the design, the Note 8 has the strength of being dominated almost entirely by that massive Super AMOLED display, which is a benefit any time it comes on. It's downright gorgeous from all angles, and impressively bright in all situations. I leave it in the "adaptive display" mode because I frankly don't care about it being 100% accurate — I love how it looks with the colors turned up a bit. If you've only been using Samsung flagships for the past few years, you've been spoiled. Other companies aren't shipping displays this good.

The glass back hasn't deteriorated as expected, and the same can be said of the software performance.

If you've read any of my previous follow-up reviews for Samsung phones, I typically have to address the situation with the software slowing down over time. But in this case, much like the glass back, the software has held up far better than I expected. I had odd software issues just a couple months in, but since then I haven't had a single problem — even after upgrading to Android 8.0 Oreo, which is particularly surprising. My Note 8 still flies in everything it does, despite the fact that I haven't done any maintenance on it since factory resetting some nine months earlier. I still have well over 100 apps installed and plenty of other media loaded, and it doesn't stutter or slow down with anything I throw at it.

The camera, too, has still been performing well. I can notice that it's not quite as good as the Galaxy S9+, but it's tough to judge the Note 8 too harshly on that account. I've taken countless wonderful photos with this camera, and in all but extremely dark scenes the quality is indistinguishable from Samsung's latest flagship camera. The Note 8 may be a year old, but it still takes head-turning photos with ease.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and wireless charger

A few complaints

Galaxy Note 8 What hasn't aged well

The overwhelming majority of the Note 8 experience feels modern and high-end even 11 months after launch, but there are still a few areas that need improvement — and, indeed, we all expect them to be improved upon with the Galaxy Note 9.

There's no sugar-coating this: the Note 8's battery life isn't good.

There's no sugar-coating this: the Note 8's battery life isn't good. "Average" is the best way I can describe it, which is pretty bad considering the size of this phone and all of its capabilities. With a 3300mAh battery supporting very thirsty specs, software and display, it's not all that surprising. But my Note 8 never really "settled in" to good battery life, even after making sure that everything on the phone was tuned in just how I use all of my other devices and the Device Maintenance settings doing their best to limit background processes and my least-used apps. When you're hitting the Note 8 hard, such as when I'm navigating in Android Auto or using lots of mobile data for streaming video, the battery drops precipitously. But the weakest point of the battery life story is how it's incapable of idling and conserving battery when it's not being used. I can go through a full day at my desk, barely touching the phone, and it'll still lose 40-50% over the course of the day just sitting there on Wi-Fi.

It seems as though Samsung's going to solve this problem by just throwing a 4000mAh (or more?) battery in the Note 9. Yes, 20% more capacity will solve most of the problems here — but things would be even better if Samsung tightened the screws on the battery drains in the system as well.

I still use Samsung's phones despite its software, not because of it.

I'm not sure how many different ways I can say this, but I still don't love Samsung's software. It's fine. It works. I can do everything I want without much (if any) hassle. But that doesn't mean I actually enjoy using it the same as I do my Pixel 2 XL or OnePlus 6. There's just a lot going on in the interface, and even though I've turned a whole lot off there are still things that break up the experience and throw me off. Different design languages, punchy colors, unnecessary animations and of course the pile of Samsung apps I don't want to use but can't disable. As I said in my three-month-on review of the Galaxy S9+, "I still use the GS9+ despite its software, not because of it."

I've never been a huge S Pen user, and a year of the Note 8 didn't open any new doors to that experience.

I've never been a huge S Pen user, and a year of using the Note 8 hasn't changed that habit. I've signed some documents, I've used it to scribble quick notes using "screen off memo" and I've killed time doodling (though I'm a horrible artist). But that's about as deep as it goes. Truth is that in this digital age, writing or drawing on a phone feels like a highly inefficient use of my time and attention when I could be typing or dictating. Maybe Samsung has something truly innovative coming with the Note 9, as the S Pen experience hasn't changed notably since the Note 3.

The rest of the complaints amassed over 11 months are rather minor. Samsung's fingerprint sensor placement on the Note 8 is still indefensible, and really detracts from the phone's overall experience. Face recognition works pretty well, but not well enough for me to forgive how badly designed this fingerprint sensor is. Further on the fringes, the Note 8's speaker is pretty weak considering the size of the device. The new dual speaker setup on the Galaxy S9+ is a marked improvement over the Note 8's tinny single speaker, and in a phone this big you expect better sound.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Big, powerful and ready for a refresh

Galaxy Note 8 11 months on

Even as we rapidly approach the Note 9's announcement, the Note 8 has really held up well.

Even as we rapidly approach the Galaxy Note 9's announcement, the Note 8 has really held up well. One of the benefits of Samsung's delicate release cycle over the past couple of generations is that the "old" phones don't really feel all that old even a year into their life. Add on the amazing consistency of its hardware, and with updates, software, and the year-old Note 8 doesn't feel like a relic in the least.

4 out of 5

Yes the Note 9 will come out with a larger battery, some spec bumps, new camera features and a few interesting S Pen advancements. But compared to the Note 8, it won't be a revelatory difference in experience. Aside from a few small quirks, which haven't gotten any worse over the last year of its existence, the Note 8 is still a fine phone for the Samsung power user who wants it all.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

59 Comments
  • One of the main reasons for me to skip Sammy phones, disastrous idle time, mediocre battery life, and nothing is really impressive, outside of the SAMOLED panel.
  • This is not true. Standby time is great and battery life is consistent since the day I purchased my note. Am very impressed. Of course, if you know how and when to use Spen, there is no other phone series to replace this.
  • I'm curious what you consider GREAT standby time and battery life. On my p20 I can leave it unplugged overnight and lose maybe 2-3% on the S9 I have its like 20%. Battery life on samsung phones barely last me through the workday and thats with the bigger s9 battery vs note 8. The note 8 I had for months, actually multiple ones, all needed to be charged at around 9-10 hours off of a charge.
  • I just bought a used s8 and leaving it off the charger only loses me maybe 5%. Maybe it gets worse, who knows.
  • The Note 8 went with a smaller battery because of the Note 7 battery exploding last time, they wanted to be very sure it doesn't happen again... How about stop sealing the phone sandwiched between two pieces of glass slabs? The shape of the Note is too awkward, it's very very tall and the edges are curved.. I hate the curves! No wonder some Samsung employees uses other phones besides Samsung..
  • Yeah, 'cause a sheet of plastic on the back would have made a difference with the battery.
  • Not one note 7 ever exploded. Haha
  • Mine goes down 3 to 5% overnight. I consider that great.
  • Same here 3-5% overnight when not left on the wireless charger. Wouldn't consider that a disaster..
  • I'd also say the hardware and the camera are impressive.
  • Standby time isn't bad at all, I mean it doesn't have Standby time like my BlackBerry KEYᴼᴺᴱ Or KEY2 but you can't kill those batteries either way you try... I get 2 days at full use with 10 hours of screen on time. My OnePlus does great to. All around the Note is a great phone.
  • I so clicked because I thought the note 9 was released!!! New rule, you can't say the words "Note" and "Review" in a title from now on unless it's the Note 9... you just smashed my hopes and now i'm disappointed.
  • Are you.... If you're reading think article from this website then I'm pretty sure you know the note nine doesn't get 'announced' until August 9.
  • Sorry! Note 9 soon :)
  • I am still in love with my gs8+ but will definitely be upgrading to the note10,X,YorZ, whatever model suffix Samsung decides on using. When I upgraded to the gs8+ I knew that I'd wish I'd gotten the note8, had I gotten the note8 I would have wanted the gs8+ that's the kind of person I am. I believe I will be an avid Spen user and I'm really looking forward to the next, next Note!!!
  • Besides wireless charging (which can be had on other phones) only one thing keeps me using a Samsung phone: Samsung Pay And yeah, its worth it :)
  • Yeah seriously Samsung Pay is soooo awesome.
  • ^THIS!!^
  • I like Samsung pay but sometimes some snotty workers refuse to let me use it.. They think you're trying to scam them.. especially small business owners. Samsung Pay was actually LoopPay, which Samsung acquired and took their technology. Samsung Pay is indeed much much more secure, the merchant does NOT get your credit card info because each transaction is tokenized, meaning a random number is generated for each transaction. Also, it will protect you from credit card breaches and card skimmers, which happened to me once.
  • Why buy a phone every single year? The Note 8 could and should last several years. Manufactures should just make a really good phone and have it last longer, instead of releasing phones every year and have people trash their old phones. The e-waste ends up in third world countries where they mine for gold parts.
  • I dunno about "several" years but yeah it seems well equipped to make it through 2019.
  • A high end phone can easily last 4-5 years, like a Laptop computer or Surface Tablet. 4-5 years is several. People upgrade because they've been conditioned to do so, and OEMs market every phone as if it is a gigantic leap over the predecessor; which is almost universally untrue.
  • Because we want to
  • Mine only goes down 5% overnight if I forget to put it on the charger and that's with AOD and wifi on so have no idea how you can lose 40% in a day not using it
  • My battery life has been superb, even better with the Oreo update. My N8 has been better overall with the update. The glass is even waaay better than I could have hoped for, I left it on my vehicle, took off, and only a corner of the glass is damaged. However, as I traveled this week, maps/gps absolutely robbed my battery, even with the screen off. I don't use navigation that extensively everyday so I can live with this. I love how bloggers project their value system on to those who read. Value is in the eye of the beholder.
  • I'm enjoying my Note8. Battery still continues to be good and I use mobile data throughout the day. It's speed hasn't got slow. My phone is in a Spigen case and screen protector and looks as good as new, despite 2 falls. I disabled all the Samsung unwanted software, including Bixby. I use the S pen daily, though I most probably will not buy a new phone with a pen in future, unless it has very compelling features. I like the size too.
  • Been having a note8 for about 10 months and its one hell of a phone. The battery life could be better and software could be better too. But overall its one of my favorite phones iv had(its my first samsung phone). Will i get another note? Maybe but for the price point it just doesnt seem 100% worth it. Also i can do with out the pen, i use it maybe twice a week. Ill definetly keep an eye on the note9 but it would have to be improved alot for me to consider $1000 for it.
  • I'm no power user, but my Note8 typically has ~40% by the end of the day. I believe if someone doesn't use a particular feature of a device, they should just skip that feature. I don't use the SPen often, but when I do use it, it is definitely worth it! Speaking of the Note series, Forbes posted an article saying that the Note9 is supposed to be the last Note. Can someone confirm this? I hope it's not. They say it is supposed to be replaced by the useless device with the "folding" display.
  • I have a Samsung Note 8 and I agree it has a great camera and the phone works really well, the battery life sucks and I ABSOLUTELY HATE the feel and CURVED screen, my screen is broken all over. There are many great looking large flat screen phones that are very easy and comfortable to hold and use, but Samsung Note 8 isn't one of them.
  • I see a lot of people with a lot of "flat" screened phones that have cracked and shattered. The curves make it a little more susceptible, sure, but it doesn't mean the screen just cracks on its own. You still have to do something to it to make it break.
  • Yeah not a fan of the curved screens it was the main reason I got rid of my note 8, other than looks it brings nothing to the note experience, it’s a nightmare to use a screen protector on and it’s even worse to use a s pen on! If only they’d go back to flat screens for the note range and leave the curved edges for their s range of phones.
  • I'll not buy another Sammy because of the curved screens.
  • I will only buy curved screen phones..
  • It brings no practical benefit, only risk and inconvenience (screen protector, glare and color shifting, s pen, phantom taps, etc.). It's a bad design pushed because it looks nice in Photoshoped promo renders. I also dropped Samsung when they went curved. I will not buy any phone with that form factor. It also makes the phone way too narrow, which is not good for a stylus device.
  • My battery life has been good, not great. I actually like the placement of the finger print scanner, so "indefensible" is just pure nonsense. And I love Samsung software. I buy the Note 8 because of Samsung software, not despite it. Cons: I have slight burn-in on the nav bar... And that's my only complaint. I far prefer my Note 8 over my iPhone X.
  • I can see myself holding onto my Note 8 well into next year, perhaps until the beginning of 2020, or until the battery capacity becomes unacceptably deteriorated, whichever comes first. It's a powerhouse. And I don't know why everyone complains about the fingerprint sensor and software. Your hands eventually adjust to the phone's size, enough so that you can use the sensor with a little movement. The software is fluid enough for me, especially after reducing animation and transition speeds.
  • Unless I have another growth spurt, there is no way my hands can adjust to that awful FPS positioning. It's impossible. My hands aren't large enough to teach there, period. You're speaking hogwash to a lot of people.
  • Almost a year into ownership and my Note 8 runs as smooth and fast as the day it was unboxed. It has proven to be a great device that I hope to use for some years to come. I can not afford to purchase a flagship every year so I choose my phones with longevity in mind. I have an LG V20 that I swap out with the Note for daily driver duties so hopefully between the two of them I won't feel the need to device shop for a while.
  • I still don't see the appeal of Samsung devices with their ugly bloated software, I stay away from all skinned versions of Android.
  • Maybe because their screens blow yours away.
  • I think Samsung has a lot of appeal due to the innovation and features. Curved glass, Samsung Pay, Spen, best Android smart watches, home integration,Dex etc. All other Android phones are the same. Pixel phones have great software but lag behind android flagships, even the iPhone on features.
  • The only thing you can appeal to is paying too much for an entry level phone.
  • you don't like good phones, you bought a pixel.
  • Note 8 is the best phone in the world until the Note 9 is released. I can't wait to pre-order.
  • No need for any current Note 8 owner to get the Note 9.
  • I love the Note 8, but I could do without the curved screen. I'm not sure if i'll upgrade to the Note 9. I read an article yesterday that says the Note 9 might cost $1200 or more for standard edition & $1400 for the upgraded edition. Not going to worry much about price until it is announced. Mine I pre-ordered from Samsung unlocked. I don't want to go back to carrier edition phones. But will see.
  • LOL...11 months old (assuming you bought it day one) and due a refresh. A phone that cost almost $1,000. Most people don't have the luxury of replacing their phone on an annual basis. I hope you don't feel the same way about cars.
  • Yeah, Samsung should not release a new phone, because you can't afford it. Sure thing.
  • Ca, you please tell me where I can get this Wallpaper Please? Thanks
  • There's just no way a normal Note 8 loses that much battery over the stand by!
    So writing about the 50% drop over the wi-fi as if it generally applies to Note 8 is just ridiculous and unacceptable.
    Your unit IS BUGGED. It is NOT working as it should have. My Note 8 would lose between 5-10% on the same scenario. The battery holds up incredibly well after 10 months, I see no drop in capacity at all. I can post tons of screenshots as evidence to whoever wants it.
  • Mine loses about 20-30% just sitting over the whole day, never using the phone. I always assumed it was the always-on display causing that. But it doesn't lose much more than that even if I use the phone. I'm not a really heavy user, but I don't think my Note 8 has ever gone below 50% by bed time. I don't know what I'd have to do for it to reach 0% by end of day, which means the battery is plenty good enough even if it isn't stellar.
  • For myself Samsung phones offer the most premium features of any phone on the planet. And the best part no ridiculous notch. Looking forward to the note9!
  • The Note 8 curve looks gorgeous, but I still wish the Note had a flat screen. I like to use a tempered glass screen protector on a Note, since it protects and doesn't make the pen feel rubbery. Even the slight curve on the edges of the Note 4 screen made it nearly impossible to get a perfect tempered glass screen protector.
  • I like the Note 8.
    It does use about 20% battery overnight. But I schedule file synchronizers and backup apps at night. So I am used to it. I just charge at night. Done. I will always want more battery of course.
    I use the S-pen enough that I go out of my way to get it. I could live without it, but like it, and use it.
    The curved screen I do not like. Please make it go away. It is impossible to put on a good screen protector.
    The fingerprint reader on the back is a win for me. I like it there and hope it stays. It works great with my case even.
    The speaker is mediocre and could be better. So get rid of the curved screen (and maybe make the screen a bit wider like past Note devices), a bit more battery and better speaker.
  • The Note 8 has been the best phone I have used in a long time. The list of likes is very long and most of them were touched on in the article. My battery gets me through the day without having to plug in, but even if I did need to top off, it's not a huge deal for me. I don't know if I will get the Note 9 or not. If I do, it won't be out of need.
  • Very good review Andrew! After 24 years with the same cell number and countless phones, the Note 8 is THE finest phone I've ever used! No FB, no Instagram, No Twitter... just a lot of business and personal use. The battery... thank goodness for the VERY FAST QUICK CHARGE! Almost one year in and the battery is degrading. YET... my SOT is a solid FIVE HOURS, almost SIX. Reception of phone and data... excellent. Audio quality via phone, excellent. The Note 8 is a workhorse and it has not failed me in any application. I'm going to pass on the Note 9 and if I have to contact VZ to get a loaner and send this back to Sammy, so be it. The Note 8 is truly a phenomenal phone in so many respects.
  • You said, "Truth is that in this digital age, writing or drawing on a phone feels like a highly inefficient use of **my** time and attention when I could be typing or dictating." Good thing you added 'my'--asterisks are mine. The creative process has nothing to do with digital tools. In fact, a common practice for many professionals is to withdraw to an analog state, every so often, during creative bouts. After years of using Dragon software, I still need to spend time with pen and paper to conceptualize, then I can dictate. As well, if you maintain a swipe file of any sort, as ideas come to you creatively, writing them out can be more fruitful. Our autonomous capabilities have been evolved over time to promote complementary actions. For many, Creative Thought+Writing beats Creative Thought+Speaking. Most of us also write faster than we type. There are noise/confidentiality considerations which limit dictating everywhere. Such reasons and more make a stylus a very valuable tool. Also not sure how dictating or typing helps one to draw. Sketching out and sharing an idea can truly save or capture a thousand words. I do so on my PC using my drawing pad. I panned the N8 for the camera/fingerprint reader configuration alone. Our fingertips--aside from that one unmentioned place--tend to be among the dirtiest parts of our bodies. What kind of madness--or incompetence--does it take to put a fingertip magnet next to a camera lens! Waiting on the Note 9. I need that S-pen!
  • Standby times have always been bad on Samsung phones. It's just one of those sacrifices you have to make. I thought it was fine, too, until I got an iPhone. What people think is great really depends on the "norm" they are accustomed to. My norm was Samsung (always had S or Note devices) so it seemed great when I was stuck there. Things looked immediately different when I used an alternative. I would NEVER leave my Samsung phones off the charger over night, thojgh, due to battery drain while idle In low reception areas I've had them for completely from 90%+ over a few hours while idke, while iPhone's list 10% or less. The way Android OEMs countered this was by putting larger batteries in the phone. They, and Android devs in general, need to make power efficiency more of a priority. Google needs to start getting and kicking misbehaving apps. OEMs drastically regressing Android battery life with their overlays need to be called out and shamed.
  • I'm late to the Note 8 party, literally just picked it up last week because it's now on sale through my carrier. Daily driver is an iPhone 8 Plus, secondary was a Note 5 I picked up earlier in the year used. A man almost 6'4" with long fingers, neither my 8 Plus nor Note 8 feel large enough for me, but it does feel awkward reaching for the home button on the Note 8, mostly because I feel I might smudge the camera lenses by mistake. The screen is amazing , speaker is ok, and S-Pen I do actually use because of the nonstop meetings and quick information I gather through the day as head of two departments with a museum. Battery life has been so-so, but quick charge helps when needed. Honestly I would have never paid full price for this phone, as I'm am a die-hard Apple consumer, but I'm glad it was on sale and I now own it.