A noteworthy return to form

Samsung Galaxy Note8.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Samsung Galaxy Note8.

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The best Android phone you can buy right now, but it will cost you.

A year on from the disastrous Note7 launch, Samsung is back with a new Note. The Note8 uses the same Infinity Display design as Samsung’s S8 series, with the display curving at both edges and cascading over the sides like an infinity pool. There are no physical buttons on the front and only tiny bezels at the top and bottom. Compared to the S8, the curved edges on the side of the Note8’s display are steeper, which provides a larger surface area to use the S Pen. The phone is IP68 dust and water resistant, which means it can withstand up to 1.5 meters of water submersion for up to 30 minutes at a time.

On the rear of the phone, there’s a glass panel that curves at both sides, mirroring the design of the front. Back here, you’ll also find the Note8’s standout new feature: a dual rear camera setup that pairs a 12-megapixel telephoto f/2.4 lens with a 12-megapixel wide-angle f/1.7 lens.

The biggest difference between Samsung’s dual-camera setup and every other dual-camera phone on the market, is that it’s the only one to include OIS (optical image stabilization) on both lenses. Image quality from both of the Note8’s cameras is consistently good, with crisp details across the entire picture, accurate colors, good contrast and low noise.

Like most dual camera setups, the Note8 is also capable of producing background blurred portraits, similar to a DSLR. Samsung’s version is called Live Focus and is one of the better implementations out there, dealing with tricky edges well and producing fairly convincing and creamy bokeh.

The Note8 has a 6.3-inch QHD Super AMOLED panel, with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio and a 2,960 x 1,440 pixels resolution (~522ppi). The unusual ultra wide screen ratio means that the total screen size isn’t actually as large as a traditional 16:9 screen and when viewing regular 16:9 content on the Note8, it looks about the same size as a 5.7-inch screen.

The display itself is sharp, vibrant and bright, and easy to see even under direct sunlight with great contrast. The display is also an always-on panel, so you’ll see the time, date, battery life and any notifications when you’re not using the phone.

As always, the integrated S Pen stylus is the main feature that separates the Note series from the S series. The S Pen stylus fits snugly into the bottom of the phone when not in use, popping out when you want to use it. A new feature for the S Pen this year is Live Message, which lets you create an animated gif of your handwriting with animated effects around the words to send to your friends. You’ll also find other improvements to the S Pen’s features: Translate will now translate entire sentences at once, and Screen off memo now lets you write up to a 100 pages of notes at a time.

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The Note8 runs on Samsung’s own Exynos 8895 SoC (except for the US model, which uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor). The 8895 is built around a 10nm process and features four of Samsung’s Mongoose M2 cores running at 2.3GHz and four ARM Cortex A53 cores running at 1.7GHz. It also sports ARM’s new Mali G71 GPU clocked at 550MHz. As expected, the Note8 performed excellently in benchmarks, with its 6GB RAM giving it a slight advantage over both the S8 and S8+.

Samsung has understandably been a little conservative with the battery inside the Note8, fitting it with a 3,300mAh battery, which makes it slightly smaller than the 3,500mAh battery inside the S8+. In our video looping battery benchmark, the Note8 lasted just over twelve and a half hours. While this was better than the S8 and above average compared to other smartphones, it was nearly an hour shorter than the Galaxy S8+.

All things considered, if you’re looking for a smartphone that has almost everything, look no further, the Samsung Galaxy Note8 is without a doubt the most feature packed smartphone available right now. From its IP68 build, to the always-on, bezel-less Super AMOLED display, dual rear cameras, stylus support and wireless fast charging, the Note8 has nearly every single feature you could possibly cram into a smartphone.

It comes at a hefty price though, and at $1,398, the Note8 is the most expensive phone Samsung has put out so far, and also the most expensive Android phone on the market right now.


SPECS Operatings+ system Android 7.1.1 Nougat with Dream UX Processor Samsung Exynos 8895 (4x 2.3 GHz & 4x 1.7 GHz).

DISPLAY 6.3-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (~522 ppi) Super AMOLED Infinity Display.

DIMENSIONS 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm.

WEIGHT 195g.

PRICE $1,398.

The Note8 features three forms of
biometric security: Fingerprint, Iris
scanning and face detection.
The Note8 features three forms of biometric security: Fingerprint, Iris scanning and face detection.
There’s a dedicated Bixby button
(Samsung’s AI assistant) on the
side of the Note8 below the volume
There’s a dedicated Bixby button (Samsung’s AI assistant) on the side of the Note8 below the volume rocker.
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