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Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet review

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
Karlis Dambrans - Wikimedia Commons

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

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Being a huge fan of the Samsung Note series of phones, I of course would have imagined that my love for the series would transfer over to Samsung's line of Note themed tablets, however after a less than stellar experience with the Galaxy Note 10.1, I was not sure if Samsung were capable of of producing a line of tablets that would be worthy to carry the Note name, but I decided to try the new addition to the Galaxy line, the Note 8.0. Here is my review.

The Design

The Samsung Galaxy Note line (now matter how great they may be under the hood) has built somewhat of a reputation for poor build quality and lackluster materials. My Note 10.1 would creak when held in certain spots and the plastic was cheap and nasty, and I hate to say that this trend continues with the Note 8.0.

In this day and age where you can buy tablets that have such a premium feel to them (iPad, iPad Mini, and Asus Transformer Prime) it really blows my mind that Samsung still insist on using some of the poorest materials to build what should be considered their premium line of tablets. The plastic feels thin, it still creeks when it is held, and the plastic is slick, so much so that it feels like it could quite easily slip from your hands. This is one area that I really hoped Samsung would improve upon, but they still think that using subpar materials is ok.

The Note 8.0 is very lightweight and hits the scales at just 11.9 ounces (compared to the Note 10.1 which weighs 1.3lbs) and with a thickness of just 7.95mm the Galaxy Note is incredibly portable. The new form factor would make this the ideal companion for students to take to class, or for business professionals to carry about with them while they are on the go because it can easily slip into a backpack or brief case.

Another complaint I had about the Note 10.1 was a lack of connectivity options (especially as the Note is aimed at being a business and productivity tool), and once again, Samsung have decided to go with the optional accessories route again. Looking around the Note 8.0 you will find the power button, volume rockers, IR Blaster and the slot for the S-Pen on the right hand side of the device. On the left hand side you will find the SD Card port. The Micro USB port for charging and optional accessories is located on the bottom of the device along with the dual speakers (as opposed to the front by the screen on the Note 10.1).

Unfortunately with the speakers being located on the bottom, performance from them does suffer a little bit when compared to it's big brother. Don't get me wrong, sound performance is still good, but it is nowhere near the standard of the Note 10.1 in terms of clarity and overall loudness.

The lack of ports can be remedied by purchasing adapters that fit into the connector dock, but in this day and age these ports should be standard. The Note 8.0 has no USB port, and no HDMI out port, which I would think should be standard when you consider the market Samsung, is trying to capture with this device. The adapter for HDMI and USB cost $19.99 each, which is really outrageous when the Note 8.0 costs a whopping $379. Once again I have been left underwhelmed by the overall design on the unit, but how does it perform?

Under the hood

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 was no slouch under the hood, and I am pleased to say that the Note 8.0 follows it's big brother in this regard. In fact performance is almost identical (if not a little better) when compared to the original Note 10.1.

The Note 8.0 features a 8 inch 1280x800 LPS display, which unfortunately is the same resolution as the 10.1, however the smaller screen size means that the Note 8.0 can boast a dpi of 189 compared to the Note 10.1's dpi of 149. The clarity of the screen is good, but not great, especially when you compare it to other tablets on the market.

While the 1280x800 display on the Note is technically HD, the resolution is far lower than iPad's Retina display (2048x1536) and that should be something to consider seeing as Apple could very well release a iPad mini with Retina display this fall. Overall though the clarity of the screen is just fine for browsing the web, watching movies, playing games and creating documents.

The Note 8.0 uses the same Quad-Core Exynos 4412 A9 processor that is found in the Note 10.1, but it has been clocked to 1.6GHz instead of 1.4GHz. 2GB of RAM still comes as standard, as does a 5 megapixel rear camera, a 1.3 megapixel front facing camera, 16GB of storage space (which is expandable via a SD card), and a 4600mAh battery.

The Note 8.0 is fast, and I can honestly say that it is the first Android device that I have ever used where there are zero issues in regards to performance. The Exynos processor is incredible and it really shines in the Note 8.0. Android Jellybean 4.2 is smooth, fast and stable, and no matter what I threw at the device, it just looked back and asked for more. Screen transitions are fast with zero lag, video playback is flawless, applications open immediately, and switching between open apps through the multi-tasking window is buttery smooth. The great thing with the Note series is its ability to have multiple apps open at the same time. You can have a video playing in one window, Facebook open in another, a website open in another window, and a word processor all running at the same time; and there is zero slowdown. A huge kudos must be given to Samsung for this, because even the Note 10.1’s performance struggled when really pushed.

The 5mp camera on the Note 8.0 leaves a lot to be desired, but a tablet is not meant to be a replacement for your camera. When you do need to take a picture, the 5mp camera does decent job. Pictures are clear and relatively noise free in well lit environments, but low light performance is very weak. The camera is capable of shooting 1080p video as well and overall video capture is good. The front facing camera works well and it is perfect for video chatting with friends and family over Skype. Just don’t plan on using either the front or rear facing cameras for any serious picture taking.

The S-Pen

The S-Pen is really what draws me to the Galaxy Note series of devices, and the Note 8.0 carries on the great implementation of the S-Pen. The idea of being able to have multiple ways to input information into the tablet is a great, and really this is one area where the Note series excels when compared to other devices.

Samsung has updated the S-Pen to have more features than ever before, and you can now hold down the button on the S-Pen draw around an object and you can cut that object out and paste it straight into a document. Really the possibilities are endless with this peripheral, and ultimately it is what sets this tablet on a different playing field when compared to others. Soon after powering on the device you will find yourself using the S-Pen more than anything else. Without even thinking about it you will grab the S-Pen out of its slot and will be would be using it to swipe through screens, pull up menus, open applications, jot down short notes, create full documents, browse the web and highlight passages from e-books.

The S-Pen really is a fantastic feature. The included S-Pen software suite is very nice and you will soon find yourself writing things down on the tablet as if it were a notepad. Drawing on the tablet is incredibly fun with the S-Pen (kids love it for this reason too), and manipulating photo's with the included Photoshop application (normally a $20 purchase) is very easy, it works really well. There is no doubt that S-Pen is revolutionary, and it is exactly what the tablet world has been crying out for.

Conclusion

The Galaxy Note 8.0 is a good tablet for those who are looking for a device to browse the web, play a few casual games, and maybe create some documents for work or school. The performance has been improved and now works better than its bigger brother the Galaxy Note 10.1

The strong point of the Note 8.0 is that it really much more than just a media consumption device, and it is suited perfectly for students and business professionals. The new smaller form factor makes it easier to carry around in a bag or brief case. The increased performance thanks to the slightly higher clocked Exynos processor really, makes this tablet shine when compared to other Android tablets, and of course, the S-Pen. The S-Pen is the star of the show, and it really takes the Note 8.0 to a whole new level.

The bad news is that Samsung still insist on using such cheap materials to build their devices. The plastic is really just terrible, it feels cheap, it looks cheap, but the device is anything but cheap ($379 on sale $399 off sale). The case creaks and flexes way too much, and while not as slick as the case on the Note 10.1, the Note 8.0 still feels like it could easily slip from your grasp quite easily.

Overall I would have to say I would recommend this device just because of its blazing fast performance and functionality. The Note 8.0 combines the best from both worlds of play and productivity, and puts it in a form factor that is easy to carry around. If they would just work on the materials used to build it Samsung would dominate the market. The premium price point delivers the performance of a Ferrari, but its in the shell of a Pinto. If you can look past that, then you will enjoy it immensely.