Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
17th Apr 2013 | 13:24
Has Samsung gone mad with so many different sized tablets and phones?
With the Galaxy Note 8.0, which bridges the space between the Note 2 and Tab 2 10.1, it's clear that Samsung is continuing its approach of throwing out as many devices as it can in an effort to catch as many consumers as it can. The question is, do the customers care about all this subtle differentiation, or is Samsung just creating confusion in an oversaturated market?
At the time of writing, there's only one place in the UK (Samsung's store in Westfield, East London) to buy the Galaxy Note 8.0 and it's slowing creeping out in the US, Australia and others countries. Considering this is a device trying that's said to be taking on the iPad Mini (and is playing catch-up by a good five months), it's an odd strategy.
Especially with the fact that it's about £70/$70 (around AU$70) dearer than the equivalent Apple offering with the 16GB Wi-Fi option setting you back £340/$399 (around AU$385), we think the South Korean brand has gone slightly barmy here. It will be available through other channels in due course, but it's not clear exactly when.
While we don't want to rain on Samsung's proverbial parade by making constant comparisons to the iPad Mini, the fact is that Apple's 7.9-incher is the Galaxy Note 8.0's main competition.
Other devices like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD will be taken into account by those consumers who are clued up enough to realise Apple isn't the sole maker of tablets. But with even the Cupertino option coming in cheaper - something almost totally unheard of - this is going to be one tough fight.
Although we're not privy to the boardroom discussions at Samsung HQ, we can't help getting the feeling this is a product that is more reactive than proactive. Samsung seems to have seen the demand for smaller tablets offered by competitors and wants in, rather than being the one setting the agenda as it did with the original Note.
To look at it, the Galaxy Note 8.0 looks very similar to the other Galaxy lines - the Note 2 and the Galaxy S3 clearly have an influence here. The rounded rectangular shape, the chrome edging, the single home button with accompanying menu and the soft keys are all accounted for.
Sadly, one of the new design pluses of the Galaxy line - the almost non-existent bezel of the Galaxy S4 - is not here. So you end up with a lot space around the screen, which admittedly does make it harder to accidentally tap. However, there feels like there's too much expanse.
Had the Galaxy S4 and iPad Mini not whetted our appetites, we wouldn't be so hungry. But we are now - and the Note 8.0 doesn't taste as good.
You can see how the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 stakes up against the iPad mini in our handy video below.
Even so, the Galaxy Note 8.0 has some great things going for it. For example, it is light. Very light. So while it's a bit big to hold in one hand with your fingers wrapped around the sides (you end up holding it like a book instead, gripping the front with your thumb, the back resting on your fingers, and trying to stop the device sliding out of your mitts), it's a pleasure to not have to keep swapping paws like with some other devices.
At 338g, it's two grams lighter than the Nexus 7 and about 30 heavier than the iPad Mini. Size-wise, it measures 210.8 x 135.9 x 8mm.
Then there's the display. You get a TFT offering with 800 x 1,280 pixels spread over 8 inches, which works out at a density of 189 ppi. That's higher than the (some would say pretty rubbish) 163 ppi given by the iPad mini over a fractionally smaller screen.
This makes it pretty good for looking at most things - especially because Samsung devices often offer vivid colour representation. However, it pales into insignificance compared to the 216 ppi we get on Google's Nexus 7.
At least it offers good viewing angles - so, if you like to look at your Galaxy Note 8.0 from the seat next door as someone else uses it, you'll be fine. But try using it outdoors in the sunlight and there may be tears.
The fact of the matter is this: it's a good display. Pictures look bright, text looks clear. But you will be able to see pixels if you go a-hunting close up. And as we've become more and more spoilt in this field in recent years, sadly, that's one of the first things many of us do.
As with Samsung's phones (and those of most manufacturers these days), there's a built in ambient light sensor, which does a great job of adjusting the brightness depending on your environment.
Another element worth pointing out is the addition of Smart Stay - Samsung's proprietary technology that allows the front facing camera to watch your eyes and track if you're looking at the screen or not. The idea is that the screen will stay on when you're looking at it, and go off when you're not.
We found it to work functionally but not excellently, in a similar vein to the Galaxy S3. In dimmer lighting conditions, it was very prompt at popping up with a warning to let us know it couldn't see our eyeballs but when we tried looking away to see if it went off, it didn't.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 is unique among its rivals in that it offers the S-Pen functionality. This has been the big selling point of the Note line, allowing annotations, drawing, formula calculations and so forth on a screen. Here, the number of pressure variations has been increased - meaning it's even better. We'll go into that more later.
The Galaxy Note 8.0 is a solidly built device. Throughout our reviewing process, there were no unwelcome creakings of the kind that led to criticism with the likes of the Nexus 7.
Indeed, the only button adorning the front felt solid enough, as did the power/standby key on the side and even the Micro SD card slot (which of course, means you can expand the memory by another 64GB, which is sure to please some quarters - especially because Google is trying to encourage users to move away from relying on external memory reservoirs).
Our main concern in using it was that it didn't feel premium enough. Maybe we've just been overindulged design-wise - but while the controversial 'make-it-all-out-of-plastic' approach may work with smaller phones, for a larger device, it felt like it cheapened the experience.
Inside, the Galaxy Note 8.0 offers you an Exynos Quad-Core 1.6GHz processor. This thing is fast. We tried throwing several tasks at it and couldn't manage to slow it down.
It multitasks incredibly well, running on 2GB of RAM. Added to that, the fact that you get Android 4.1.2 out of the box - and therefore, Project Butter - means there is really no way you can bring the Note 8.0 to a halt.
For the uninitiated, Project Butter is a feature of Android Jelly Bean that makes the whole experience run a lot quicker and smoother. TouchWiz - Samsung's custom overlay - is on board too. It's not one of those that manages to confuse or detract and for the majority of punters, we think it'll be more of a help than a hindrance.
Charging is done via a micro USB - which is great news. We can remember our disappointment at playing with the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 last year and realising that when we carried it about, we also had to lug around a charger because Samsung opted for a proprietary power source. At least here, if you lose it, there's likely to be somebody else nearby who can offer you a bit of electrical help.
One other thing to note is the IR blaster which allows you to use the Note 8.0 as a remote control for your TV and home entertainment system. Infrared seems to be enjoying a renaissance at the moment - having been out of the loop for years, now it's back on the HTC One and Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S4 to boot.
The difference here is that it now acts properly whereas the old IR receivers just allowed for the crude transfer of data and connections. We'll be going into how it works later in the review - but must make the point that the IR blaster here is on the right if you're holding the Galaxy Note 8.0 in portrait mode.
That essentially means you will have to use the Note 8.0 in landscape mode when using the IR blaster to point it directly at your TV (or sit sideways, whatever takes your fancy).
Interface and performance
The interface of the Galaxy Note 8.0 tends to draw more on that of the upcoming Galaxy S4 than the Note 2 or even Galaxy S3 phone. We say that because certain elements are now white - menus, the keyboard etc - whereas before, they were a more conservative black.
Powering it all is Android Jelly Bean 4.1.2. The difference here though is that it is overlaid with TouchWiz - Samsung's custom skin that tweaks the UI and makes Android look a little more colourful.
Some love it, some detest it. But in fairness, it's one of the most intuitive, competent efforts we've seen.
That's present even to the extent that when you set up the Galaxy Note 8.0 from the start, you're invited to enter "Easy Mode" which makes the whole UI even more tailored towards the novice.
For some people, this will be their first foray into the tablet world, and Samsung is keen to make it comfortable for them.
The fact is that unless you know what you're doing with Android, you're likely to leave the widgets installed as they are. When you first turn the Note 8.0 on, you'll find an AccuWeather one gracing your screen.
Plus a Google Now (search) shortcut and a few shortcuts to the services Samsung thinks you'll need (Dropbox, Gallery etc) and those it wants you to use (Samsung's alternative AppStore, it's WhatsApp-wannabe service ChatON, and media streaming service, WatchON).
You'll also find widgets for the calendar and Flipboard installed and can pan through a maximum of seven homescreens like a carousel, going back to the beginning when you reach the last one.
Notifications are standard Android. They appear at the top and then you swipe down to see what the notification actually is for. There are also some really helpful toggles for things like turning Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on or off.
This is such a simple addition, yet one we find it very difficult to live without on the likes of the iPad. While HTC has decided it no longer wants to play ball here, we're thrilled Samsung's sticking with the toggles.
Samsung's updated the keyboard too. We've seen it in the last couple of devices (via software upgrades) but the keyboard now has an extra layer on it allowing you to reach the numbers without messing about with a shift button - they're always present. (Though we did find ourselves still pressing shift a lot of the time out of habit.)
But the biggest change is the swiping functionality, first made famous by the Swype keyboard and since adopted by everyone from SwiftKey to HTC.
Sometimes, these clever keyboards are hit and miss, but the Samsung offering is pretty good and we were impressed.
Not only that, the Galaxy Note 8.0 was the perfect size to hold between two hands, making it possible to type quickly with both thumbs.
Navigating menus is simple - in true TouchWiz fashion, they're laid out clearly and Samsung makes the whole process intuitive if you want to change something, even providing little popups in some cases to let you know how said function will change your experience.
For example, when you enable Reading Mode, it comes up with a message to tell you that text will now be a lot sharper (though in practice, we didn't really notice a difference).
Samsung has also opted to keep the menu softkey at the bottom of the screen, which allows you access to a host of other options. It's something Google is keen for manufacturers to do away with, but we find it to be more of a help than not.
The lockscreen works in both landscape and portrait mode and allows you to swipe with a visual water ripple appearing following your finger. If you use the S-Pen, you get a virtual ink leakage. It's cosmetic, it's pointless, but it's also fun.
You can also swipe from one of five shortcuts at the bottom of said screen, and you'll be able to jump directly into your chosen app.
We were pleased that when we turned the Note 8.0 on, there was instantly a software update waiting for us. And as we were writing this review, another popped through.
This shows that from the get-go, Samsung is committed to keeping this up-to-date. Bootup takes a matter of seconds - although this becomes slightly longer when software updates are installed.
The beauty is that putting the device on standby (using the button on the right) is far quicker and easier anyway.
All in all, we'd say the Note 8.0 is a competent and extremely intuitive device. For anybody with experience of the Note phablets or the Galaxy phones, you'll instantly feel at home here. And for those who are new, this is one of the easier devices to get the hang of.
Odds are that if you're buying a Galaxy Note 8.0, you'll be doing a fair bit of web browsing. Which is good news really - because this thing is built for the web.
As we've pointed out, the cellular version of this device has been announced, but we're still waiting on official word as to when and where this will be available.
It's not uncommon for manufacturers to launch the Wi-Fi models before the 3G/4G variants (this was the case with both the iPad and the Nexus 7) so we'll assume that it's on the way, but you may have a wait.
That said, it's not so much of an issue for lots of people for two reasons. Firstly, you're more likely than not to have a Wi-Fi connection in your home these days.
And secondly, most smartphones on the market have some kind of tethering ability so many people will find they do actually have access to a web connection if they really need one.
Browsing over Wi-Fi on the Note 8.0 was fast. And we mean blazingly fast. We've just installed a new superhub in our testing location and we wrote this review in another room where we can get a bit of peace.
Normally, a MacBook Pro struggles to get Wi-Fi reception here, but even with one bar on the Wi-Fi signal on the Note 8.0, we had a really good speed.
Within four seconds of hitting enter, TechRadar's homepage was open and we were able to pan around. When we went closer to the router, that moved nearer to 2.5 seconds. It's definitely something to write home about.
As we only had the Wi-Fi version to test, we tethered the Galaxy Note 8.0 to an HTC One running on EE's LTE network with a full signal. This was like lightning. The TechRadar page again took a good four seconds to load fully - but we were able to pan around and start using the site within two seconds. We're really happy with this speed.
As this is an Android device, you can really use any browser you like - there are loads to pick from in the Play Store.
Google Chrome (now the default browser for Android devices on Jelly Bean) is bundled as standard, but Samsung also gives you its browser, which is very similar to Chrome for Desktop.
We're at a loss as to why Samsung has done this. Yes, HTC does it on the HTC One but that's because HTC has craftily left Flash player enabled in that alternative browser.
Samsung hasn't done so - which means you have two browsers, both of which do exactly the same thing, neither of which offer Flash playback. For a company trying to make this intuitive to newbies, it's an odd logic.
The similarities even extend to the bookmark system - your synchronized Chrome bookmarks will appear on both browsers.
Speaking of which, it's an easy-to-use bookmark system and adding a new one is as simple as just opening up the menu and telling the Note 8.0 you want to add one.
One thing that is conspicuous by its absence (on both browsers) is a competent zooming in system.
We've grown accustomed to devices that let us double tap the screen and have the page zoom right in, and the text reformat to fit the screen.
It didn't happen with the Note 8.0 - instead, it would either zoom in too much, or not enough, and get a bit messy when we were trying to then pinch out to zoom out. It wasn't enough to make us cry - but enough to make us feel slightly aggrieved .
Movies, music and books
Tablets are designed for media consumption. Google and Samsung are both aware of this - which is why you'll find no shortage of offerings on the Note 8.0.
Firstly, we have to give a brief mention to WatchON. That's Samsung's hub for selling you content like TV shows and movies or allowing rentals; it even allows you to pair up and mirror with your Samsung Smart TV.
Why a brief mention, you may wonder? Well, because sadly it doesn't work.
We opened the app and were invited to set it up. The first thing that it asked for was our ZIP code. Obviously we don't have them in the UK so tried a UK postcode, which was incompatible.
So we made a ZIP code up. Which didn't work. So we got in touch with friends in the US (we tried LA, NYC and Wisconsin) and asked for their ZIP codes so that we knew we were inputting kosher info. And even then, the Note 8.0 refused to let us in.
Sometimes, if you know what you're doing, you can click "cancel", get into the app anyway and then go into the settings and try to rectify a problem from there. Alas, you can't with WatchON because the setup screen is like the gatekeeper. So it's not worth the pixels it's displayed on.
We tried a hard reset, and we updated the software. Neither of which worked. Which is rather annoying for a consumer - but will be even more annoying for Samsung, when it realises that customers won't have the patience and will just go into the Google Play store instead - which is precisely what it doesn't want them to do.
Hurry up and fix this, Samsung - you're the one losing dollar in the meantime.
Speaking of which, Google's Play Store had another makeover. It's definitely evolved over recent years. From the days of the tatty-looking Android Market, which focused on apps, now there is a real push to get you to part with your currency in the form of music, books, magazines and movies.
Some may say it lacks the depth of content present in the iTunes store, but we didn't find it to be that bad at all.
The big hits are all there - for example, The Hobbit, just out this week at the time of writing, is available as a rental. And in the magazines section, you can get all the leading titles like Harper's Bazaar, GQ and so forth.
Once downloaded, they then all fall into their respective Google Apps on board the tablet for your perusal. And don't forget, you can easily add third-party services like Amazon MP3 or Spotify for music, and apps like Kindle to provide other multimedia channels into your tablet.
Watching videos on the Note 8.0 is a great experience. The device has two speakers (on the right if you're holding it in landscape, or the bottom in portrait) that sound ever so slightly tinny, but certainly not among the worst.
We can't help feeling it would have been better to have one on either side and we know that the bar has been raised now by HTC with its BoomSound on the HTC One, which left us feeling slightly cheated here - but for the majority of people, this won't really figure.
Videos are presented as thumbnails, lists or folders (depending on your choice) and we really like the fact that everything appears here. So, for example, your locally stored content sits alongside videos you've stored on Dropbox which can be streamed.
And you get Pop-up Play - that thing Samsung made a big fuss about last year when it launched the S3. It allows you to play your movie in a small window as you do other stuff on your device. Perhaps less important on a phone, but a useful addition on a larger screen device like the Note 8.0.
Plus, there's support for Air View - this is something we have on the Note 2 and, in a different guise, on the Galaxy S4. It means that you can pull the S-Pen out and hover it over the timeline to a different point and you'll see a popup of what's taking place at that point in the film. It makes scrubbing so much more elegant.
Not only that, you can add bookmarks to your favourite bits and there is even the option to add a weather tag so that you can show what the forecast was like when you watched your video.
God knows why you'd want to - but Samsung's clearly brainstormed and decided to chuck everything in.
Adding to it all is the ability to stream movies directly to a smart TV using the built-in Samsung functionality (or third party apps like Twonky Beam or iMedia Share from the Google Play store.)
Without a Smart TV, you can invest in Samsung's AllShare Dongle to plug into an HDMI port. That'll set you back anywhere between £25 and £70, depending on whether you go for new or secondhand and where you shop.
Mentioning Dropbox again - that representation of what's in your folder also extends to the photo gallery where every photo you've stored there is present in the Gallery app.
This is great news for those people who want a Photo Stream type service without the Apple buy-in and is a great way of saving memory for more data-heavy streaming elements like movies and music which would chew through your allowance if you didn't store them locally.
Speaking of which, you'll find two music players on board here. Or three, if you want to be picky. Two of them are Samsung's - the standard music player (a competent offering with various equalisers and categories) and then the Music Hub.
Again, this is Samsung's attempt to take you away from Google's media offerings and get you to buy music from them instead.
You can play anything stored on the device, stream what you don't and listen to internet radio. It comes with a £9.99 a month price tag, but you do get a week's trial at the start, which eases you in gently.
On top of those, there is then Google's offering, Play Music. This is Android's attempt to get us all streaming and provides an iTunes Match-type service (though a lot more financially reasonable, some would say) so that all of your music on your computer, or the tracks you've bought, can easily be streamed everywhere.
It's a great service and although you have to watch your data usage if you use it a lot out and about, the fact is that this is a Wi-Fi-only model for now, so you should be OK at home. In fact the only problem with it is that you need to be online to be able to stream your content.
There are two sides to the Galaxy Note 8.0 as an entertainment hub, then. In your hands, you hold a media powerhouse. In some ways, it's more versatile than an iPad, because you're not restricted to the iTunes Store. You can buy from Google, from Amazon, from Samsung or elsewhere, because Android is an open system.
But for all those reasons it's confusing if you're new to all of this. Which player do you use? Which store? There's almost too much choice - and for people coming to the tablet market for the first time, we dare say, it'll be rather overwhelming.
Apps and games
Fortunately, Samsung hasn't gone down the route of the Kindle Fire HD, which Amazon has locked down to drive users to its own stores.
As we've just mentioned, choice may make things more confusing to some, such as the new tablet user. But it also increases the breadth of content a lot - because the Google Play store is awash with offerings.
True, there are 60,000 fewer apps available as of April this year because Google has got rid of the tat, but there are still some real gems in there.
And of course, there is the Samsung store there too. Most of the items in Samsung's offering you'll also find in the Google Play store and they'll be similarly priced, if not cheaper.
Also, the stuff you'll buy in Google Play can be transfered to another Android device, should you have or opt to buy one. Apps you buy in Samsung's App Store will only be downloadable on another device with the same shop installed (i.e. another Samsung device).
In all truth, we don't actually see much reason for Samsung's App Store to exist.
There are other ways of installing apps - that's side-loading, or installing APKs. For those who don't speak geek, that's basically installing your own apps that you've downloaded from the web.
Of course, there is risk here because you don't know exactly what you're getting and there is always the chance there may be some kind of malicious code.
Then again, some apps in the Google Play store have been found to be a bit dodgy, so it's all horses for courses.
Regardless, if you want to install your own apps, you can. But you'll need to go into the settings and tick a checkbox, just to confirm that you do want to do something Google considers a bit naughty.
As a gaming device, you couldn't really ask for much more. The Galaxy Note 8.0 has a fair bit going for it. Firstly, you're not limited on storage so if you want to download an HD game (which will probably be a large file), you don't need to worry about not being able to install anything else.
Secondly, the TFT screen is good and bright and the resolution is great for showing off colours. Thirdly, you have those stereo speakers that pump out a fairly decent level of audio.
And fourth, the Galaxy Note 8.0 is light enough to hold with both hands, so you won't get RSI as as you pretend to drive an F1 car .
And don't forget, there are also the included apps. We've touched on a few of them already - but other Samsung bundles include aNote HD (a rather cool, if not slightly complicated, app which draws in your calendars, shopping lists, recipes, scrapbooks etc to give you a colourful Evernote-type experience) and Group Play (unveiled with the S4), which allows you all to listen to music and watch videos together over Wi-Fi.
The one we were most excited about was Smart Remote. As we alluded to earlier, infrared is enjoying something of a comeback thanks to the glut of devices building in remote controls.
The idea is that they not only turn the volume up and down, but they're also able to access EPGs from the area you live in and tell you what's on, and even switch to said show if you choose to watch.
Samsung uses Peel for its listings information and the experience is fairly intuitive. Setting it up was a matter of just following a few steps and we had no complaints here. The interface looks a bit dated and (dare we say) cheap compared to that on the HTC One, but it does the job.
In fact, we only have two minor criticisms. Firstly, the range of the IR blaster isn't as large as that of the One so we found we had to actively point it at the receiver, rather than just in its general direction.
And secondly, we think Samsung has missed a trick by not incorporating the app into the lockscreen when enabled. How cool would it be to pick your Galaxy Note 8.0 up and immediately have access to the channels and controls without having to unlock the screen, then opening an app?
There is, of course, one more app that we should mention. Actually, it's more than an app - it's an integrated part of the Note 8.0: the S-Pen.
But we've come round, although we stand by our convictions that the S-Pen is definitely more useful in something the size of the Tab 2 10.1, or the Galaxy Note 8.0, than a smaller device.
Samsung has been refining the S-Pen experience since the beginning, and there has been even more work done on the pressure and sensitivity. Just like a real pen, the harder you press, the more you get in payback.
We're told there are now more than a thousand different levels of sensitivity and we're willing to believe the hype, even though we could only distinguish between about four in our usage.
There are a couple of ways of getting into the S-Pen experience. The first is to go to the widget Samsung has installed and activate it here.
Or you can simply pull the S-Pen out of its little hole at the bottom of the Note 8.0 and it'll give a little vibration, before taking you to said widget.
There are several Samsung-created apps that allow you to create anything from a diary entry, to a photo manipulation to a magazine template.
You can also add elements from maps or cutout sections of a website and paste them into whatever you're trying to create. And then, there's the ability to jot down mathematical formulae and the S-Pen will work it out for you.
For that, we'd say the S-Pen is incredibly capable. But it's also incredibly complicated.
You really have to work hard on learning how to use it, what buttons do, what buttons don't do, what different apps provided in the S-Pen suite do and it's like a speeding bullet of information heading towards the brain.
Even Samsung is aware of this - it may concentrate on the fun side of the S-Pen for its adverts for devices, showing people drawing pictures and so forth, but it also provides a dedicated app just to teach you how to use it, and there's an instruction manual for the S-Pen which you can download.
Not that this is necessarily a criticism if you're buying the Note 8.0 specifically for the S-Pen. If that is the case, it's great.
But for those who find it as an added extra in their new tablet, it's probably going to spend most of its time docked and forgotten about. We'd guess that of all of the Galaxy Note 8.0s sold, 90 per cent of them will never have their full S-Pen potential realised by the user.
Camera and video camera
So who takes photos with a tablet? Some would say fools. We couldn't possibly comment.
Certainly, there'll always be someone you see on holiday who is using their iPad to shoot videos or photos. The majority of people reading this review wouldn't deign to do such a thing. But for those that would (there's always one), read on.
There are two snappers on the Galaxy Note 8.0 - a 5MP effort around the back and a 1.3MP snapper on the front. The front facing camera will probably get the most use, as it's essential for video chat.
The rear camera protrudes from the Note 8.0 a fair way. When you put the Note 8.0 down, it lands right on the camera lens. It seems an odd design decision and we imagine there will be a lot of scratched lenses reported to Samsung as a result.
Shooting modes are there in spades - from the normal single shot to panorama and even cartoon. There are also the modes you'll never use, yet seem to find their way onto every camera-phone and tablet out there, like Sepia and Negative.
And as was the case with the Galaxy S3, you can control an array of settings - from turning GPS tagging on, to choosing from a multitude of scene modes, to changing the ISO or white balance, or even taking a photo just by speaking to the Note 8.0.
There are loads of options here - perhaps too many given the limitations of the hardware.
That's because sadly, no amount of options can alter the fact that the photos just aren't very good. A 5MP sensor is a bit of a half-hearted effort for those who play the megapixel numbers game - and there is no flash here, which shows that Samsung isn't totally convinced of the camera's worth either.
There's not even an LED light. It seems clear that a decision was made to add a camera - and by coincidence, the camera software Samsung had in the cupboard was the one that they used in previous devices with loads of options.
Even in good light, we'd struggle to say that detail was captured well. Photos looked mediocre when viewed back on the Note 8.0 screen - although better on a larger screen.
Videos looked marginally better than we expected - that 5MP snapper manages to film 720p at 30fps, so it's by no means the worst. But as you can see from our samples, there's a lot better out there.
Of course, it's unlikely many people will be opting to use the camera as their main one. It certainly shouldn't be any buyer's sole reason for purchasing the Note 8.0.
Small tablet doesn't have to mean short battery life. We've been able to put our iPad Mini down and pick it up four days later to find it still has juice.
When it comes to the Note 8.0, it's sadly not the same story. Battery life on the Note 8.0 isn't terrible - but it's not going to win any awards.
During the course of our review, we played with it a fair amount, though we tried to do this over the a couple of days in the same way we would with our regular tablet, so that we could give figures relevant to the real world, rather than the feverish activity of a reviewer.
We turned the screen on and off a fair bit, we surfed on it for hours in total, we streamed a bit of music, we watched a bit of video, took a few photos, read a bit of a Kindle book and probably gave it just a little more action than it would see in an average situation.
Overnight, sat on Wi-Fi with a weak signal, it lost 2 per cent of battery (we took it off full charge just before bed.) And almost 24 hours later, it was still around 44 per cent.
It took the best part of two days to exhaust the 4600mAH battery and die. We'd say similar usage in an iPad Mini or Nexus 7 would have yielded more like three days in the same usage circumstances.
However, this isn't necessarily an Achilles heel. Remember, this is a device that will primarily be used in the home, and charging it up most nights won't be as much of an issue as it is for a phone where you'd use it all day and then risk running out of power in the evening when you popped out.
It's also worth noting that this was without the power saving mode enabled. We didn't want to hinder our experience by choking the CPU, making the display deliberately darker or turning off haptic feedback.
However, if you are desperate for some reserve funds in the bank, this will increase performance around 15% in some situations, and could be your lifeline.
Hands on gallery
Samsung has created a very worthy device here. The Note 8.0 may not be able to put 'phone' or 'tablet' solely on its birth certificate (remember, the cellular version will allow calls), but in using the Wi-Fi model under the tablet moniker, we can see Samsung has created a machine that puts up a fight and does the job well.
Some elements - like the infared blaster - give the Note 8.0 a bit of an edge compared to the likes of the iPad Mini and the Nexus 7. It's a genuinely useful addition, rather than just a gimmick. And of course, there is the S-Pen which is great once you know what you're doing.
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The Galaxy Note 8.0 is a light, highly portable device and there's no denying that its display is far better than that of the main competition, the iPad Mini.
It also gives great viewing angles on top of that enhanced ppi density. It's solidly built, with expandable memory and the S-Pen has clearly been enhanced to make this a major selling point.
We love the IR blaster, the media capabilities are top notch and like the Samsung Galaxy S3, all the power of Android is one offer, plus the TouchWiz UI works nicely on top of it all. Love it or hate it, at least it's simple to use.
It's not the most attractive of tablets with that pointlessly large bezel - and some of the gesture controls are too gimmicky for our liking..
While we like the IR blaster, it could have been a bit stronger. And some bits just feel like they've been added on for the sake of it - like the camera, which is mediocre at best.
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Samsung has created a good device here. But is good enough? Sadly, we don't think so. The bar is a lot higher these days.This is a device that does what it does well, but doesn't wow us in too many ways.
It's obvious that Samsung and Google are fighting for your custom from the sheer number of options and the way they sit side-by-side out of the box. Like two parents smiling in front of the kids, as they wrestle for custody in court.
And what's with that price? There's no way of dressing this up - the iPad Mini has a bigger following and the only thing that would drive consumers to a Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 instead (those who don't care much about technology, before you accuse us of being Apple fanboys) would probably be a lower price. So why make it hideously more expensive?
It's a good device. But there are better out there for the money, and with an arguably better design as well. However, for those that like the S Pen as a tool, it's a great offering, albeit not really worth the extra cash for most.
A scaled up Samsung Galaxy Note 2 it may be, but there are a lot of positives on offer thanks to that larger screen. Now excuse us, we're off to try out a Galaxy Mega...