Notably Exquisite
Tan Jee Yee 
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a beautiful design housing powerful technology with a slew of useful features

I remember when first Samsung Galaxy Note was launched. There were creased eyebrows and sniggers. Sceptics were quick to denounce the phone as a jumping-the-shark moment at a time when slim and sleek was the way to go.

Now, large-sized phones are everywhere. Even Apple can’t deny that many people prefer larger screens, bulkiness be damned. And the Note was the king of all big phones, getting bigger with each iteration.

But every sovereign has a black mark in its history. The Note 7, as many would remember, had an inconvenient tendency to catch fire. Samsung spent the better part of last year dousing out the metaphorical flames, and making doubly sure that none of its phone will ever combust again. The Note 8 is the result of this effort, larger and even more powerful than its beleaguered predecessor.

Even if you discard some of its more flashy gimmicks, the Note 8 is a more complete and robust instrument than any of its large-screen competitors. Fast performance, nice design, water resistant, pen input, fingerprint reader and a solid camera are just some of the many impressive features. That said, it is not perfect – the hefty price tag, for one – but I’d still say it has more hits and misses.

Water-resistant up to 1.5m, or a 5ft deep pool

Like a clear night sky

The Note 8 is slightly larger than the iPhone 7 Plus, but the same size as the Galaxy S8 Plus. Nevertheless, it is still a large phone, but rather than being chunky and unwieldy, the tall and narrow design makes it comfortable to hold in the palm.

The screen is undoubtedly the star here, a 6.3-inch AMOLED display that offers rich black and vibrant colours. It is so big and hi-res that I clocked in an unexpectedly large amount of time watching Netflix. The Infinity Display, which is the curved screen that ends in a toothpick-thin bezel, looks as impressive as it does on the Galaxy S8.

The overall look is gorgeous too. It has glass on all sides, with the logo on the back. It is an elegant device although if there is a point to pick on, I have to say the fingerprint scanner is rather oddly placed beside the rear camera, which means I often fail to find it on the first try.

The Note 8 is IP68 water-resistant with the ability to survive a depth of 1.5m underwater for 30 minutes. However, the glass on device makes me extremely cautious about not dropping it on the ground.


Powerful performance

Of course, there is much to love about a huge screen on your smartphone. Typing is easier, and playing games can be a more immersive experience. And if you are the type who has to multitask, the Note 8 offers a few special things.

For one, it is capable of launching two apps simultaneously. I like to be able to research my stories in the browser at the bottom of the screen while making notes on another app at the top. Note 8 even allows you to save these apps in pairs and open them together with a tap. Truly wonderful stuff!

The S Pen stylus also makes a return. A nice and responsive tool, it offers plenty of nifty functions – for instance, you can write a note, and turn it into a GIF to send to friends. You can also take screenshots easily just by drawing a square. When you pop the pen out of its hiding spot at the bottom of the phone, a note-taking app opens automatically, allowing you to jot down your thoughts immediately. There is this nice, natural flow with its implementation.

The Note 8’s smooth functionality is thanks to the robust octa-core processor with 6GB of RAM. I really can’t find any fault with the phone’s performance.


Beautiful images

The Note 8 marks the first Samsung phone to feature a dual-camera rig, which is all the rage right now. You have two 12-megapixel sensors working together or separately. Not only is the camera fast, it also produces clear and sharp pictures. While the camera app feels a bit basic, the camera itself is more than capable of features like burst mode and panorama shots.

Then there is the Live Focus mode, which uses both cameras to approximate a soft-background portrait. With this, you can obtain shots akin to DSLRs with portrait-specific lenses. It works well, and even allows you to tweak the amount of background blur after taking the photo.

The sleek exterior of the Note 8 with the S Pen stylus

Unspectacular battery life

All in all, the Note 8 is a really nice instrument. But it has one major downside – it comes with a 3,300mAh battery instead of the 3,500mAh found in Note 7 and the S8 Plus.

This is probably to avoid cramming the body too tightly, or perhaps it is a necessary sacrifice to avoid last year’s fiery fiasco. However, it means the Note 8 has a comparably shorter battery life.

With relatively light use, the phone manages to last 15.5 hours. But when I kept the screen on for a two-hour drive using Google Maps, I lost about 40% of the battery. On another day out when I took a lot of pictures and logged onto social media for long stretches at a time, I had to reach for the charger after only a few hours.

Granted, there are phones with worse battery performances, but large phones tend to have the added benefit of higher capacity batteries, and the Note 8’s battery life – while not abysmal – left much to be desired.

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 262.