The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has been steadily dropping in price, but it now has some newer competition too. We've added details of both these things to this review.
Even in 2019, the Galaxy Note 8 remains one of Samsung's biggest phones, and does more than enough to right the major wrongs of the recalled Note 7. This is a mega-sized mea culpa.
We've tested the Note 8 for many months and it's even more interesting today thanks to the new Deep Sea Blue color that came out post-launch in the US and UK, and the big Android Oreo update that it got. This catches it up to the Samsung Galaxy S9 and similarly sized Galaxy S9 Plus.
After all of our hands on time with the Note 8 it has us convinced: this is a true redesign of not just the Note series, but of the average smartphone from top-to-bottom, edge-to-edge, and rear camera to, well, rear camera. There are now two cameras on the back, a first for a Samsung flagship smartphone (the new S9 Plus and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has this too). It takes brilliant portrait photos, and you can even edit the depth of field post-capture.
What makes the Note 8 different is the handy S Pen stylus and larger 6.3-inch ‘Infinity Display’ to work with – but one that doesn’t increase the dimensions of the actual phone too much. The phone acts like a big, borderless glass canvas for your important handwritten notes and masterpiece doodles
Why buy this instead of the 6.2-inch Galaxy S9 Plus? The extra tenth of an inch of screen is insignificant and doesn’t matter, but Note fans adore the S Pen stylus functionality and its more square shape. Over the S8 Plus, the Note 8 also benefits power users with 6GB or RAM and a superior dual-lens camera, both features passed on to the S9 Plus.
Of course, it's not quite a match for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, but given its lower price it doesn't have to be.
This is still one of the most powerful Samsung phones with a stylus. It does, however, cost you in multiple ways. First, it’s too big for some. You’re going to need a Note 8 case to confidently hold this unwieldy glass beast, and two hands to operate it.
Second, the big screen also comes at the cost of the Note’s usual oval-shaped fingerprint sensor home button. It’s gone. The on-screen button that replaces it works fine, but the fingerprint sensor is now located on the back of the device and off-center – it’s a textbook flawed design, and the alternative iris scanner doesn’t always work when you want to unlock the phone. We're hoping the Galaxy Note 9 fixes this in a couple of months.
Design and display
- 6.3-inch 'Infinity Display' redefines the Note look and feel
- But it's 9mm taller than any previous Note
- Water-resistant up to 1.5m (5ft) for 30 minutes
The Note 8 maximizes Samsung’s dual curved edge and nearly bezel-less Infinity Display to the point where this phone feels like a mini tablet from the future. It’s impressive-looking, but also big and heavy – 9mm taller than any previous Note phone, and 195g.
Stretching your fingers is well worth if you can physically manage it. Its expansive 6.3-inch display – now without a physical home button – has an unheard-of 83% screen-to-body ratio. The iPhones have a 67% screen-to-body ratio for comparison. That's a lot less screen for such big phones, at least until iPhone 8 arrives to change everything.
Lit up, the all-screen Note 8 feels like we’re carrying around a piece of light when we’re out and about. It's much better than the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL display, Google's biggest weakness.
The entire front glows with unimpeded information – as long as you don’t drop and crack it, and you’ll need to be extra careful as the entire phone is enveloped in glass wrapped around an aluminum frame. Combined with its size, this makes for one slippery smartphone.
While we spent most of the time using this phone naked (that’s without a case), we did test several Note 8 cases and instantly felt more confident carrying it around. Why? The added grip (and peace of mind) let us operate it with one hand, whereas we struggled with the pure glass body at such tall and wide dimensions. Sorry – you’re going to need a case with this phone