Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

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  •  WatchON app provides universal remote functionality
  •  S Pen allows you to write and draw naturally
  • Multitask with up to 20 apps at once with Multi Window
  • SAFE security features and Polaris Office for business users
  • Access handwritten notes from your PC using S Note with Web Viewer
  • Android 4.1, Jelly Bean and quad-core processor provide smooth performance

Samsung has further expanded its line-up of stylus-equipped devices with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0. It sits between the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 – a giant smartphone - and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – a full-sized tablet. The Note 8.0 has an 8in display, a Touchwiz-skinned version of Android and the S-pen for note-taking and sketching.

First impressions are mostly positive - built from the same glossy white plastic as the Galaxy S3 smartphone, the Note 8.0 shares a very similar design with a rounded rectangular shape, finished with a chrome strip around the edges. The oblong home button and illuminated back and menu keys will feel instantly familiar to S3 owners as well. The left and right bezels are just large enough to rest your thumbs on without coming into contact with the touchscreen, although we’re currently spoilt by a collection of smartphones and tablets with next to no bezel at all – including Samsung’s own Galaxy S4 – so you don’t get the same impression of a premium device here.
At 340g it’s surprisingly light, even compared to 7in budget models – we had no trouble holding it in one hand without having to give our wrists an occasional rest. The S-pen slots into a holder in the underside of the tablet with a reassuring click, so you can be confident it won’t fall out when on the move. A MicroSD card slot is hidden beneath a (rather flimsy) plastic flap on the left side of the tablet, with both power and volume buttons on the right side. The 3.5mm audio jack sits at the top and the speaker grilles fire downwards from the base of the tablet.

The screen dominates the front of the Note 8.0 – as the name suggests, it’s an 8in display based around a 1,280x800 TFT panel. That’s fairly standard resolution for entry-level tablets, but it’s slightly disappointing in a premium one like this. Even so, both images and text look crisp and fairly detailed – just don’t expect the same level of clarity as a Full HD display. Viewing angles are above average for an LCD panel, although the glossy finish can make light reflections a little troublesome, and colour accuracy is great. However, dark images don’t have the deep blacks you’ll find on an AMOLED or IPS display. As it’s a 16:9 panel, you don’t get quite the same usable space as with Apple’s iPad Mini - which has a squarer 4:3 display - but it’s still noticeably larger than the 7in Nexus 7.

The larger screen has a considerable impact on battery life – the Galaxy Note 8 lasted a little under seven and a half hours in our video playback test. That's some three hours less than the Nexus 7 and it certainly can't compare to the iPad Mini, which managed an incredible eleven and a half hours in the same test.


With an Exynos 4 quad-core processor running at 1.6GHz, paired with 2GB of RAM, the Note 8.0 is very quick when it comes to everyday tasks such as web browsing. In our CPU performance benchmarks, the four cores produced excellent results, scoring highly in both GeekBench and SunSpider – it even managed to outmuscle the HTC One in some tests, although it falls behind when 3D graphics are introduced. It could only score 3306 in 3DMark Ice Storm, making it slower than the Nexus 7 and some 7000 points behind the likes of the Galaxy S4 or HTC One.
All this is powering Android 4.1, rather than the newer 4.2 version found on the Nexus 7 and Galaxy S4. This isn't a big deal in terms of features and performance, but 4.2 does come with support for multiple user accounts – great if you plan on sharing the device with friends or family.
Samsung’s Touchwiz tweaks to Android are fairly comprehensive, with a full set of custom icons, new widgets and a redesigned settings menu. Samsung has also included its MultiWindow technology, which allows more PC-like multitasking. You can open key apps, such as email, maps or browser, in a half-screen window, so you can handle two tasks at once. Add in the stylus and it becomes even more powerful, for example you can quickly make notes in one app while reading another

The Note 8.0 is incredibly responsive when using the S-Pen stylus. It’s based around a Wacom digitiser and can detect 1,024 levels of pressure, letting you use the tablet as a sketch pad or artists’ easel. The pen itself has a single button which, when held, lets you cut out anything on-screen – meaning you can send maps in emails, annotate screenshots and share images from the web, all without having to switch between apps.

To assist you there's Air View – which lets you hover the pen over emails to open a preview, without loading the Mail application, just to name one example. Handwriting recognition is excellent too – we were able to send emails without a single spelling error, although there was the occasional misplaced capital letters.
There are several unique Samsung apps provided. The most stylus-friendly is S-Note, which lets you annotate typed documents or create written ones from scratch. There are others like Paper Artist, which let you colour in your photos with vibrant effects, but there’s no drawing app pre-installed on the device. You’ll need to download one from the Android app store if you want to flex your artistic muscle – we recommend Autodesk SketchBook Pro, but gives you a huge amount of features more commonly found in desktop programs like Photoshop.
If you’re more of a photographer than a traditional artist, you’ll find a 5-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front webcam. The rear camera takes perfectly acceptable stills in bright daylight, with a slight tendency towards over-exposure. It lacks a flash, so low-light images were always going to be a struggle – it produces grainy shots that lack any detail.
It’s also able to record high definition video at 720p, although it won’t replace your smartphone or compact camera in terms of quality – or convenience. Cameras on tablets often don't get much use, but the ability to touch-up your snaps with the stylus, or annotate your shots for practical or comedy purposes is a big boon here.

It’s clear that the Galaxy Note 8.0 isn’t for everyone – if you don’t plan on using the stylus heavily, then an Apple iPad Mini or the slightly smaller Nexus 7 would be a far more sensible purchase. If you view the stylus as simply a nice-to-have extra, then the Note 8.0 simply doesn’t feel smart enough to justify its high price.
However, it’s still a snappy tablet that’s well-suited to productivity. Artists, on-the-go workers or anyone that wants a compact tablet with a stylus won’t be disappointed.