Samsung Galaxy Note 8: Proof the pen is mightier?
Sammy’s iPad Mini killer has a stylus to stab other rivals too
Scribbles for shortcuts: What works, and what doesn't
The stylus can also be used to get stuff done using shortcut scribbles. If you draw an @ with the stylus you open a new email. Draw an ! and Google Maps opens. You can add keywords too, so @ followed by the recipient’s first name opens a new mail to that person, while ! followed by "Salford" will open a map of my ‘hood.
The problem here is that you have to hold the S-Pen’s button down and swipe up on the screen to open the Quick Command window before you start your scribble and then remember to stop pressing the button before you write your command. I found that all a bit of a faff - is writing the letter "C" in Quick Command faster than simply tapping the Chrome icon? Trick question - it’s not.
Quick Command (left) is a bit of a faff, but the pop-out video player (right) is a genuinely useful
The usual TouchWiz and S-Pen caveats also still apply. The @ gesture only opens the stock email client, the internet search gesture can’t be set to open Chrome rather than the stock browser, and the S-Pen’s Air View trick only works with Samsung-approved apps. The same is true for apps that can take advantage of the multi-window system.
I could go on and on - and on and on - about all the extras that Samsung adds to Android. I touched on many in my review of the Galaxy S4 and I suspect the features unique to the S4 will roll onto the Note 8 when it gets the upgrade to Android Jelly Bean 4.2. Being a purist, I struggle see the use for many of these features, but they do ladle on what the marketing gimps call “surprise and delight”. Maybe, like carrying a rubber johnny or a pair of sunglasses, it’s better to have them yet not need them than the other way around.
A more obviously useful exclusive feature of the Note 8 is the diary utility Awesome Note. Well, it's exclusive to the Note 8 as far as other Android devices are concerned; the software has been knocking around on iPhones and iPads for a while. I’d not used it before but now I can see why Apple slab fondlers like it: it’s easy to use, very comprehensive and easy on the eye.
AnTuTu Benchmark Results
Longer bars are better
As a media player, the Note 8 does an unquestionably fine job. The stereo speakers are much louder and more competent components - there’s a truly impressively amount of bass on offer - than those fitted to either the iPad Mini or the Nexus 7, while both cameras (5Mp at the back, 1.3Mp at the front) perform well by tablet standards even if the main snapper produces rather cold-looking results.
Samsung’s bespoke music and video players also deserve a mention in dispatches. They are not as good as their excellent Sony Xperia equivalents but they are still a great leap forward over the stock software. I particularly like the in-app rotation lock and pop-out player in the video app.
To give you somewhere to stash all your media files, the Note 8 packs 16GB of storage but since ThouchWiz takes an almighty bite out of that it’s just as well that there is also a Micro SD card slot good for cards of up to 64GB.
Control your telly with the Note 8’s IR blaster
For connectivity you get dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and a micro USB port that supports MHL and On-the-Go hosting. There’s no NFC, but that’s no loss. Arguably of more use is the infra-red transmitter, which lets you use the Note 8 to control your telly. The Peel remote control app comes pre-loaded to take full advantage of the IR blaster.
Thanks to a beefy 4600mAh battery, the 8’s operation life isn’t half bad. Looping a 720p video with the Wi-Fi on and the screen brightness set to Auto, the Note 8 soldiered on to the eight-hour, ten-minute mark before hoisting the white flag. In everyday use you shouldn’t really need to charge it more than once every three or four days.
Incidentally, there is a 3G version of the Note 8, complete with an ear speaker and phone dialer making it a direct competitor to the Asus FonePad. Well, as direct a competitor as something costing around £250 more and being too wide to comfortably hold against your head can be.
The Reg Verdict
In essence, the Note 8 is a Note 2 that’s been handed a jar of steroids before being sent out onto the mean streets of Tabletville to beat the tar out of the iPad Mini, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7. Technically, that’s a job it does very well. The only slight fly in the ointment being that the iPad is cheaper, smaller and lighter, though of course it lacks the 8’s GPS radio, S-Pen and storage expansion slot. The first and last are the killers.
The Fire HD 8.9 also lacks many of the Note 8’s key and subsidiary features but at £230 is cheaper still and has a larger, 1920 x 1200, screen. The 16GB Nexus 7 is less than half the price. If the Note 8 included 3G in the £340 asking price - surely not an impossibility if Asus can offer the 3G FonePad for £180 - or was £50 cheaper, it would be an easy recommendation over all the competition, Android and iOS alike, but as it stands the price is perhaps a wee bit high. ®