After the test of our American colleagues, here is our final opinion on Samsung’s latest flagship.

This is the first Galaxy Note since 2014 in France explained Samsung at the presentation of the Galaxy Note 8 sound. Indeed, we had 2014 the Galaxy Note 4 as well as its Edge version, the first curved edge phone for the brand. The following year, the firm preferred a Galaxy S6 Edge+ to the Galaxy Note 5 in France; then came the Galaxy Note 7, which had to be slipped under the carpet due to spontaneous combustion.

So here we are at the end of 2017 with a stylus terminal on which accessory enthusiasts will be able to set their sights. The Galaxy Note 8. According to Samsung, Note users are very loyal and after the two-year hiatus, the firm will probably be able to convince them to renew their terminal, and perhaps also conquer new users. The main argument is the same as for the Galaxy S8: a rather radical design change thanks to the side-by-side screen.

Another novelty on this Note 8, and it’s a first at Samsung, a dual photo sensor. An approach that has already been adopted by many manufacturers, starting with HTC which has not persisted in this direction, Apple since the iPhone 7, and especially Huawei which is now the one who has invested the most in the dual sensor.

 

By placing its phone at 1009 euros, the brand clearly believes that these innovations deserve to exceed this psychological ceiling of a thousand euros. Is she right? Answer in this test.

Neat design

With a Galaxy S8 that has won over critics and audiences alike, there’s no need for Samsung to revise its copy. Continuity therefore for this Note 8 with its glass back, aluminium edges and especially its curved Edge-to-Edge screen. This being said, the brand is making some adjustments that are not to be displeased. It starts with straighter angles that give Note 8 a more serious, more mature, more chic side.

The other aesthetic change compared to the S8 is to be found in the curved edges of the device. We have drier edges here. The rounding is therefore less visible, but this has the merit of making the stylus easier to use by giving it a slightly larger useful surface area than on an S8 while limiting the accessory’s slippage. Proof of the care taken by Samsung to its smartphone, but remember that the Galaxy Note 7 offered the same adjustment when it was still of this world.

 

With 6.3 inches, and even with an Infinity screen the smartphone is necessarily massive. Don’t try to fit it all the way into a regular jeans pocket, a little bit will stick out. Despite this, integrating a 6.3-inch screen in this format remains a feat, the object is 162.5 mm high where an iPhone 7 Plus extends to 158.4 mm: for 4 mm more we have 0.8 inches of additional screen. The size still imposes a significant weight with 195 grams, more than the iPhone 7 Plus, but less than the 8 Plus which will exceed 200 grams.

All in all, and like the S8s, Note 8 is a delightful aesthetic achievement. From the front. It is indeed difficult not to notice on the back this huge black block integrating the two photo sensors, but also the fingerprint sensor, the heart rate monitor and finally the flash. Of course it doesn’t go over, but it really breaks the uniqueness of the back side on the gold and blue model. On the black version, the whole is better integrated and therefore less visible.

Nice screen, too big

As mentioned above, Note 8 features a 6.3-inch Super AMOLED 6.3-inch screen with Quad HD+ (2960 x 1440) or 522 dpi. The display is fine and precise. No surprise. We remind you that it is possible to lower the definition of the screen to limit consumption, which is advisable to do as the difference is invisible to the eye.

 

We know Samsung’s talent for its screens, that doesn’t change with Note 8. It’s a no fault on the quality of the screen. Period. The problem is related to its size. It’s very simple: impossible to use it properly with one hand. This reduces the ergonomics of the device. If the display surface is a real pleasure to consume content and draw on, it’s a real pleasure when it comes to reaching an element at the top of the screen.

Luckily Samsung has provided a one-handed mode activated by a slide to the center from one of the lower corners. This makes things a little easier, but it does not make the fingerprint sensor more accessible on the back. If unlike Apple with the iPhone X, Samsung has not removed its fingerprint sensor, it is as if it had done so because it is so unusable in everyday life. Luckily facial recognition is there to easily unlock the smartphone. It works well, but is not as secure as a fingerprint sensor.

Performance always at the top

Note 8 retrieves strictly the same SoC as the S8 Galaxy, so we end up with Exynos 8895. It’s a 10nm etched chip with eight cores, clocked at 2.3 GHz for the four fastest cores, and the graphics calculations are performed on a Mali-G71 GPU. The difference lies in the amount of RAM with 6 GB for Note 8 versus 4 previously. A detail that is important for multitasking. 

 

There are no daily usage problems, no matter what you are running. The opposite would have been amazing. What is surprising is the fact that we never reach the maximum CPU speed, even during benchmarks where we do not exceed 2 GHz. A limit no doubt imposed to avoid overheating, but then one wonders what good is it to integrate a chip capable of reaching higher frequencies if not to use them.

Source of disappointment this time: autonomy. She could have been better. The 3300 mAh offered by the batteries fortunately allows to reach the day of use, whatever the conditions. So Samsung’s fulfilling the minimum contract, that’s something. But that’s as far as we’re going to go. Only the most economical will get an extra half day of operation. It’s a shame.

Lined menu

The photo part is particularly important for this Note 8 and it is advisable not to miss for this first incursion on the double sensors for the firm. Technically it opts for two 12 mpx modules, the first one opens at f/1.7, the second one – telephoto – at f/2.4 and in both cases optically stabilized. Something new on the market while waiting for the iPhone X to be released.

 

 


 

Click on the thumbnail to enlarge

For the operation, no surprises: Samsung does what Apple does. By playing on the focal lengths of the two sensors, the brand offers a true false optical zoom x2 using its second sensor. It also allows you to create nice bokeh effects, mainly designed to bring out faces in portrait mode, although it also works with objects.

In practice, the effect suffers from the same problems as its competitors with similar features, the application of the effect is imperfect if the subject and the background have colors too close to each other like brown hair on a dark background. Moreover, the management of the hair sometimes leaves something to be desired even in a relatively simple scene. This is also a recurring problem on smartphones offering this feature.

Image 2x actual size

As for the ability to zoom in, nothing to complain about, the 12MPs do a good job in poor to good conditions, but the performance in low light is not as good as with the main sensor, which offers the same result as the S8. Very good for capturing light, but with a little less detail than on an LG G6 for example. So the overall picture is largely correct, but we have to give it the same complaints as the Galaxy S8, as the competition has caught up with it in terms of photos. (NB: an update regarding the photo settings was released by Samsung after the release of this test, we will update it if we see any noticeable changes).

Leeloo Dallas multitask

While the improvements in the pictures obviously make a difference with the S8, it’s also the software that makes the phone stand out. This is achieved by the stylus, whose tip has been slightly refined for greater precision, which still manages 4096 pressure levels, and which is finally IP68 certified, like the phone that will always appeal to fans of the accessory. These include taking notes on the Always-On screen and the ability to pin it as a reminder, hovering over text to translate it (over a whole sentence now), or even the ability to make beautiful drawings and turn them into GIFs to share via various messaging applications.

The other significant new feature from a software point of view is the improvement of the multitasking mode with mainly the possibility to create shortcuts to launch two applications at the same time. Typical usage will be to launch a mail client and file manager to write a message and insert an attachment. Because, yes, the phone does handle drag and drop. This is an important advantage for those who use their smartphone very intensively.

The Note 8 integrates in Bixby, Samsung’s voice assistant is still available in French… since it still does not support the language of Molière and the contribution of Bixby Vision in daily life is frankly limited. Therefore, we would like to be able to modify the function linked to the dedicated key on the side to avoid launching the wizard unintentionally. That’s still not possible.


For pen fans

All in all, the Galaxy Note 8 is undeniably a successful and interesting phone. This is in a way the state of the art in mobile telephony, with the possible exception of a photo section which has been slightly overtaken by the competition.

The fact remains, however, that the stylus, although fun, will find it rather difficult to find its way into the hands of the vast majority of potential users. At the price of 1009 euros, it will be difficult to recommend it to anyone other than those who are absolutely certain to use the stylus, others will have done just as well to turn to a Galaxy S8+, which is now fairly easy to find for 300 to 400 euros less.

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