The Galaxy Note 8 is Samsung’s latest and greatest smartphone, a natural evolution of the Galaxy S8 and the ill-fated Note 7. It’s big, has a curved AMOLED display, and packs an S Pen stylus. The Note 8 is an enticing device, even as phones like the iPhone X and Pixel 2 are right around the corner, but it isn’t cheap. Should you get one? Let’s break it down into the best and worst things.
- The display: Samsung has traditionally killed it when it comes to display quality, and the Note 8 is yet another high point. This 2960 x 1440 Super AMOLED panel is the closest any phone has come to the perfect viewing experience. The colors are vibrant but not blown out, and the brightness is unrivaled. This phone is completely legible, even in direct sunlight. In a dark room, you can do the brightness to non-retina-searing levels.
- The S Pen: The S Pen is The defining feature of Samsung’s Note devices. No other phone offers a competitive stylus experience, and none of those capacitive styli you can buy on Amazon get you anywhere close to the speed and precision of the S Pen. This is an inductive stylus with pressure sensitivity based on Wacom technology. It’s great for highlighting text, taking notes, and drawing. When you aren’t using it, the S Pen docks inside the phone for easy storage.
- The cameras: The Note 8 is the first phone from Samsung to sport dual cameras. Even without that secondary lens, this is one of the best shooters in mobile. Photos from the main 12MP camera are evenly exposed, vibrant, and super-clear. Autofocus is lightning fast, and it takes great photos even in dim settings. The secondary telephoto camera offers 2X optical zoom with 12MP of resolution. These photos aren’t as good in the dark, but that’s just how physics works. Virtually no other phone can touch the Note 8’s image quality. The only rivals are the Pixel and Galaxy S8.
- The fingerprint sensor: Samsung had to do something with its fingerprint sensor on this year’s phones as it moved away from the physical home button. Samsung has chosen possibly the worst spot for the sensor on the Note 8: on the back way up next to the camera. This location is a stretch on the Galaxy S8, but it’s impossible on the Note 8 without adjusting your grip. The sensor is also sketchy about recognizing your fingerprint. You really have to cover the whole scanner, and the phone is slow to wake up even if you do get your finger on there.
- The software: The Note 8 ships with Android 7.1 Nougat, which is already behind the new Oreo release. That’s a bummer, but not a surprise. The real issue here is that Samsung’s TouchWiz software still isn’t as fast or clean as what Google puts on the Pixel. There’s a touch of lag in various places, and it will probably get worse over time—every other Samsung phone has. This phone should be faster than a Pixel with its older hardware, but that isn’t the case even with the Note 8’s resolution set to 1080p (the default).
- The price: Samsung sure thinks highly of itself to sell the Note 8 for nearly $1,000 in the US after the Note 7 disaster last year. That works out to around $40 per month if you buy from a carrier on a 2-year plan. That’s enough to buy a pair of OnePlus 5 smartphones and still have enough for a nice dinner afterward. This $1,000 phone is going to be obsolete just as fast as one that costs $600, so buyer beware.