Samsung Galaxy Note8 first impressions

Samsung Galaxy Note8: A phablet winner in form, performance

The new S Pen stylus feels very much like a real ballpoint pen, because of its finer tip and improved pressure sensitivity. The Note8 is the first Samsung phone to sport two rear cameras - a telephoto lens and a wide-angle one.
The new S Pen stylus feels very much like a real ballpoint pen, because of its finer tip and improved pressure sensitivity. ST PHOTOS: LESTER HIO
The new S Pen stylus feels very much like a real ballpoint pen, because of its finer tip and improved pressure sensitivity. The Note8 is the first Samsung phone to sport two rear cameras - a telephoto lens and a wide-angle one.
The Note8 is the first Samsung phone to sport two rear cameras - a telephoto lens and a wide-angle one.ST PHOTOS: LESTER HIO

The Note8's camera and S Pen stylus support sets it apart from Samsung's S-line of phones

Samsung's Galaxy Note8 is shaping up to be the phablet to beat this year in terms of form factor and performance. It makes an immediate impression with its large, bezel-less screen, which is founded upon the infinity display that Samsung's latest S8 flagships have been lauded for.

It looks like a slightly longer S8+, with only a minuscule 0.1mm difference between their display sizes, and has less rounded corners than the S8 phones.

The Note8 retains the same premium glass-and-metal design of the S8 line, making it a beautiful phone to hold and look at.

But the glossy feel of the phone's back makes me worry about accidental slippage, and I expect many will use a case to prevent that from happening.

The Note8's 6.3-inch quad-HD+ Super Amoled screen is the largest one to date in a Samsung smartphone, and the South Korean company has once again succeeded in producing a sharp, gorgeous display with great colour resolution that's just a joy to enjoy videos, photos and games on.

It is quite impressive how Samsung made a 6.3-inch display feel reasonably comfortable. Despite the phone's large screen, I never felt like it was too large or unwieldy in my hand, and was able to use it with one hand quite comfortably.

The fingerprint sensor is once again on the back of the phone, like that of the S8. But I found it much harder to reach, due to the Note8's thickness and the slightly higher location of the sensor.

Where the Note8 differentiates itself from Samsung's S-line of phones are in its camera and S Pen stylus support.

The Note8 is the first Samsung phone to sport two rear cameras - a telephoto lens and a wide-angle one. Both have 12-megapixel sensors, which is the same sensor size as the camera on the S8 and S8+.

Camera performance is snappy, producing clear, detailed and sharp photos that look great on the Note8's screen. Optical image stabilisation on both lenses means images turn out sharp and in focus, even when you are snapping while walking about.

But the combination of the telephoto and wide-angle lens produces what I think is the most useful feature, the new Live Focus mode.

This mode lets you adjust the intensity of background blur - or bokeh - in photos, both during and after taking the shot. Combined with the Note8's excellent image quality, photos really pop, especially for portraits.

The new S Pen stylus feels very much like a real ballpoint pen, because of its finer tip and improved pressure sensitivity.

A new Live Message feature lets you draw or write a quick note that you can send as an animated GIF to a friend through the messaging app of your choice, where they can see the words or drawing as they are being written or drawn.

It's cute, but nowhere as useful as the updated screen-off memo feature, which lets you jot down quick notes on the Note8 when the phone is locked.

The Note8 now lets you store up to 100 pages of such quick memos, and there is also the ability to pin notes so that they stay on screen all the time.

This can be helpful for a shopping list, for instance, or for students hunting for books in a library.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2017, with the headline 'A phablet winner in form, performance'. Print Edition | Subscribe