Tablets. The market seems to be filled with them at every price point at every size and every manufacturer claims to have the latest and greatest.
So when Samsung launched their Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet, frankly I was surprised. Samsung already has the entire range covered starting with the Galaxy Note 1 & 2 phablet, the Galaxy Tab 7.0, Galaxy Tab 7.7, Galaxy Tab 8.9 LTE, Galaxy 10.1 Tablet as well others Notes and Tab2 tablets in the mix. So do we really need an 8 inch tablet ?
At the outset, I have to declare that I was fortunate to win a Galaxy Note 8.0 at a non-Samsung event. The unit had not arrived at the time of this posting and this review is based on my experience using a review unit that Samsung had sent me which had to be returned.
With that out of the way, let me begin.
Look and Feel
This tablet is obviously Samsung. Everything about it screams Samsung with the white-coloured device has the same look as the Galaxy S3 phone, Samsung’s flagship smartphone. This is great for brand association as it is instantly recognisable as a Samsung product. On the downside, it does look like they took a baking rolling pin to the S3 to make it flatter and strechier into the 8 inch WXGA 1280 x 800 TFT device.
The TFT screen is clear but not a Super AMOLED display as you get on the Samsung Smartphones. Nonetheless the colours are bright, vivid and clear and I had no problem using the tablet even on very bright Johannesburg sunny days. My only complaint about the screen, as with most screens of touch-devices, is that fingerprints and smudges are visible.
Whilst some have complained about “cheapness” feel of the device, I did not find it that way at all. I like the fact that the weight has been kept low at 345g for the 3G/LTE version and 340g for the WiFi version.
Unfortunately Samsung is perpetuating the trend of the Tablet Photography by embedding into the Galaxy Note 8 a 5-megapixel camera on the back.
The Exynos 4412 1.6GHz quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM made light-work of any task I threw at the device and with its 4,600mAh battery, even on moderate to heavy usage. I only had to charge the device every 4 or 5 days. This makes it a perfect tavel companion device.
The only real issue I had was the the quality of the built in speakers. These aren’t great and in an area where there is background noise you can hardly hear anything. Slap on the headphones into the 35mm jack and all is good again but do that discreetly to avoid little kids pointing at the man talking on his massive phone.
The Galaxy Note 8.0 runs Android 4.1.2 which as we know Samsung has virtually perfected. The hardware and software seem to be in sych the entire time and I couldn’t get the device to freeze no matter what I made the poor thing do.
Speaking of hardware working harmoniously with software, the Note 8 comes with the S-Pen. As I am a Galaxy Note 1 user, I love my S-Pen and use it often. This was a treat for me to see how functional and integrated the S-Pen is in this tablet. Air View is awesome as you just hover the S-Pen above calendar, messages, media files and you get a preview of the contents without constantly opening and closing apps. You can also scroll up and down pages by hovering the S-Pen at the top or bottom of the pages. I am NOT an artists by any leap, but even I manage to get by drawing network diagrams, inserting images into “idea notes” and creating meeting notes. The kids love the S-Pen to play and draw. The Quick Commands allow you to have instant access to your info by drawing symbols on the screen – eg. !Sandton open up Google Maps and shows Sandton on the map.
I have seen this work on the bigger Note tablet but this functions just as well on its little brother. Think back to Windows 3.1 where we first had “windows” concept of multiple app open at the same time and being able to multi-task between them – this is now on the tablet. I love this feature as I often like to have Twitter open at the same time as I browse the web. Now I can. You can also resize the windows and swap. Just in case you can really multi task you can even have a video play and pop-it-out and overlay that ontop of your multi screen.
My only complaint is that you still can not choose your own apps. You have to select from the pre-installed apps and launch them onto the same screen. So if you want Angry Birds and Where it my Perry on split screen, this is not possible.
By the way, this is a good place to mention that the Galaxy Note 8 handles the changes between landscape and portrait like a champ – even with a pop-up video playing the entire time.
The size of the device makes it perfect to be an E-Reader. There is even a Reading Mode built into the device that changes the screen brightness and hue so it becomes more comfortable to read. I never liked reading books on tablet before as I am easily distracted by flashing lights and beeps of incoming messages. The Galaxy Note 8 has the Blocking Mode that disables all notifications allowing you to get lost in a book peacefully.
FINALLY Samsung tablet that can be charged with a regular MicroUSB charger. With my other Samsung Tablets, I have to remember to travel with the Samsung-specific charger. With the Note, I can use my regular USB cable charger – this is a big win.
So in summary:
I am usually not a fan of tablets as a whole but I do like this one. I find that the tablet wears two hats: work and fun. I managed to do real work beyond just reading emails and to play games and its screen size is perfect for movies too. At no time did I wish I had brought my bigger tablet or laptop so the size for me is just right.
Now if I can get a cover that has a keyboard I see that this tablet will cross the line from just consuming content to actually producing content whilst remaining truly portable. Its a powerful device in a perfectly sized package.
Update 24/ 4/ 2013: Galaxy Note 8 will be available in retail stores such Dion Wired, Game, MTN, Vodacom, Cell C, 8ta within the next two weeks (around mid May). The retail price is R7 199.00