First Look: Can Samsung overcome its overheating problems with the new Galaxy Note 8 phone?
Samsung has launched the successor to the Galaxy Note 7, the phone that had to be withdrawn globally because it kept catching fire.
But the company insists that the updated model has been designed to make safety the top consideration, even at the expense of longer battery life.
Ahead of the launch, Independent.ie got a hands-on session with the device to give it an initial inspection.
The new Galaxy Note 8 has the biggest screen -- 6.3 inches -- of any mainstream phone on the market. It also has a new dual camera system, similar to that on the iPhone 7 Plus.
And it has Samsung’s S-Pen stylus, which can do new things such as helping to translate web pages from a different language.
It’s also the most powerful phone in Samsung’s lineup, with 6GB of Ram backing up a 64-bit processor.
However, it’s limited to 64GB of built-in storage with more room dependent on memory cards (up to 256GB).
Here’s how we got on with our initial hands-on session with the Galaxy Note 8.
Its screen-size now stands at a massive 6.3 inches, a fraction bigger than Samsung’s recent S8 Plus (6.2 inches) and far larger than Apple’s current iPhone 7 Plus (5.5 inches). However, Samsung has given the device the same bezel-less design as its S8 models, meaning that the phone is barely bigger in overall size than Apple’s biggest iPhone despite the significant extra screen size.
The Note 8 has taken a leaf out of Apple’s book by having dual cameras on the back of the device. Both featuring 12-megapixels, one is a wide-angle (f1.7) lens while the other is a telephoto (f2.4) lens. A front-facing 8-megapixel f1.7 lens is also present. However, Samsung believes it has an edge over Apple for two reasons. First, the company claims that its camera sensor is bigger (fractionally) than that on the high-end iPhone 7 Plus. This means that it can let in more light, which usually results in better, sharper images. Secondly, the Note 8’s camera is claimed to have better optical stabilisation than the iPhone 7. Samsung showed off a number of tests to try and prove this. If true, it means that the Note 8’s camera will produce slightly sharper images in low light and when taking photos with shaky hands. I tried out the optical stabilisation when using the phone’s camera in video mode and could see it in action. It simply won’t allow jerky movements.
3. BATTERY LIFE
Despite its extra size, the Note 8 has one drawback that could hurt it -- its battery is smaller than its sister device, the Galaxy S8 Plus. The reason for this is twofold. First, Samsung has to make room for its S-Pen stylus, which comes directly off potential extra battery life. Second, the company is (understandably) reluctant to get too adventurous in pushing alternative battery-extension processes, given the negative aura still hanging around its battery technology after the Note 7 fiasco. So it has opted to accept that the Note 8’s 3,300mAh battery may not match the Galaxy S8 Plus’s 3,500mAh battery.
4. S-PEN STYLUS
A slightly better camera, a similarly sized screen and a smaller battery make a tough case for this phone to be a must-have business phone when compared to Samsung’s existing S8 Plus. So what’s the Note 8’s distinguishable selling point? Samsung holds that it’s the S-Pen, the slim stylus that fits into the bottom right hand corner of the phone. Most people simply don’t use styluses. Then again, those who do are exactly the niche that might be attracted to this phone. Samsung has some nice functionality for those who like the idea of a small stylus. This includes live translation of pages or phrases using the stylus. It also includes new live notes that can be adjoined. And there’s a raft of calendar and business software uses that the S-Pen is designed for. Having used the new version, I found its latency pretty low, making it fairly easy to write with.
Like the S8, the Galaxy Note 8 has one killer add-on accessory. Samsung’s Dex dock is built to connect the Note 8 to a monitor or TV. When this occurs, the display and interface changes to a PC-friendly version, albeit in Android form. It is fully functional with a keyboard and can run multiple applications at the same time, including YouTube, Netflix (at ‘full HD’ output) or various PC programs. Ultimately, this could be the start of a really significant shift in how we regard computers. If the phone in your pocket can simply become a powerful PC or video player on a bigger screen, where does that leave traditional PCs and TV set-top boxes?
6. OTHER FEATURES
The Note 8 has blistering power under the hood. Using a 64-bit octacore (10nm) processor and 6GB of Ram, this will still be considered powerful in a couple of years’ time.
The Note 8 comes with a flat 64GB of memory, expandable by 256GB with a microSD memory card. This is frankly a little disappointing. Power-users, who the Note 8 is squarely aimed at, are likely to use the new camera and multimedia prowess of the phone a lot. Memory cards can be used to hold photos and videos but can be problematic for backups and slower to access. They also fail more than a phone’s hard drive.
Despite this limitation and the smaller battery, the Note 8 could still emerge as the best business phone out there this year. It has two main competitors: Samsung’s own Galaxy S8 Plus and whatever Apple releases in a few weeks’ time.