Saturday, June 15, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review

I was contacted to see if I wanted to do a product review for Staples, and, of course, I agreed! I chose the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 to review. 

The model I received has 2GB of RAM, is WiFi only (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0, and has 16GB of memory storage, expandable to 64GB via a microSD/HC slot.

Some other important specs include:
  • 8" screen with a 1280x800 resolution
  • Quad-Core, 1.6GHz processor
  • Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) 
  • .73 pounds in weight
  • 5MP rear and 1.3MP front cameras

General overview

The Galaxy Note 8 is just the right size to hold in one hand, so I found myself keeping it n portrait mode most of the time, except for when using email, since the extra width is helpful then. It has a beautiful, bright, white screen which is the type of screen I like. I call it a "cool" screen as opposed to the "warm" screens  of some tablets which are off-white.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has some useful features not found on every tablet. The first thing I noticed, and wondered why all tablets don't have it, was a full QWERTY and number keyboard. It was so nice not to go back and forth between number and letter keyboards, especially for passwords! The keyboard can also be split or floating, which some people prefer.

The second cool thing I discovered was the ability to use a "face scan" instead of a swipe to unlock the device. (They give you a PIN back-up plan, too!) Now, I simply look at the lock screen and the Galaxy Note 8 unlocks!

I also appreciate the inclusion of a physical "home" button on the front of the device. I would rather use a button than swipe through pages of apps to get to the main page of my device!

Another nice feature allows you, when typing passwords, to turn off the brief display of the characters you are typing. I wish other tablets had this feature since, when I am projecting and presenting to an audience, they can always see my password as I type it!

The addition of the "S Pen" stylus adds a lot to the device. The stylus has a button on it and is not just a "dumb" stylus. For instance, to take a screenshot, you simply hold in the button on the stylus, tap and hold the screen, and the screenshot is taken. You can then crop the image from that same screen and save the result to the gallery. It is so easy! In addition, when you remove the pen from its slot, a page pops up with items specific to use of the S Pen. (You get a special page popping up, too, when you plug in headphones.)

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 also has an infrared port which allows you to turn your device into a remote control. In addition, if you have a Samsung smartphone or other Samsung device, there are ways to share your screen with those via the AllShare Cast app. I could not try the AllShare cast process since I did not have those devices.

Samsung has thought of everything! On most tablets, you have to set the amount of time for when the screen will timeout. This usually causes you to make it longer than you need just in case you do need a longer period at some point. The Galaxy Note 8 includes something called "Smart stay" which causes the screen to stay on as long as you are looking at it. It looks for your eyes!

Cool and useful software

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has really good handwriting recognition and turns your printed words into text. You can use the S Pen or your finger in any app that allows for text input to write your notes or emails! The tablet also comes with a Microsoft Office compatible application, called Polaris Office, for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations.

Polaris Office

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is, of course, tightly integrated with the Google tools and apps, including Google Drive, Talk, Google+, Picasa, Maps, Local, Latitude, and the Play Music and Book Stores. Once you are signed in to your Google account, you have access to all of your tools and media!

There is voice recognition in addition to handwriting recognition on the Galaxy Note 8 and any number of Samsung apps that take advantage of the S Pen for journaling, reminders, and note taking. The S Note app includes templates for taking all types of notes at meetings, in school, and while traveling. One type of note allows you to record both your drawing and your voice in real time. The recording and the voice recording are not put together, but you can easily view the drawing as it is created and start the voice recording to listen at the same time.

As far as video playback goes, I did not watch any movies on the device itself but did stream both movies from Netflix and my soap opera via the SlingPlayer app, which allows me to watch recordings from my home DVR over the Net, and it performed well on both accounts with no stuttering at all! The speakers are mounted on the front and they are very loud!

Of course, there are all types of accessibility options built-in to the tablet, too, including font size, background color, length of tap and hold, etc. 


The back camera is a 5MP camera, and takes good images. However, there are all types of settings you can use to enhance your photo. You can also take panoramic pictures or videos, cartoonize an image as you take it, have the camera wait until the person smiles to actually snap the photo, and more! Once the image is taken, it is easy to share it with DropBox, Facebook, Picasa, via Bluetooth, or to additional apps and sites. I was able to send the photo from the Galaxy Note 8 to a Nexus 7 tablet, but was not able to transfer it that way to my iPhone.

Backing up and storage

Another perk with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is that is comes with 50GB of DropBox storage space for 2 years. That comes in so handy when moving files from device to device as well as sharing documents with others.

You can also use Samsung Kies, which is Mac or Windows desktop software to sync your device and move contacts, images, and update software on the Galaxy Note 8 via a USB connection or wirelessly between the tablet and the desktop. There are some additional cloud solutions for back up, but I always like to have the back up on my computer.


There are many choices for small size (7" and 8") tablets on the market right now. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8, with its large number of hardware and software options built-in to the device, has to be the most full-featured and fun one of them all!

Full disclosure: provided me with this product for review. The thoughts and opinions expressed are strictly my own. Feel free to shop their entire line of tablets online.