Meet the Note 8
Samsung just took the wraps off the Galaxy Note 8, which hits shelves Sept. 15, and it's a stunner, with an equally stunning price tag. (Preorder prices at carriers range from $930 to $960.) While the new 6.3-inch phone takes a lot of design cues from the Galaxy S8, the Note 8's best features go well beyond aesthetics. Samsung focused on important enhancements designed to improve the supersized smartphone's overall experience and redeem the brand after the Note 7 disaster.
The Note name is back in a big way. From new ways to multitask, to S Pen enhancements, to dual cameras that go beyond the iPhone 7 Plus, here are 10 new features you need to know about as you consider whether to get the Note 8 when it becomes available on Sept. 15.
Credit: Tom's Guide
XL edge-to-edge display
The Note 8 is evidence that Samsung is all-in with the design aesthetic it brought to the Galaxy S8 earlier this year. Last year's Note 7 sported a 5.7-inch display, but with bezels big enough to fit a physical home button. Like the S8, the Note 8 features an edge-to-edge display with a fingerprint sensor on the back. The next-gen Note also jumped up in size, to a 6.3-inch display. That makes sense, considering the S8+ offers a 6.2-inch display, and the Note lineup is supposed to be Samsung's larger, more productivity-focused device.
The Note 8's display is the same quad HD+ Super AMOLED screen that Samsung brought to the S8 and S8+, so it looks just as good as those devices — just a hair larger.
Samsung just introduced a time-saving feature called App Pair, which makes the most of the Note 8's expansive screen real estate. You can pair two apps that will always launch side by side for easier multitasking. For instance, you can launch the mail and phone apps at once or the browser and YouTube.
It's pretty easy to create a pair, too, as there's a dedicated button in the Apps edge menu. You just swipe in from the right to get started.
A better dual-lens camera
Samsung's first dual-lens camera debuts in the Note 8, and it's about time. The device features not just one, but two 12-megapixel lenses — one is a f/1.7 lens like you'd find in the S8+, and right next to it is a f/2.4 telephoto lens for shooting with 2x optical zoom. You can also zoom in up to 10x using the camera app's digital zoom.
We're a little disappointed that the rumored 3x optical-zoom capability didn't pan out, but unlike on the iPhone 7 Plus, both cameras on the Note 8 offer optical image stabilization. This should result in steadier shots as you zoom in.
Samsung is using its dual-lens camera system to let you capture DSLR-level portraits. The new feature brings objects into focus while blurring the background, similar to the way portrait mode works on the iPhone 7 Plus. However, unlike the iPhone, Samsung gives you tools to adjust the amount of blur either before shooting or after the image is processed.
In our brief time testing out the Note 8 camera, the portrait mode's blurring effects weren't exact — some foreground items were blurred when they shouldn't have been — but stay tuned for our full review.
The Note 8's dual lenses also enable a feature called dual-capture mode, which you can turn on to simultaneously capture both a zoomed-in photo and a wide-angle shot. Why would you want to do that? Well, Samsung says it's so you can get two frames in one. It's unclear how often anyone will use this feature, but we like the idea of being able to show the background as an option.
We really liked the Note 7's animated-GIF-creation tool, which is powered by the phone's S Pen stylus. The Note 8 takes that capability to the next level with Live Messages. When you use the S Pen to draw or write on the screen, the Note 8 creates an animated GIF to send to friends or save on the device. In our hands-on time, it took just a couple of seconds for the Note 8 to animate our message.
Leaked benchmarks suggest that the Note 8 isn't going to blow away other Android phones, since it features the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor you'll find on top performers like the OnePlus 5, the HTC U11 and Samsung's own Galaxy S8. But the extra RAM that Samsung is including in the Note 8 — it ships with 6GB of RAM versus the 4GB found in the S8 — should make it among the top-performing Android phones.
Screen Off Memo update
Screen Off Memo, first introduced in the Note 5, has been updated for the Note 8, so you can now use the S Pen to write up to 100 pages of notes directly from the lock screen. More important, you can now edit pinned notes, making it easy to cross things off of your to-do list on the fly.
A more versatile DeX
The Samsung DeX isn't new, but Samsung has been working on some welcome improvements for this accessory, which works with the Note 8. When you plug your phone into this dock, you can be productive by plugging in a keyboard, mouse and monitor. The DeX now lets you see more apps at once on screen; you can run more apps in a larger window; and you can even play games like Vain Glory with a keyboard and mouse. You can even create music by plugging in a USB keyboard.
Samsung had a lot to prove in terms of battery safety after the Note 7 debacle, and while we'll have to wait and see if the Note 8's battery lives up to Samsung's promises, the device's battery life is certainly impressive. The Note 8 sports a 3,300 mAh battery, a lower capacity than the 3,500 mAh battery in the Galaxy S8+, but lasts a few minutes longer in the Tom's Guide Battery Test (continuous web surfing over 4G) at 11:11 compared to 11:04.