Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review
We reviewed the Wi-Fi-only version of the Galaxy Note 8.0 (N5110) which costs £339 with 16 GB of storage, not the most attractive price tag. There's also a phablet version (N5100) which comes with a SIM-card slot. That adds not just mobile data but the opportunity to make voice calls and send text messages too. The tablet costs almost double that of the Asus FonePad so it would make a strange choice. See also What's the best tablet PC?
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0: Design and build
The Galaxy Note 8.0 is instantly recognisable as a Samsung device, looking like a super-sized Galaxy S4 smartphone. It's glossy white, rounded and has the classic combination of a physical home button with touch sensitive companions either side. See all tablet reviews.
In the hand, the Galaxy Note 8.0 feels like a nice tablet, although it's a strange size – neither small and pocketable nor definitively large enough to give easy tablet-size screen viewing. Hidden away in one corner is Samsung's S Pen stylus. Visit What's the best Android tablet?
The rear cover is fixed in place rather than removable, yet still feels disappointingly tacky and plasticky. It doesn't feel as solid as the front side, and we weren’t keen on the bulge which accommodates the rear camera.
The tablet is both thin and light but we found the glossy finish made it too slippery; and both the screen and white plastic parts get grubby with fingerprints and other miscellaneous marks all too easily.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0: Hardware and performance
At £340 we expected the Galaxy Note 8.0 to come with some impressive specs. For starters, the 1.6 GHz Exynos 4412 quad-core processor and 2 GB of memory combined are a good start if speed is your thing.
We recorded a score of 1998 points in Geekbench 2 which is an admirable effort but the device is outpaced in synthetic benchmarks by the Sony Xperia Tablet Z and Google Nexus 10 which scored a little higher with 2119 and 2505 points respectively.
A framerate of 18 fps in the GLBenchmark test is acceptable but nothing to get excited about – that’s around half the framerate of a top-end smartphone.
While the Galaxy Note 8.0 performs well across the board, the screen resolution isn't breaking any new ground. It matches the Nexus 7 and FonePad but since the display is larger it has a slightly lower pixel density at 189 ppi. That’s far from Retina-class although it does better the iPad mini.
We had an issue with the lack of available storage on the Galaxy S4 smartphone, and it's a similar story here with this oversized phablet version. The Galaxy Note 8.0 includes 16 GB of flash storage but only 9 GB is available for your use. As is customary with Samsung devices, a microSDXC card slot will accept up to 64 GB capacity cards.
We like it when tablets have unique features and much like the Sony Xperia Tablet Z, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 can control devices around your home thanks to its infrared transmitter and pre-loaded Smart Remote app.
The Galaxy Note 8.0 offers the kind of photography you'd expect from only a mid-range smartphone: 5 Mp at the rear with no flash and 0.3 Mp at the front. It nearly matches the iPad mini on paper but still images aren't very impressive and video is limited to 1280 x 720 size rather than full-HD 1920 x 1080. That’s a let-down considering the high price.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0: Software
As per usual, the Galaxy Note 8.0 comes with Samsung's TouchWiz interface slapped over Google Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). It's relatively good looking but some users will find it a little too busy, while newcomers to Android are likely to find it overwhelming. Luckily the customisation options still available in Google's OS mean you can always try to tone things down.
There are many Samsung apps pre-loaded on the Galaxy Note 8.0. This is normal but potentially annoying; unless you're a Samsung devotee you'll probably end up using Google's own apps for the same tasks.
One addition which you may use a lot is Multi-window. It's not exactly an app but allows you to see two apps on-screen simultaneously for true multitasking. The screen is just about big enough for this and you can adjust how much space the apps take up and easy switch between apps with a side bar.
The handy apps are mostly associated with the S Pen stylus. Without them the stylus would be little more than an alternative to your finger. These include S Note, Paper Artist, S Planner and Awesome Note HD.
S Note is the main application for the stylus, and while it takes a while to master, it provides plenty of functionality.
The app includes many templates to get you started and features like shape matching and, more importantly, handwriting recognition. The latter works well and we were able to take full notes of our morning meeting. However, it's debatable whether it's faster than typing on the keyboard or not.
Air View provides extra info within certain compatible apps when the S Pen is hovering above the screen. Hold the button on the S Pen and you can cut-out anything on the screen, such as a section of a map, to be used later on in your notes.
We like the S Pen stylus because it's easy to use, practical and responsive. It could be the main reason to buy the Galaxy Note 8.0 over its rivals.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0: Battery life
When in standby the Galaxy Note 8.0's huge 17 Wh non-removable battery holds its charge very well. However, when you actually use the tablet, it's not so impressive.
Watching 30 minutes of a TV programme on BBC iPlayer used nearly 10 percent of the battery. At that rate, the Galaxy Note would only last 5 hours on one charge.
It's not a bad performance but it's certainly not the kind of battery life which we've seen from the likes of the iPad and Nexus tablets.