When you're in the market for a new tablet and you've decided that Android is the way to go, you are still faced with a myriad of decisions to make. There are all sorts of different companies, all of which will tell you that their tablets are the best, and then you've got to choose between the broad range of screen sizes and specific models too. Slotting somewhere in that mix is the Galaxy Note 8.0, a mid-sized tablet that comes loaded with functionality.
The Perfect-Sized Digital Notepad?
We first had our look at the Galaxy Note 8.0 earlier this year, but now it's been released into the increasingly crowded world of Android tablets. As its name implies, this tablet boasts an 8.0-inch display with a 1280 x 0800 pixel display. That's not nearly as dense as the 1080p+ displays that you may find elsewhere, so that may already act as a deterrent for some users. It's generally not a problem, but it was very noticeable when playing a game like Despicable Me: Minion Rush.
Going through the rest of the specs, we find a Samsung Exynos 4 quad-core 1.6GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, your choice of 16/32GB storage, microSD expansion, Wi-Fi, a 5MP camera on the back, a 1.3MP camera on the front, optional 3G/LTE, a large 4600mAh battery, IR blaster, and Android 4.2 with TouchWiz. There is no NFC on board. And, of course, we've got that S Pen to fall in line with the Galaxy Note range from Samsung.
The overall design will feel familiar to Samsung users with the physical home button flanked by a couple of capacitive buttons. The stereo speakers are located on the bottom, lending the Note to being used in portrait rather than landscape. You'll also notice that the bezel is decidedly wider than what you might find in the Galaxy Tab series, presumably because they think you'll be holding the tablet with your thumb along one of those edges.
Taking S Notes with the S Pen
Everything that you've come to know and love from other Galaxy Note devices is present in the Galaxy Note 8.0. The S Pen conveniently slides into its slot along the lower-right corner of the tablet and when you take it out, the tablet will automatically switch over to a home screen with S Note shortcuts. There may have been some minor improvements here and there, but for better or for worse, Samsung isn't reinventing its
stylus S Pen wheel with this outing.
Double the Productivity
You can change the distribution of screen real estate by simply sliding the divider in either direction and you tap within the corresponding window to make it the current app being used. I found this was best utilized in landscape, as shown, but you could also have an up/down split-screen in portrait orientation if you prefer. This won't work with every app, as only those preconfigured for this arrangement are compatible, but this really does help with multitasking.
Overall performance was admirable. Given the relatively lower resolution display, coupled with a quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, this didn't come as much of a surprise. Apps felt snappy most of the time, even when I had multiple apps running in the background. I did find the Note 8.0 to be a little awkward to hold though. The wider dimensions and slippery back made it difficult for me to decide how to hold this tablet. Should I try to claw the two edges in one hand? Should I rest a thumb on the front and squeeze the thin tablet in place with my other four fingers?
How's the Camera?
Smartphone cameras are getting better all the time, but the pace of improvement hasn't really translated over to the world of tablets. Don't get me wrong; the 5MP camera on the Galaxy Note 8.0 is just fine for what it is, but that's exactly the thing. It is just fine. When you are faced with good lighting conditions, indoors or out, you can take more than reasonable photos with this tablet. Give it less than ideal conditions and your image quality starts to suffer. The lack of flash on the back doesn't help matters.
Ouch! That's Hot!
While the overall performance on the Galaxy Note 8.0 is easily up to snuff, something needs to be done about the thermal design. Even when playing a game that didn't feel like it needed all that much horsepower (Dots), the tablet started to heat up very quickly and very noticeably. You could really feel the heat through the plastic back and while I could still hold the tablet, it did start to get uncomfortable. And it was mostly with games that I encountered this issue; while there was some mild warmth when playing videos, it was not nearly as pronounced as when playing certain mobile games.
Battery Life and Quadrant Standard Benchmark
As can be expected, your battery life can range considerably on a device like this. Under mild use, I could stretch the battery for well over 24 hours without too much trouble. If I engaged in heavier multimedia and gaming, though, the battery could be drained in about 12 hours. It really depends on how you use it, but you should easily get through a standard work day even under heavier usage.
Even though I never felt like performance was any kind of real issue with the Galaxy Note 8.0, its Quadrant Standard score in the 6000-7000 point range falls well short of the 10,000 points I got on the Galaxy S4. Take from that what you will.
MEGATechie Stellar Solution or MEGATechie Intergalactic Black Hole?
Samsung has the distinguished habit of releasing the broadest range of SKUs possible. You have tablets and smartphones in just about every conceivable size and the Galaxy Note 8.0 really does fall somewhere in the middle. The overall experience was a positive one with good performance and decent battery life, even though I found myself using the "Note" part of the equation very rarely. The heat issue could be problematic over time and I'm not really a fan of the extra wide bezels either.
My hope is that a future iteration of this tablet will take on the grippier faux leather back from the recently announced Galaxy Note 3. getting rid of that slippery plastic and shaving down the bezel to far thinner dimensions. A better camera (with flash) would be greatly appreciated as well.
While the 16GB WiFi-only model has an official MSRP of $399, it can be found for as low as $315 online. It's debatable whether this is the right tablet for you, but if you're not completely bent on the S Pen features, you're probably better off saving a few bucks and choosing a Galaxy Tab, Nexus 7, or any number of other non-stylus tablets instead.