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Summary:

Being a sucker for small slates, I dropped $399 on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 this weekend. How is it? Not bad, but not ground-breaking either. Here are my first impressions.

Masters on Galaxy Note 8.0

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.0 arrived on store shelves this weekend and after spending a few minutes with one, I paid $399 and walked out with the new tablet. That price gets you a 16 GB version of the 8-inch tablet running Android 4.1.2, which doesn’t have any mobile broadband connectivity. This is a Wi-Fi only model and unlike the international version, has the cellular voice capabilities stripped out. That means the Galaxy Note 8.0 competes squarely with Apple’s $329 iPad mini.

The Galaxy Note 8.0 does have some features and hardware components that the iPad mini doesn’t, so I understand the higher price. Is it worth the $70 premium? It’s too early to say as I’ve really only had a solid day to use it. I’ll follow up with an answer to that question, but for now, here are my first impressions, in no particular order, followed by some photos.

  • The look and feel is definitely more like a super-sized Galaxy S 4 than a Note 2.
  • I can grab the device one-handed from the back; it’s not too wide, even with my small hands. In fact, the Note 8.0 is nearly the same width as the iPad mini: just a scant 1.2 millimeters wide. It is thicker than the iPad mini: 7.95 millimeters vs 7.2 millimeters.
  • It’s too early to provide actual battery run-time results, but with limited testing of the integrated 4600 mAh battery I’m expecting at least 10 hours of moderate use.
  • Samsung’s 1.6 GHz quad-core Exynos paired with 2 GB of RAM keeps the device moving along nicely. This isn’t the fastest Android device I’ve experienced, but there’s no noticeable lag.
  • There’s little new here with Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface. If you’ve used a Galaxy S 3, Note 2 or any other recent Samsung phones, the UI is the mostly the same. A few new UI tweaks I saw in the brief hands-on I got with Galaxy S 4 have made their way to the Note 8.0, however: You can configure what settings appear in the Notification pane, for example. The Smart Stay feature — keeping the display on when the tablet detects your face — is also here.
  • I like the rectangular aspect ration of the 1280 x 800 display. As far as the display itself, it has a slightly higher pixel density than the iPad mini, but generally looks the same; maybe a smidge better. Samsung has some nice options to change the fonts and add clarity to text. Running two apps on a display of this size is excellent; better than on my Note 2.0.
  • Like the Galaxy S 4, the Note 8.0 includes a IR-blaster to control your television or set-top box. I haven’t tested this yet. Also included is WatchOn for your local television guide, which correctly showed both my local and FiOS TV stations.
  • Video playback is quite good. Over the weekend I watched The Masters golf tournament, YouTube HD movie trailers and an NHL game.
  • The 5 megapixel rear camera won’t likely replace your smartphone camera, however, it’s handy in a pinch. It captures images and 1080p video. There aren’t many scene modes, however. I haven’t tested the forward-facing 1.2 megapixel camera for video chatting yet.
  • Two speakers at the bottom of the tablet — when held in portrait — are acceptable, but not great.
  • Although the device comes with 16 GB of storage, around 6 are used by the system. Good thing the Note 8.0 has a microSD slot so you can add up to another 64 GB of storage.
  • The S-Pen for the Note 8.0 is barely longer than the one included with the Note 2.0. I actually like taking notes on the tablet more than on my phone due to the larger screen. I can fit far more information on the screen and the writing surface is more like a small notebook. The back and menu button work with the S-Pen.
  • Although the device is designed to be used in portrait mode, the home screen does rotate to landscape.
 

Overall, I like the device; not surprising given my long-standing preference for small slates. But I’m already wondering where this device would fit in my life. Since it doesn’t have integrated 3G / 4G nor cellular voice, it can’t take the place of my Note 2.0. However, it does provide a better note-taking experience than my phone and replaces all of the functions of my iPad mini. It has even more functionality thanks to the S-Pen and IR blaster.

Part of me feels this is more of the same from Samsung, however. I wish the display had a higher resolution of 1920 x 1080 to make it really stand apart from the iPad mini. Again, I’ll follow up with additional thoughts as I spend more time with it. Then I’ll decide if the Galaxy Note 8.0 has a place in my device rotation or if it’s going back to the store.

Meanwhile, if you have questions about Samsung’s newest tablet, drop ‘em in the comments and I’ll answer as many as I can.

  1. Mitch Schneider Monday, April 15, 2013

    Is it normal to buy a 16GB tab but really only get 10GB?

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    1. When it comes to mobile devices, consumers rarely (if ever) get the advertised amount of storage capacity. The system files take up some of the storage. The more you add to the “system” in terms of features/functions, the less free space the consumer will get.

      In this case, I think the space taken up by system files is a bit much; more than on comparable devices IMO.

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    2. Disappointed it does not have cellular capabilities. Kevin are you going to review the asus fonepad?

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  2. I have to agree with Kevin, I am a little disappointed with the resolution. Yes it is a bit better than my iPad Mini as well, but would have been nice if it did have higher resolution. More than likely I will be keeping the Galaxy Note 8, as I do use the stylus quite often for work. I do have the Note 10.1 and theGalaxy Note 2. So I do have something for the right occasion. :)

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    1. Too many Notes, HG!!!! ;)

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  3. I think Samsung is overreaching here. For what it offers $400 seems too much. And I agree it should’ve had a 1080p resolution, since the next iPad Mini will more than likely have a retina display anyway. Samsung should try to lead the way not lag behind Apple, and using a 1280×800 resolution vs 1024×768 is not exactly leading. But even with a 1080p screen it should’ve cost $350 at most. $300 would’ve been idea, but I believe Samsung is trying to go for higher and higher profits lately, just like Apple.

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  4. “..after spending a few minutes with one, I paid $399 and walked out with the new tablet.”

    Does your wife know how easy you are?

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    1. She knows there’s a 14 day return policy on the tablet. ;)

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  5. The good old “ration” type, I make that a lot too… ;)

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  6. Does the back case come off so you can change battery is you have too?

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    1. Nope, the battery is integrated; the case doesn’t come off.

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      1. Ok thanks Kevin. The Note ii had a removable back, guess cause it’s a phone. I bought mine note 8.0 on the street date and love it. My other Tablet I was using was a Motorola Xoom. I like this better. I am not upset this doesn’t have a phone. It be silly making calls on it.

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  7. I just picked one up as well this weekend and am new to android, coming from Apple. Is there a good Exchange email replacement for what comes with this device? Also, is there a better note taking app then S note? I’m trying to get used to it. So far I like what I see…

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    1. Exchange, don’t know. But I use Freenote+ for note taking and I love it. It was a bit of a bear to configure to my liking, but I use it everyday in meetings to take notes on my Galaxy Tab 7.7. Highly recommended!

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    2. eddiewhetzel Monday, April 15, 2013

      I used a product called Noteshelf on my iPad, but now I use Freenote+ that works almost the same way on Android. I don’t use Exchange but use OWA in a browser to get to my office email.

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    3. Craig Campbell Monday, April 15, 2013

      There’s a pretty good Exchange suite/app called “Touchdown”. It’s kind of old, and the UI can be clunky in places, but it’s pretty powerful and reliable. Personally, I don’t mind the regular Samsung exchange implementation, and Email app – the downside is my company enforces passcode lock, which, while yeah it’s a good idea, is a total pain.

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  8. Any word on a black version? I’m not a big fan of white color devices.

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    1. I haven’t seen any mention of other colors. I’m not a fan of white bezels. :(

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      1. Janet Stuckey Tuesday, May 7, 2013

        I love the white. Cause I don’t think they will make one in pink! LOL

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  9. Does the tablet feature Swype or a Swype-like feature? If so, does it work well?

    I’ve grown very fond of composing digitally using my stylus with Swype on my Note II. All I’ve wanted for the past few months is a larger screen and the Note 8 has it, but at an absurd price, and I can’t even come close to justifying the cost if it doesn’t have Swype or something like it.

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    1. I’m traveling on business and don’t have the Note 8.0 with me (forgot to pack it!) but IIRC I did see a Swype-like option there. I’ll check when I return home to verify though.

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  10. Hi there! Thanks for the review. I’m considering this tablet but I love to watch utube and videos without headphones. In your opinion, are the speakers too quiet for this? Thanks!

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    1. I wouldn’t say they’re too quiet, Nate, but they’re tinny sounding; not a lot of bass, for example. And if there’s a bunch of background noise, you’ll surely have to turn up the volume to hear them.

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      1. Awesome, thanks!

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    2. Just do believe all the youtube video reviews. Some reviewers are bias. Best thing to do is go see the phones yourself. I like going to Verizon store and just play with the phones I am deciding on.

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