Hands on with Galaxy Note8 - Samsung writes its wrongs

Last year, Samsung released the Galaxy Note7, which can only be described as ending in disaster, with the handset being prone to catching fire. Today, the company announced the device's successor, the Galaxy Note8, and didn't dodge the issue. Samsung was up front with the mistakes it made, and thanked its fans for sticking with the smartphone manufacturer.

Of course, we were at Samsung's Unpacked event today in New York City, so I got to spend some hands on time with the new phone.

One thing that I didn't feel got enough attention in the announcement is that the camera bump is all but gone, despite all of the camera improvements. I was told that it's down to just 0.1mm, which feels flush with the rest of the body.

If you're the type to use a case with your phone, you probably don't notice the bulge on the back of it, but if you use your phone naked, you'll certainly be pleased with this change.

The display is as beautiful as ever; if you already use a Samsung device from the past few generations, there isn't much a difference here. The company makes beautiful Super AMOLED displays, and like the Galaxy S8, this one has an 18:9 aspect ratio and is nearly edge-to-edge.

But what's a Galaxy Note-series launch without its defining feature, the S Pen? The marks that you see on the screen are only from trying to place the S Pen on top of it to take the picture, so that's how sensitive it is.

One of the big features is that you can write on an image and send it as an animated GIF, so unlike Apple's Live Photos, you can send them to anyone and they'll work. There are a number of effects that you can use, and it's a pretty cool feature.

I was a bit disappointed to learn that you can only do this with still images, so only the text is animated. It wouldn't surprise me if they added videos at some point in a software update though.

There's also a feature called Bixby Vision. This was available for the Galaxy S8 in allowing users to use the camera to detect a product, but now you can use the S Pen to detect an image on the display.

And it's hard to fool, which we sort of found out by accident. Autocorrect kept trying to turn 'Sprite' into 'Spite', and you probably won't believe this, but the internet has actually made images of Sprite bottles that say 'spite'. Those, however, were not picked up by Bixby Vision.


There's also a new Gear VR, which is only changed slightly to fit the new device. I didn't try it, as I have a Gear VR and I know what it can do. As with the last model, there is an adapter to switch between USB Type-C and micro-USB, so you can still use it with older devices.


I also spent a little bit of time playing with DeX, Samsung's answer to Microsoft's Continuum that allows you to use your phone like you would a desktop PC. The solution feels surprisingly complete, with context menus and everything. Moreover, most Android apps seem to work well with it, not requiring any additional support from the developer.

As you can see from the images, the dock offers two USB Type-A ports, along with wired internet, and it plugs into the device via USB Type-C.

One thing that stuck out to me about the designs of the phones is that they don't have the metallic look that Samsung has been using for the last couple of years. I'm really not sure how I feel about the 'Deep Sea Blue' model on the right. It looks nice, but I kind of feel like I'd get tired of it after a time.

And I'm not too excited about the idea of getting tired of a phone that could cost over $1,000. It's an excellent device though, with the power of a Snapdragon 835 paired with 6GB RAM. I've always been a big fan of the S Pen too, and that's gotten even better with the Note8.

The new camera features seem pretty cool as well, but I'll reserve judgment on that for when I've got a review unit in my hands.

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