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MWC 2013: Hands-on with Samsung's new Galaxy Note 8.0

While rumours that Samsung might launch the new Galaxy S IV handset at Mobile World Congress ultimately proved unfounded, the Korean tech giant did announce its latest phablet here, the Galaxy Note 8.0. It was a major focus of the company’s presence at MWC with dozens of them on show throughout its stand and regular demos throughout the day to show it off to eager visitors. Without a doubt, it pulled in the crowds.

Neowin had a bit of hands-on time with the new Galaxy on the show stand and while only a full review of the device will facilitate a definitive judgement on whether it’s good enough to own, it certainly made an interesting first impression.

First of all though, I have to point out that I didn't mistakenly write ‘phablet’ instead of ‘tablet’ above. If you ever thought people look ridiculous using something as large as a Galaxy Note II as a phone, just wait ‘til someone on the train pulls out a Galaxy Note 8.0 and holds it up to their ear to make a call. It’s nothing short of insanity that Samsung decided to include an ear-speaker on a device of this size. If any of you decide to buy one of these things, I urge you not to hold it up to your ear – you’ll look like a total douche.

But if we set aside that foolishness, and look at the Note 8.0 more holistically, it starts to make a bit more sense. The popularity of Apple’s iPad Mini – even in spite of its relatively uninspiring specs – has shown that around 8-inches is something of a sweet spot for tablet users. Samsung’s phablet slots happily into that sweet spot, offering a device that’s big enough to enjoy videos on, big enough to work on, and big enough to comfortably read web pages or even books, but not so big that it feels cumbersome.

The Note 8.0 is really quite lovely to look at and to hold, and while it shares the same penchant for plastics as its Galaxy brethren, it stills feels very solid, despite being wonderfully light.

The screen, with its WXGA (1280x800px) is really quite nice with vibrant colours and rich contrasts. The device has a meaty 1.6GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, and while – for the most part – it was incredibly responsive and speedy, there was a persistent and irritating lag when returning to the homescreen.

The Note 8.0 comes packed with Samsung's various TouchWiz enhancements, and as with other Samsung devices, many users will probably live quite happily without them. One useful addition to the device - on both the hardware and software side - is the inclusion of an infrared port, along with smart-remote software capabilities to enable you to control various TVs, set-top boxes and other media devices. Neat. 

As you’d expect of a device in the Note series, the handwriting capabilities through the included S-Pen are really rather good, with no lag whatsoever when scrawling on the screen, and Samsung’s broad range of integrations for stylus input extend this functionality well. The S-Pen here is a bit smaller than the version on the Note 10, but still comfortable to hold - and you can now use it to tap the capacitive touch hardware buttons (rather than having to switch between stylus and finger input when using the S-Pen). 

We’ll have to wait until we can review the Galaxy Note 8.0 properly before we can cast judgement upon it, but on the face of it, it’s a worthy addition to the family – as long as you never, ever use it as a phone. Ever.  

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