Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 is a welcome new addition to the smartphone scene, particularly for lovers of big screens, fancy features and an inbuilt stylus.
Going from a Samsung Note 5 to the new Note 8, one of the first things I noticed was the new USB-C charging port.
This has been seen on a few new Samsung phones lately, including the Note 7, and it was the first time I’ve tried to use one.
Of course, there’s always going to be a bit of teething pain associated with making shifting from one charger type to another, but the USB-C definitely is an improvement on the USB-B (better known as mini-USB).
The big selling point here is that it’s fully reversible, so there’s no need to plug your charging cord in the “right way up” – both ways are the right way up. The future is here.
In addition to a USB-C charger, the box also includes a USB-C adapter that will fit your old Mini-USB charger. That should tide you over until the USB-C becomes more mainstream.
Another handy little inclusion in the box is a pack of extra tips for the Note 8’s inbuilt stylus and a tool that can be used to remove and replace them. The tip of the stylus for my old Note 5 wore out after about a year, so this is really handy to have.
As for the stylus itself, it remains an incredibly useful tool.
For someone like myself who suffers from unnecessarily-large-fingers syndrome, it allows for much more precise movements that will make the simple, everyday task of typing on your phone that much easier.
For those who love the more advanced features, you’ve also got the ability to take copious notes on your phone or even create animated, hand-drawn gifs.
In terms of design, the Note 8 has the biggest screen on a Samsung phone yet. It also sports rounded edges which, in addition to looking pretty slick, allow you to bring up your favourite apps or contacts with one quick gesture.
It can take a little getting used to if you’ve been using something with a standard screen, as you need to be careful not to accidentally slide your finger or stylus off the edge of the screen while swipe-texting. But you’ll adapt to this pretty quickly.
There’s also a new button located on the left side of the phone below the volume control that automatically activates Samsung’s answer to Siri and company: Bixby.
This is pretty nifty integration if you’re the kind of person that likes having these intelligent assistant programs to make use of, although it feels a bit awkward to have both Bixby and the Google Assistant on the same phone.
Do the two stand around the water cooler and joke about the things you search for when the phone is turned off? I can’t confirm it, but I suspect as much.
This is a feature that should improve over time as Samsung puts more development into Bixby, but the number of guides I came across about how to shut down the Bixby button while searching generally for more information about it suggests people aren’t universally loving it just yet.
The Note 8 gives you a wide range of security measures for locking and unlocking your phone, including facial recognition, iris scanner and fingerprint scanner.
I got a bit sick of looking at my own face all the time while using the first two, but the fingerprint scanner works great – although having it right next the dual camera setup does put the risk of smudging higher than you’d like.
Speaking of the dual camera setup, it works brilliantly. You can take really top quality portraits and the photo quality is more than satisfying for general use.
All up, should you buy it? From my perspective, much like previous editions of the Note, it mainly depends on your love of the stylus.
If you’ve owned a previous edition of the Note, use and love the stylus and feel like it’s time for an upgrade, you’ll find the Note 8 has everything you love and more.
For casual users, it has everything it did before with a bit more oomph behind it. More hardcore smartphone users and abusers will find there are more than a few new features to get excited about.
If you’ve been using a phone that doesn’t include a stylus – basically anything other than an older Note – then the main criteria is probably whether or not you think you’re likely to enjoy having it there to use.
If not, the Note 8 probably isn’t a big enough upgrade on Samsung’s other phones – or those of competing manufacturers – to justify the price you’ll pay for one, and they’re not exactly giving them away.
For those who are keen on the idea of using the stylus, I certainly recommend the Note 8. The everyday features make it versatile and easy to use, and there’s plenty of nifty little tricks to uncover as you delve deeper into the device.