The Galaxy Note 8.0, an 8-inch wifi-only tablet with stylus input, goes on sale in the US on Thursday priced at $399.99 – a price which leaves it competing with the iPad Mini, Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7.
The device got a lot of attention when it was launched in Europe in February as the world’s largest phone. For the US launch, however, Samsung has removed the mobile data chip, leaving it a wifi-only tablet. It does, though, retain a second key selling-point: WatchON. The feature enables you to search for both live TV programming and video on demand content and view it on either the tablet directly or on a large-screen TV with the Note providing second-screen functionality.
Here’s a quick round-up of what a few of the early reviews have to say …
Or if you’re short on time, I’ll cut to the chase: it’s pretty interesting, but let down by a poor-quality screen – and for most people, not worth the money.
Given that the Note 8.0 reads like the greatest hits of Samsung’s Galaxy on paper, you may expect it to be a triumph of engineering. And, in a way, it is. With a vibrant 8-inch, 1,280 x 800 display, powerful Exynos 4 Quad processor and healthy 2GB of RAM, the Note 8.0 soars. Its skinned Jelly Bean OS is devoid of any software pitfalls threatening to muck up the user experience. Certainly, its abundant suite of TouchWiz add-ons provides extra value to consumers willing to dive deep and explore the system’s nooks and crannies. It really is an exceptional second screen for the home, subbing as a content hub for video and TV control with WatchOn, as an optimized e-reader thanks to the LCD-dimming Reading Mode and as a productivity tool bolstered by dedicated S Pen apps, Polaris Office and Awesome Note. True, the battery life leaves something to be desired, but apart from that, the Note 8.0 seems to have it all, do it all and do it well.
So what’s the kicker? There isn’t one, really. We’ve already highlighted just how insane that $399 price tag seems compared to all the other mid-sized tablets out there. But then again, that’s a comparison to relatively old, less-powerful hardware. As we said before, the Note 8.0’s competing in a league of its own — at least, for the time being. We may not be so sweet on the S Pen anymore, but its inclusion is more of a bonus than anything else. All told, the US Note 8.0 is a solid product. In fact, it’s quite nearly the Swiss Army knife of Android tablets. Or, it would’ve been, if Samsung had just left those damn HSPA+ radios intact.
The good: The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is comfortable to hold and has the best-looking small tablet screen yet. Writing with the S Pen feels natural and is preferred over typing on a tablet screen. Storage can be expanded via microSD, and the Watch On feature has potential as a universal remote/video content hub.
The bad: The $399 price is a lot for a small tablet, no matter its features. It’s not as thin or as light as the iPad Mini, and some people won’t appreciate the highly saturated look of the OS. Also, its face buttons sometimes get in the way and there are occasional performance hangs.
The bottom line: The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a stunning tablet with a truly useful stylus, but it’s not worth $400 unless you’re an artist or prefer pen input.
The Galaxy Note 8.0 costs $399.99. That’s $70 more than the iPad Mini and $200 more than Google’s Nexus 7. It’s a pretty absurd assumption that anyone would want to pay a premium for a tablet with a low resolution screen and poorer construction than its closest rivals.
Unless you absolutely must have that stylus or the ability to run two apps at once in a split screen, then there’s no good reason to buy the Note 8.0 over your other options. If you want the best smaller tablet, buy the Nexus 7.
The Note 8.0 is very much the realization of what the Note 10.1 promised: a tablet that’s actually, really, truly, genuinely useful for doing things. Not a lot of things, necessarily — broader support for multitasking, or at least integration with some suite of office apps, would go a long way — but things. If productivity is what you want most from your tablet, look no further.
But as far as I can tell, most people don’t buy tablets for help in getting their work done — everyone I talk to wants a tablet for reading, watching movies, getting a few things done when they don’t want to open their laptop and Get Things Done, and maybe spending too much time playing Ridiculous Fishing. For all those things, there are better tablets out there: the iPad mini’s app support still blows Android’s out of the water (and its stylus capability is better than you think), and even though the Nexus 7 is starting to show its age it’s still my favorite tablet hardware out there. Plus, we’re hearing there’s a much-improved Nexus 7 coming sooner rather than later.
Samsung’s smartly building on the success of its tweener lineup, and has clearly found a market of people who want to do more with their devices. The Galaxy Note 8.0 is destined to be a hit for those people — despite some build quality issues and unexceptional specs, this is a very good tablet, and a uniquely capable one. But like the other Note devices, it’s still a niche product. If you just want a device to read books, watch movies, and maybe answer a few emails, there are better ways to do them all than on the Note 8.0 — and whether you buy an iPad mini, a Kindle Fire HD, or a Nexus 7, you’ll save a considerable chunk of change in the process.
The Galaxy Note 8.0 may not exhibit the best hardware we’ve seen in a tablet, it may be made of the very same plastic found on other Galaxy devices that we turn our noses up to and it certainly does not have the best display we’ve seen on a mobile device.
But where the Galaxy Note 8.0 may lack in appropriate, high-end hardware, it makes up for it in horsepower and useful software features that make it great for a portable work companion. It’s not going to make you leave your laptop at home, and it’s too big to totally replace a smartphone, but it makes for a great middleweight addition to your arsenal that is great for travel and lightweight work, collaboration and multimedia consumption.
Is the Galaxy Note 8.0 the best tablet we’ve ever got our hands on? No. The display is a serious miss on Samsung’s part; it’s a vital detail that every manufacturer seems to overlook in their mid-sized tablets. And if Samsung isn’t pushing the envelope here, someone else will (ahem … Apple). That said, this tablet is very nearly the most complete package in a mid-sized tablet to date … especially in regards to Android slabs.
It’s a tablet some of us here at Pocketnow could definitely see ourselves continuing to use.
As a total package, the Galaxy Note 8.0 is a solid tablet but it lacks any discernible wow-factor that might set it apart from the crowd. In my eyes, the size is the star of the show as it’s far more manageable than a 10-inch tablet but far more versatile than a 7-inch slate. Beyond that, this tablet is just another Galaxy Note.
On the plus side, at least Samsung had the wherewithal to ditch the ear speaker and phablet features from the U.S. version of the Note 8.0, though it would have been nice to have a version with optional cellular connectivity.
So in the end, the Galaxy Note 8.0 likely isn’t the standout tablet with the potential to be positioned as Samsung’s flagship slate. It isn’t the Galaxy S III of tablets. It is a terrific addition to Samsung’s tablet lineup though, and it fills a gap between 7-inch tablets and larger 10-inch tablets. The Galaxy Tab 7.7 used to fill that gap in Samsung’s lineup, but the new Note is better in every way.
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