After last year’s disastrous release of the Note 7, Samsung is back with the launch of the Galaxy Note 8. It’s a big deal for Samsung and the company has a lot riding on it, but does it live up to the hype? Here are our first impressions.

At today’s event in New York City, Samsung unveiled the Note 8 to the world and it was pretty much everything we expected it to be. The Note 8 packs impressive specifications like a Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. The software situation is pretty similar to the company’s Galaxy S8 as well, offering additions like Bixby and its own custom overlay.

In terms of the software and performance, the Note 8 is certainly quick. My Galaxy S8 felt bogged down from the day I picked it up, but the Note is noticeably quicker. This is likely thanks to the added RAM, something which Samsung’s skin felt like it was constantly begging for.

When it comes to the hardware, the Note isn’t too different from the Galaxy S8. The “Infinity Display” makes a return, this time in a larger 6.3-inch size. It’s the largest screen ever on a Note device, but it’s still manageable thanks to the minimal bezels. The hardware is still well-crafted as has been the case with Samsung recently. It feels great in the hand with the premium materials.

Unfortunately, the Note 8’s hardware just doesn’t feel as impressive to me. Samsung has really been stepping up its game for the past few years, but this phone feels like a step backward. The new “deep sea blue” color is a pretty beautiful shade, but it also looks “cheaper” than the rest. It looks more like plastic to me while the others are more clearly glass. It’s a shame.

The other aspect I didn’t like about the Note’s hardware was the coloring around the camera sensors. No matter which color you buy, the camera sensor remains black. It looks fine on the black model, but on anything else, it feels out of place. It’s especially bad on the gold and orchid gray models.

I’ve only spent limited time with the Note 8 so far, so I can’t speak to the camera very in-depth as of yet. As of now, though, I’m pretty impressed. The Note 8’s dual-camera system is well equipped to take some spectacular shots as we’ve come to expect, but we’ll need to spend more time with it to fully get an idea of how it will compare to the competition.

Lastly, there’s the S-Pen. It’s back! Honestly, there’s not too much to say outside of that. The hardware here hasn’t changed much beyond the extra pressure sensitivity that Samsung claims, and the design is the same. The main differences come in software, and that’s in new shortcuts including “live messages.” This enables users to draw and send animated messages to friends, and it’s definitely cool.

Overall, I’m a bit mixed on the Note 8 so far. It brings a lot to the table as usual, but with an asking price higher than the Galaxy S8+ (and the rest of the competition for that matter) it’s a bit harder to recommend, at least for now, unless you really want the S-Pen. We’ll have more on the Note 8 soon once we get our hands on a review unit.

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Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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