Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Tablet

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Product: Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Tablet
Provided By: Samsung Canada
Price: ~$299 Online at time of publication

Introduction:

It’s been a while since I reviewed anything at BCCHardware as I’m usually the PhotoShop and Android App Pick girl.  When it comes to touch screens and Android devices I am quite familiar with these products.  I’m a hardcore Android user and Apple products just confuse me and leave me wondering why anyone would choose such a closed platform.

Christmas is not really all that far away and Samsung has recently give us the Galaxy Note 8.0 Tablet to play around with.  It’s a little early to open Christmas gifts, but I think when you get to play with gadgets for a review – it’s almost like Christmas morning.

Galaxy Note 8.0

 

I know they don’t need much of an introduction, but Samsung (a South Korean Company in "Samsung Town", Seoul) has branched out to many parts of the world and made many products over the year. Their products range from appliances to TV’s, computers, laptops, point and shoot cameras, phones and several lines of tablets.  Samsung makes a ton of different products.  They want to produce products that “take the world to imaginative new directions.”  I think the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Tablet fits right in with their product line for mainstream, affordable technology.  Samsung has also made a couple of Nexus devices, and believe it or not, a lot of parts for Apple over the years.  They play a part in the products from many other companies.

Last spring Samsung had sent us their Galaxy 7.0 Tab Plus 16GB tablet. This time around we have their Galaxy Note 8.0, and it has a handy dandy S-Pen available to use. The tablet is obviously an 8” tablet running android 4.1.2 and has up to 14 hours of battery life if you're not using Wi-Fi heavily.  Wi-Fi is power hungry and can make a difference in battery life, but even with the Wi-Fi on it seems to be pretty decent.  My year-old Nexus 7 also does pretty well on battery life.  You shouldn’t have to charge this tablet everyday as you do with most smartphones.  The Galaxy Note 8 is white with silver trim and is very sleek.  Again, one of the big features is the S-Pen that is tucked nicely in the bottom corner.  It also has a micro-SD card slot on the side, allowing you to up the storage.  It has a pair of cameras and the back camera is located right smack-dab in the middle – not off to the side as was the case on the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus.

MicroSD Card Slot

MicroSD Slot

Rear Camera
Rear Camera

Front Camera
Front Camera

Front Buttons
Front Buttons

There are three buttons on the front of the tablet; two “soft keys” and one physical one.  The buttons perform basic functions such as Menu & Back (soft keys) and the physical button acts as your “Home” button – or with a long press, it brings up your task manager.  The main home button can also be configured to activate “S-Voice”.  There is also a headphone jack on the top.  This is a very innovative idea Apple. [/edit sarcasm]  Power and volume are located on the side on the tablet – as well as the microphone.  Speakers and a charging connector are on the bottom.

USB Port & Speakers
USB Port & Speakers

SD Card Side
SD Card Side

   

Power Button Side
Power Button Side

Headphone Jack
Headphone Jack

 

My Nexus 7 has five different home screens on which to put widgets and apps, but the Note 8 has a total of seven pages to party on.  Samsung’s TouchWiz UI is pretty nifty as the pages rotate in a circle in any direction - it just keeps going and going and going - well you get the idea. Of course you can download from Google’s play store, but Samsung also lets you download from their store that comes installed on the tablet.   You’ll need a Samsung account to use this feature.  

Home Screen
Home Screen

Notes
Notes

Apps Menu
Apps Menu

Samsung Store
Samsung Store

 

On the next page, we'll take and compare the Galaxy Note 8.0 to a couple other devices and then talk about the specs before we continue.


Closer Look:

I've taken a few images of the Galaxy Note 8.0 and compared it to the Nexus 7 as well as the Galaxy Nexus phone.  These images are merely for reference.  When you take a look at these three devices, you can see they differ in size and thickness – but what you can’t see is the weight.  The Note 8.0 is actually lighter than the Nexus 7 tablet.  This surprised me as the screen is one inch larger.

Device Comparison
Device Comparison

 

Tablet Comparison
Tablet Comparison

Phone Comparison
Phone Comparison

 

Before we roll onto the specifications, I’ll show off a few images of the voice assistant that is built in.  S-Voice allows you to type or speak anything you want to ask your Tablet and it will try it’s best to help you out!

Voice 1 Voice 2 Voice 3

 

Specifications:

Specs

On the next page, we'll cover installation of software, applications and talk about the accessories that come with the Galaxy Note 8.0 Tablet.


Installation & Accessories:

As soon as I got the package in my possession I got home and opened the cardboard box and there it was!!  Our sample of the Galaxy Note 8.0 came totally OEM and was wrapped in bubble-wrap.  They did include a charging cable, a USB wall plug and ear phones.

Bundle
Bundle

Back
Back

 

Installing things for the tablet was very easy. There really isn’t any software to download for this tablet – other than the Apps you want to install of course.  Setup included choosing your language as well as accessibility options.  I find it cool that Samsung has options built-in for visually impaired users.  These options include text to speech and reading what is on the screen as well as audio feedback on what you’re touching.

As you continue to set up the tablet, you’ll be prompted to set the correct day and time.  Once that is done, connect to a steady Wi-Fi signal and start signing and or signing up for you accounts.  Everything should sync that is connected with your Google profile. As is often the case, not all of your Apps will be exactly where you left off, but social networks, note Apps and even Dropbox will be able to sync.

Recipie on Google Drive

Recipie on Google Drive

Flipboard

Flipboard

On the next page we'll jump right into test the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Tablet


Testing:

Now we’ll jump into the meat of the review.  What does this sucker do?  The Note 8.0 does what most tablets do; runs Apps, can surf the web, play games from either the Google Play store or Samsung’s Store.  The tablet flows smooth without much lag. The Galaxy Tab 7.0 had a tiny bit of lag but the Galaxy Note 8 flows smooth and is fast.  It’s running one of the earlier version of Jellybean – 4.1.2.  When you get everything set up, the tablet also lets you choose which mode to use.  You can choose an easy mode that is geared towards n00bs, or a more basic mode for people that are tablet users.  At times, the calendar seemed to take a bit longer to sync, but eventually it caught up and helped get me to work on time.
 
The Galaxy Note 8.0 supports face unlock, but it’s picky.  This is good that it’s picky.  I haven’t tried it with just a photo of me, but like most face detection, it’s not the most secure.  If the device doesn’t detect your face properly in five seconds, it switches to pattern unlock.  Of course it also supports pattern, pin or swipe to unlock as well.  
 
 
Before I customized my backgrounds it left a cool ripple effect when you swiped to unlock the tablet. It would be interesting if it supported voice unlock as well.
 

Google Web
Google Web

Google Images
Google Images

Settings
Settings

 
This Tablet comes equipped with a lot of connection options including Bluetooth.  If you’re using Skype or Google Hangouts – or anything with sound for that matter; instead of using wired earphones all the time, you can use wireless Bluetooth.   
 
The screen looks great and makes everything look bright and crisp.  The backlight dims and brightens as needed.  Videos play well and smooth like polished ice on a Canadian Hockey Rink, and the sound is nice and clear – not distorted.
 
Some tablets or phones have the speaker on the back instead of on the ends and these rear-facing speakers can often muffle the sound.  The S-Pen is located in the bottom right corner of the tablet.  This is a nifty feature to play around with and when you pull out the S-Pen, the tablet greets you with a selection of notepads and postcards to doodle on or to make a note. The tablet will vibrate along with a sound once the S-Pen is out and activated.  It will also deactivate when the pen is put away or not in use.  
 
The tablet will remind you that you're using the S-Pen with it in the notification tray and shows up on the tablet with the extra app pages that feature S-Pen supported Apps. The S-Pen has a button on it that acts like a mouse button and gives you more functions for selecting things and performing other actions.  The S-Pen will also take screen shots by holding it down on the screen and then clicking the button.  Another way to capture screenshots is by holding the power button and the home key down at the same time.  It’s a bit different experience when using a pen on a tablet, but at the same time it is familiar as it has the same mechanism idea as a Wacom Pen Tablet.  The S-Pen does not need batteries to activate the pen, instead it’s built in using a sensor. 
 
 

YouTube Playback
YouTube

Candy Crush
Candy Crush

 
I own a Nexus 7 Tablet and have reviewed and used the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 in the past and have some tablet experience.  Each one has a different feel and finish, and I think that the Nexus 7 comes in slightly thinner than the Galaxy Note 8.  The Note 8 has a lighter feel to it and is more glossy than the Nexus 7.  My Nexus has five pages for apps – and these can be viewed by swiping either to the right or the left.  The Galaxy Note 8 has seven pages for Apps and can be spun 360 degrees.  The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 isn’t straight from Google like Nexus products, so updates are definitely possible but will come out at a slower release cycle when compared to Nexus devices.   Overall, there are a few things that are different, but it’s familiar enough to be comfortable if you’re a current Android user.
 
The Galaxy Note 8 did what I expected and more.  I’m not a tablet rookie, but I didn’t expect the S-Pen to be as handy as it was.  Between the S-Pen and the face unlock, it had a couple of tricks up the sleeve to keep you interested.

Camera Testing:
 
The rear camera on the Galaxy Note 8 is pretty good.  I'm not a camera expert, but I see there’s a nice set of camera settings that give you close-to-manual control - almost like a DSLR camera.  The image quality is better outdoors than indoors, but it’s still a decent camera.  Also, who takes a lot of pictures with their Tablet? Either way, it’s still a great camera.  The camera sensor must be a bit bigger on this unit than some other phones I’ve used as it takes quite clear and crisp pictures.  The lens is fast enough that you can even take some neat shots that show depth of field.  
 
 

Camera Test
Click for Full-Sized Image

Camera Test
Click for Full-Sized Image

Camera Test
Click for Full-Sized Image

     

Camera Test
Click for Full-Sized Image

Camera Test
Click for Full-Sized Image

Camera Test
Click for Full-Sized Image

 
Camera Settings
Camera Settings
 
 
The Gallery is wicked cool and is a change from the stock “Nexus” Gallery I’ve come to be familiar with.  On this image gallery, you're able to view the pictures in three different ways.  1) The regular grid style.  2) A descending and ascending grid of pictures, and 3) you can view them in a swirl. These last two modes are new to me and are pretty cool.            
 

Gallery Grid View
Grid View

Gallery 2 View
Gallery View

Swirl Gallery View
Swirl Gallery View

On the last page, we'll draw up all of our final thoughts and put them in the conclusion.


Conclusion:
 
Quality:
 
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Tablet is a solid product that feels well-built when you pick it up and handle it.  Dropping it is probably not the best idea, but if you did so accidentally I’m sure it could survive a few bumps and bruises. Like most devices, the Galaxy Note 8 doesn't come with protectors or a case and this is left up to the consumer.  If you decide to sit on it - well, I have no guarantees, ask Zeus how that turns out.  When comparing the Galaxy Note 8 to the Galaxy Tab 7.0, I think the Note 8 is much better.  The Note has an S-Pen and a smoother interface – thanks to more powerful hardware.  I never noticed much lag when swiping through pages.  I think that running Android 4.1.2 Jellybean also helps makes this run smoother.  This is the third tablet that I’ve played with extensively – and it certainly is a good product.  The screen is excellent, the S-Pen is awesome and the quality is really good as well. 
 
Performance:
 
I didn't have many expectations on performance, but the Galaxy Note 8 Tablet did pretty well in application loading, multitasking and video and audio playback.  I like the fact the speakers are on the end of the tablet instead of the back.  This makes the volume much louder when using it on your lap. The S-Pen responds well and a set of notes pop up immediately when you unholster the S-Pen.  You won't miss a thing you want to jot down. I think the S-pen is quite a handy tool as sometimes writing with a pen is faster for writing a lot of notes.  The S-Pen does not die unless your tablet does. It works the same way a Wacom graphics tablet does. No battery are required as the pen draws power wirelessly from the tablet itself.
 
The camera works well - but it won't replace a traditional point-and-shoot. The Galaxy Note 8.0 has both front and back cameras.  
 
 
The calendar can take a while to sync, but once you get all of your appointments on the tablet, changing a few is pretty speedy.  Scrolling through the home-screens was as smooth as I had hoped and web pages load quickly, run smoothly and look great.  Launching Apps is responsive and social networks load and run quickly. 
 
Accessories:
 
There wasn’t a ton of accessories that came with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0.  Samsung kept our bundle basic with a wall plug and a USB cord.  They were generous enough to include some earphones, but there was no documentation at all with our sample.  I guess you don’t really expect a ton of accessories with a tablet.  If it came with a basic case and screen protectors that would go a long way to impress me.  What does impress me is the MicroSD card slot – although there is no included MicroSD card.  I’m sure that if you pick up one of these from the store it would come with an owner’s manual of some sort.  I would have been nice if this sample did as well as I had to try and figure out how to do things like take screen shots and other S-Pen functions.  Instead, I had to hire a wizard to help me out. 
 
Installations:
 
There is nothing to install when you get the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0.  Copying and transferring stuff between your PC and tablet is pretty easy and straightforward.  If you want to go wirelessly, you can always try using the Wifi file explorer app to transfer files back and forth.  App installation is painless - just as with any Android product.  Although the Galaxy Note 8.0 is currently running Jellybean 4.1.2- hopefully it will get 4.3 update and possibly KitKat down the road.
 
Value:
 
Tablets can vary in price based on quality, screen size, storage and more.  Hardware and more affects the price of tablets and you don’t always get what you pay for.  I’ve seen the Galaxy Note 8 for $299 and that makes it a pretty decent deal - with a few extras.  It puts it about $50 more than a Nexus 7 tablet and you have to decide if the faster processor, S-Pen, screen, and storage options are worth the extra price tag. For $299 it's certainly worth considering.
 
 
 
BCCRating
 
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Pros: 
  • Great screen quality
  • S-Pen
  • Responsive
  • Crisp clear photos
 
Cons:
  • Nothing much

I'd like to thank Samsung for sending out this tablet for us to review.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the forum at the link below.