The new smartphone has an impressive dual-lens camera, and a slightly smaller battery.
If there’s just one thing you need to know about Samsung’s Galaxy Note devices, it’s that they are, and always have been, Big Smartphones.
Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed
The Note was originally marketed as a “phablet,” a horrible portmanteau of “phone” and “tablet” that insinuates the thing is both portable and productive, or something. Power users (aka people who do a lot of shit on their phones) have historically gravitated towards the Note because of its roomy screen and its precious tiny stylus — two features that differentiated the Note from Samsung’s more popular Galaxy line, which aren’t as large and don’t come with a pen tool.
This year’s model, the Note 8, is still designed to be a workhorse. But it’s also so much more.
There are multi-tasking and note-taking features out the wazoo in this phone. But, for the first time, the Note is now *the* Samsung phone photographers (or, rather, phonenographers) should consider, because it has the best camera the Korean tech conglomerate has ever made. In other words, the Note’s stylus is no longer its only major selling point.
Aside from the impressive dual-lens camera, all other features are incremental improvements or carry-overs from last year’s disastrous Note 7, which shipped with faulty, exploding batteries and was recalled twice before finally being discontinued. The 8 has all the Samsung-y stuff: wireless charging, Gear VR compatibility, biometric security (iris and fingerprint scanning, and face recognition), 6GB RAM with 64GB of upgradable storage (mini SD cards up to 256GB), and compatibility with DeX, which is a dock, sold separately, that allows you to connect the phone to a monitor and use keyboard and mouse input.
The Note 8 has a smaller, more conservative battery, and Samsung says it’s “committed to quality” now more than ever, with an eight-point battery safety check that includes extreme testing and X-ray inspection, plus additional testing by a third-party company, Underwriters Laboratories. All of that sounds like a good thing.
I’ve spent a week with the Galaxy Note 8, and though I’m still not a fan of the company’s TouchWiz interface (all of the extra stuff Samsung adds to the phone on top of the Android operating system), it’s clear that this is the most capable Samsung phone ever made.
Let’s get right to it: that camera.
Most phones have one, wide-angle lens that forces you to zoom with your feet or zoom digitally (causing pixelation). The Note 8 has two 12-megapixel lenses: one standard wide-angle lens (f/1.7) and one telephoto lens (f/2.4) for close-ups, which you can take advantage of in a variety of ways.
The most obvious is being able to zoom in 2x, which is great for whale or bird watching or whatever. The second is that when you capture a close-up with the telephoto lens, the Note 8 automatically snaps a picture with the wide-angle lens too, so you can switch between the zoomed in and zoomed out versions of the pic.
(Click on the images below to see them up close.)
Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News