Let’s get this out the way now: if the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 hadn’t been so prone to explosions the Note 8 would have been a slam dunk of a phone, so impressive is this new handset at first sight.
Well, it very much still is – there’s very little wrong with the Note 8 if you’re a fan of the phablet – but the spectre of last year’s debacle is still hanging over its shiny body.
As with the Galaxy S8, Samsung has promised that its rigorous battery checks will prevent such incendiary incidents from happening again – and that’s clearly the case with the Note 8 too.
As such, you can disregard the issues from last year if you go for this new and powerful handset from Samsung… apart from the inevitable questions / mocking you’ll have to put up with when you pull it out for the first time.
As mentioned, you’ll have to be a fan of Samsung’s phablets specifically to be drawn towards the Note 8 over the Galaxy S8 Plus, for instance, because despite having more power and a larger and sharper screen than anything Samsung has launched before, it’s got a smaller battery than the S8 Plus and is more expensive too.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 release date and price
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is available to pre-order on August 23 in the UK, and Thursday, August 24 in the US. It’ll be in US stores on Friday, September 15, and likely the same date around the world in key territories such as the UK.
In terms of price – get ready for a very expensive phone. In the UK it’s going to be £869 SIM-free, and will start at around £60 per month if you want a free phone – very much at the pricey end of the scale.
In the US, it costs $930 for a Note 8 unlocked through Samsung, while carrier like Verizon are charging a hefty $40 a month. T-Mobile is only charging $30 a month… with a $210 downpayment. Luckily, there will be Note 8 deals in the US.
You can order the Note 8 in the US through Samsung, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint as well as smaller carriers like C Spire, Cricket Wireless, Straight Talk, US Cellular and Xfinity Mobile. Best Buy, Walmart and Target will also carry it.
More screen than ever before
The big thing about the ‘8’ series of Samsung phones is the Infinity Display, which is Samsung’s name for the edge-to-edge, bezel-less display that adorns the front of the handset.
And the Galaxy Note 8 has the biggest version of this display yet seen, with a 6.3-inch QHD+ offering that just looks sublime. You’re really just picking up a screen with the phone attached somewhere on the back.
The quality of the screen hasn’t been updated a huge amount from the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus – it’s still the same Super AMOLED technology with HDR support baked in, but that’s no issue, as we consider Samsung to be making the best phone displays in the world right now.
The design of the phone complements the display well, with the slightly rounded edges on the back having a touch of sharpness about them to make the phone easier to grip.
It was interesting to note (sorry…) that we tended to pick up the phone more in the middle of the display, rather than cradling it from the bottom – this made finding the buttons and the rear fingerprint scanner easier to hit (more on that later).
The buttons all protrude well enough to be easily clicked, and weirdly for a phone of this size it didn’t feel too cumbersome in the palm. It was even possible to reach the full width of the screen with a thumb, although you can forget hitting the corners.
With a microSD slot (up to 256GB supported) and an S Pen port too, there’s a lot to pack into the Galaxy Note 8, and Samsung has done well to put it all together in a package like this, especially as it’s IP68-rated for water and dust resistance.
However, the glass still feels lightweight, and still borders on feeling a little like plastic. This does save weight, and the overall construction feels premium, but there’s a tactility to metal – or even ceramic – that we miss here.
Fingerprint mistakes are repeated
However, when it comes to design choices, we’re disappointed that Samsung has maintained its stance of putting the fingerprint scanner on the back next to the camera.
We’d assumed that last-minute design changes had meant the Galaxy S8 had to have the biometric unlocking method put on the rear, and that this issue would be solved with the Note 8.
However, Samsung has maintained the placement, and it’s still annoying. Yes, the scanner is easier to hit thanks to being more pronounced, and the way you hold the Note 8 means your finger falls more naturally on it; but it’s not comfortable, and there are far better examples of scanners on the back of phones out there (the Google Pixel springs to mind).
Samsung’s executives will tell you that they use iris scanning to unlock their phones most of the time, but in our testing of the Galaxy S8 we didn’t find this accurate enough… and that still seems to be the case here.