As an iPad owner who is used to living his digital life completely through the 'pad, this review is written from the perspective of a long-time Apple fan making a tentative crossover to Android. I wanted a smaller, lighter tablet for more portability / less hand luggage space when travelling, and rather than go straight for the iPad Mini, I thought I'd give the Galaxy Note a go. I'd heard such good things about it, and thought it looked pretty impressive in an in-shop demo. Like most people considering a switch, I was worried it would feel 'second rate' or not as polished as the Apple devices I was used to. How wrong I was!
First off, the hardware is top notch - the specs are good, and it's the fast, responsive device you'd expect from that. The screen is beautifully crisp and colourful, too - a tad more vibrant than the iPad, I'd say. And the big plus is the incorporated stylus, tucked away in the device's side - better by far than any third-party stylus I've used before, and it's great to have a more responsive and pressure-sensitive pen to write with. In terms of storage, it even just pips the higher-end iPads if you add a 64gb card - that, plus the built-in 16gb offers a healthy 80 gigs.
Secondly, Samsung's take on the Android platform is just brilliant, and convinced me that Android can be as polished as iOS. I'm not talking about the multitasking / multiwindow trick (which is cool, but not something I'll use much). It's a couple of the bundled Samsung apps which, for me, beat the iPad alternatives hands down. In particular, it's S Planner which won me over - the calendar app with a super-friendly display, which preserves your Google Calendar colour codings! Was always surprised the iPad calendar app didn't do that, but it's not the only reason to love S Planner, as it's generally just a joy to use. S Note too, the note-taking app, is just excellent, especially when combined with the stylus.
You won't miss notifications either, as they're handled in much the same way as in iOS. Generally it's been no trouble at all to switch, as the software is intuitive, and in many cases, differs fairly little in operation from the rival platform. The only things that took time to get my head around are the back / menu buttons, which, rather than being in the apps you use, are physical buttons at the bottom of the device. No real issue, though - they're easy to get used to and work predictably in most apps.
Of course, switching from an iPad means you won't have iCloud / iMessage / PhotoStream / iTunes support, so you'll need to start looking for alternatives. But if, like me, you use a lot of non-platform-specific services for your files and information, like Dropbox, Evernote, Google, Kindle and so on, you can more or less pick up where you left off on the Galaxy. Dropbox even works as a nifty alternative to Apple's PhotoStream with the new camera upload feature. It's also possible to sync your Amazon-bought MP3s across iOS and Android devices using the Amazon MP3 player app. Thanks to these services, it's almost like I never switched, with all my files, media and other data just where I left them. They act as a great cross-platform bridge, which is perfect if you're intent on working across both Android and Apple (like I am), or ditching one for the other.
I'm not going to ditch the iPad just yet - with its bigger screen, better email app and built-in Office document viewing (something you'll need to find a better app for on the Samsung as the provided one isn't that great), it still has the edge in a few aspects. For one thing, I'll prefer to work with documents and images on the larger device for now. I do realise I'm comparing a bigger with a smaller tablet, and it might be that the larger 10 inch Galaxy Note more than matches the bigger iPad. But for now, I'm thoroughly impressed with my first Android / Samsung device, and I have a feeling it's going to take the iPad's place on increasingly more trips out of the house in future. The grass is definitely quite green on the other side of the fence too!
on 17 October 2013
Although the advertising for this product suggests that it is perfect for students, I argue that it is, in fact, perfect for illustrators. The processor and ram makes the interface blindingly fast and the addition of the wacom stylus (S-pen) has made working with it a wonderful experience! I have used this tablet as an on the go digital sketchbook and notebook for lectures, it is brilliant and well worth the money. Also, just a suggestion, it is work buying the MoKo Ultra Slim case to go with it, it will help to prtotect the tablet and makes for a stable stand as well! Well done samsung, I had my doubts, but I am glad to be proven wrong.
on 21 June 2013
My work involves a mixture of meetings, reviewing academic journal articles and various kinds of reports and I've been looking for a single device that I can use for this kind of work, and also do email, and read stuff on the web. This device is it. I can download journal articles and annotate them, either using the pen as a pen, or using it to write using my own handwriting and have that convert to text. Word documents, presentations and spreadsheets also work well with the built-in software.
It is lovely to be able to write emails by hand and have them turned into text (and my handwriting is not very good). I can write meeting minutes, again stored either as handwriting or using the handwriting-to-text conversion, and it is fast enough to be able to replace paper.
I also bought the Belkin cover and feel that this really helps to balance it when holding it in one hand. It also means I can feel happy about throwing the Note 8 into my bag, and also doubles as a stand.
Battery life is excellent with the way I use it. From a full charge it gets down to about 65% by the end of the working day.
I was waiting for the phone version to be available in the UK and was planning to get rid of my samsung galaxy S2 as I don't use my S2 phone as a phone very often, but I could wait no longer and got the tablet only version of the Note 8. I'm now glad that I got the tablet-only version because the Note 8 and the galaxy S2 together are a perfect combination. I can use the S2 tethering when I need the internet on the move (there's a nice little free widget on google play that makes turning tethering on and off very quick and easy) and carrying both my phone and tablet is not a burden.
I find that using the pen is a very natural way to use the tablet, in fact using my fingers feels clumsy.
I have seen a number of reviews that complain about the price being so much higher than other similar-sized tablets. One thing to bear in mind is that it has a wacom tablet built in and that must add to the cost. If you don't think you'll need the pen then possibly other tablets would be a better choice, but for me the pen makes this a very, very special device.
on 3 June 2013
I've had a variety of tablets & used many more & this is the best by far. Pretty much every facet of it is better than anything I've used previously. The screen is superb, in fact much better than I'd been expecting - had read reports that it wasn't the best, but to be honest, the resolution is just about perfect for it's size - my other 7" tablet has higher resolution, but it's actually harder to read because of that - this is clear, bright & even usable in bright sunlight with sunglasses on!
Speed wise, the only thing I've used that comes close are the Nexus 7 & the iPad, but neither of them can run 2 apps side-by-side.
The pen is very accurate & you can easily make notes - although I've not tried yet, I believe it's very good for sketches too.
Storage is huge & very well managed (especially with a 64Gb SD card) - Samsung takes all of it as one virtual block, so no need to move things to the SD card.
Another complaint I heard levied is the plastic case - but I think it feels very high quality, I've had no creaks or clicks & it's very easy to hold for extended periods.
Finally the battery life is fantastic, I seem to be getting about 10 hours use between charges & it looses very little whilst in standby!
on 1 August 2013
I'm more than a little p****d off that the price of this has gone down by £100 to £191, compared with the £291 I paid here on Amazon for it just 3 days ago!!
Anyway, that apart this is a wonderful device. Like another reviewer, I've been waiting for something like this for a while now. I've had an iPad for the last 18 months but it's uncomfortably big to hold and the inflexibility of IOS drives me up the wall. This Samsung knocks the iPad into a cocked hat.
It's just the right size to hold comfortably in the hand while you're using the amazing S Pen. It's a great e-book reader, web browser and email machine. You get Polaris office suite which seems to work fine. Setup, if you have another Android device, is dead easy - you just enter your Google account details and it downloads all the apps you have on that account. So within a few minutes this was pretty much a clone of my existing S3 phone. I've added a SanDisk 64GB SDXC card which seems to load pretty fast - I managed to download my entire music library in an hour or so.
But it's the S-Pen, and the handwriting recognition, that blow me away. You can type emails, Polaris documents and spreadsheets with the S-Pen and it converts it to 'proper' typeface text as you write. The recognition is astonishingly good. Just beware that if you have SwiftKey and make that your default text entry mode, the handwriting thing won't function - the default text entry has to be the Samsung keyboard. You can also write handwritten notes with doodles and save them.
Two minor snags - hence 4 stars rather than 5 - are 1) the colour (I'd have much preferred the blue-grey of my S3) and 2) the fact that out of the box it's compatible only with Samsung printers. I've solved that by downloading Epson iPrint, and I can now print to, and scan from my Epson SX235W.
04/03/2014 Update - one more serious snag - battery life! Battery drains very fast with continuous use, and that's disappointing.
on 22 January 2015
I've had this tablet for a little over a year now and in general it's "OK". It's fast enough for almost any task I've thrown at it, although I can't say I've used it for any intensive gaming. I get around 2 evenings usage on a charge (6 hours or so), which consists mainly of surfing, email and YouTube videos. The screen is adequate and the difference in usability between a 7" and 8" screen in terms of ease of use is significant so I'm glad I opted for the Note 8 over the Nexus 7 in this respect. The (wacom) digitiser/stylus combination works really well, making it easy to draw diagrams and its also half decent for sketching.
What don't I like? It's Samsung, which in my experience means slow updates, increasing amounts of bloatware with each new version and constant unspecified updates to the Samsung apps. For these reasons this will be my last Samsung device. There's also a number of annoying bugs with the current (KitKat) firmware, specifically the device overheating occasionally and switching to low performance mode and secondly unreliable 5GHz connectivity.
If a 7" in screen is a little too small for you and you need a digitiser, this is probably the tablet for you, otherwise I'd be looking at alternatives.
on 25 August 2013
I finally gave up waiting for the 3G+wifi version of this to be available in the UK and ordered from Amazon Germany. Extremely fast shipping from them, in case anyone wanted to do the same.
After a couple of days I'm absolutely bought into this. It's the perfect size to carry to work, light, easy to use, and I'm so used to the s-pen already that I mistakenly tried to use it on my old tablet.
The good points:
- the s-pen. I've tried s-note (looks interesting), Evernote (which I use all the time) and other apps. Everything I've used allows handwriting input, so my long years of pining for my old Palm Pilot are finally over.
- the screen is really nice. Bright, clear,
- the speed. The Note 8 is extremely responsive, and has no problems with anything I want to do. Obviously it's new so I've been wanting to do everything at once.
- You can plug it into your laptop directly and move files over to the device memory and also to the SD card. Plus, I was worried I'd have to reformat the micro SD card as it came formatted as exFAT but no worries there.
The wait-and-see items:
- multi-window. This surprised me as I thought I'd use it a lot immediately. I expect I'll use it on the tube quite a lot, particularly with floating video windows, or checking the web / taking notes at the same time.
- The alarm / notification sounds are all quite musical, rather than a simple old-fashioned beep, ring or bing. I expect I'll get used to them, or will hunt around for better sounds which make more sense to me.
- I got a cheap wired headset with it as I'll be using it as my phone. That seems to work fine, but I might still end up going for a bluetooth headset down the road.
- battery life. Seems to be pretty good, but I've not yet used this in the wild, so to speak. A few work days with tube travel and full meeting schedule will be the true challenge.
- I read a lot, so have downloaded various reading apps. Aldiko is my ebook reader of choice - simple, quick, clear and I can read both epubs and PDFs which are the formats I use most. Cool Reader is for reading RTF - I have a lot to read that's just text. Zinio is for my magazines. Pocket for reading websites later. Flipboard for news-ish items.
- For more techy things, I use Onavo Count for tracking my usage of data, Juice Defender for helping save battery, and Astro File Manager for more complete management of files.
- General items are Falcon widget for Twitter, Documents To Go for editing on the go, Firefox and Xmarks, any.do for to do list, plus Sketchbook Express and Infinite Painter for playing around (I'm NOT an artist). I've tried the aNoteHD app and really can't see the point of it.
[Edited 3rd Sep to add:]
- Now using Todoist as a separate to do list for work. Incredibly useful as I can sync with a desktop app too.
- Downloaded Lecture Notes for taking notes in meetings. Another really useful app which lets you just write on screen or use keyboard / handwriting recognition. I've found this easier and better than S-Note.
- when using handwriting recognition, set it up in 'complete recognition' mode rather than 'stroke recognition'. That will give you more options to use when writing and editing text - see the tutorial in the 'Handwriting' options under the Samsung keyboard options panel.
- I switched off smart stay as it doesn't work when I have the tablet on a table, and it doesn't seem to like my glasses. So I save some battery there.
- When you use the s-pen on the lock screen you get an ink effect in the water. These little things amuse me, so I've kept it on. It doesn't seem to stay when you add security, though, so I'll miss that on Tues when I'm back to work.
- Play with the settings! There are so many you can adjust to make this the tablet that works for you instead of the tablet as it came out of the box.
- if you do buy from Germany for the 3G version, remember they'll send a German power adapter in the pack. I had a power adapter from my Galaxy Tab 10.1 so can use that. Just a heads-up that this will be an extra expense if you don't have anything to hand.
on 15 July 2013
I bought this tablet as a replacement for my Blackberry Playbook, which although solid and reliable, is a bit restricted due to the RIM OS, which does not have many apps that are conversions of Android and the BB specific apps are not great in my view. The new Galaxy Note 8 is light in comparison, speedy and capable, with loads of internal storage and a micro SD slot, which I have filled with a class 10 32gb card. I was able to set the Note up right away with my Amazon MP3 Cloud service and it recognised my home network as well without fuss. As I already have a Samsung and Google Play account with my Galaxy Mp3 player, which has loads of apps installed, signing into the Samsung and Google accounts installed all the apps I already had, so I didn't have to do any work!. What else? I have a Samsung Smart TV and the Note recognises that as well - I have yet to try out the remote control app but given the ease of integration thus far, I have no doubt it will be OK. Finally, the Note also recognises my NAS on the Home network and will play music files directly from it.
In use, I found the on-screen keyboard easy and accurate. The Note comes with a Stylus Pen but has yet to be tried out along with the features that it uses. Size wise at 8ins, it it only slightly bigger than the Kindle Fire HD that I have and is comfortable to handle, certainly more so than the 10in Tabs I have had a go with. Battery life is more than adequate and thus far in conclusion, I am very impressed.
There are loads of Tabs out there and my main tip is don't buy too cheap - you won't regret it. Pay a bit more and buy a qulity name. If you already own other Samsung devices, given my experience, the integration between them is faultless.
Update 23/7/2013 Still very impressed with this new tablet. However, I have hit a snag - I am a regular at Costa's, who just happen to offer 02 wifi FOC. This has been used with several other devices and so I expected the Note 8 to connect easily, which it does. What however you must NOT do is cancel out signing in to Costa's/O2 and registering the device. Failure to do so leads to a connected Note 8 that cannot access the web. No matter how many times I tell the Note to 'Forget' the connection and the rescan for O2 wifi, to date, the screen has never gone back to Costa's/O2 to sign in. Sure, you can login into your O2 wifi account on another device but, the options are limited to editing or removing existing devices - you cannot add new ones.
There doesn't appear to be any way of deleting browsing history or emptying the cache, as on a normal PC or laptop, so other than doing a complete factory reset (which I am not keen on doing just for this requirement), there seems no way round this problem. It may seem a minor thing but after a while will become irritating. O2 wifi Hotspots and partners are now all over the place and I now know from experience that if you mess up in one place, everywhere else becomes unavailable due to the original failure to register. If there is anyone out there who has encountered this problem and managed to fix it, then please advise.
on 26 June 2013
I was torn between the iPad Mini and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, but eventually decided to give the Note a try...
Wow! What a beautiful piece of hardware! It's so small and light (for it's size range) and such beautiful display. I am still getting used to it, but I am loving learning to use it (Die-hard iOS fan!) This feels like a HUGE step up after my Kindle Fire.
The S-Pen works amazingly well, and I'm still trying to find apps to take advantage of it.
Might update this review as I get used to my Note, and the novelty wears off.
ETA. My Note came with a free 16gb Micro SD card. I haven't been able to find any information stating that it came with a free 16gb Micro SD card but it did! I had been thinking of buying one to expand the storage of it, but I'm glad I didn't now! :D
on 25 May 2013
I got it as a present, already had a ipad mini and didn't know how this tablet will be,
But it has completely blown me away,
So many feature and easy to use, the pen feature alone killed the ipad for me,
Just love using it every day,
Only down side to this has been my ipad mini my pride and joy at one time but now left to rot....