The Phablet is clearly alive and kicking. Samsung’s original Note, to all intents and purposes an outsized cellphone, has matured into a product line on its own: last year, the 5,3-inch Note acquired a 10-inch big brother; that duo has now been joined by what is described as the world’s first 8-inch tablet.
With the Note 8.0, Samsung is pushing the productivity line hard to suggest that the Note can become business users’ BYOD of choice. Perhaps the focus has sharpened since the company’s less than stellar initial effort, the Tab, in 10- and 7-inch formats. This time around, the Note boasts a few “killer apps”: notably, Intelligent S Pen, Smart Remote and Reading Mode.
To look at, the Note is a giant Galaxy smartphone. (We can confirm that it will fit in the back pocket of your Levi’s, but to avoid the inevitable sniggers we suggest using a headset when in Call mode.) With the same lightweight though classy-looking plastics-based construction as its stablemates, the Note is light and not too unwieldy to hold in one hand, too. Although the display is – unlike its smartphone equivalents – not AMOLED but TFT, it provides a crisp, clear picture and brilliant colour.
Current users of models such as the S3 and S4 will easily acclimatise to the Note 8.0. Even better, the multi-window option implemented on Samsungs with the new Android OS can be exploited better on the bigger screen simply because of the extra screen real estate.
A significant tool in helping elevate the Note from being used mainly for consuming content to something that has serious potential as a productivity device is the new, smarter S Pen. Whether used to draw, write or activate functions the S Pen is a truly versatile gadget. Pull it out of its socket, and the Note automatically recognises this and launches appropriate apps and suggestions. S Pen doesn’t even need to touch the screen: with Air View, simply hovering the pen’s tip over items creates popup previews. Thanks to new, advanced functionality, pressing the button located near the pen’s tip allows you, via gestures and keywords, to Return, Select, Create Mail, Search and lots more. The handwriting- to-text function needs some care – it’s not ideal for quick note-taking – but perhaps that’s just my handwriting. In addition to this, for the first time, the S Pen is able to control the physical menu/back buttons on the Note.
Pre-loaded software includes new content and services such as the innovative Fipboard newsreader and the Awesome Note productivity suite previously available only on iOS devices. Fortunately, it’s not all work and no play. Thanks to Samsung Reading Mode technology, the Note provides optimised resolution for reading e-books or watching video. You can even turn it into a universal remote control with Smart Remote, to manage TVs, set-top boxes, DVD and Blu-ray players.
Despite its size, the Note is not entirely unsuited for use as a camera, with the 5,0 MP main unit (sadly, no flash) capable of pretty decent stills and video up to full HD. It’s backed up by a 1,3 MP front-facing lens. Battery life is a handy 8 hours; we had the Note 8.0 on standby for several days and found it had plenty of life left.
All in all, with the Note 8.0 Samsung has created an innovative (though not perfect) productivity tool that gives one of the clearest indications yet of how work and play can intersect in a device.
Stuff you need to know
Processor: 1,6 GHz A9 quad-core processor
Display: 8” WXGA (1280 x 800, 189 ppi) TFT
OS: Android 4.1.2 (Jellybean)
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n (2.4 & 5GHz), Wi-Fi Direct, AllShareCast, BT4.0, USB2.0
Sensor: Accelerometer, Digital Compass, Proximity
GPS: A-GPS + GLONASS
Memory/storage: 2 GB RAM, 16/32 GB, microSD up to 64 GB
Dimensions: 210,8 x 135,9 mm, 338 g
Battery: Li-Ion 4 600 mAh