Galaxy Note 8

Cool factor ****
Usability *****
Value for money ***

It was no ordinary event when Samsung took to the stage in New York City last week to introduce its newest flagship device, the Note 8, in what would be a major comeback after it was forced to recall its previous version, the Note 7.

That fiasco reportedly cost the company US$5.4bn, after overheating batteries caused the devices to catch fire.

At the Note 8 unveiling, Samsung president of mobile communications DJ Koh acknowledged the Note 7 disaster. An eight-point safety check has been put in place for all components made by third parties.

The failure of the Note 7 has placed a great deal of expectation on the new version.

The Note 8 is a 6.3-inch "phablet" with flat square edges and has what the company calls an "infinity display", a wrap-around screen first introduced on the Galaxy S8 this year. It is by far the single most interesting, standout feature seen on a handset recently, in an industry that is lacking innovation.

True multitasking can be achieved by launching two apps simultaneously through App Pairing. Two apps can be launched in split-screen mode; so essentially you can reply to e-mail while watching YouTube videos, in sizes that are customisable.

Annoying banner notifications have almost ruined the smartphone experience, but the Note 8 allows you to respond to messages through a "pop up" feature that shrinks whatever you’re doing in the background, but with both tasks visible.

The Note 8 features a dual-lens camera, one wide-angle and one telephoto; with 2x optical zoom. Samsung says it is the first handset to feature optical image stabilisation on the front and rear-facing cameras. A Live Focus mode for portraits allows you to choose the depth of field before snapping a picture, similar to the iPhone 7 Plus.

The S-Pen, referred to as the "heart and soul" of the Note by Samsung, is what sets the device apart. The stylus offers new functionality, such as taking notes on the screen without unlocking it. The S-Pen also allows you to highlight text on the screen for real-time translation, currency conversion or unit of measurement without leaving the page.

With this device, you can be creative with Live Messages, by scribbling and doodling over pictures or creating GIFs that can be shared on the Web or social media, immediately.

Another inclusion is DeX mode, a desktop experience first seen on the S8, that lets the Note 8 transform into a PC with accessories (available separately) like a mouse and keyboard, and a selection of apps, letting you work from a single device.

Samsung’s virtual assistant Bixby went live in SA (and 200 other markets) a day before the launch and works with voice commands on the Note 8. You can ask it to perform tasks for you, including cross-application commands like "send the picture just taken to dad".

The Note 8 will go on sale in SA on September 22 at a recommended retail price of R18,499.

*  The writer was a guest of Samsung

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