Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 hands-on

(Jacket) pocket-sized tablet PC with a Wacom digitizer and stylus

May 26, 2013
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

If there’s one thing you can count on in the world of smartphones and tablet PCs, it’s that if there’s a form factor, Samsung has a device in it.

Want a tablet? No problem, sir, would you like a 7-, 7.7-, 8.9-, or 10.1-inch screen?

Smartphones? We have them in 2.8-, 3.0-, 3.65-, 4.0-, 4.8-, 5.0-, and 5.01-inch flavours. If that isn’t big enough for you we’re also getting them 5.8- and 6.3-inch later this year.

And then there’s the Note range, which you may be forgiven for thinking only consists of Samsung’s tablet-smartphone mutant hybrid that some have taken to calling “phablet” (though “tablone” is clearly the better term).

In addition the 5.29-inch Note and 5.55-inch Note 2 smartphones, the range also has tablet-sized devices in the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the recently added 8.0, which are both named for the size of their screens.

Does the addition of a stylus a new category make?

The only apparent difference between Note devices and Samsung’s more conventional smartphone and tablet lines? A stylus and some software specific to the use of said stylus.

However, when you delve deeper and compare using the stylus on the Note to using the after-market styluses (styli?) on other tablets, a bigger difference becomes apparent.

Unlike its more standard smartphone and tablet PC ranges, Samsung Galaxy Note devices boast with a Wacom digitiser to process the input from the stylus.

To test whether this does indeed provide an improved experience, or is just another gimmick, we handed the tablet to resident business technology journalist and thumbnail image wizard, Quinton Bronkhorst.

He has extensive graphic design experience in addition to many hours of leisure time spent with Draw Something on iPad, making the game a convenient way to compare the capabilities of the two devices.

According to Bronkhorst, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 offers much greater drawing precision compared to using a stylus on an iPad. This is despite the Note 8.0 having a screen that is 1.9 inches smaller than the iPad.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 S Pen Page Buddy

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 S Pen Page Buddy

It’s never too big to be a phone

Outside of its stylus-specific features – including a special “Page Buddy” homescreen that appears when you remove the pen from its slot in the bottom right of the device – the Note 8.0 functions like a normal Samsung tablet.

That’s unless you come from the school that thinks it’s unusual to be able to make cellphone calls and send SMSes from your tablet PC.

A number of Samsung’s tablets that have a 3G-capable model also let you make phone calls and send SMSes from them, which can be quite handy in a pinch.

In my testing, the Galaxy Note 8.0 transmitted clear voice and produced good quality audio from the earpiece speaker.

Unfortunately there’s nothing it can do about you looking silly when taking calls on it, though. As with Samsung’s other phone-enabled tablets the only way to mitigate this is to use a headset.

Summary

If you’re looking for a tablet PC that lets you sketch digitally while away from your computer and trusty Wacom tablet, then Samsung’s Note range is basically your only option.

As with the other devices in the range, handwriting recognition on the Note 8.0 is good, and it delivers the experience you would expect from a new Samsung tablet.

While it is a matter of preference, the design of Samsung’s casing makes it look and feel cheap.

Another strange design decision is the use of hardware buttons (physical home, capacitive menu and back), instead of the software buttons Samsung opted for on its Galaxy Tab 2 devices.

On devices with larger screens reaching for hardware buttons (as opposed to software buttons following the orientation of the display) can have a negative impact on usability.

If you’re in the market for an Android tablet and find the 7-inch models too small and the 10-inch models too big, then the Note 8.0 might just be your Goldilocks tablet for this generation.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 side view

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 side view

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Tags: Android, Google, Headline, Samsung, samsung galaxy note 8.0

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