My love hate relationship with Samsung's Galaxy Note range now spans over two years of smartphones and tablets. These flagship devices known for the signature S Pen stylus inputs, border gimmicky on one end and business essential on the other. With the Galaxy Note 8.0, Samsung has created a device that's definitely more latter than the former – putting a powerful iPad Mini competitor in the hands of consumers (for a price).
At a glance
Operating System: Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
Display: 8-inch LCD , 1,280 x 800 resolution
Processor: Quad-core 1.6 GHz processor, 2 GB RAM
Comes with expandable microSD slot
Price: 16 GB wifi only is $539 (cheapest price on Price Me)
The Note 8.0 has an 8-inch screen – Samsung doesn't mess about with creativity when it comes to naming its products. The tablet doesn't use Samsung's high quality Super AMOLED screen technology, instead opting for LCD. Still, the brightness of the screen and image quality is admirable if not out of this world.
On paper the Note 8.0 has a higher pixel density than the iPad Mini, but side by side there's no noticeable difference in image quality.
The Note 8.0 suffers from Samsung's continued use of plastic bodies which feel cheap (although durable). This continues to be a thorn in my side with Samsung products and would make sense if the there was a significant savings on price but the Note 8.0 is on the higher end of the mini tablet range.
Overall the tablet is very comfortable to hold with one hand, which is important when trying to use the S Pen on the go.
The stylus which makes the Note range what it is has come a long way since Samsung first released its Note smartphone. The latest S Pen is very accurate due to the screen digitiser technology used in the Note 8.0. However, there's still a lag between strokes and the gestures being recognised by the tablet, which takes a while to get used to.
Using the stylus does quickly become second nature on the S Pen – even if you have to force yourself into the habit when you first use it. The pen lets you quickly crop photos, add annotations and draw whole images. If you don't work with photos, designs or documents that need annotation this feature is gimmicky – but if you're like me and constantly snapping ideas and inspirations into a dedicated Evernote folder, it becomes an essential creative tool.
The stylus fits in a little nook on the bottom of the tablet. Make sure you don't lose it though, as a replacement costs around $50 plus shipping.
Out of the box the Note 8.0 comes with a slightly out of date version of Android (Jelly Bean 4.1). The proprietary TouchWiz user interface is unobtrusive, but most die-hard Android fans will prefer the stock standard UI instead.
Running apps on the quad-core 1.6 GHz processor is child's play – there were no forced closures, no sticky apps, no buggy animations. Everything worked incredibly smoothly and quickly.
I expected the battery life to take a hit because of the processor and the bright screen, but was pleasantly surprised to get a full day's worth of use out of the Note 8.0 after a full charge and with moderate web browsing, video and app use.
Verdict: The iPad Mini is around $160 cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, the Nexus 7 almost $200 cheaper. As with all of Samsung's Note products the numero uno question is "Do you need a stylus and are you willing to pay for it?". For me the answer is no, I don't need a stylus, but I found myself being much more of a creator and less of a consumer with the Galaxy Note 8.0, and I can see many people willing to pay a premium for that experience too.