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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Point, Oh!

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Stereo speakers, charge/sync port and home button on top. Stereo speakers, charge/sync port and home button on top.
The screen is beautiful! The screen is beautiful!
IR port, volume rocker and power button IR port, volume rocker and power button
Samsung's S Pen and MicroSD slot Samsung's S Pen and MicroSD slot

Recently Samsung invited me to check out the Samsung Experience inside of one of the local Best Buy shops. They're betting big on the only kind of window shopping that delights the tactile senses... the brick and mortar kind. While there, I had the chance to get my own hands on (and take home for a spell) the latest 8" tablet from the Korean consumer electronics giant, the Samsung Galaxy 8.0

Upon unboxing the 8" tablet, my first impression harkened back to a popular meme echoed when the iPad was first launched, "Looks like a big [Note 2]." Fortunately, there's much more to it than that! Let's deal with the obvious first... yes, this does look just like a Note 2 on steroids. Heck, it even shares the same processor as its little brother but that isn't a bad thing at all. Samsung sold 5 million Note 2's within the first two months of its release and the first Note was a bona fide hit despite being panned by pundits in the tech community. Samsung's devices sport familiar features across product lines so those who've owned a Galaxy S3 or S4 should be familiar with many of the features of the Note 8.0... let's get into the device.



The Note 8.0 comes with a beautiful 1280x800 screen with a density of 189 pixels per inch (ppi) but what that means for you is great looking pictures, videos and crisp text when you spend time online or with your nose buried in your favorite book. It's very bright and in many outdoor conditions is very legible, though I was outside BBQ'ing recently, in direct sunlight, under a cloudless California sky and at that point the display became a little harder to read.

The Note comes with the obligatory 3.5mm audio jack for your headphones or auxiliary cable needs up top features stereo speakers at the bottom of the device which are loud and crisp, though at this point, I'd really like to see front-firing speakers on all tablets in the future. HTC did it with a phone, so I don't see any reason why we can't see this on all tablets going forward. We watch with the screens facing us, so it only makes sense to have the sound actually being fired directly at us as well. #imjustsaying

They say that "truth is often spoken in jest," so I guess I was only half joking when I started a Page on Google+ about a year ago titled "P.R.IR.P.ON.G." or "People for the Resurgence of IR Ports ON Gadgets." We have a whopping five members as of the writing of this post, but with HTC's One, LG's G2 and others sporting an Infrared port and now, the Note 8.0, maybe we'll see our numbers grow? Why such a big deal over the IR port? Besides being able to annoy friends and relatives by using your gadget to do ghost channel changes while they're watching their favorite show, this overlooked feature is even more relevant to smartphone users than ever before! Recent stats showed that 80% of all smartphone users watch TV with their phones in their hand and if you're going to have all that power right at your fingertips, it's a waste at TV time when you can't even use it to control your TV, Cable/Satellite/IPTV box or home theater system. So much of why we buy our gadgets may be rolled into the features beyond being able to make phone calls that it just makes sense to have an app which unifies remote control functionality, social interaction and sharing, rating/reviewing and your guide. My only issue with the IR port on the Note 8.0 is its location. I don't know who at Samsung thought placing the IR port on the side of the device was the way to go, but at this size and with physical "home" button on the bottom of the device, I think it would've made much more sense to place that port on the top of the device, same as the headphone jack.

Rounding out the hardware is the S Pen (more on that later), 5 megapixel rear and 1.3 mexapixel front cameras, GPS, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of on-board memory and a 4,600 mAh battery. You can also pick up an LTE enabled version from AT&T which supports HSPA+ as well as wifi.



After having used the Note 2, 3 and Galaxy S4, I have to admit that I'm a little let down here. I love how refined the tablet feels and think it's a great device, but the Note tablet I'm really excited about will be the second generation Note 8 device. While this one has a light sensor and proximity sensor, it lacks some of the features of the S4 like Air Gesture, Smart Scroll, NFC (a hardware feature similar to bluetooth) and Smart Beam. You do get Multi-Window, Air View, Smart Stay and a feature I rather like called Reading Mode which changes the "look" of the screen when reading text so that it more closely mimics paper. That makes long stretches of reading a little easier on the eyes. What it really does is give the display a more sepia (brownish) hue which makes it feel a little "warmer" and not so harsh for extended, focused reading.

When it comes to software and Samsung tablets, we cannot forgo chatting up the philosophical differences between Samsung and Apple, who makes the Note 8.0's competition, the iPad Mini. The Mini comes out the box with about 11 apps, the Note 8.0 quadruples that in an effort to ensure that you have everything you need right from go, without having to hit the Play store. Office document editing, drawing, Samsung has you covered and takes full advantage of the S Pen with a suite of software allowing you to do everything from sketch whatever's in your head, to adding handwritten text to your calendar, and handwriting-to-text which turns your chicken scratch into something everyone can read.


Closing Thoughts

Love this device! Love the software and feature-set, but I really want to see some of the features on the S4 make their way over to the tablets along with a better camera and flash. I know, I know, most people won't be taking pictures with their tablets but at this size I think more people are likely to carry it around and at the ready more so than the 10" devices. I think the biggest challenge the Note 8.0 faces is convincing buyers that what it has is enough to justify the $379 (for wifi, $400 for the LTE version on AT&T) price tag when you can pick up the competition for approximately $70 less. Let us not forget that you can get the latest Nexus 7 for only $269 with 32GB and wifi, though you'll lose the pen input. That's stiff competition.

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