Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

Has Samsung gone mad with so many different sized tablets and phones?

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review
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Tablets are designed for media consumption. Google and Samsung are both aware of this - which is why you'll find no shortage of offerings on the Note 8.0.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

Firstly, we have to give a brief mention to WatchON. That's Samsung's hub for selling you content like TV shows and movies or allowing rentals; it even allows you to pair up and mirror with your Samsung Smart TV.

Why a brief mention, you may wonder? Well, because sadly it doesn't work.

We opened the app and were invited to set it up. The first thing that it asked for was our ZIP code. Obviously we don't have them in the UK so tried a UK postcode, which was incompatible.

So we made a ZIP code up. Which didn't work. So we got in touch with friends in the US (we tried LA, NYC and Wisconsin) and asked for their ZIP codes so that we knew we were inputting kosher info. And even then, the Note 8.0 refused to let us in.

Sometimes, if you know what you're doing, you can click "cancel", get into the app anyway and then go into the settings and try to rectify a problem from there. Alas, you can't with WatchON because the setup screen is like the gatekeeper. So it's not worth the pixels it's displayed on.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

We tried a hard reset, and we updated the software. Neither of which worked. Which is rather annoying for a consumer - but will be even more annoying for Samsung, when it realises that customers won't have the patience and will just go into the Google Play store instead - which is precisely what it doesn't want them to do.

Hurry up and fix this, Samsung - you're the one losing dollar in the meantime.

Speaking of which, Google's Play Store had another makeover. It's definitely evolved over recent years. From the days of the tatty-looking Android Market, which focused on apps, now there is a real push to get you to part with your currency in the form of music, books, magazines and movies.

Some may say it lacks the depth of content present in the iTunes store, but we didn't find it to be that bad at all.

The big hits are all there - for example, The Hobbit, just out this week at the time of writing, is available as a rental. And in the magazines section, you can get all the leading titles like Harper's Bazaar, GQ and so forth.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

Once downloaded, they then all fall into their respective Google Apps on board the tablet for your perusal. And don't forget, you can easily add third-party services like Amazon MP3 or Spotify for music, and apps like Kindle to provide other multimedia channels into your tablet.

Watching videos on the Note 8.0 is a great experience. The device has two speakers (on the right if you're holding it in landscape, or the bottom in portrait) that sound ever so slightly tinny, but certainly not among the worst.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

We can't help feeling it would have been better to have one on either side and we know that the bar has been raised now by HTC with its BoomSound on the HTC One, which left us feeling slightly cheated here - but for the majority of people, this won't really figure.

Videos are presented as thumbnails, lists or folders (depending on your choice) and we really like the fact that everything appears here. So, for example, your locally stored content sits alongside videos you've stored on Dropbox which can be streamed.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

And you get Pop-up Play - that thing Samsung made a big fuss about last year when it launched the S3. It allows you to play your movie in a small window as you do other stuff on your device. Perhaps less important on a phone, but a useful addition on a larger screen device like the Note 8.0.

Plus, there's support for Air View - this is something we have on the Note 2 and, in a different guise, on the Galaxy S4. It means that you can pull the S-Pen out and hover it over the timeline to a different point and you'll see a popup of what's taking place at that point in the film. It makes scrubbing so much more elegant.

Not only that, you can add bookmarks to your favourite bits and there is even the option to add a weather tag so that you can show what the forecast was like when you watched your video.

God knows why you'd want to - but Samsung's clearly brainstormed and decided to chuck everything in.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

Adding to it all is the ability to stream movies directly to a smart TV using the built-in Samsung functionality (or third party apps like Twonky Beam or iMedia Share from the Google Play store.)

Without a Smart TV, you can invest in Samsung's AllShare Dongle to plug into an HDMI port. That'll set you back anywhere between £25 and £70, depending on whether you go for new or secondhand and where you shop.

Mentioning Dropbox again - that representation of what's in your folder also extends to the photo gallery where every photo you've stored there is present in the Gallery app.

This is great news for those people who want a Photo Stream type service without the Apple buy-in and is a great way of saving memory for more data-heavy streaming elements like movies and music which would chew through your allowance if you didn't store them locally.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

Speaking of which, you'll find two music players on board here. Or three, if you want to be picky. Two of them are Samsung's - the standard music player (a competent offering with various equalisers and categories) and then the Music Hub.

Again, this is Samsung's attempt to take you away from Google's media offerings and get you to buy music from them instead.

You can play anything stored on the device, stream what you don't and listen to internet radio. It comes with a £9.99 a month price tag, but you do get a week's trial at the start, which eases you in gently.

On top of those, there is then Google's offering, Play Music. This is Android's attempt to get us all streaming and provides an iTunes Match-type service (though a lot more financially reasonable, some would say) so that all of your music on your computer, or the tracks you've bought, can easily be streamed everywhere.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

It's a great service and although you have to watch your data usage if you use it a lot out and about, the fact is that this is a Wi-Fi-only model for now, so you should be OK at home. In fact the only problem with it is that you need to be online to be able to stream your content.

There are two sides to the Galaxy Note 8.0 as an entertainment hub, then. In your hands, you hold a media powerhouse. In some ways, it's more versatile than an iPad, because you're not restricted to the iTunes Store. You can buy from Google, from Amazon, from Samsung or elsewhere, because Android is an open system.

But for all those reasons it's confusing if you're new to all of this. Which player do you use? Which store? There's almost too much choice - and for people coming to the tablet market for the first time, we dare say, it'll be rather overwhelming.