Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

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

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review
Want one? You need to make a note.

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Fortunately, Samsung hasn't gone down the route of the Kindle Fire HD, which Amazon has locked down to drive users to its own stores.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

As we've just mentioned, choice may make things more confusing to some, such as the new tablet user. But it also increases the breadth of content a lot - because the Google Play store is awash with offerings.

True, there are 60,000 fewer apps available as of April this year because Google has got rid of the tat, but there are still some real gems in there.

And of course, there is the Samsung store there too. Most of the items in Samsung's offering you'll also find in the Google Play store and they'll be similarly priced, if not cheaper.

Also, the stuff you'll buy in Google Play can be transfered to another Android device, should you have or opt to buy one. Apps you buy in Samsung's App Store will only be downloadable on another device with the same shop installed (i.e. another Samsung device).

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

In all truth, we don't actually see much reason for Samsung's App Store to exist.

There are other ways of installing apps - that's side-loading, or installing APKs. For those who don't speak geek, that's basically installing your own apps that you've downloaded from the web.

Of course, there is risk here because you don't know exactly what you're getting and there is always the chance there may be some kind of malicious code.

Then again, some apps in the Google Play store have been found to be a bit dodgy, so it's all horses for courses.

Regardless, if you want to install your own apps, you can. But you'll need to go into the settings and tick a checkbox, just to confirm that you do want to do something Google considers a bit naughty.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

As a gaming device, you couldn't really ask for much more. The Galaxy Note 8.0 has a fair bit going for it. Firstly, you're not limited on storage so if you want to download an HD game (which will probably be a large file), you don't need to worry about not being able to install anything else.

Secondly, the TFT screen is good and bright and the resolution is great for showing off colours. Thirdly, you have those stereo speakers that pump out a fairly decent level of audio.

And fourth, the Galaxy Note 8.0 is light enough to hold with both hands, so you won't get RSI as as you pretend to drive an F1 car .

And don't forget, there are also the included apps. We've touched on a few of them already - but other Samsung bundles include aNote HD (a rather cool, if not slightly complicated, app which draws in your calendars, shopping lists, recipes, scrapbooks etc to give you a colourful Evernote-type experience) and Group Play (unveiled with the S4), which allows you all to listen to music and watch videos together over Wi-Fi.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

The one we were most excited about was Smart Remote. As we alluded to earlier, infrared is enjoying something of a comeback thanks to the glut of devices building in remote controls.

The idea is that they not only turn the volume up and down, but they're also able to access EPGs from the area you live in and tell you what's on, and even switch to said show if you choose to watch.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

Samsung uses Peel for its listings information and the experience is fairly intuitive. Setting it up was a matter of just following a few steps and we had no complaints here. The interface looks a bit dated and (dare we say) cheap compared to that on the HTC One, but it does the job.

In fact, we only have two minor criticisms. Firstly, the range of the IR blaster isn't as large as that of the One so we found we had to actively point it at the receiver, rather than just in its general direction.

And secondly, we think Samsung has missed a trick by not incorporating the app into the lockscreen when enabled. How cool would it be to pick your Galaxy Note 8.0 up and immediately have access to the channels and controls without having to unlock the screen, then opening an app?


Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

There is, of course, one more app that we should mention. Actually, it's more than an app - it's an integrated part of the Note 8.0: the S-Pen.

First seen in the Galaxy Note, then again in the Note 2, we were initially skeptical. And many others shared our pessimism of what we viewed as a glorified stylus.

But we've come round, although we stand by our convictions that the S-Pen is definitely more useful in something the size of the Tab 2 10.1, or the Galaxy Note 8.0, than a smaller device.

Samsung has been refining the S-Pen experience since the beginning, and there has been even more work done on the pressure and sensitivity. Just like a real pen, the harder you press, the more you get in payback.

We're told there are now more than a thousand different levels of sensitivity and we're willing to believe the hype, even though we could only distinguish between about four in our usage.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

There are a couple of ways of getting into the S-Pen experience. The first is to go to the widget Samsung has installed and activate it here.

Or you can simply pull the S-Pen out of its little hole at the bottom of the Note 8.0 and it'll give a little vibration, before taking you to said widget.

There are several Samsung-created apps that allow you to create anything from a diary entry, to a photo manipulation to a magazine template.

You can also add elements from maps or cutout sections of a website and paste them into whatever you're trying to create. And then, there's the ability to jot down mathematical formulae and the S-Pen will work it out for you.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review

For that, we'd say the S-Pen is incredibly capable. But it's also incredibly complicated.

You really have to work hard on learning how to use it, what buttons do, what buttons don't do, what different apps provided in the S-Pen suite do and it's like a speeding bullet of information heading towards the brain.

Even Samsung is aware of this - it may concentrate on the fun side of the S-Pen for its adverts for devices, showing people drawing pictures and so forth, but it also provides a dedicated app just to teach you how to use it, and there's an instruction manual for the S-Pen which you can download.

Not that this is necessarily a criticism if you're buying the Note 8.0 specifically for the S-Pen. If that is the case, it's great.

But for those who find it as an added extra in their new tablet, it's probably going to spend most of its time docked and forgotten about. We'd guess that of all of the Galaxy Note 8.0s sold, 90 per cent of them will never have their full S-Pen potential realised by the user.