In late August of 2012, Samsung brought some of the biggest news to the tablet market not named “iPad” with the debut of the Galaxy Note 10.1. It was the first Android slate we’d seen with a truly workable stylus-pen input scheme. At the time, we here at Computer Shopper were impressed enough to award it our Editors’ Choice nod. Not only did we find the implementation of the stylus (which Samsung has dubbed the “S Pen”) an effective input innovation—even a somewhat elegant one—but the tablet itself also introduced several impressive multitasking innovations, including the ability to display (as well as work in) multiple apps simultaneously. No longer were users of Android slates relegated to using only one app at a time.
Capitalizing on the Galaxy Note 10.1’s favorable reception, Samsung followed up with a downsized version, the $399.99-list Galaxy Note 8.0, which it first showed off at Mobile World Congress 2013. Aside from its name, though, this smaller Galaxy Note bears little physical resemblance to its larger sibling.
For starters, the Galaxy Note 8.0’s cameras, the Samsung logo, and the controls (the Menu, Home, and Back buttons) are all positioned along the slate’s narrower edges, indicating that it’s designed to be held in portrait (tall) orientation. The Galaxy Note 10.1, on the other hand, comes with its cameras and logo positioned along the longer edges, signalling that it should be held in landscape (wide) orientation.
The Galaxy Note 10.1 doesn’t have buttons on any of its bezels, which, in contrast to the placement of the controls and ports on the Galaxy Note 8.0, is yet another significant difference between these two slates. (We’ll look at the Galaxy Note 8.0’s external configuration in detail in the Design section, the next page.) In addition to being an all-new slate on the outside, this smaller Galaxy Note’s user interface (UI) and apps are quite different from what we saw on the original Galaxy Note tablet, too. Many of these differences are due to the progressive development of the S Pen’s functionality, but, as you’ll see in the Features & Apps section a little later in this review, Samsung has given Android 4.1 (a.k.a. “Jelly Bean”) a rather extensive makeover—both a radical UI-level face-lift and changes under the hood.
Performance-wise, this newer Galaxy Note runs a bit faster than last year’s full-size model. In fact, the Galaxy Note 8.0 proved to be one of the fastest Android slates we’ve tested, rivaled by the Google Nexus 10 and few others. That said, it turned in a disappointing score on our demanding battery-rundown trial, delivering far less unplugged runtime than its full-size sibling.
And that—battery life—is our only real quibble about this otherwise peppy, well-performing little slate. (Assuming, however, that you’re not terribly price-sensitive; the $400 price tag is a bit high for a compact tablet like this, surpassing even the base price of the slightly smaller-screened.) Still, the Galaxy Note 8.0 is thin, light, elegant-looking, and pleasant to hold. The much-improved implementation of the S Pen and Samsung’s enhancements to the multitasking features make it a unique productivity tool that we liked a lot. As you read on, you’ll see that, like its full-size predecessor, it’s well-deserving of our Editors’ Choice award.
See full review at Computer Shopper.