Powered by the Samsung Exynos 8895 system-on-a-chip in the UK, this phone performs almost identically to the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, but not a whole lot worse than the 8910 toting Samsung Galaxy S9. In GeekBench 4 it managed 2003 and 6666 in the single- and multi-core tests respectively, while in AnTuTu it managed 171,413. All of these are within a rounding error of the Note 8’s smaller siblings.
In regular use, I had no performance concerns. The Note 8 opens apps and web pages in a flash, can play 3D games such as Real Racing 3 at the best possible settings, and generally feels like an exceptionally competent work companion. I have no complaints.
The Note 8 supports Samsung DeX, which I reviewed using the Galaxy S8+. The fact that this phone is powerful enough to support an almost proper desktop PC experience is seriously impressive.
Wi-Fi performance is fine, although it’s still not as fast at switching and connecting to networks as Huawei phones. Call quality is excellent, too.
Note devices were once heralded for excellent battery life, but with the Note 8 it’s merely ‘okay’. The battery cell itself is actually smaller than the one in the S8+, even though the screen is bigger and brighter here.
In its regular power mode mode, I’d be highly concerned that the Note 8’s 3300mAh battery wouldn’t get me through a full day of web browsing, social media, streaming music and taking photos.
I had a day out in which I browsed the web on the phone for a couple of hours, took maybe 50 photos and did about 15 minutes of Maps navigation, and by the end of the day I was scrabbling for a charger. Things did get better though, and throughout the majority of the review I was averaging 5 hours of screen-on time. This isn’t a bad number, but I would expect something more substantial for a phone of this size.
The phone does at least charge ridiculously quickly; expect to go from an empty tank to full in 90 minutes with the supplied charger.
With the optimised mode switched on, I’d be more confident about getting through a day of heavy use. The phone is noticeably slower (around 20% according to my benchmarks), but it’s still fast enough not to be annoying.
Samsung’s power-saving modes are among the best I’ve ever used, with each one customisable to your exact wants and needs. But I’d much prefer it if I could ignore them and have a phone that I could use all day.
I think Samsung is making an assumption that the people who buy this phone will spend a good portion of their day at work, with the phone plugged in. If that sounds like you, you’ll be fine. But just remember than when you take your Note 8 out for the weekend or on holiday, you’ll absolutely need a battery pack on your person or in your luggage.
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Should I buy the Galaxy Note 8?
By this point, you’re probably tossing up whether you should buy a Galaxy S8+, the Note 8 or maybe even wait for the iPhone X. The Note 8 costs close to £900 upfront, while the S8+ is smidge under £800. Over the course of a contract you probably won’t feel much of a difference.
It comes down to features, then. The Note 8 has a dual-camera setup which is entirely non-essential yet extremely fun to use, while the stylus is certainly useful for many. Meanwhile, the S8+ has an easier-to-hold design and a larger battery at 3500mAh, which for many people will be the difference between making it through a full day of heavy usage and having to dig out the battery pack at 9pm.
If its extra pen and camera features interest you, the Note 8 is undoubtedly a decent buy if you can stomach learning how to use power-saving modes.