Saturday, June 29, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review (N5100)

This is my personal take on the Galaxy note 8.0 I bought this month. My first 8 inch device after trying my hands on 7 and 10 incher. I used it for 10 days. This was good time for me to evaluate how the device fared.

The specs are good. Quad-core 1.6 GHz processor could handle the load on the device, no slowdown or drag noted.  2GB RAM is great for hosting lot of applications. I bought the 16GB model that also has a micro SD card slot for more space addition, if need be. This ran on Android 4.1.2

It is plastic built and to me that does not make it look cheap or poorly designed. It fits well for what it is. It is a fingerprint magnet though and of the highest order. The body becomes sticky and glossy. It was difficult to rub of the oil and I resorted to using wet cloth to wipe it clean every couple of days. It could probably be that I was taking the device wherever I went. Putting a decent screen protector was helpful to some extent.

Screen quality is good, no matter what most reviews are saying. The resolution of 800 x 1280 could be better but this is good to go for me. On paper the 189 PPI of this device could be less than Nexus 7, but to bare eyes there is no difference. I have never found it to be pixelated. I somehow felt the screen was kind of fragile and may not survive a hammering sessions with my kid. So I bought a book cover for it, but then it looses the portability touch..

Video playback quality is good and sound is OK, don't expect exceptional performance here.

The 5MP back Camera without the flash is good for those quick moments while you are working on the device. I prefer my phone for such function. Applications such as Camscanner make good quality scans. It can do 720p recording at 30fps, no I did not try this, again my phone serves me for this.

The device size is great for portability, if not compared with the 7 inch form factor. 8 inch screen is good to view images and video. You also get a bigger screen state to interact with, good to have for drawing/sketching apps. This however does not mean that I could easily carry this in my pant pockets. Nope it did not fit in my front pant pockets, some part of it always hanged out risking a fall. So I had to carry it around in my hand like a book.

Ranting -7 inch is my all time favourite as it is a perfect balance between portability and screen state, besides being perfect for keyboard typing with thumbs.

The forte of this device is the stylus, known as S-Pen by Samsung. It is truly a wonderful interface. The screen response is real-time, it is like writing on a paper. Samsung has improvised on this interface and to me this seems unparalleled (I have lived with the Note 1 and Note 10 to arrive at this opinion).

The option of cutting screenshots, web pages, images and then editing them for needful effect is wonderful and very much useful.

While other features like air-view, hover your stylus to interact with the screen, can be useful for some. Air-view is supported by some apps and there will be more coming in for sure. This has also worked well to expand menu or highlight URL for some sites I often visit.

My main intention of checking out this device is to try out the text writing rather than text typing. I was amazed at how well the device could interpret my handwriting and convert it along with proper predictions. It took few tries to get used to, and I could achieve 99% accuracy if I wrote each character separated from the other. I might have penned down about 50 pages or so.

The S-Note application provides more functions for using S-Pen. For instance there is this drawing mode that autocorrects the sketchy images for curve, line and length. I could actually achieve some good structured diagram using this in office and share it with colleagues.

S-Pen was very refreshing from typing in the text. After few days of use, I however started getting stiffness in my hand. I soon realised that the writing area at the bottom of the screen is pretty small and cornered. This resulted in some extra effort to place my hand at bottom edge of the phone while writing. This became discomforting the more I used it.

It should be noted that the screen becomes aware of the stylus pointer as soon as the dot (cursor) is visible on the screen and normal finger or palm touch on the screen is ignored. This is good design.  However, the touch and physical keys at the bottom edge often reacted by mistake while I was typing (in portrait mode). The keys ignored my resting palm while I typed, but there was that occasional touch which registered. This was irritating. Using the landscape made it difficult to hold the device while writing.
It could be that one needs some time to adjust to the behaviour. One has to keep the stylus dot active (keep stylus close to screen) when typing to make the device understand that human touch is to be ignored.

I compared this with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 inch tablet. Given the slightly  bigger screen state, the writing area was also wider and more comfortable to handle the stylus on.

I bought my device with the GSM sim support. Though I never got a chance to try this out. I could barely hold the device from behind in single hand, let alone using it like a phone. Yes this could be much easier to do for folks with wider palm reach.

This was my first device that could actually send a print to my printer, a Samsung model again. The provided print driver allows print function support for Samsung printers only. I did not try the wireless print, I used an OTG cable to directly connect the device with printer. It recognized  the printer. The print quality however suffered from slight blurriness as compared to the print taken from my computer.
Another welcoming feature was the micro USB port rather than the proprietary Samsung charging and data port. This meant I could use the same cable to charge all my devices.

No complains on battery life. It survived a days work, sometimes more. It used to recharge when I connected it my desktop USB, handy to plug in when I am on my desk.

Over all, the device raises the excitement level and opens up lot of interactive option thanks to the well integrated stylus.

For those who love designing and working with rich media content, this device is ideal. This could in fact be the standards that others should benchmark.

If the price could be a bit lower, and I hope it will eventually be, this device is highly recommended for those who want a portable device for rich media consumption and stylus use.