Review: Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 Nails Phone Productivity

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When we reviewed Samsung's Galaxy S8 Plus in the spring, we described the device as the ultimate smartphone for multitaskers. But Samsung has now one-upped itself with the debut of the Galaxy Note 8, which ships Sept. 15.

In our tryout with the Note 8 in recent days, we think there's good reason that Samsung didn't halt the device series after the disaster of the Galaxy Note 7.

The Galaxy Note 8 takes many of the key elements that Samsung introduced this year with the S8 and S8 Plus—most notably, a huge screen with minimal bezel—and gave them a Note spin. Importantly, we agree that there's enough difference from the S8 devices to warrant a distinct Note model.

[Related: Review: Samsung Blows Past Apple With The Galaxy S8+]

The digital pen housed in the phone itself is back with the Note 8, and it works just as well as it did on the Note 7. The pen is natural to use, and the ability to take notes on the lock screen remains a great feature for the productivity-oriented.

The display is a highlight even though there's not much different here from the 6.2-inch S8 Plus. The Note 8 display measures 6.3 inches, and looks terrific thanks to its use of Super AMOLED and 2,960 x 1,440 resolution.

Split Screen

While we're talking display, we should mention one of the standout software features of the Note 8. We liked split-screen mode on the S8 Plus, which lets two apps share the display at a time. With a huge screen, it can have a real benefit for multitasking. For instance, having your calendar and email open at the same time can save a lot of effort when you're trying to figure out your schedule on the fly.

But, we didn't love the multistep process of using split-screen mode on the S8 Plus. Samsung got the message, and the Note 8 has an upgrade—a feature called App Pair. The feature lets you open two apps in split-screen mode with a single press.

For instance, along with setting up email and calendar to open together, you might want to pair Facebook and YouTube. There is a little bit of setup involved to get the apps paired, and you do need to first access the "Apps Edge" panel on the right side of the home screen. One nitpick—it would be better to have paired app icons accessible directly from the home screen itself to make things even easier.

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