Though it isn’t "straight off the shelf" brand new anymore, we got our hands on one of the most impressive smartphones of 2017, the Samsung Note 8. Since the version of the device we bought (EMEA) is largely Arm based, it would be a shame not to have a small feature on the phone in our community. We regularly buy Arm based technology to benchmark and test programmes, but rarely do features. Let us know if this is something you want to see more of.
Opening the Samsung Note 8 box
It was a slight rocky patch for the Korean mobile giant with the previous version of the Note having to be recalled for some defects, but the bounce back to the Note 8 has been sensational. A phablet style device, you need two hands to safely handle it. The Note 8 boasts an edge to edge display, an S Pen stylus and a whole lot of style. It seems rather sharp and edgy when you first hold it compared to the more curvaceous Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, but after some time I really found myself falling for the rectangular style design of the camera/finger print module and small bezels top and bottom of the screen. Be warned though, if you are a clean freak like me, you will need a back cover on this phone, as the Midnight Black coloured phone got covered in fingerprints really quickly. I found myself constantly wiping it, so do yourself a favour and get a sleek cover if you have this phone. Another thing to point out is we didn’t use Bixby at all, and this was because we didn’t set the phone up for Bixby use! Sorry Bixby, but we will get around to using you sometime!
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 with S Pen
The Exynos 9 Series (8895) is a serious piece of hardware. The Exynos 8895 is built on a cutting-edge 10nm FinFET process that offers ultimate speed, superb power efficiency, and small chip size by utilizing structures which very effectively control current leakage. The 10nm FinFET process allows up to 27% higher performance or 40% lower power consumption when compared to 14nm LPE FinFET. The Exynos 8895 features an octa-core CPU which includes four Samsung’s second generation custom designed main CPU cores for improved performance and power efficiency plus four Arm Cortex-A53 cores. The second generation custom CPU core delivers enhanced performance and energy efficiency through improved IP and architectural design. Furthermore, Samsung Coherent Interconnect (SCI) is also upgraded to support cache coherency between the CPU and GPU for HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture) which enables faster calculations in fields such as artificial intelligence and deep learning.
As the complexity of 3D mobile graphics content continues to increase, the Exynos 8895 employs Arm’s first GPU, the Mali-G71, to be built on an advanced Bifrost graphics architecture. With twenty powerful graphics processing cores, performance has been improved by up to 60% compared to its predecessor. Through design optimizations, the new Mali GPU has improved power efficiency for longer lasting usage at lower temperatures. Supporting the latest graphics APIs including Vulkan, the Exynos 8895 offers sharp graphic details by utilizing advanced features such as MSAA, Mipmaps, and Tessellation.
Samsung have really outdone themselves with this chipset, and with Arm technology enabling their improvements from each generation of phone, we are really excited to see how they can build on this further. If you haven’t done so already, please check out the Exynos 9 Series for further details and view the amazing things it is capable of that frankly, I wouldn’t do justice to writing about it here.
By far the most impressive aspect of this phone, to me, are the visuals. I’m not sure if I can do it justice by trying to explain it so I’ll just show you some of the pictures I took with it below. The main camera is a 12MP sensor behind a wide-angle, f/1.7 lens. The second is another 12MP sensor behind a zoomed lens that provides 2x optical zoom behind a f/2.4 aperture. The Live Focus tool is the most impressive mobile camera tool I have used in years. This allows you to shoot images on the zoom lens, while the main camera is being used to understand the background. You can flick between the two in the camera settings and when used together this allows you focus and un-focus the background in real time to create some of the most stunning portrait pictures (I may have posted a few of them to Facebook, I thought it was that impressive).
Portrait of insect with Note 8 showing dynamic range
Samsung Note 8 Portrait
The S Pen is a stylus that has its own slot on the end of the device. I found it to be a really useful piece of kit. You can take notes, create fun little drawings and GIFs, use handwriting to text tools and in general just use it to control the phone. When you click and pop it out of its slot you get a really cool shortcut wheel with the main features that the stylus is supposed to be used for available. Even better is the alarm that goes off when you take the stylus too far away from the device, ensuring you don’t have any costly losses. One of the fun features of this phone is the ability to make GIF like messages which can be sent to friends in GIF or video format. See the video below for an example.
Creating GIF's using the S Pen on Samsung Note 8
One part of reviews that this phone seems to be getting a hard time is the battery. As an owner of another premium level android phone, I didn’t find it bad at all. I used it extensively for a whole day and it lasted as long as Samsung said it would last under stressful conditions. I also left it in my desk drawer with the always on display for an entire week and it still had 22% battery left. All in all I thought the battery was above average for such a staggeringly powerful device.
We really look forward to benchmarking this phone with our VR technology and seeing how it performs against its competition. Developers in the Arm ecosystem are demanding faster and more powerful phones all while keeping the thermal limits of devices in check. All in all, It’s been a strange year for mobiles. A lack of hype created around smartphones as the mobile market really settles down into maturity has led phone manufacturers to become bold and brilliant. At this point consumers will only accept the best of the best when they pay more than £500 for a phone. The Samsung Note 8 shines brightly in a field of already brilliant phones. A premium device, for a premium price, with a premium chipset. I for one am glad Arm technology shines brightly in the Note 8.