Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Hands On: Banishing Demons

A year ago this month, Samsung released its finest smartphone yet. As we all know, things didn’t quite go as planned, and Samsung has been hard at work since to repair its reputation as one of the world’s best smartphone makers. The Galaxy S8 series was a sensational testament to that, but today’s the real acid test for Samsung: successor to the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7, the Galaxy Note 8.
After spending some time with the Galaxy Note 8, it must be said that there is a strong sense of deja vu – the device has the familiarity of the Galaxy Note 7, with the handsome Infinity Display from the S8 series patched on for good measure. Perhaps because of this (and the much-needed dual-camera upgrade), the Galaxy Note 8 is – somewhat surprisingly – rather uninspired.
New Old S Pen

The first inclination of this was in the press release, where comparisons such as the S Pen were not made between the Note 8 and Note 7, but rather with the Note 5 – a phone from 2015. Physically, the S Pen looks and feels the same as that on the Note 7; we’re told it is very slightly thinner. There were also few new features for the S Pen that isn’t gimmicky (Live Message) or iterative (Screen Off Memo now supports up to 100 pages, because reasons).
But these new features do sound useful for the business user, where the Note series is a popular choice. The Glance feature allows you to minimise an app, and hovering the S Pen over the minimised app opens it in full screen; moving the S Pen away minimises it again. S Pen Translate is basically a renamed version of Translate from the Note 7; it can now translate sentences from up to 71 languages.

Meanwhile, one Note 8 feature that sounds very useful is App Pairing. Basically, it makes opening two apps in Multi Window in just one S Pen tap. Users can customise which two apps can be opened together in the App Pairing menu (for example, YouTube and Gmail), and it’ll appear on the Air Command menu when you slide out the S Pen.
Big(ger) Brother

This being a Samsung product, the Galaxy Note 8 is still a handsome, well-crafted device. It shares a similar design language with the Galaxy S8 series, but with some caveats. The dual-curve display has has a more acute curve angle compared to the S8 for better note-taking, but as a result, the phone itself has a boxier feel to it.

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the use of the Galaxy S8+, but the Note 8 feels larger than it should be despite being only marginally larger then the S8+. The different, more acute curvature of the Galaxy Note 8 makes it really tough to touch the top corners of the display with one hand, even if the display is only 0.1 inch larger than the S8+.
Dual Camera Misstep

But of course, the biggest difference here is at the back. There’s a new dual-camera module, comprising of two 12MP sensors, and in an industry first, both sensors have Optical Image Stabilisation. The solution here is similar to that on the iPhone 7 Plus, but on paper at least, the Note 8 has the superior option. The telephoto lens allows for 2x optical zoom, just like the iPhone 7 Plus, but the inclusion of OIS and an f/2.4 aperture (f/2.8 on the iPhone 7 Plus) means the Note 8’s secondary camera should perform better.
This of course means the Galaxy Note 8 has its own portrait mode, and here it’s called Live Focus. The difference here is that it allows you to adjust the depth of field levels in real time; you can also do it after the image is taken.
That’s where I feel Samsung got it wrong.

While the ability to adjust the bokeh effect might sound beneficial, Samsung’s implementation of this is rather poor. Images shot in Live Focus mode have zero bokeh effects by default, and look the same as any other 2x zoom shots. There will be an option to “Adjust Background Blur” in the Gallery, with a slider to adjust depth of field, and saving the end product.

This is the complete opposite of Portrait Mode in the iPhone 7 Plus, which does all of the computational work automatically, and also gives a real-time preview of the bokeh effect. The Galaxy Note 8, on the other hand, makes you work hard for it. Definitely room for improvement here.
Unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, when photographing in Live Focus mode, the other sensor is also used, resulting in two images captured at the same time – but with vastly different frames. This opens up quite an interesting way of capturing two different images at the same time.

On a related note, the camera UI has also been tweaked slightly. There is now a one-touch toggle between 2x and 1x zoom (which is necessary because of the dual-camera setup), but below the frame are additional shooting modes: Bixby Vision, Live Focus, and Stickers. While Bixby Vision and Stickers aren’t new (they debuted in the S8), their UI have been changed from icons to text, which helps visibility. Otherwise, the UI remains similar, and will be instantly familiar to Galaxy S and Note users.
One piece of good news: Bixby Vision still has huge prominence in the UI as Samsung aims to feed the AI platform more raw data to learn from, but thankfully the annoying pop-up to use Bixby Vision on the S8 camera is no longer here.

It also appears that Samsung has its own way of addressing concerns with the location of the fingerprint sensor. It is still at the back, but Samsung has moved the heart rate sensor to be in between the dual camera module and the fingerprint sensor, making it less awkward to use. It is still quite difficult to reach, though.
We will be working on a separate post comparing the Galaxy Note 8’s camera with the Galaxy S8+, so stay tuned for that.
User-Friendly UI Tweaks

There are very subtle changes in the phone UI too. The Galaxy Note 8 is basically the same as the S8 series with additional S Pen software, but digging deeper into the Settings app shows some genuinely user-friendly updates. For example, there’s an option to “confirm PIN without tapping OK” when using PIN codes to unlock the phone. This is a ridiculously simple tweak, but it fixes a genuinely irritating issue with the lock screen (for those not using any of the biometric security unlocking modes).
There’s also a new setting that prevents the display panel from registering accidental touches when the phone is in a dark place such as a pocket or bag. Again, it sounds like a mindless feature, but it means an end to pocket dials and butt selfies.

The specs are mainly similar to the Galaxy S8+, with 10nm Snapdragon 835 or Exynos 8995 chipsets, but 6GB of RAM would definitely help power users – and using it with the DeX Station. One concern would likely be battery life: at just 3,300mAh, it is smaller than the 3,500mAh unit on the Galaxy S8+. It appears Samsung is still tip-toeing the area of batteries.
Playing Safe

In fact, the entire phone feels like Samsung is playing safe. Despite the stellar performance of the Galaxy S8 series, it seems like Samsung is still haunted by the Note 7, and is opting to iterate instead of pushing boundaries. The addition of a dual camera and the Infinity Display are two such examples here: they’re necessary upgrades, but not entirely groundbreaking.
It is, of course, too early to draw conclusions at this point, and so we will reserve judgment when our full review is out.
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Samsung Teases New Gear S Smartwatch: More Details To Be Revealed On 30 August

Today is a big day for Samsung as the company officially unveiled its brand-new Galaxy Note8 to the public. However, the company apparently still have more new products to announce later this month according to the teaser that was shown at the end of Note8’s launch event.
Based on the silhouettes in the teaser, it seems that one of the new products is likely a new Gear S smartwatch. This doesn’t come as a surprise though since the President of Samsung’s mobile division, DJ Koh has generally confirmed it during an interview with CNBC.
Last year’s Samsung Gear S3.

At the same time, there is also what we assumed to be Gear Fit2 Pro which was listed on Samsung Malaysia’s website for few hours before it was taken down. Since the fitness-oriented wearable didn’t make its official debut at Galaxy Note8 event tonight as many might have expected, the 30 August is definitely the next best candidate for its official unveiling at the moment.
We also noticed two other silhouettes within the teaser but we couldn’t think up of any products that can fit those shapes. Nevertheless, they might be substantial products given the scale of the event which will happen just in time for IFA 2017. So, stay tuned to find out more about these upcoming Samsung devices in just 6 days’ time.
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Spec Sheet: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs. HTC U11 vs. OnePlus 5 vs. Other 2017 Flagships

The Samsung Galaxy Note series is back with the Note 8, and it’s sleeker, faster, and more impressive than ever. Then again, this is really a given for any new generation smartphone, but the Note 8 certainly has plenty to prove after Samsung’s fiery debacle last year. Well, without further ado, let’s start comparing the Galaxy Note 8 to its competition – and predecessors.
Of course, the main difference between the Galaxy Note 8 and its predecessors lies in the phone’s dual-camera system. Packed with a 12MP dual-pixel camera and a 12MP telephoto shooter (both sensors come with optical image stabilisation too), the Note 8’s camera configuration is very similar to the iPhone 7 Plus‘, not to mention a slew of other smartphones like the Xiaomi Mi 6 and OnePlus 5.

Aside from its camera setup, the Galaxy Note 8 comes with several neat upgrades as well. It has the Galaxy S8 series’ impressive-looking Infinity Display, more RAM than ever at 6GB, and to top it off, there’s even a variant of the Note 8 with a very generous 256GB internal storage.
However, there is one area the Galaxy Note 8 is particularly…underwhelming: battery capacity. Equipped with a 3,300mAh cell, the Note 8 has an even smaller battery than its immediate predecessor, the Galaxy Note 7. That being said, pushing the battery capacity of the Note 7 was what caused the whole debacle last year; perhaps Samsung is still playing it safe with the Note 8.

The Samsung Galaxy S8+.
Comparing the Galaxy Note 8’s specifications to its competition, there’s no denying that it’s one of the most capable smartphones released this year. Its 6.3-inch QHD+ Infinity Display is one of the sleekest and sharpest displays in the market, it has an IP68-rated body – even the S Pen is water-resistant – and given Samsung’s past excellence with its smartphone cameras, we imagine the Note 8’s dual-camera system will be quite the performer too.
However, the Galaxy Note 8 is by no means “the perfect smartphone.” Its 3,300mAh battery, as mentioned, is quite concerning. Not only is it even smaller than the Galaxy S8+‘s 3,500mAh battery, the Note 8 also has a slightly bigger 6.3-inch display. Sure, the Galaxy S8+ has respectable battery life to begin with, but given the larger dimensions of the Note 8, it’s only natural to expect a higher capacity battery.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is perhaps the most impressive Note device yet, but it also faces some tough competition. If not by the current crop of flagship smartphones, it will certainly see some strong competition from Apple, LG, or even Google with its new Pixel smartphones in the very near future. Only time will tell if the Note 8 will be another winner for Samsung.
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Samsung Galaxy Note8 Pre-Order In Malaysia To Start On 5 September

Samsung Malaysia has revealed that it will begin to take pre-order for its brand-new Galaxy Note8 starting from 5 September onwards. This is in-line with the device’s global launch date which will begin on 15 September.
The company further point out that the pre-order period will take place until 10 September. However, it still finalizing the exact pre-order package for our market.

Nevertheless, Samsung Malaysia has confirmed that it will announce all the details at this particular part of its official website. The site is still inactive at this moment though, so you might want to check it from time to time as we get closer to the pre-order period.
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Samsung Galaxy Note8 Goes Official: Featuring The Series Biggest Screen To Date and More

As promised, Samsung has officially reveals its latest smartphone in the form of Galaxy Note8. Through the official announcement, the company has confirmed almost all the leaks and rumors that we’ve heard about the device prior to the launch event.
This include the phone’s 6.3-inch Super AMOLED Infinity Display with Quad HD+ (2960 x 1440) resolution which is the biggest screen ever fitted into a Galaxy Note device since the series debut in 2011. Available with either 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB internal storage, the new smartphone also comes with 6GB of RAM.

Of course, it is not a Galaxy Note device without an S Pen and things are no different for Galaxy Note8. According to Samsung, the S Pen on Galaxy Note8 apparently has finer tip and improved pressure sensitivity as compared to Galaxy Note5.
Complete with IP68 dust and water resistance rating, the new Galaxy Note8 is also equipped with dual rear camera setup that includes a 12MP f/1.7 dual pixel autofocus wide-angle camera and 12MP f/2.4 telephoto camera with both cameras are equipped with optical image stabilization. They are also equipped with 2x optical and 10x digital zoom capabilities.

On its front, there is also an 8MP f/1.7 autofocus camera. Pre-installed with Android 7.1.1, the Note8 comes standard with a 3,300mAh battery that is compatible with Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0 alongside WPC and PMA wireless charging standards.
As expected from a flagship device, the Note8 is protected by three types of biometric security measures including fingerprint, iris sensor, and facial recognition.

In terms of release date, the Galaxy Note8 will be available throughout the world starting from mid-September. Available in Midnight Black, Orchid Grey, Maple Gold, and Deepsea Blue, we expect the information regarding its availability and pricing in Malaysia will be announced very soon. So, stay tuned.
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The New Gear Fit2 Pro Appears On Samsung Malaysia’s Website

We have been hearing rumors about this wearable device which apparently will make an appearance at tonight’s Samsung Galaxy Note 8 launch but as the story goes, the device has already appeared on Samsung Malaysia’s official website. Say hello to the new Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro.
At a glance, it might look no different from last year’s Gear Fit 2. In fact, they are indeed similar in many ways as both fitness-oriented wearables do have the same 1.5-inch Super AMOLED curved display as well as 500MB RAM, 4GB internal storage and 200mAh battery.
However, the new Gear Fit 2 Pro can be used for swimming and users are able to record their swimming activities through its Speedo app.
(Source: Samsung Malaysia)
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Huawei’s Four Camera Smartphone To Be Called Nova 2i: Coming To Malaysia This Sept

Earlier this week, Huawei Malaysia has posted a rather curious image that teases an upcoming addition to its Nova smartphone series. Today, we have received a number of details regarding the device including its name, camera setup, and more.
First and foremost, the new Nova smartphone will be called Nova 2i. As what you might have guessed from the teaser, the new smartphones will indeed come with four cameras – specifically, two of them are located in front of the device while the other two is on its back.
2 + 2 = 4.
Aside from its quad camera setup, another factor that made Nova 2i sounds rather interesting is its display which apparently will come in 18:9 aspect ratio and minimalist bezels. Furthermore, the phone will be apparently priced at under RM 2,000.
While all these details sound rather interesting, we still going to hold our judgement until we see the new Nova 2i ourselves which apparently will be launched in Malaysia this coming September. So, stay tuned.
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Apple’s Project Titan to become a self-driving campus shuttle?

Project Titan a couple of years ago was Apple’s ambitious plan to build a self-driving car. They hired plenty of veterans in the industry but the entire project never panned out. Now Apple has solely focused on self-driving technology while clearly saying that they are not going into the car making business. In an interview with Bloomberg, Tim Cook mentioned that Apple’s focus is autonomous systems.
In a report by the New York Times, Apple these days are looking at trying to create a self-driving shuttle that will ferry their employees between their current HQ at Infinite Loop to the new spaceship looking campus. No details are available about the shuttle but it will be likely a commercial vehicle. Having a test bed is great because it will allow Apple to test their autonomous system on a vehicle which is constantly required to ferry employees between locations on a daily basis. Employees can also assist by providing feedback and report any bugs or issues.
The codename for the project is called PAIL which stands for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop. No news of when the deployment of these campus shuttle has been revealed yet. Looking at the size of the entire new campus in which Apple is currently building, I am not surprised that they require a campus shuttle to ferry employees around.
According to AppleInsider, it was an internal strife which was what caused the initial grandiose plans of Project Titan to falter. Various groups had different visions for Project Titan which led to it ending prematurely. Still, with new leadership, Apple is now focusing on the technology as well as the support systems for autonomous vehicles.
[Source: AppleInsider & The New York Times]

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Lamborghini Announces New Alpha-One Luxury Smartphone

Lamborghini recently announced a new luxury Android smartphone called the Alpha-One. As expected, it is a premium device that is made with the finest materials, giving it a price tag that no ordinary person can afford – it retails at US$2,450, that’s about RM10,500.
There’s no diamond or gold like Vertu luxury smartphones though. The Alpha-One is made using “Italian handmade black leather”, and comes with a matching Italian leather phone case. There is however, liquid-metal frame that is stronger than titanium alloy. The Lamborghini logo sits at the back of the device, and can be found on the leather phone case as well.

Specifications wise, the Alpha-One is pretty decent. It has a 5.5” WQHD display with a resolution of 2560 x 1440. On the inside, it is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage; it supports microSD cards of up to 128GB. Other specs include 20MP rear camera, 8MP selfie camera, 3250mAh battery, dual-SIM support, fingerprint scanner, and runs on Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box.
According to Lamborghini, the Alpha-One is the “perfect fusion of Italian design & the most luxurious technology”. This is not the first smartphone by the Italian supercar maker. Back in 2014, the company launched the Tonino Lamborghini 88 Tauri, a high-end smartphone back then.

The Alpha-One goes on sale starting today in UK and UAE. It is also available online with global shipping. Do note that for US$2,450, you only get the Alpha-One smartphone, a matching Italian leather sleeve phone case, and a charger cable; no adapter included. Check out Lamborghini now for more information about its latest Alpha-One smartphone.
(Source: The Verge)
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Xiaomi Opening Another Physical Store in Malaysia; This Time in Kuala Lumpur

Back in April this year, Xiaomi opened its first-ever physical store in Penang. Since then, many consumers were hoping for the Chinese company to open another store in other parts of Malaysia. Well, it appears Xiaomi is indeed opening a second store here, and it’s in Kuala Lumpur this time around.
First spotted by SoyaCincau, Xiaomi’s next physical store is currently under construction in Suria KLCC; Xiaomi Malaysia itself also confirmed the store’s existence. According to Xiaomi, the store is expected to be up and running sometime in October 2017; that’s only in a couple of months’ time.

Chances are, the Xiaomi Store in Suria KLCC will be quite similar to the one in Penang. Aside from the usual suite of Xiaomi smartphones and accessories, we can expect the yet to be opened store to carry Xiaomi’s range of other smart products too. Perhaps even items not found on Xiaomi’s online store.

It’s great to see Xiaomi opening up more physical stores in Malaysia. These retail outlets may not be like Xiaomi’s very own Mi Home stores, but it does show that the company is focusing quite a bit on the Malaysian market. We expect to hear more from Xiaomi as we approach the store’s opening month in October.
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