No one would have blamed Samsung if the Note 8 were never released. After a global recall halted sales of the Note 7 in their tracks, some execs at Samsung probably floated the idea of retiring the Note brand altogether.

It’s good they didn’t. The Note 8 isn’t just a return to form, it’s the best phone Samsung has ever made, bar none. And until the iPhone 8 and Pixel 2 make their appearances—and maybe even after—it’s simply the best phone money can buy.

galaxy note8 on table Doug Duvall/IDG

The Galaxy Note 8 has beauty and brains to spare.

Mind you, the best phone money can buy doesn’t come cheap. At $930, it’s $100 more expensive than last year’s model and inches ever closer to that psychological $1,000 barrier. But if you don’t have any qualms about dropping a small fortune on something with such a high probability of cracking, you’ll be plenty happy with your purchase (unless, of course, it cracks). Everything about the Note 8 improves upon both the Note 7 and the Galaxy S8+ (even the fingerprint sensor). Barring another catastrophic roll-out, the Note 8 should once again set the standard for productivity phablets.

A familiar design with a twist

Put the Note 8 and the Galaxy S8+ side by side on a table and you’ll barely see any difference. The Note 8 has the same gorgeous Infinity Display as the S8+, and at 6.3 inches, the screen is a barely perceptible 0.1 inches larger. It also has all the same ports and buttons—power, volume, Bixby, 3.5mm, and the off-center USB-C—and delivers the same fast wireless charging and IP68 water resistance.

galaxy note8 comparison Doug Duvall/IDG

The Galaxy Note 8 (right), is a little bigger than the Galaxy S8+ (center), and a lot bigger than the Galaxy S8 (left).

But the Note 8 isn’t identical to the S8+. Along with the addition of an S Pen slot on the bottom edge, the main difference is the shape. While the S8 has rounded corners on the case, the Note 8 is more squared-off, making the phone appear even taller than it is. It’s a weird optical illusion that eventually faded after a few days, and I ultimately learned to like the design even more than the S8’s.

It’s surprisingly functional, too. I dropped the S8+ almost immediately after I opened up its box (and numerous times thereafter), but the squared-off edges on the Note 8 help me keep a firmer grip. The Note 8 is, however, about 20 grams heavier than the S8+, and the extra weight is definitely noticeable, making the Note 8 feel significantly more substantial.

Flip it over and you’ll find the same horizontal camera array, except this time around there are two lenses. The fingerprint sensor is in the same position to the right of the array, though it’s not nearly as terrible to use as it is on the S8.

A big, bold screen

Like the S8, the Note 8 is all about the screen. It’s essentially the same as the one on the S8+: Super AMOLED WQHD+ (1440×2960), though the extra tenth of an inch means the pixel density is slightly reduced (521 PPI vs. 529 PPI on the S8+). Also, the corners of the screen match the squarer edges of the phone, making for nice symmetry.



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