Samsung's mid-size iPad competitor will be available in the U.S. this week.
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Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 tablet will be available at U.S. electronics stores beginning April 11. The tablet, which features an 8-inch display, S Pen stylus and loads of Samsung software, costs $399. It can be found at Amazon, Best Buy/Best Buy Mobile, H.H. Gregg, Newegg, P.C. Richard & Son, Staples and TigerDirect.com.
The Note 8 was first unveiled at the Mobile World Congress trade show in February. It strongly resembles Samsung's current line of smartphones, especially the Galaxy S 3. It is made of glossy plastics that are smooth to the touch. It is dense, strong and comfortable to use. The screen is 1280 pixels by 800 pixels, for a pixel density of 189 PPI. It is not the sharpest screen available, but the TFT LCD impresses with its colors and brightness.
The Note 8 is powered by a quad-core ARM Cortex A9 processor with each core rated at 1.6 GHz. This is paired with 2 GB of RAM and up to 32 GB of on-board storage. The tablet has two cameras: a 5-megapixel main camera and a 1.3-megapixel user-facing camera. The main camera doubles as an HD videocamera.
For connecting, the Note 8 includes dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, GPS, GLONASS and Bluetooth. It appears as though Samsung has changed its tune regarding cellular connectivity, however.
When the device was first announced, Samsung said it would sell with HSPA+ cellular tech on board for international models. That much has remained the same. Samsung also said that at least one U.S. carrier would offer the Note 8 with LTE on board. That, apparently, has changed.
The model announced Tuesday loses HSPA+ and offers only Wi-Fi. There's no LTE. That means U.S. consumers will not be able to connect to the Internet unless via Wi-Fi. It's a disappointing omission, as it means the Note 8 also can't be used for cellular phone calls -- one of the stand-out features of the tablet. Samsung did not give a reason for deleting the 3G/4G radio from the U.S. version.
The tablet comes with tons of customized software from Samsung. Although it runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean at its core, TouchWiz and Samsung's apps take precedence over Google's. For example, Awesome Note provides power users with a to-do list app on steroids. The Note 8 also supports dual-viewing mode, which lets users run two apps on the screen at the same time. Each app appears in its own window, and the size of the app windows themselves can be adjusted. Users can employ the S Pen to pull up secondary menus and use Air View to see previews of links and other content.
Initial reviews of the device at The Verge and Engadget found fault in the Note 8's cheap construction, poor camera performance and below-average battery life. They also noted that Samsung's user interface tweaks are overbearing at times.
The Galaxy Note 8 might have trouble competing with the iPad Mini for one big reason: the price. At $399, it costs $70 more than the entry-level iPad Mini. The fact that the iPad Mini can be purchased with or without LTE 4G also gives consumers a bit more flexibility with Apple's tablet.
There's also the upcoming second-generation Nexus 7 to consider. Although the screen will be smaller -- seven inches instead of eight -- Google's Nexus-branded tablet will be free of Samsung's kludgy software customizations. The Note 8 will beat the Nexus 7 to market by a good three months, though, as the N7 isn't expected to arrive until July.
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