Galaxy Note 8.0: Still the best small tablet

Google recently launched the new Nexus 7 into the small tablet space. While a nice tablet at a decent price, the Nexus 7 is not in the same league as the Galaxy Note 8.0.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
Note 8.0
Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

When the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 arrived a couple of months ago the value over the iPad mini was readily apparent. In addition to rivaling the size of the super-thin little iPad, the Note 8.0 has two features the former lacks. After two months of heavy use of the Galaxy Note 8.0, the value of the tablet is still very good.

Google recently launched the new Nexus 7, a nice tablet at a decent price. The refreshed model has good hardware running the newest version of the Android OS. While the new Nexus 7 is a solid entry into the tablet space, it doesn't have anything to knock the Note 8.0 off its high pedestal.

Hardware specs:

  • Processor: Samsung Exynos 4412, 1.6GHz quad-core
  • Display: 8-inch, 1280x800, 189 ppi, touch + pen digitizer
  • Memory: 2GB
  • Storage: 16GB, microSD up to 64GB
  • Cameras: Front- 1.3MP, Back- 5MP
  • OS: Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
  • Battery: 4,600 mAh
  • Connectivity: wi-fi a/b/g/n, 2.4 and 5 GHz
  • Dimensions: 210.8x135.9x7.95 mm, 8.29x5.35x0.31 inches; 340g, 0.74lb

While the hardware inside the Note 8.0 isn't as fast as that in the Nexus 7, pefrormance of the former is very snappy. The processor in the Note is more than enough to handle anything you need to do on the tablet. Scrolling is smooth, video plays well, and it handles multitasking with ease.

Multiview on Note 8.0 -- Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Google launched Android 4.3 with the Nexus 7, an advantage over the Note 8.0. Even so, Android 4.1 which is used on the Note 8.0 has been modified by Samsung to provide unique functionality. The multiview feature that allows running two apps side-by-side on the display (see image above), is a powerful feature. It makes it possible to keep an eye on a running app on the left while working in another app displaying on the right pane.

Smart stay is another feature that uses the front camera to check if the user is looking at the screen. As long as it "sees" the user looking it prevents the display from dimming and shutting off. This feature is available on certain Samsung smartphones, too and is one of the best utilities on mobile devices.

The Note 8.0 has something not found on other small tablets, the S Pen. Taking handwritten notes on the fly is a great feature. Samsung has included special apps to leverage using the pen. These include a note app and a planner app that make using the pen a nice benefit over the competition.

The pen can be used to write in any app due to special support by Samsung. Anywhere you can use the onscreen keyboard in Android you can use the pen to write text instead.

Next page: Great apps on the Galaxy Note 8.0

Good apps on the Galaxy Note 8.0

The tablet is only as good as the apps used, and this list includes some nice ones.

(For a complete list see: Good apps for the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0)

S Note -- Samsung has included a note-taking app that takes full advantage of the pen. Sliding the pen out of the silo on the Note 8.0 causes a pop-up note page to appear on the screen, ready to capture handwritten notes.

S Note

Kindle app -- The Note 8.0 is the perfect reading tablet as the screen size of 8 inches combined with the slim form of the device is as good as any reading device.


Flipboard -- Reading news from the web and following Facebook updates using this app is great on the Note 8.0. 


 Tweetings -- This app is a Twitter client that works particularly well in multiview mode.


Pocket Informant -- This is a PIM app that can do all the things related to calendar, tasks, contacts, and note functions. The 8-inch display of the Note 8.0 is particularly suited to displaying the many different views of the app.

Pocket Informant

 Google+ -- The Android version of Google+ is top-notch, and using it on the Note 8.0 is pure joy.


 These are just a few of the apps that work particularly well on the Galaxy Note 8.0. Most Android tablet apps are pretty good, too.

Next page: Great accessory for the Galaxy Note 8.0; Conclusion

Good accessories for tablets can add the ability to do tasks outside the scope of the slate form. The large accessory ecosystem for the iPad mini is an advantage over the Galaxy Note 8.0. The number of good keyboards on the market for the little iPad bears witness to that.

See also: 5 best iPad mini keyboards

Other accessories aside, a good case can extend the value of a tablet and Samsung makes a very good one for the Note 8.0.

Samsung Book Cover

Book Cover Typing mode

Apple first introduced the smart cover with the iPad, and Samsung has produced a good one for the Galaxy Note 8.0. It uses smart cover technology so the tablet turns on/off when you open/close the cover.

The cover can be positioned in two different angles: one for reading and typing and another for watching video. A magnet embedded in the cover holds it in the desired configuration but is a little unstable in the video watching position.

Unlike the iPad smart cover, Samsung's completely covers the Note 8.0 for protection. It adds little bulk to the slim Note 8.0. The protection it provides was inadvertently tested as the Note 8.0 survived a fall from a table with no damage.

The Samsung Book Cover is expensive at $50 but is worth it for the protection and the utility it offers. Since it arrived the Galaxy Note 8.0 has not been out of the Book Cover case.


L-R: Note 8.0, iPad mini

The iPad mini is a nice tablet that will appeal to many, and the new Nexus 7 is a good value for some in the Android camp. Being so new this writer hasn't used the new Nexus 7 yet but even so, after heavily using the Galaxy Note 8.0 it is apparent the latter is the best small tablet.

Samsung has added good value by including the pen with special apps to leverage the pen support missing on other small tablets. The multiview capability unique to Samsung Notes is also an advantage over the competition. The Galaxy Note 8.0 has several features that the competition lacks, and for this reason this writer considers it the best small tablet at the time of this writing.


Editorial standards