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The Samsung Galaxy Note8 Review - In A Class Of Its Own

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 Review – In A Class Of Its Own

We loved last year’s Samsung Galaxy Note7 and were sad to return it to Samsung before we could complete our review. We are glad to see it return as the Galaxy Note FE, but if you are one of those who were impressed by the Note7, you will be even more impressed with the new Samsung Galaxy Note8. It is literally in a class of its own.

In fact, we are so impressed with the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check), we gave it our Editor’s Choice Award. Find out why we think it deserves no less!

 

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 Specifications

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) is more than just a Samsung Galaxy S8 / S8+ with an S Pen. While it shares many similarities, it introduces numerous improvements. Here is a table that compares the specifications of the Galaxy Note8 against the Galaxy S8+ and the Galaxy Note7 (now known as the Galaxy Note FE)

SpecificationsSamsung Galaxy Note8Samsung Galaxy S8+Samsung Galaxy Note7
Display6.3" Super AMOLED dual-edge display
- 1440 x 2960 pixels (521 ppi)
6.2" Super AMOLED dual-edge display
- 1440 x 2960 pixels (529 ppi)
5.7" Super AMOLED dual-edge display
- 1440 x 2560 pixels (577 ppi)
ProtectionCorning Gorilla Glass 5 (front & back panels)Corning Gorilla Glass 5 (front & back panels)Corning Gorilla Glass 5 (front & back panels)
Operating System (At Launch)Android 7.1.1 NougatAndroid 7.0 NougatAndroid 6.0.1 Marshmallow
System PlatformSamsung Exynos 8895 Octa
or
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Samsung Exynos 8895 Octa
or
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Samsung Exynos 8890 Octa
Memory6 GB LPDDR4 SDRAM4 GB LPDDR4 SDRAM4 GB LPDDR4 SDRAM
Storage Options64 GB / 128 GB / 256 GB internal flash storage
One microSD slot (shared with SIM 2) - supports up to 256 GB
64 GB internal flash storage
One microSD slot (shared with SIM 2) - supports up to 256 GB
64 GB / 128 GB internal flash storage
One microSD slot (shared with SIM 2) - supports up to 200 GB
Front Camera8 MP sensor with f/1.7 lens8 MP sensor with f/1.7 lens5 MP sensor with f/1.7 lens
Rear CameraDual Lens Camera with Dual OIS

Wide-Angle Camera
12 MP (1.4 µm) sensor with f/1.7 lens, optical image stabilisation (OIS) and LED flash

Telephoto Camera (2X optical zoom)
12 MP (1.0 µm) sensor with f/2.4 lens, optical image stabilisation (OIS) and LED flash
12 MP Sony / Samsung (1.4 µm) sensor with f/1.7 lens, optical image stabilisation (OIS) and LED flash12 MP Sony / Samsung (1.4 µm) sensor with f/1.7 lens, optical image stabilisation (OIS) and LED flash
Dual SIM capabilityHybrid dual SIM (dual standby capability)
- SIM 2 + microSD shared slot
Hybrid dual SIM (dual active capability)
- SIM 2 + microSD shared slot
Hybrid dual SIM (dual active capability)
- SIM 2 + microSD shared slot
ConnectivityNetwork : LTE Cat. 16 (1 Gbps / 150 Mbps)
WiFi : 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz & 5 GHz), MIMO (2 x 2)
Bluetooth : Version 5.0 LE, ANT+
Others : USB 3.1, NFC, GPS
Network : LTE Cat. 16 (1 Gbps / 150 Mbps)
WiFi : 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz & 5 GHz), MIMO (2 x 2)
Bluetooth : Version 5.0 LE, ANT+
Others : USB 3.1, NFC, GPS
Network : LTE Cat. 16 (1 Gbps / 150 Mbps)
WiFi : 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz & 5 GHz), MIMO (2 x 2)
Bluetooth : Version 5.0 LE, ANT+
Others : USB 3.1, NFC, GPS
Fingerprint SensorYes, Rear MountedYes, Rear MountedYes, Home Button
Iris ScannerYesYesYes
Other SensorsAccelerometer, Proximity, RGB Light, Geo-magnetic, Gyro, Barometer, Hall, HRMAccelerometer, Proximity, RGB Light, Geo-magnetic, Gyro, Barometer, Hall, HRMAccelerometer, Proximity, RGB Light, Geo-magnetic, Gyro, Barometer, Hall, HRM
BixbyYesYesNo
S PenYesNoYes
Water & Dust ResistanceIP68IP68IP68
Battery3,300 mAh lithium-ion battery (non-removable)
- fast charging capability (wired & wireless)
- wireless charging (WPC and PMA)
3,500 mAh lithium-ion battery (non-removable)
- fast charging capability (wired & wireless)
- wireless charging (WPC and PMA)
3,500 mAh lithium-ion battery (non-removable)
- fast charging capability (wired & wireless)
- wireless charging (WPC and PMA)
Dimensions162.5 mm tall
74.8 mm wide
8.6 mm thick
159.5 mm tall
73.4 mm wide
8.1 mm thick
153.5 mm tall
73.9 mm wide
7.9 mm thick
Weight195 g173 g169 g
Colour OptionsMidnight Black, Deepsea Blue, Orchid Gray, Maple GoldMidnight Black, Orchid Gray, Arctic Silver, Coral Blue, Maple GoldBlue Coral, Silver Titanium, Gold Platinum, Black Onyx

 

Unboxing The Samsung Galaxy Note8

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) comes in the premium black Samsung box. Let’s unbox it, and see what’s inside!

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When you unpack everything, you should find the following items :

  • One Samsung Galaxy Note8 phablet with S Pen
  • One Samsung Galaxy Note8 TPU bumper case
  • One set of Samsung Galaxy Note8 documents
  • One 15 W Samsung Quick Adaptive Charger
  • One USB Type C cable, with USB Type A and micro USB converters
  • One pair of AKG earphones with replacement ear buds
  • One set of spare S Pen nibs, and nib extractor tool
  • One SIM tray extractor pin

Next Page > The Samsung Galaxy Note8 Up Close, Cameras, Hybrid SIM & Fingerprint Sensor

 

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The Samsung Galaxy Note8 Up Close

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) has a large 6.3″ Super AMOLED display with a WQHD+ resolution of 1440 x 2960 pixels. But thanks to its Infinity Display design, the Galaxy Note8 is just 2.2 mm wider than the Galaxy S7 edge, which only has a 5.5″ display! This means it will better fit smaller hands, while offering a much larger display.

Just as we saw with the Galaxy S8 (Price Check), the new Infinity Display covers almost the entire frontal aspect of the Galaxy Note8. Samsung achieved this by removing the physical Home button and making it part of the display. It is pressure-sensitive, and works like a physical button.

The same metal-glass design philosophy from the Galaxy Note7 was retained, with the glass protection upgraded to Gorilla Glass 5. The Samsung Galaxy Note8 continues to boast the same IP68 dust- and water-resistance rating of its predecessor, as well as its iris scanner.

The Infinity Display required the fingerprint sensor to be moved to the back, as it was in the Galaxy S8 (Price Check). There is also a dedicated Bixby button, as well as a new dual-lens camera.

 

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 Cameras

Like the Galaxy S8, the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) has a new 8 MP front camera with f/1.7 lens. It is capable of recording 4K videos at 30 fps, and has great low-light capability.  its low-light capability will come in handy, as the front camera does not have flash support, not even screen flash.

But what’s unprecedented is the new dual-lens main camera that beats everything else in the market today. It boasts a regular wide-angle 12 MP camera with a very fast f/1.7 lens, as well as a telephoto 12 MP camera with f/2.4 lens. However, unlike other dual-lens cameras, it works like two separate cameras that captures images simultaneously!

This allows it to create pictures with amazing adjustable bokeh through its Live Focus feature, while giving you the Dual Capture option to capture photos from both cameras simultaneously! Learn more about these two features in our article – The Samsung Live Focus & Dual Capture Explained & Tested.

This is also the world’s first dual-lens camera to boast optical image stabilisation (OIS) for both lenses! This is especially important for the telephoto camera, as it is paired with a “slower” f/2.4 lens. What this ultimately means is better photos and videos with either camera, even in low-light conditions.

If that’s not enough, the Galaxy Note8’s dual-lens camera is also the first in the world to allow you to switch between the two lenses on-the-fly while recording videos! This is an incredibly useful feature. Once you tried it on the Galaxy Note8, you will wonder why on Earth can’t other dual-lens cameras can’t do the same thing!

We will share with you photo and video samples later in the review. You will be able to see for yourself, the quality of the images captured by the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check). Be sure to also check out how useful it is to switch between the two lenses on-the-fly in our video samples. This is, no doubt, the best dual-lens camera system in the world today.

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Hybrid SIM & Fingerprint Sensor

This is the South East Asian model (SM-N950FD), which supports Dual SIM, dual standby capability, and comes with a hybrid SIM tray. This gives you some flexibility – you can choose to use either a second SIM card, or a microSD card, but not both at the same time. The microSD slot supports microSD cards of up to 256 GB in size.

With the removal of the physical Home button, Samsung moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the Galaxy Note8. This is not unique as many smartphones have a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor (e.g. Huawei Mate 9, Honor 5C). However, the Galaxy Note8 fingerprint sensor is awkwardly placed next to the camera sensor, instead of the more natural position below the camera sensor.

The higher position makes it harder for the user to reach, because the Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) is a tall device. Being offset makes it harder for left-handed users to use, and makes it easy for all users to smear the main camera lenses with their oily fingerprints.

Obviously, we do not like this fingerprint sensor at all. It is harder to use, as our Galaxy Note8 set-up video will show, although its usability improves with practice. But the good news is – the Samsung Galaxy Note8 also supports alternative login methods like iris scanning and face recognition, that work better.

Next Page > Iris Scanner, Facial Recognition, IP68, S Pen Stylus

 

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Iris Scanner & Facial Recognition

These are not new abilities for a Samsung Galaxy Note device. They were first introduced in the Galaxy Note7, The iris scanner was easy to set up and use, and so, it quickly became our favourite way to log into the Galaxy Note8.

The iris scanner works best if you are not using glasses or contact lenses though, and it may not work in bright sunlight. Its accuracy may also be affected by dirt and fingerprint smudges on the iris camera and LED sensor. Finally, the iris scanner takes longer to log in than the fingerprint sensor, but the coolness factor is undeniable.

The facial recognition feature is easier and faster to use because it does not require you to align your eyes with the sensor focus circles. However, it is less secure than the iris scanner or fingerprint scanner.

 

IP68 Dust & Water Resistance

Like the Galaxy S8, the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) is IP68-rated for dust- and water-resistance. Best of all, you don’t even have to prepare it in any way before you dunk it into water! For more information how how Samsung achieved this feat, take a look at The Samsung Galaxy S7 IP68 Engineering Explained.

Officially, the Galaxy Note8 can withstand complete immersion in water up to 1.5 m in depth, for up to 30 minutes. That means you can take it for jogs in the rain, reading in the shower or soaking in bath. Heck, you can even take it for a swim!

There are some caveats though. The IP68 rating applies to a specific set of test conditions : 15-35 °C, 86-106 kPa, 1.5 metre, 30 minutes. Even so, water may enter and damage the Galaxy Note8 if it is exposed to “water moving with force“, like running water from a tap or waterfall, or ocean waves.

In other words, this is not a waterproof phone like the Oukitel K10000 Pro or the Kenxinda ruggerdised smartphones. It is IP68 water-resistant, so you need to be gentle with it. You can read more about this in our article – The Samsung Galaxy S7 IP68 Engineering Explained.

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S Pen Stylus

This is the defining feature of the Samsung Galaxy Note8 – the S Pen stylus. This is the same S Pen used by the Galaxy Note7, with a 0.7 mm tip and 4,096 pressure levels. The S Pen is electromagnetically-powered by close proximity to the Galaxy Note8, so there is no need to worry about batteries – which is just awesome.

A set of spare nibs and a tweezer are included, so you can also swap the default black nib for a white nib, depending on your preference for more friction (black) or a smoother writing experience (white).

Next Page > The Samsung Galaxy Note8 Setup Process, Ergonomics, Memory & Storage

 

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The Samsung Galaxy Note8 Setup Process

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) runs on Android 7.1.1 Nougat, and is very easy to set-up. If you are setting it up as a new device, it should take you only 5-7 minutes to finish the setup process.

 

The Ergonomics

Looking at the specifications, you would expect the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) to be a large phablet. After all, it has a large 6.3″ display. Yet, it is about the same size than its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Note7 with a 5.7″ display!

Despite its larger display, it is only 0.9 mm wider, so it fits most hands comfortably. But this is still a two-handed device, because of its height. If you prefer to use only one hand, you can turn on the One-handed mode option.

The Super AMOLED display is beautiful as always. However, the WQHD+ resolution of 1440 x 2960 results in a non-standard 18.5:9 display ratio. Watching movies will result in some pillarboxing – a black bar on each side of the movie.

The Gorilla Glass 5 back looks fabulous… at first. It is easily smudged by oily fingerprints, because it lacks the oleophobic coating of the front Gorilla Glass 5 cover protecting the display. The smudges are particularly obvious on the Midnight Black version. Perhaps that’s why Samsung threw in a clear TPU bumper case – it protects the Galaxy Note8 while keeping the shiny back smear-free.

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Available Memory & Storage

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) comes with 6 GB of LPDDR4 memory, of which 2.8 GB (37.5%) is available for use. There is obviously quite a fair bit of bloat. That said, 2.8 GB of memory is more than what many smartphones ship with, and is more than enough to run many applications simultaneously.

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check comes with 64 GB of internal flash storage, with 51.1 GB of free space for you to use. That is enough space to store about 11,500 photos, or 6.25 hours of 1080p videos, or 2.5 hours of 4K videos. If that’s not enough, you can top it up with a microSD card (up to 256 GB).

Next Page > The Samsung Galaxy Note8 Camera Performance – Photos & Videos

 

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Camera Performance – Photos

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) uses the same excellent 12 MP sensors as the Galaxy S8 (Price Check) for both the wide-angle and telephoto cameras –  either the Sony IMX260 sensor, or Samsung’s own ISOCELL S5KL1 sensor. They are both identical in specifications and performance – with Dual Pixel autofocus technology and 1.4 μm pixels.

The maximum 12 MP resolution is attained with the 4:3 aspect ratio. Each picture has a resolution of 4032 x 3024, and a file size of between 3.8 MB and 4.8 MB. Here are 6 high-resolution samples for you to check out. Click on them to load the full-sized photos, which you can also download to examine.

It’s no surprise that the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) performed exactly as the Samsung Galaxy S8 (Price Check), in this respect. It still remains one of the best, if not the best, smartphone camera out there today.

What’s unique though is the Galaxy Note8 Live Focus feature, which allows you to create really awesome bokeh for the background. No doubt, the bokeh is artificially created, but the simultaneous use of both cameras allow for precise delineation of the subject and the background. Live Focus also allows you to adjust the amount of bokeh for the background.

You can read all about Samsung Live Focus and the accompanying Dual Capture feature in this separate article – The Samsung Live Focus & Dual Capture Explained & Tested.

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Camera Performance – Video Recording

Like the Samsung Galaxy S8, the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) is capable of recording 4K videos from both front and back cameras. However, this time, Samsung has limited the 4K recording time to just 10 minutes. This was likely done to ensure that the sensor does not overheat the battery that lies next to it.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge has no such limitations, and is thus, a better smartphone for 4K video recording. However, the Galaxy S7 edge is somewhat limited by the 4 GB file size limit. When you record a long 4K video, it will be broken up into separate files that are about 11.5 minutes in length, with a short recording gap in between. So its advantage is limited.

Samsung appears to be using a more efficient codec for the videos, allowing 1080p videos to be recorded to about 40 minutes before hitting the 4 GB file size limit. This is about 25% longer than the Galaxy S7 edge, which only managed about 31-32 minutes.

Below are four video samples, all taken without the use of gimbals.

Test #1 : Piano (1080p)

As expected, the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) did an excellent job capturing this live performance. The audio quality was very good, albeit lacking the wider dynamic range of the HTC 10 (when HiRes Audio is enabled). The noise reduction is decent, although the background noise is still audible.

We LOVE the ability to instantly switch between the wide-angle camera and the telephoto camera while recording. You can also see how well the OIS worked for both cameras. In other smartphones, videos recorded with the unstabilised telephoto lens will often induce nausea…

Test #2: Piano (4K)

Note the incredible amount of detail capture by the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check). We are very impressed with its ability to capture such detail even in the bright background, which is often overblown in other smartphones. Note that you can still switch instantly between the wide-angle camera and the telephoto camera while recording in 4K.

Test #3 : Street Market (1080p)

In this test of the Samsung Galaxy Note8’s image stabilisation capability, you will note that it does a rather decent job of smoothing out the jerkiness during our walk. It is not the best we have seen, but it’s still pretty good.

Test #4 : Street Market (4K)

The image stabilisation for the 4K video was also good. In addition to OIS (optical image stabilisation), it appears to perform some EIS (electronic image stabilisation) as well.

Next Page > The Samsung Galaxy Note8 Work Performance, Battery Life & Recharging Speed

 

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Work Performance – PCMark

We tested the Samsung Galaxy Note8’s performance using PCMark, which simulates work applications like web browing, playing video, writing text and editing photos.

Work 2.0 Samsung Galaxy Note8 Samsung Galaxy S8+ Samsung Galaxy S8 Huawei Mate 9
Performance Score
5617 5285 5303 6316
Web Browsing 5433 5041 5155 5624
Video Editing 4872 5219 4998 5370
Writing 5696 5122 5158 6326
Photo Editing 8563 7003 7082 9864
Data Manipulation 4329 4369 4458 5333

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) is powered by the Samsung Exynos 8895 SoC, which is really fast, albeit not as fast as the Kirin 960 SoC used in the Huawei Mate 9 (Price Check).

 

Battery Life – PCMark

We then tested the Galaxy S8’s battery performance using PCMark. It basically ran the PCMark work tests until its battery capacity dropped to 20%.

Work 2.0 Samsung Galaxy Note8 Samsung Galaxy S8+ Samsung Galaxy S8 Huawei Mate 9
Battery Life 8 hours 50 mins 9 hours 34 mins 10 hours 32 mins 11 hours 27 mins

Of the four smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) has the smallest battery at 3,300 mAh. The Huawei Mate 9 (Price Check), in comparison, has a 4,000 mAh battery. Even so, it managed to deliver almost 9 hours of non-stop operation.

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Battery Recharging Performance

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 comes with an adaptive fast charger with a power output of 15 W. Take a look at how fast it recharged the 3,300 mAh battery.

It took the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) just under 83 minutes (1 hour 23 minutes) to recharge its battery from 20% to 100%. That is a battery life : recharging ratio of 6.4 : 1 – a very good performance.

The fastest recharging happened up to the 85% level. This took just 53 minutes. Then the recharging speed slowed down, and it took a further 30 minutes to top up the remaining 15%.

Next Page > Overall Performance, Our Verdict & Award

 

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Overall Performance

AnTuTu is a nice benchmark for testing various performance aspects of Android devices.

AnTuTu Samsung Galaxy Note8 Samsung Galaxy S8+ Samsung Galaxy S8 Huawei Mate 9
TOTAL SCORE 178168 170991 175422 123167
3D SCORE 74302 72039 74336 40114
– 3D (Marooned) 43996 42844 43953 23313
– 3D (Garden) 30306 29195 30383 16801
UX SCORE 54965 50518 52159 39975
– UX Data Secure 8100 7822 7996 7943
– UX Data Process 6079 5830 5866 6985
– UX Strategy Games 11072 10359 11165 11860
– UX Image Process 24646 21998 22716 5580
– UX I/O Performance 5068 4509 4416 7607
CPU SCORE 38240 38274 38513 31992
– CPU Mathematics 10970 10958 10996 9680
– CPU Common Use 11135 11001 10939 11139
– CPU Multi-Core 16135 16315 16578 11173
RAM 10661 10160 10414 11086

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) sure is fast in AnTuTu. Its Exynos 8895 proved to be much faster in 3D rendering than the Kirin 960 used by the Huawei Mate 9 (Price Check).

 

Our Verdict & Award

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) is truly in a class of its own. It is the only phablet in the world with an electromagnetic stylus, an Infinity Display and a dual-lens camera. Nothing else, not even the new Apple iPhone 8 Plus (Price Check), is in the same league. It builds upon the excellent, albeit unlucky, Galaxy Note7, with a plethora of major improvements.

First and foremost is the Infinity Display, which is almost bezel-less and covers almost all of the front aspect. To achieve this, Samsung integrated a pressure-sensitive Home button into the display itself, and moved the fingerprint sensor to the back.

The Infinity Display also allowed Samsung to increase the display size while reducing the width of the device. The Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) has a large 6.3″ display in a form factor that equivalent to a regular 5.5″ device. It makes for a better fit for smaller hands, and most pockets.

The new 18.5 : 9 aspect ratio is useful for viewing two different screens at the same time, but introduces pillarboxing when you watch movies. Samsung allows you to stretch the videos to fit the entire screen, but you will lose the upper and lower parts of the videos. So it’s a trade-off.

As their flagship phablet, it comes as no surprise that the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) is very fast, thanks to its top-of-the-line Exynos 8895 octa-core processor. It also has an incredible amount of memory and it comes with a reasonably large storage capacity of 64 GB. This should be more than enough for even power users, even if they enjoy recording 4K videos.

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The Samsung Galaxy Note8 extended the amazing camera used in the Samsung Galaxy S8 by doubling it to create a dual-lens camera system that is unparalleled. Both cameras are optically-stabilised and work simultaneously. This allows the Galaxy Note8 to support the new Live Focus and Dual Capture features. It also gave us the ability to instantly switch between the two lenses while recording video.

It bears pointing out that Samsung took extra care with the Galaxy Note8’s battery, employing greater scrutiny and safety protocols to ensure its safety. Even though it has a relatively small 3,300 mAh capacity, it lasted just under 9 hours of non-stop operation in our stress test. Best of all – you can completely recharge it in less than 1.5 hours!

The offset fingerprint sensor, though, was awkward to use. We highly recommend that Samsung move the fingerprint sensor to the more conventional position below the main camera in their next device. We far prefer the iris scanner, which is really easy (and cool!) to use.

Samsung really went the extra mile with the Galaxy Note8, making sure it is in a league of its own. There is no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Price Check) deserves our Editor’s Choice Award. Job well done, Samsung!

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The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom – iPhone 7 Plus Killer At Half The Price!

Ever since they were announced at Computex 2016, ASUS has churned out a number of ZenFone 3 models, like the ZenFone 3 Ultra phablet and the eponymous ZenFone 3 smartphone. But what mobile photographers have been waiting for was ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (ZE553KL).

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) is the photography-focused ZenFone 3 model designed to take on the Apple iPhone 7 Plus (Amazon | Lazada) head-to-head, and beat it in every aspect. Yet it costs only half as much! Don’t believe us? Read on and find out for yourself!

 

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom vs. The Apple iPhone 7 Plus

We are serious about the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) taking on the Apple iPhone 7 Plus (Amazon | Lazada). Check out this comparison of their specifications and see how they compare with each other!

SpecificationsASUS ZenFone 3 ZoomApple iPhone 7 Plus (32 GB)
Display5.5" Full HD AMOLED display
- 1080 x 1920 pixels
- 500 nits brightness
5.5" Full HD IPS display
- 1080 x 1920 pixels
- 625 nits brightness
ProtectionPremium aluminium-alloy frame
2.5D contoured Corning Gorilla Glass 5
IP67-rated dust and water-resistance
Dual-ion exchange strengthened glass
Operating SystemAndroid 6.0 MarshmallowApple iOS 10
PlatformQualcomm Snapdragon 625Apple A10 Fusion
Processor4 x ARM Cortex-A53 cores (2.0 GHz)
4 x ARM Cortex-A53 cores (1.4 GHz)
2 x Apple Hurricane cores (2.34 GHz)
2 x Apple Zephyr cores (2.34 GHz)
Graphics ProcessorQualcomm Adreno 506PowerVR 7XT GT7600 Plus
Memory4 GB LPDDR3 SDRAM (933 MHz)3 GB LPDDR4 SDRAM
Storage64 GB internal flash storage
microSD card (up to 2 TB, shared with SIM2)
32 GB internal flash storage
No microSD card slot
Front Camera13 MP PixelMaster camera
- Sony IMX214 sensor
- f/2.0, 5-element Largan lens
7 MP camera with f/2.2 lens
Main Camera12 MP PixelMaster 3.0 camera
- Sony IMX362 sensor (1.4 µm pixels)
- f/1.7, 6-element lens
- Dual Pixel PDAF technology
- 4-axis, 4 stops Optical Image Stabilization for steady photos
- 3-axis Electronic Image Stabilization for shake-free videos
12 MP camera
- Sony Exmor RS sensor
- f/1.8, 6-element lens
- Optical image stabilisation
Zoom Camera12 MP sensor (unknown model) with f/2.6 lens
- 2.3X fixed optical zoom
- 12X maximum zoom (digital + optical)
12 MP sensor with f/2.8 lens
- 2X fixed optical zoom
- 10X maximum zoom (digital + optical)
Connectivity4G : LTE Cat4
WiFi : 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth : 4.2
4G : LTE Cat12
WiFi : 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth : 4.2
SIM CapabilityDual SIM, Dual Standby with Hybrid SIM tray
- nano SIM slot 1 (3G / 4G)
- nano SIM slot 2 (3G / 4G) / micro SD
Single nano SIM only
NFC CapabilityNoYes
GPSGPS, AGPS, GLONASS, BDSGPS, AGPS, GLONASS
Fingerprint SensorYes, Rear-MountedYes, built into Home button
Audio192 kHz / 24-bit Hi-Res Audio support
5 magnet speaker with NXP Smart Amp
Dual microphone with noise cancellation
VoLTE support
DTS Headphone:X virtual surround sound technology
No Hi-Res Audio support
Stereo speakers
FM RadioYesNo
Battery5,000 mAh lithium-ion battery
Supports reverse charging
2,900 mAh lithium-ion battery
No reverse charging support
Dimensions77 mm wide x 154.3 mm tall x 7.99 mm thick77.9 mm wide x 158.2 mm tall x 7.3 mm thick
Weight170 grams188 grams
Colour OptionsNavy Black, Glacier Silver, Rose GoldRose Gold, Gold, Silver, Black, Jet Black
PriceUS$ 329US$ 769

We will go into more detail later, but first, let’s unbox the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom!

 

Unboxing The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) is a premium smartphone, so it comes to no surprise that ASUS gave it the full treatment. It even comes with a soft case and a pair of ZenEar earphones!

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Inside the box, you will find the following items :

  • One ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) smartphone
  • One ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom soft case
  • One set of ASUS ZenFone 3 User Guide, Warranty leaflet and IMEI stickers
  • One 10 W ASUS charger with a 3-pin adaptor
  • One USB Type C cable
  • One pair of ASUS ZenEar earphones with four spare earbuds
  • One SIM card tray ejector pin

Next Page > The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom Key Features

 

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The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (ZE553KL)

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom has a 5.5″ display like the iPhone 7 Plus, but it is slightly smaller and lighter. Instead of the usual IPS display though, the ZenFone 3 Zoom uses an AMOLED display that is protected by the latest Gorilla Glass 5 cover with a 2.5D edge, and a full metal unibody chassis.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC as the ZenFone 3 smartphone. It comes with 4 GB of LPDDR4 memory and 64 GB of internal flash memory. All that is powered by a large 5,000 mAh battery.

The button placements are the same as that of other ZenFone 3 models – the Power and Volume control buttons are on the right side, with the hybrid SIM slot on the left side, and the fingerprint sensor on the back.

Like many thin devices, the audio port on the ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) is located at the bottom, next to the bidirectional Type C USB port. But note that it is still using USB 2.0 standard, not the latest USB 3.1 standard.

 

Hybrid SIM & Fingerprint Sensor

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) has dual SIM, dual standby capability. It has a hybrid SIM tray for two nano SIM cards. The second SIM card tray (SIM2) doubles as a microSD card slot (up to 256 GB). Both SIM1 and SIM2 support 3G and 4G connectivity, but only one SIM card can connect to the 3G / 4G network – the other can only connect to a 2G network.

The ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) has an all-aspect fingerprint sensor located at the back, just under the main cameras. Our tests showed that it requires just 10 finger presses to register a fingerprint, and is very fast and accurate in recognising the registered fingerprint.

 

The ZenFone 3 Zoom Cameras

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) boasts a 13 MP front camera, built around the Sony IMX214 sensor and a 5-element Largan lens with f/2.0 aperture. It does not have a dedicated LED flash but uses screen flash instead, like the Apple iPhone 7 Plus (Amazon | Lazada).

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Like the iPhone 7 Plus, the ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) has a dual camera system, with a main camera and a zoom camera. This is different from the dual-lens camera of the Huawei Mate 9 or the Honor 8 smartphones, which combines images from two cameras with the same focal length.

Its main camera boasts the Sony IMX362 sensor with large 1.4 µm pixels, and Dual Pixel PDAF technology. It is coupled to a 6-element lens with f/1.7 aperture, and boasts 4-axis, 4-stops optical image stabilisation as well as 3-axis electronic image stabilisation capabilities.

The zoom camera has a 12 MP sensor of unknown model, paired with a 59 mm f/2.6 lens. This gives us a 2.3X optical zoom over the main camera. The Apple iPhone 7 Plus (Amazon | Lazada) has a similar zoom camera, with a shorter 2X zoom and an f/2.8 lens.

Next Page > The Initial Setup, Ergonomics, Available Memory & Storage

 

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Setting Up The ZenFone 3 Zoom

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) runs on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, and is very easy to set-up. If you are setting it up as a new device, it should take you only 5 minutes to finish the setup process.

 

The Ergonomics

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) is a 5.5″ smartphone that is 7.7 cm wide, so it is a two-handed device. But because it’s reasonably thick at just under 8 mm, it offers better grip than its thinner rivals. The large display with its full HD resolution is just perfect for watching movies. We also applaud ASUS for using an AMOLED display – it is generally more vivid and power-efficient.

We especially like the satin finish of the anodised aluminium chassis. It is smooth and comfortable to touch, and is resistant to fingerprint smears. Adding on the provided soft case greatly increases grip, but the Power button may be harder to activate.

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Available Memory & Storage

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) comes with 4 GB of LPDDR4 memory, of which 2.2 GB (55%) is free to use. That is more memory than some smartphones ship with! You will never run out of memory with the ZenFone 3 Zoom!

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) also has 64 GB of internal flash memory. Of that, just under 52 GB is available to use. If that’s not enough, you can top it up with a microSD card (up to 256 GB).

Next Page > Camera Performance – Photos

 

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Camera Performance – Photos

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) uses the excellent Sony IMX362 sensor for its main camera, which boasts very advanced optical and electronic image stabilisation and a fast f/1.7 lens. The full 12 MP resolution is attained with the 4:3 aspect ratio. Each picture has a resolution of 3928 × 2944 and a file size of between 4 to 8 MB.

Here are 16 high-resolution samples for you to check out. Click on them to load the full-sized photos, which you can also download to examine.

As the picture show, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) can really produce amazing pictures. The automatic HDR capability worked great too, adding dynamic range whenever the light permits. The final result – very vivid colours, even in low light. For that, we have to thank the Sony IMX362 sensor with its large 1.4 µm pixels, and the fast f/1.7 lens.

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Next Page > Camera Performance – Video Recording

 

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Camera Performance – Video Recording

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom’s photographic capability extends beyond just photos. It is capable of recording videos at resolutions of up to 2160p (4K) at 30 fps. It also boasts advanced optical and electronic image stabilisation as well as support for Hi Res Audio. Let’s check out how well it does…

 

Test #1 : Blues Band (1080p)

The image stabilisation seems to do a very good job, but notice the occasional jerks. We have no idea why it happens, but it seems to only afflict the 1080p video recordings. It did produce very good audio though, and had good control of the bright background.

 

Test #2 : Blues Band (4K)

Electronic image stabilisation appears to be turned off, so there is more wobbling at 4K, but there’s no sign of the sudden jerks in our 1080p example above. The resolution at 4K is amazing!

 

Test #3 : Rainbow Waterfall

This is another test of the ZenFone 3 Zoom’s image stabilisation capabilities. Oddly enough – there is no sign of the sudden jerks. This probably means that the jerks we saw in the first video is likely to be software-related. Probably errors in electronic image stabilisation.

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Test #4 : Logging Camp

A 4-wheel drive ride is a great way to test the advanced image stabilisation capabilities of the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom. As you can see, it did a pretty good job on this rugged logging trail. It may not appear so, but we were seated at the back shaking non-stop. 😀

 

Test #5 : Jungle Ride

Here is another video on the same 4×4 Hilux truck ride through the Pahang jungle. Nice job on the image stabilisation, ASUS!

Next Page > Work Performance, Battery Life & Recharging Speed

 

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Work Performance – PCMark

We tested the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom’s performance using PCMark, which simulates work applications like web browing, playing video, writing text and editing photos.

ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom ASUS ZenFone 3 Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) OPPO F1s
Work Performance Score
(Average)
6655 6405 4954 3884
Web Browsing 7595 8045 5143 3688
Video Playback 4545 3469 4515 3789
Writing 7264 7316 4948 4141
Photo Editing 7824 8246 5243 3933

Both the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) and the original ZenFone 3 smartphone use the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC, so it’s no surprise they perform about the same. They both did much better than the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017), and the OPPO F1s in this test.

 

Battery Life – PCMark

We then tested the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom’s battery performance using PCMark. It basically ran the PCMark work tests until its battery capacity dropped to 20%.

The Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro is so popular because it has a large 5,000 mAh battery. The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) with a large 5,000 mAh battery as well, even though it’s much smaller in size. But more importantly, it has a much longer battery life of 17.25 hours –  33% longer than the Galaxy A9 Pro!

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Battery Recharging Performance

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) comes with a 10 W charger, instead of more powerful 15-18 W chargers common in other flagship devices. Take a look at how fast it recharged the 5,000 mAh battery.

It took the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) about 160 minutes (2 hours 40 minutes) to recharge its battery from 20% to 100%. This is 20% longer than what the Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro (with a similar 5,000 mAh battery) took with its 15 W charger. Overall, it has a battery life : recharging ratio of 6.5 : 1, which is good but not exceptional.

Next Page > Gaming & Overall Performance, Our Verdict & Award

 

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Gaming Performance – 3DMark

We tested the ZenFone 3 Zoom’s gaming performance using 3DMark, using the Ice Storm Unlimited test.

ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom ASUS ZenFone 3 Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) OPPO F1s
Gaming Score 13844 13956 13540 7666
Graphics 13372 13484 13548 7511
Physics 15797 15903 13510 8265
Graphics Test 1 80.3 fps 80.5 fps 81.1 fps 49.4 fps
Graphics Test 2 45.6 fps 46.1 fps 46.2 fps 24.4 fps
Physics Test 50.1 fps 50.5 fps 42.9 fps 26.2 fps

Like the ZenFone 3, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) did well in this test, matching the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017), and coming in twice as fast as the OPPO F1s.

 

Overall Performance

AnTuTu is a nice benchmark for testing various performance aspects of Android devices.

ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom ASUS ZenFone 3 Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) OPPO F1s
TOTAL SCORE 63218 62761 56431 41486
3D SCORE 12966 18816 15458 4868
– 3D (Marooned) 7878 10861 10511 3188
– 3D (Garden) 5088 7952 4947 1679
UX SCORE 24089 26794 18496 17640
– UX Data Secure 5713 5077 5295 4885
– UX Data Process 2991 4198 2612 2542
– UX Strategy Games 4193 7503 3671 2829
– UX Image Process 7893 6879 3373 3885
– UX I/O Performance 3299 3137 3545 3499
CPU SCORE 20683 23689 16459 14336
– CPU Mathematics 4264 6950 3132 3142
– CPU Common Use 6673 6311 5199 4805
– CPU Multi-Core 9746 10428 8128 6389
RAM 5480 6797 6018 4643

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) did well in this test, beating the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) by 12%, and the OPPO F1s by 52%.

 

Our Verdict & Award

While ASUS may not make a point about it, it is obvious that they are targeting the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) squarely at the Apple iPhone 7 Plus (Amazon | Lazada). They even eschewed the innovative zoom camera in the original ASUS ZenFone Zoom for the same dual camera system used in the iPhone 7 Plus. However, they were not aiming to copy, as much as beat, the iPhone 7 Plus on as many aspects as possible.

The iPhone 7 Plus has a 7 MP front camera with f/2.2 lens? ASUS gives the ZenFone 3 Zoom a 13 MP front camera with f/2.0 lens!

The iPhone 7 Plus has a 12 MP Sony Exmor RS main camera with f/1.8 lens? ASUS tops that with the latest 12 MP Sony IMX362 sensor with Dual Pixel PDAF technology and a f/1.7 lens!

The iPhone 7 Plus has a 12 MP zoom camera with 2X optical zoom and f/2.8 lens? The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom gives you a 12 MP zoom camera with 2.3X optical zoom and f/2.6 lens!

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This isn’t just about beating the iPhone 7 Plus (Amazon | Lazada) on specifications. The ASUS PixelMaster 3.0 camera on the ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) is amazing. It produces some of the best pictures and videos we have ever seen. Its 4K video recording and audio recording quality was especially good.

ASUS didn’t just stop at the ZenFone 3 Zoom’s photographic capability. To make sure the photos and videos look great on the device itself, they opted for an AMOLED display, instead of a regular IPS display. They even packed in a large 5,000 mAh battery, in a form factor that is smaller and lighter than the iPhone 7 Plus (Amazon | Lazada) with its puny 2,900 mAh battery.

But arguably, what’s most impressive about the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (Amazon | Lazada) is the fact that it delivers its superior capabilities at half the price of the Apple iPhone 7 Plus (Amazon | Lazada)! We don’t know how ASUS managed to do that, but we think their efforts deserves no less than our Editor’s Choice Award! Congratulations, ASUS!

 

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The OPPO R9s Plus Phablet Launch Coverage

On 1 March 2017, OPPO Malaysia finally launched the OPPO R9s Plus phablet in Malaysia. Their brand ambassadors and local celebrities, Min Chen and Ayda Jebat, also came to show off the R9s Plus phablet.

The OPPO R9s Plus features the 16MP Sony IMX398 camera with a f/1.7 aperture and Dual PDAF capability. This time though, the camera supports Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) with an anti-shake area that is larger than the ordinary OIS by 40%.

Users can also look forward to the newly launched Qualcomm Snapdragon 653 processor and 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage, coupled with an increased battery capacity of 4000 mAh. Let’s check it out!

 

The OPPO R9s Plus Presentation

 

In this video, OPPO Product Manager, Ken Ng, explains the key features of the new OPPO R9s Plus smartphone.

 

Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), IMX 398 sensor and Dual PDAF technology

The OPPO R9s Plus brings forward the technology that made its debut in the OPPO R9s, in addition to a myriad of other advancements. The powerful 16MP rear camera comes equipped with an impressive SONY IMX398 sensor – a customized 1/2.8inch sensor that SONY and OPPO developed together.

Also making a comeback in the R9s Plus is the extra-wide f/1.7 super large aperture that captures 40% more light than previous generations. A new addition is the OIS feature of the R9s Plus. Designed to be a notch above ordinary OIS, the anti-shake area is larger by 40%. This means the R9s Plus is able to handle more jitter, in addition to more exposure time, promising users extremely clear and captivating night scenes.

Like its predecessor, the R9s Plus’ camera uses Dual PDAF technology, a next-generation upgrade from standard PDAF solutions. The first generation of PDAF has only “a half” pixel for focusing, but the Dual PDAF increases by 100% the area of the sensor’s pixel array equipped with the special photo diodes necessary for phase-detection autofocus, allowing lightning-fast focusing — even in low light — and producing crystal-clear images.

 

Powerful performance for the ultimate photography experience

The R9s Plus is powered by a 1.95GHz octa-core Snapdragon 653 processor and comes with 6GB of RAM. It comes packed with 64GB of internal storage that can be expanded up to 128GB, allowing users to store an abundant number of meaningful moments captured with the R9s Plus’ impressive rear camera. The R9s Plus also sees an upgrade in terms of battery. It is now backed with a 4,000mAh battery, enabling users to capture clear and crisp photos with no worries!

 

Bigger is Better

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Another noteworthy upgrade is that the R9s Plus features a 6-inch Full HD panel, as opposed to the R9s’ 5.5inch. It runs on OPPO’s Color OS 3.0, based on Android 6.0.1.. Now, photography lovers can go through their masterpieces comfortably with the sizable screen. Not only that, daily activities that get you through the day such as gaming and watching dramas are definitely more enjoyable with the R9s Plus’1920 x 1080pixel display.

 

The OPPO R9s Plus Price & Availability

The OPPO R9s Plus is priced at RM 2,498 (including 6% GST) / ~US$ 549, and comes with OPPO CARE which covers accidental damage for 12 months. It is now available at all OPPO online and concept stores, telco and e-commerce partner sites.

 

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