Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Battles iPad mini, Kindle Fire, Nexus 7: Reviews Are In, Can It Win?

By Jordan Mammo , Apr 09, 2013 11:46 AM EDT

Samsung is gearing up to release the Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet in the United States, and reviews of the device are starting to trickle in. The 8-inch tablet is intended to go head-to-head with Apple's iPad mini, the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7. How does it stack up?

At this point, most people familiar with the Galaxy Note series (either the phablets or the tablets) know what to expect. The Galaxy Note 8.0 features a plastic body, a resolution of 1280 x 800, S Pen support, multitasking features and, of course, Samsung's TouchWiz UI.

The early reviews all state that the Galaxy Note 8.0 is a capable and impressive tablet, especially when it comes to multitasking. With most tablets, "multitasking" simply means switching from one app to another. On the Galaxy Note 8.0, however, it's actual, real multitasking.

"On the Note 8.0, you are really truly multi-tasking, using more than one window at once — you can browse the web and take notes at the same time, or look up an address in Maps without having to go through Android's awkward copy-and-paste process," wrote David Pierce at The Verge.

The Verge was less kind about Samsung replacing all the Google apps with its own, which Pierce found inferior: "I'd hold out hope that Samsung will make like HTC and begin to scale back its overbearing Android customizations, but the company appears clearly headed the other way — it's creating a 'Samsung experience' that is completely separate from what Google offers."

There were complaints about the Note 8.0's plastic body, but at this point with Samsung, it's something you can't really expect to change. The display clocks in at a higher resolution than the iPad mini, Kindle Fire HD and other competitors, but with rival tablets seeing refreshes later this year (and the iPad mini 2 expected to feature a Retina display), it might not be too long before the Galaxy Note 8.0 is less impressive.

The S Pen is the Galaxy Note line-up's distinguishing feature, and it is a prominent part of the Note 8.0 as well. Although it seems to work really well, Engadget doesn't seem quite sold on needing a stylus.

"It may be the Note line's claim to fame (and existence), but we can't shake the feeling that the S Pen is now just a relic, a built-in accessory necessary to distinguish the very first Note as a new category," wrote Joseph Volp. "Barring creative professions like graphic design, there's no real productivity boost to be had, no efficiency gained by resorting to a stylus over the finger."

Meanwhile, the S Pen received some plaudits from Mashable's review, but overall the tablet fell short of expectations.

"As it stands, the Galaxy Note 8.0 feels like a product Samsung rushed out so it would have something to directly challenge the iPad mini," wrote Pete Pachal. "Customers deserve better than that, especially if they're being asked to pay $70 more for the Note 8.0. Android fans deserve better than that, since Samsung is the de facto alternative to Apple."

Apple and the iPad mini aside, the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7 are also available for $200 less than the Galaxy Note 8. The view from these three reviews seems to be that while the Galaxy Note 8.0 is certainly a quality tablet, it's a little hard to justify the device over competitors, unless you're already heavily invested in the Samsung brand/ecosystem.

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