Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review + new features

sAMSUNG GALAXY nOTE 8 REVIEWThinking about upgrading your Android phone to the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8? Wondering what makes it different from previous Notes, what it’s got for Android fans and what sets it apart from other phones?

What’s new with Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Note 8 – Bigger size, added S-pen stylus

sAMSUNG GALAXY nOTE 8 REVIEW S-PEN STYLUS
Palm Pilot vintage pen (L), with new S-pen.

Thing #1 is its size. it’s a bit bigger than other Samsung phones. It has a larger 6.3″ display, while the Galaxy S8+ is 6.2″ and Note 7 was 5.7″. Thing #2: is the added stylus, which Samsung calls the S-pen. Using the pen feels nice and natural; it’s a good size and a light weight, and is easy to adapt to. It feels like putting pen to a tablet of paper; smooth and easy, not like putting to metal to glass, which is the experience some styluses give you. Worth noting, the Note 8’s stylus/S-pen is not the same size as the one that is used on the Tab 3. That stylus is significantly larger.

Enjoy Screen Off Memo

You can use the S-pen for a feature called ‘Screen Off Memo’. This allows you to use the pen to hand write notes on the phone screen even though it’s technically not on. It’s a really handy feature that I love. I live my life with Post-It notes so this would save some paper.

Galaxy Note 8 has built-in translation

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review translationThe S-pen also drives translation functions in the Note 8. You use the pen to select languages, then hover over messages you want to translate. An English language version pops up automatically. There’s a huge number of language options and the feature is fast and seems to be quite accurate.

Live Message lets you have fun with texts

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has a new ‘Live Message’ feature which allows you to draw, annotate and liven up basic texts using the S-pen.

The Note 8 has the same 3000ma battery as the S8+ and all the same biometric features like fingerprint scanner, facial recognition and iris scanning. But the Note 8 adds wireless charging to its list of features.

Note 8 camera is great – dual cameras mean more features

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review cameraSamsung definitely excels with cameras and smartphone photography. You can launch the camera even faster with a shortcut: double-tap the power button in rapid succession. This will open the camera no matter what you’re doing, even if the phone is locked. But it’s the dual camera which makes more things possible.Two cameras means more depth, with a true 2x optical zoom and up to 10x digital zoom plus some other goodies.

Live Focus gives you control over photos

Tap the Live Focus button at the bottom of the viewfinder window and use the slider bar to adjust the background blur level. You’ll need something in the foreground about 4 feet away or the effect won’t work.

You can use Live Focus when you snap a photo, or go back and adjust the focus and blur (or bokeh) effect after. Just head to your Gallery, load the photo and look for the ones labelled with both “Normal picture” and “Adjust Background blur.”

There’s also something called dual capture. Dual capture lets you capture both the landscape and a person equally well. It’s worth noting that Dual Capture will take up about three times as much memory as standard photos, so you might want to invest in a microSD card before you fill up your phone’s internal storage.Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review – overall thoughts

Overall, I enjoyed using the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. It’s sleek, with a beautiful screen. I love the new photography features, and the S-pen is a nice addition with cool new tools that make it worthwhile.  That’s your quick preview of the new Samsung Note 8 and some of the features that set it apart from previous notes, and the S8 series.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is available from most smartphone providers. You’ll pay anywhere from $549-$1350, depending on your carrier and monthly plan.

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review

Samsung galaxy tab s3 2 how toTablets are now as much a part of our lives as laptops, and desktops, and in some cases, they take over those roles. They can because tablets have much more power and versatility than ever.  I recently had a chance to play with a new Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. Regular readers will know I’ve been an Apple user for much of the last 6-8 years so I’m finding it very interesting branching out to explore new brands and getting to know Android.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 – first look

The tablet is a very good sized 9.7″ device, though it does have a wide bezel all the way around the screen. I found that unusual right away, only because Samsung’s new Galaxy phones are basically all screen. Nonetheless, this screen is still large and vibrant. The tablet is impossibly thin with a nice rounded edge it feels good to hold in your hand and it’s not slippery. There’s also a physical home button on the face that doubles as a fingerprint scanner.

The device comes with a special pen that allows you to write on screen or otherwise control the tablet.

Though I didn’t get to sample this feature, you can also attach a magnetic keyboard to the Tab S3 to help provide an easier typing experience if you’re going to use it like a laptop.

Introducing the Samsung S-pen

Samsung galaxy tab s3 pen how it worksThe pen is relatively small and weighs next to nothing. Several smart pens I’ve tried before are fat, bulky, heavy, and make it very uncomfortable to write. The Samsung pen feels like your favourite pen; the one you want to grab for constantly when you need to take notes.

Using the pen to write on the screen is a surprisingly comfortable experience. If you’ve ever used a stylus on a glass screen before you know it feels kind of weird, but in this case the pen’s contact with the screen feels much more natural, almost as if you were putting pen to paper. None of that metal to glass scrape.

Amazingly, the pen never requires charging, I think that’s because the technology is built into the screen as opposed to the pen. So really it’s just acting as a stylus. The small 0.7 mm pen tip is very natural for writing. Unlike some other pens or styluses, you’re not blocking your view of the letters you’re forming behind the pen nib.

Turn handwriting into type or make notes with screen off

samsung write on screen off galaxy tab s3With the pen function you can write notes that are than digitized into typed format, you can draw pictures, edit videos, or even jot something down when the screen is locked. That ‘screen off memo’ function almost looks like chalk on a chalk board, and it’s a super handy and quick way to write yourself a memo.

Using handwriting to text feature

To use the handwriting-to-text feature, do a long press on the microphone button on the virtusal keyboard on screen this will bring up the bottom screen where you can hand write texts that will then be converted to tight text in the top screen

Using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

The home screen displays easy access to Weather information and time, as well as the typical Google search screen. There are numerous apps pre-installed on the device including Netflix, YouTube, and the full suite of Google apps. Anything else you need is as close as the Google Play store.Samsung galaxy tab s3 2 how to

The tablet features a 9.7 inch QXGA SAMOLED display that’s HDR video compatible to give you great looking programs.

Here’s where we’ll learn a little something while we’re here; HDR or High Dynamic Range (in a nutshell) makes colours bolder by using light more realistically.

What is QXGA? What’s AMOLED?

Without going into too much detail, QXGA stands for Quantum Extended Graphics Array—it’s is a computer display mode that has enough pixels to offer fine details — more like print on paper, and it’s great for people that want to see all the details or multiple images — and for gaming. the downside is that it’s expensive.

Finally, since we’re playing professor, AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) is a display technology used in smartwatches, mobile devices, laptops, and TVs. You’ve heard of LED or OLED TVs — Light emitting diode — that’s just the the ultra thin film display technology that uses organic compounds to create the display.
Ok lesson over!

The all glass design is sleek and shiny, but at the same time it doesn’t feel too delicate. In the construction of glass and metal have been fused together though it doesn’t feel heavy or metallic

Typing on the tablet is quick and responsive. With some other tablets I’ve tried it almost feels like there’s a lag between the time you press the button and the time the action takes place. With this tablet it felt very instantaneous.

Galaxy Tab S3 has faster performance

The tablet has made some improvements on previous versions; it’s 18% faster than galaxy tab S2, and the graphics load three times faster than the S 2. You can thank the snapdragon 820 processor inside for that.

4 built in speakers in Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

There are four speakers on this tablet for much better audio performance. The speakers that play will automatically adjust to the orientation of the tablet, ensuring you’re always getting the best sound.

Galaxy Tab S3 made for gaming

These tablets are made for gaming too. Though gaming isn’t something I’m into, it’s worth mentioning here. “The Galaxy game launcher it has been optimized for Galaxy Tab S3’s screen, offering a power saver mode, game broadcasting, and mute games or ongoing calls mode,” according to Samsung.Samsung galaxy tab s3 multi window

How to use multi-function window or split screen

Conveniently the tablet also runs Android’s newest operating system, Nougat, which allows you to open two windows at the same time. The ‘multi-function window’ as it’s called is a bit weird to get used to using. When an app is open in full screen view, just press and hold the recents key, then select another app to open by tapping the double rectangle in the top right corner of the second app.

How to close multi function window 

I was mystified about how to close the multifunction window. I thought I could do it by following the same procedure that I did to open it, but not so. You’ll need to grab the blue slider bar that splits the screen, and drag it up and right off the screen. The second window will wipe away.

Battery & charging

The S3 charges very quickly. You can get up to 12 hours of video playback with less downtime according to Samsung. The onboard battery is a 6000 mAh battery, which should last from 8-12 hours, depending on usage.

Tab S3 Camera

I’ve always found it awkward to use a camera on a tablet, though I’ve seen people doing it at national parks and the like. if you’re one of those people, you can look forward to a main camera resolution of thirteen megapixels while the front camera is five megapixels. A flash and auto focus are included.

Overall review – Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

Samsung galaxy tab s3Since my hands-on experience with Android devices has been limited, I felt like this as a whole new experience for me. I don’t have previous Tabs to compare to, so I’m coming at this as a completely new device.

Overall, I liked the tab S3. It’s light and easy to use and hold; it feels good in my hands. The screen is large and detailed, clear and vibrant.

The functions seemed fast and there was almost no lag.

I found some of the functions like using the handwriting to text or the multi window feature to be anything but intuitive. I had to go online and look up how to do some things. Perhaps that’s my lack of familiarity with Android, but my feeling about smartphones and devices is that you should be able to figure things out without research.

In short if you’re looking for an Android tablet that’s fast, sleek, sizeable and great looking, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is a great pick.

Get a Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 for about $599 US and $799 CAD.

6 smart light hacks for Christmas holiday decor

There are two types of people when it comes to lighting up the house for the holidays; the gung-ho Clark Griswold types, and those for whom the thought of climbing a ladder in the cold inspires dread.

If you’re in the latter camp, know there are easier ways to make your home festive thanks to technology.

Holiday Hack #1: Smart Plugs for Automation

wemo-img-overview-3
Want to control your Christmas lights from another room, or even another city? Smart plugs like the WeMo Switch allow you to plug in virtually anything, from Christmas lights, to mobiles or animated figurines and turn it off an on with your smartphone or tablet. This works really well for tree lights in particular, since crawling under or behind the tree to pull out the plug is often a pain.

Smart plugs can also be used on automatic timers, coming on at dusk and turning off when you want.

Holiday Hack #2: App-connected string lights

Plaubulb string christmas lights smartMiPow, makers of Playbulb lights has come out with a smart connected string light for this holiday. These smart LED light strings give you smart functionality via a Bluetooth connection; you can turn them on or off with your smartphone, adjust colour to dozens of different subtler hues, you can set timers, or use a handful of special effects, all automatically. Best of all, these are for indoors or out.

With a kit like this you don’t even need a smart plug. Read my full review of String here.

Holiday Hack #3: Stick-up LED Lights go anywhere

img_7356-2The amazing thing about smart lighting is how versatile and flexible it is. Case in point; a couple new LED string lights that are thin, pliable and flexible so you can stick them up anywhere.

Philips Hue String, Osram Lightify Flex and MiPow Playbulb Comet are just three great examples of lights you can stick anywhere for holiday decor.  If you use removable 3M Command adhesive tabs, it makes moving them and removing the tape even easier.img_7347-2

Use these light strips on the inside of a window frame to show your neighbourhood your red, green or icy blue colours. Coil them into frosted glass vases for temporary colourful lamps, wrap them around large mirrors, or stick them under furniture for holiday ambiance.

Want to go to another level? Nanoleaf Aurora is a unique set of flat plastic panels that can be stuck pretty much anywhere; you can use them to create a holiday-themed wall decoration, and adjust the lights to flicker red and green or frosty blue and white.

Holiday Hack #4: Make a light-up Christmas Tree

img_7334

Feeling creative? Why not use the Aurora to create a flat panel Christmas tree in a small space where a real tree is just not realistic? Simply arrange the triangular shaped panels in a tree shape, configure the panels to turn green (go for a gold on on top, reminiscent of a star!) and you’re holiday ready!

Read my review and all about the Nanoleaf Aurora here.

Holiday Hack #5: Use a wireless lamp in your table settingimg_9005

Table setting is an art, if you ask me. Matching dishes to napkins and selecting florals requires some level of flair which I struggle to achieve. That’s where I pull in smart lamps; I can turn the Mipow Sphere glass globe green to match my good china, or I can set the Philips Hue Go lamp to a cool snowy hue for a winter feast. The Go lamp also works well under the Christmas tree to give it some extra colour pop or by the fireplace.

Holiday Hack #6: Use coloured bulbs for decor

img_9003As I’ve written before, smart lights are an easy way to decorate your home for any occasion. Painting your room with light can warm up a room, cool it off, or give it a holiday theme with the touch of an app. Lights like Philips Hue smart bulbs can be set to holiday red or green easily, you can use LIFX’s ‘scenes’ to create a holiday glow, or employ a MiPow Playbulb to provide both a light show AND music from its built-in speaker!

Holiday Hack #6: Use the Internet of Things to automate … ANYTHING

img_7355-2If you haven’t experimented with IFTTT (If This Then That), you’re missing out.  IFTTT uses apps and smart devices to create actions that happen automatically. I wrote about how you can use it to turn coloured smart lights blue when snow is in the forecast.   But you can also use it for holiday fun. Need a quick lesson on how it all works? Click here.

If you own a smart doorbell and some smart lights you can use an IFTTT ‘recipe’ to play Christmas music on a Sonos speaker when the doorbell is pressed, and to set lights flashing green and red. Read more about how to do that, or to achieve the same effect with a motion sensor, via the Yonomi app here. You can also surf the IFTTT website for holiday light and sound recipes that have already been created and borrow one that suits you.

Do you have a Holiday hack or IFTTT recipe we should try? Post your ideas in comments below!