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Samsung Takes Aim at iPad Mini With Galaxy Note 8.0

Samsung is on a path to offer a device in every screen size with today’s introduction of the Galaxy Note 8.0.

GALAXY Note 8.0_1

Debuting at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Galaxy Note 8.0 is positioned between the 5.5-inch Galaxy Note II and Galaxy Note 10.1, as Samsung looks to re-establish itself as a player in the mid-size tablet market and take on the likes of the iPad Mini and Nexus 7.

The Galaxy Note 8.0 has an 8-inch, 1,280 by 800 pixel touchscreen and comes with an S Pen stylus like the rest of the Galaxy Note series. But it offers a number of new features not found on the other devices.

The first is something called “Reading Mode.” Whenever you launch an e-reader app, the tablet automatically adjusts the contrast of the screen to help reduce eye strain and provide a reading experience more akin to an e-ink display. It works with Samsung’s Readers Hub, as well as third-party apps like the Amazon Kindle app for Android.

Samsung is also preloading the Galaxy Note 8.0 with several apps. One is the company’s new Awesome Note app for taking notes, creating to-do lists and composing diary entries. The Smart Remote app allows you to use the tablet as a remote control. There’s also an S Pen-optimized version of the social news app, Flipboard. With it, you can hover the stylus over a tile and get a preview of the headline.

While we’re on the subject of the stylus, Samsung has built in the capability to use the S Pen to control the tablet’s menu and back hardware buttons. Previously, you could only use your finger.

Running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, the Galaxy Note 8.0 is powered by a 1.6GHz Exynos quad-core processor and has a five-megapixel camera on back and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera. It also includes software features found on the Galaxy Note II and Galaxy Note 10.1, such as support for multiple windows, and pop-up video screens.

One interesting thing to note is that the global version of the Galaxy Note 8.0 will offer phone capabilities, while the U.S. version will be Wi-Fi only. The tablet will come in Wi-Fi, 3G and LTE versions, and customers can choose from a 16 gigabyte or 32GB model (with expandable memory).

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This certainly isn’t the first mid-size tablet for Samsung. In fact, the company was one of the first to pioneer the category with its 7-inch Galaxy Tab. But Samsung’s tablets haven’t enjoyed the same type of popularity as its Galaxy S smartphones or Galaxy Note phablets.

Though the company offers tablets in a wide range of screen sizes (7, 8.9, 10.1 inches), there are several different lines (Galaxy Tab, Galaxy Tab Plus, Galaxy Note), which is confusing. And until the Galaxy Note 10.1 came along, Samsung’s offerings blended in with the rest of the Android tablets.

Samsung is now banking on such features as the multi-window support and S Pen to help the Galaxy Note 8.0 stand out from its competitors.

Pricing will also be a key factor, but of course, no such details were given today. The Galaxy Note 8.0 is expected to be available in the U.S. and other parts of the world in the second quarter of 2013, and Samsung said it will release more information closer to launch.

The company also said that it plans to make tablets a major focus for the U.S. market in 2013. The new products will be designed around several major themes, including the living room experience, a more consistent user interface between the company’s various devices, and productivity and creativity.

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