Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review

Recently, I was approached by Staples to do a product review on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

The model I received has 2GB of RAM, is WiFi only (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0, and has 16GB of memory storage, expandable to 64GB via a microSD/HC slot.

Some other important specs include:
8" screen with a 1280x800 resolution
Quad-Core, 1.6GHz processor
Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean)
.73 pounds in weight
5MP rear and 1.3MP front cameras

I have never written a review of a product before and if I am being honest, I read a number of them before attempting to write this one. Most reviews give you all the technical jargon and specs that the average user could probably care less about. I decided that as a teacher I would go through my uses of this tablet and how I could see it being used by students and teachers in a classroom or school setting. To be clear, I was skeptical that this tablet would be any different than the iPad or even the Kindle Fire, which I also use regularly.

Aesthetics
To start with, I do like the aesthetic qualities of the Galaxy Note. It is small enough to fit in my hand and feels very much like a small notebook as the name indicates. I used it in both portrait and landscape mode depending on what I was doing on the device. I did use it to read a book and found it had a sharp picture and was easy to read and maneuver within the text. I could see this being a good device for younger students as it is smaller and therefore better suited for small hands. As I can attest, it is also capable of being dropped from a high table and remains in perfect working order. J I did not have a screen cover or any sort of shell but realize there are a number of those available for additional protection or customization.

Apps and Programs
In terms of overall apps and programs, I found the ones I installed and used intuitive and easy to use. This might have been because I use a Samsung Galaxy S3 Phone and many of the functions and procedures were similar. Many of the apps included are the same ones you would have on any device. I am a user of Tweetdeck, Vine, Evernote, Facebook, Instagram and a handful of photo and video editing apps. All of these functioned exactly as they do on my phone or any other device for that matter. Again, I see this device having value in a school setting because it is cheaper than a full iPad and frankly I was unable to find any apps that could not be used on it effectively.

As the great device wars rages on, I think cheaper and smaller devices such as the Galaxy Note will be popular because it can run nearly all of the same apps as the Apple devices but also have great integration with Google. As a heavy Google user (Blogger, G+, Picasa, Drive, Talk and Maps) this device seamlessly integrates all of those programs and utilities. When I first logged into the device I synched with my Google account and instantly had access to all of my “stuff” in the Google universe. I see this is a huge positive for schools that are using Google Apps for Education or are heavy users of Google tools.

The Stylus
I am aware that other tablets have styluses, yet this one works a bit differently. The big feature for me is the button on the stylus that can be used to take various screen shots. Just simply tapping the button on the stylus and your screen will take a full screen shot very quickly and easily. I was also doing a fair amount of reading on the device and wanted to take notes. While I was reading, I simply grabbed the stylus and was able to click the button and essentially grab portions of the screen and snap a picture of it. I then used those images to drop into a notebook page or into an Evernote note. This would be tremendous for kids doing research or taking notes from text. I could see big uses for students to grab screen shots of a whole variety of things including documents or images that the teacher is sending to them via an LMS or tool such as Google Documents or through Evernote. The possibilities are really endless.

In addition to the screen shot taking, the stylus will function in the same way that most do in that it can be used to scroll, navigate pages and write. This would be useful for some of the handwriting apps for primary grade students. The ability to take notes was something I also tried and it has a very solid handwriting to text recognition that I found useful. Again, students can take notes in their own hand and then have it converted to text and imported, shared, or used in a whole host of ways.

Camera and Video
As far as tablets go, the camera and video playback on the Galaxy Note is pretty standard for most devices on the market. I took videos and pictures in a variety of settings and it worked as anticipated. Low light settings are not great but then again most devices are lacking in this area. I installed a host of picture editing apps because that is something I enjoy doing. They all functioned great and I would anticipate teachers in a variety of settings that use digital media to find great use in that area. The screen size was also large enough to see and interact with the pictures while editing. In terms of the video playback, I did do some video streaming/watching on the device and it was of high quality. As a parent of two little guys who love being at out local pool, I spent a great deal of time with the device there. Even in the bright afternoon sun, I was able to view videos and even text with little trouble at all. This would be useful of you have a handful of these devices with kids working outside.


Overview
As with any piece of technology, it all comes down to user experience and with so many options out there, the consumers have plenty to choose from. I own more devices than I am willing to admit and they all have some place in my routine of either work or play. Many of us continue to search for that one device that will serve all of our needs or in my case, th
e needs of my students. I see that Galaxy Note as a solid candidate for use in classrooms simply because it is small in hand and can do just about everything the other devices on the market can. I look forward to using the device more and seeing what other classroom uses I can develop including its possible synching with our school Learning Management System in the fall.

Full disclosure: Staples.com provided me with this product for review. The thoughts and opinions expressed are strictly my own. Feel free to shop their entire line of tablets online.


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