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Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 scores one against the iPad Mini

Galen Gruman | June 10, 2013
The Galaxy Note's more readable UI has appeal, but the iPad Mini remains a better tablet

Samsung, like Google, is trying to create its own media ecosystem, but that has created confusion in devices like the Galaxy Note 8.0 and Galaxy S 4, where Samsung and Google offer competing services. Meanwhile, Apple's ecosystem just works, with the Apple TV supporting any HDMI-equipped TV or receiver.

Plus, the iPad Mini supports many of Amazon's and Google's content services, so you're not stuck in an Apple universe. By contrast, Samsung's products steer you to Samsung's offerings, and Google's Nexus line steers to Google's offerings — limiting their appeal.

The Galaxy Note 8.0 does come with an infrared port to let it control a TV or receiver, but I had difficulty getting the WatchOn remote-control app to recognize my equipment — the HTC One smartphone's equivalent TV app had no difficulty with this task. Of course, an iPad Mini can't serve as an IR remote, but at least that avoids the frustrations of it not working as expected.

The iPad Mini is a better piece of hardware. Although the Galaxy Note 8.0's screen is nice, its speakers are poor, with a tinny, flat sound as bad as the Nexus 7's or Kindle HD's. You will not want to listen to music or a movie without headphones when using the Note 8.0.

With an 11-pin, MHL-compliant MicroUSB-to-HDMI cable, you can connect the Note 8.0 directly to a TV or receiver, to use its better audio output — but you can do the same with an iPad Mini's Lightning-to-HDMI cable.

The Galaxy Note 8.0 costs $400 for a Wi-Fi-only version; no cellular models are available. Onboard storage is a paltry 16GB, but you can insert a MicroSD card with as much as 32GB capacity to boost the storage space for music, videos, and documents. Note that apps cannot be installed on a MicroSD card.

Ironically, although media usage seems to be the mainstay of mini tablets, the Note 8.0's strength is as a business tablet. The iPad Mini works very well as a business tablet, but if more pen-savvy apps were available, the Galaxy Note 8.0 could give the iPad Mini a real run for its money.


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