(Pocket-lint) - Samsung has finally unveiled its long-rumoured Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 and Pocket-lint has had a chance to play with one on the eve of Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona.
We haven't had anywhere near enough time with the device for a full review, but have checked it out more than if we were at the show itself, say, and quickly fiddling with it on a stand. This is really what our initial thoughts are - and they're good.
The first thing that strikes you about the Jelly Bean-packing (Android 4.1.2) Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 is that it's much lighter and thinner than expected. We don't know why, but just looking at the press pictures gives the impression that it's a bit of a beef cake. It isn't, far from it.
Instead, it really is like holding the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, but without being able to wrap your entire hand around it comfortably. We don't have small hands here on Pocket-lint, and we still found it a stretch - literally - to hold in one hand. Of course, in normal use, you wouldn't try to span your fingers either side of the frame, rather rest the Note 8.0 across your palm like a writing pad or notebook, but this sort of thing seems to matter to some. Us, not so much.
The lightness is very welcome. Bizarrely, at 338g (for the 3G version, fractionally less for the Wi-Fi only), it is marginally heavier than the iPad mini, but feels lighter when there isn't one to hand for comparison. Perhaps that's because of the build of the device, with the polycarbonate rear plate, or maybe it's just those preconceptions at work, but it's welcome nonetheless. It's far lighter than the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, slimmer too.
Another positive instant impression comes when the 8-inch screen is first switched on. It is as vibrant as a summer day in a field of daisies. Samsung has opted for a 1280 x 800 resolution - and TFT rather than OLED - making it competitive with the likes of the Nexus 7. But it's certainly crisp enough until you look very close. Its pixels per inch of 189 isn't great in the grand scheme of things, but we were actually impressed enough from the short time we had with it.
Inside, there's no skimping on spec. The 1.6GHz A9 quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM help things move like a cheetah on Red Bull. While this equates to smooth, friendly scrolling and almost instant app start-ups, the most important benefit initially is that the S Pen works better on the Galaxy Note 8.0 than we've found on any of its stablemates.
Drawing or writing on the screen is almost like doing so on a pad with a real pen. There's so little lag that sketching feels totally natural.
Another cool thing about the S Pen is that when you take it out from its holder on the rear, a screen will instantly appear with the in-built software that can be used with it. In addition, you don't even need to touch the screen with the tip, hover it over the touchscreen and you'll see a little circle that floats - much like a mouse cursor on a PC desktop.
And this is really important because it is the stylus - sorry, S Pen - that sets this Note 8.0 apart from other tablets in its category. We would say that with it, it doesn't even strike us as a competitor to the iPad mini, Kindle Fire, et al. Instead, it is a tool. A smaller tablet that works far better as a sketching device than the Galaxy Note 10.1 or Note 2. Its size is perfect in that regard, and this is where it will sell.
Samsung strangely is marketing its abilities to also make calls - at least, over at Mobile World Congress - but that's simply not feasible at all. It is not a phablet, it is a tablet. And a rather good one at that.
Pocket-lint will be reviewing the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 properly when we've played with it for sufficient time to make a valid judgement. It will be coming out in the UK in Q2 - around Easter time - and there will be 16GB and 32GB models in both 3G and Wi-Fi-only variants.