Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.0 was released yesterday, April 11th. A glance at the specifications and features makes it look like Samsung did everything right to make this the perfect device for students. Some highlights:
- Size: The 8.0″ display size is comparable to that of the iPad Mini (7.9″ display). Eight inches appears to be about the largest screen size you can put on a tablet without making it difficult to hold in one hand for reading purposes.
- Display: The Galaxy Note’s screen is sharp enough for serious e-reading without undue eye-strain. The display is the perfect compromise between cost and performance. The resolution is 1280 × 800, which isn’t quite into “retina display” range, but still better than most of the competition. The iPad Mini, for example, has a screen with only 1024 × 768 resolution– noticeably grainier.
- Input: I haven’t yet gotten the opportunity to try out an S Pen, but it promises an experience far superior to that of using a traditional stylus. Believe me, it’s not easy to write clean, legible notes on a tablet screen using a normal crayon-proportioned stylus. The S Pen offers the precision necessary for meticulously hand-written work. In addition, a keyboard can be paired with the Galaxy Note over a Bluetooth connection, so serious typing isn’t a problem, either.
- Enterprise suitability: I’m not yet familiar with Samsung For Enterprise (SAFE), but it appears to offer secure VPN connections, on-device encryption, and other security measures. This (debatably) isn’t crucial for students, but they’re great features for teachers who need to better protect their students’ grades or other sensitive information.
- Cost: The Galaxy Note 8.0’s MSRP is $399.99. Admittedly, this is more expensive than the iPad Mini ($329), but it falls well under the cost of a normal 10-inch iPad ($499), which currently seems to be the darling 1:1 device.
Now that I’ve given my take, I’m looking at others’ opinions. Regarding the philosophy behind the device’s design, one author writes that “[i]t’s a tablet for getting things done, made for People Who Get Things Done. It offers tools to that end that none of its rivals match, from an honest-to-goodness multitasking system to the S Pen.” Another author writes of the S Pen that “there’s really nothing on the market that compares with what Samsung has done with this little value-added utensile.”
However, several authors complain that the device is too expensive for most customers; one writes that “it’s still a niche product. If you just want a device to read books, watch movies, and maybe answer a few emails, there are better ways to do them all than on the Note 8.0 — and whether you buy an iPad mini, a Kindle Fire HD, or a Nexus 7, you’ll save a considerable chunk of change in the process.” This same sentiment pops up again and again across reviews, leading to docked stars and reiterated recommendations of Google’s Nexus 7.
But a student’s tablet shouldn’t be designed for the passive consumption of information. It’s true that a student’s tablet has to sport a screen sufficiently large and crisp for serious e-reading (ruling out smaller tablets), but it also has to empower the student to interact creatively with the technology to really create novel things.
I can’t give a firm recommendation without having the opportunity to play around with a Galaxy Note 8.0 myself, but it’s difficult for me to imagine a better 1:1 device for students. Right now, it’s the only tablet that meets those criteria. On the one hand, it’s a wonderful device for e-reading due to its solid display and its just-right size which is large enough to read on but small enough to hold in one hand. On the other hand, its unique input options and its focus on productivity tools and multitasking greatly expand the scope of what students can achieve on a tablet compared to what’s possible on an iPad.
We live in exciting times.