Though pricey, new phone worth a look

At first glance, the Note 8, available for preorder now and on shelves Sept. 15, seems to have put Samsung firmly on the road to redemption after the Note 7 recall after some of the devices overheated and caught fire.

The most striking thing on the Note 8 is its display. It runs edge-to-edge as it does on the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus. On a phone as large as this — 6.3 inches — the extra space is especially noticeable.

That gives you plenty of room to play with the Note’s signature stylus, both for handwritten notes and for doodles, such as this one a Samsung representative penned on my portrait.

Samsung has also worked some software magic on how the phone’s camera focuses. Thanks to the dual lens, the Note 8 takes a couple of shots with every shutter click. That allows users to edit their photos more comprehensively after the fact — you can change the background blur of a picture, for example, or see the wide-angle view of a close-up shot.

The Note 8 has a dedicated button for Bixby, Samsung’s voice assistant. The voice assistant is smart in some ways — it can recognize what’s in your photos, for example — but still works with a limited number of apps. Samsung is adding more support, however, including for the music service Spotify.

There are some gripes, of course, besides the price. The fingerprint reader remains clumsily placed next to the camera lens. The Note is still large and somewhat unwieldy to hold if your hands aren’t that big — though the ability to get more screen real estate out of a device that’s physically smaller helps ease that concern.

So, who should buy it? Devotees of the Note line should be very pleased, particularly coming from the Note 5 — Samsung skipped the Note 6 for branding reasons.

For those wondering whether the Note 8 will have the similar battery issues that plagued the Note 7, Samsung has said that it learned its lesson and applied new safety standards during the manufacturing process.

This is Samsung’s premium device, and it should be thought of as a competitor of the iPhone 7 Plus, or whatever upcoming model might appear in the fall.

For some, it will be worth a wait to see what Apple has in store — which also, conveniently, gives Samsung time to work out any potential growing pains with the Note 8.