The Note 8.0 is a curious device from a design standpoint. After using it for a time, we now know why 8-inch tablets aren't very common: this form factor is a bit awkward. Perhaps the biggest selling point for a 10-inch tablet is that it's large enough to be used in presentations, as a video viewer on a plane, as an e-reader on the beach, and as a productivity tool in the office. Similarly, the biggest selling point for the 7-inch form factor is that it's small enough for most adults to use it one-handed. There's a very clear delineation: if you want a single-handed tablet, get a 7-incher; if you don't, and perhaps want to get some work done, get a 10-incher.
The Galaxy Note 8.0 is only slightly larger than your average 7-inch tablet, but it's too large to use with a single hand, so you're forced to handle it with two. And at that point, if you know it's a two-handed affair, why wouldn't you splurge for a few more inches of screen real estate? The Note 8.0 is in no way small enough to fit into any cargo pockets, so if it's going in a knapsack or purse, we suspect most people would go ahead and get a size up.
The only obvious counter to this would be screen resolution. Had Samsung equipped the Note 8.0 with a 1080p panel (or something relatively close), it would have an impressive pixel density. A 1080p panel on an 8-inch screen would be incredibly crisp, and it would be a major selling point. As is, the unit has a 1280 x 800 resolution panel, which at 189ppi, isn't nearly as crisp as the slew of Retina-level displays we're seeing on some devices these days. Viewing angles are acceptable, colors are vibrant, touch response is excellent and brightness levels are admirable, but we think Samsung missed a golden opportunity here to more easily justify the 8-inch screen size.
Moving beyond that, the Note 8.0 has Samsung's typical plastic shell. The white hue looks fairly premium, but the choice to use plastic instead of a more superior material leaves us wanting. In fact, the rear of the $199 Nexus 7 feels much more premium than the slick, plastic backside of the $400 Note 8.0. The front is unsurprisingly glossy, but the coating does a decent job of rejecting fingerprints. There's a 1.3MP front-facing camera up above the LCD, while a physical 'home' button is between a menu softkey and a back softkey along the bottom.
There's a silver (also plastic) accent ring running around the device, with a microSD slot on the left, a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top, a power button + volume rocker along the right, and a micro-USB port on the bottom. There's also a slot for the S Pen stylus at the lower edge on the right side, which slips out easily and seems to hold itself inside fairly well when reinserted. The rear is fairly vanilla, though there's an odd bulge around the 5MP camera sensor near the top.
In use, we found the package to be a bit too slippery. Yes, slippery. The glossy exterior is somewhat tough to grip, and when you're trying to use a handheld device, grip is important. (See our prior comment about the grippy backside of the Nexus 7.) Typing on the virtual keyboard was a satisfactory experience when holding the tablet in portrait mode, but it's too wide in landscape mode for typing to be useful.