Why we love it
A unique, stylus-based text-entry system mimics real handwriting, letting you draw accurate, preplanned routes, create interactive lists and notes, and zoom around maps with precision. Nav geeks raved over the Note 8’s paperback size (8.3-by-5.4 inches), which offers the most screen real estate in the test.
In the field
“The large screen was key while viewing aerial images to plan campsites and scout water sources,” says one tester, who was ultimately converted from a die-hard GPS navigator to a tablet fan—thanks to the Note 8. Credit the best, most pixel-rich screen (1,280-by-800) in the test, which allows for crisper zooming. As a compulsive journaler, he used the included stylus and the preloaded S Note app for hand-drawn map notations (see right). On trail, our tester started with Google’s My Tracks app to log tracks and drop waypoints, and he found that he could hike for 12 hours with the GPS enabled before the battery needed a charge. (General runtime in the frontcountry ran about 15 hours of light use.) Another tester appreciated Android’s built-in “widget” system that places small, working versions of apps like mail, social and news sites for at-a-glance viewing and composing without needing to open the full app. The microSD slot offers expandable memory for saving large photos and video or to load a whole state’s worth of MyTopo maps from Trimble Outdoors ($75-$95; trimbleoutdoors.com/SDCards). One drawback: The 5-megapixel camera occasionally produced blown-out photos in low light. $399/16 GB (Wi-Fi), $499/16 GB (3G); 12 oz.; samsung.com
Otterbox Defender Galaxy Note 8
Get relatively light, affordable protection with this hard plastic shell and integrated screen cover. The Defender encases your tablet in shock-and water-resistant armor. $70; 8 oz.; otterbox.com