Usually when a new smartphone comes along from one of the industry heavyweights we would analyse how it needs to improve on its predecessor, up the game and set a new benchmark for its rivals to challenge.

For the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, things are different. This phone, above absolutely everything else, must not explode.

This may sound flippant, a quick and easy jab at Samsung a year on from the unmitigated disaster that was the Note 7. But really, Samsung has to get this phone right on a basic, physical and chemical level before we can brand it a success.

With the acrid fog of battery fumes barely out of view, Samsung is hoping the UK market still wants a big-screen phone with a stylus. Because, although the tech community remembers the Note 7, it never officially went on sale over here. Neither did the Note 6, because for some reason Samsung never made one, and nor did the Note 5, as while the US got it, we had to make do with the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, which was equally large but didn't include the Note's S Pen stylus.

So, apart from a grey market of illegitimate Note 7s and imported Note 5s, Samsung hasn't sold a big-screen phone with a stylus in the UK since the Note 4 and Note Edge from 2014. Will there still be the same demand for a big screen and a stylus? The Note 8 is here to find out.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8
The Note 8 will be available in black, blue and gold (pictured) when it arrives in the UK IBTimes UK

This is a simply beautiful smartphone. Similar to the equally gorgeous Galaxy S8, but with sides which curve more steeply, a larger screen, a dual-lens rear camera and of course the S Pen stylus, which now feels more like writing on paper than ever before.

The Note 8 features the same 'Infinity Display' design as the S8. This means the display stretches outwards to all four corners, displacing the physical home button which has been replaced by an on-screen alternative. As with the S8, this issues a simulated clicking sensation when pressed.

For such a large handset - the screen measures 6.3 inches - the Note 8 feels remarkably secure in one hand. The metal sides and glass back attract fingerprints like nothing else, but they also make better contact with your hands than the aluminium of an iPhone 7.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8
The Note 8 borrows the same Infinity Display designs as the Galaxy S8 IBTimes UK

The display is a Super AMOLED panel with a resolution of 1440 x 2960 and a pixel density of 522 per inch. What that means is it looks stunning, with bright vibrant colours and deep, inky blacks.

Another immediate wow-factor is the camera, which has been upgraded to include a dual lens setup for the first time in the Note's history. Indeed, it is the first Samsung to have two lenses on the back, one telephoto and one wide angle. Both cameras fire at the same time, letting you flick between two different takes on the same image after every photo you take; alternatively they can work together to offer 2x optical zoom, just like the iPhone 7 Plus.

The resolution here is 12-megapixel and there is optical image stabilisation - a feature also found on the 8MP front camera, helping you shoot the perfect selfies and smooth video.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8
As with the ill-fated Note 7, the Note 8's S Pen stylus is a powerful and surprisingly useful feature IBTimes UK

The Note's ever faithful S Pen stylus sidekick is back for another outing, transforming the dynamic duo from smartphone to notepad. For this latest offering the S Pen has some new tricks up its sleeve, such as the ability to scribble down a to-do list and add it to the phone's always-on display, putting your shopping list permanently on the lock screen, with the time, date and notifications.

The stylus is essentially the same as the Note 7's, meaning 4,096 levels of sensitivity and the ability to be used underwater, should you need to scribble down a reminder to buy an umbrella. Reassuringly, the phone itself is also water resistant.

Of even more reassurance is the battery, which is put through Samsung's new eight-step safety test. Brought into effect after the Note 7 disaster and first used on the Galaxy S8, the process includes X-rays, durability and disassembling procedures, visual inspections and more to make sure every battery is produced and installed correctly. At 3,300mAh, the Note 8's battery is a touch smaller than the 3,500mAh unit fitted to the Note 7, but this is more cause for relief than concern.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung has introduced a new colour, called Deep Sea Blue, to the Note range IBTimes UK

During our time with the Note 8 ahead of launch we got to see how it works with Dex, a dock made by Samsung which uses the phone to power a desktop experience. Connect the Dex to a PC monitor, keyboard and mouse, slot the Note 8 in and a Windows-like user interface bursts into life. There is a desktop, a file management system, the ability to run several apps across multiple windows at once...for all intents and purposes it's a computer.

We've heard Samsung will be offering the Dex dock for free with Note 8 pre-orders, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Galaxy Note 8 observations

  • Same iris scanner at the Galaxy S8. Look at the phone and it unlocks
  • A headphone jack, unlike on the iPhone 7
  • The Note 8 supports wireless charging
  • Storage options are 64, 128 and 256GB, plus a microSD card slot to add up to 256GB more
  • Colour options in the UK at launch are black, blue and gold. 'Orchid Grey' is available in other markets and might come to the UK at a later date
  • There is an off-centre fingerprint reader on the back, next to the camera
  • The phone's Bixby button, for launching Samsung's Siri rival, is on the left edge, below the volume keys
  • Samsung is yet to announce a price or release date for the Note 8. We will update this article as soon as we hear more.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8: First impressions

If you had somehow missed the Note 7 debacle, you would have no idea that Samsung was at anything other than the top of its game. The Note 8 is a beautiful handset with a superb display and stunning cameras. Samsung's take on Android is top-notch, the hardware feels every bit the iPhone beater, and the S Pen is - as always, if we're being honest - far less of a gimmick than you might think.

But all that comes at a price, and with the 64GB version of the Note 8 that means a massive £869, or £90 more than the almost identical Galaxy S8 Plus - the only real difference is the Note's stylus. Monthly contracts without paying anything up front are going to be in the region of £60. But before we judge the Note 8 too much, we need to spend some quality time with it. Look out for our full review soon.

Back without a bang? We certainly hope so.