Multi Window Support

I first played with Samsung’s multi window support with the Galaxy Note 10.1. The idea behind it is simple, and honestly it’s something Google should have done the minute Microsoft demonstrated multi-window support on Windows 8. For a predefined list of apps (18 altogether), you can run any combination of two of them on the screen at the same time. The two applications can split the screen vertically or horizontally, and you can control how much of the screen is dedicated to each app. On the Note 10.1 you could launch all multi-window apps in cascade or split screen modes, while only the latter is available on the Note 8.0.

A big change since the original Note 10.1 implementation is the fact that there’s no delay when switching focus between the two apps. Just tap on whichever side of the screen you want to interact with and you’re off, there’s no hesitation or delay.

Here’s where having four cores actually can make a difference. Regardless of which application you’re actively using, both apps running in multi-window mode continue to animate and work. Thanks to the quad-core Cortex A9 SoC and having a full 2GB of RAM, the perceivable performance impact from running in multi-window mode is limited. To quantify my seat of the pants feel I fired up Browser.apk and Chrome, ran them side by side and had each one run an instance of Kraken. I compared the results to each browser running Kraken alone:

Samsun Galaxy Note 8.0 Multi-Window Performance - Kraken Benchmark
  Chrome Browser
Single Tasking 13357.1 ms 15075.8 ms
Multi Window (Both Apps Running Simultaneously) 14452.2 ms 16125.4 ms

Note that Kraken is a fairly well threaded benchmark, but scaling beyond 2 cores still provides limited benefit - making it an excellent benchmark to showcase exactly what I’m talking about here since most Android applications don’t do a great job of showing huge performance gains beyond 2 cores.

This isn’t to say that there’s no degradation of performance when running in multi-window mode, just that it’s acceptable.

The bigger problem in multi-window mode is a simple lack of real estate. As I mentioned earlier, given the size of the TouchWiz UI elements and 1280 x 800 display resolution of the Galaxy Note 8.0 there isn’t a ton of excess space. Some combinations of apps work well (e.g. browser + video player in portrait mode, browser + talk, etc...) while others aren’t as nice as you’d expect (e.g. browser + gmail in portrait mode).

Samsung’s multi-window does have some intelligence to it. If you’re running two apps, switch away and then switch back to either of the apps you’ll return to the two-window layout just the way you left it. You can also maximize one of the windows, swap positions or close whenever you interact with either window for the first time.

You can debate about the usefulness of Samsung’s other features, but it’s obvious that Google needs a real multi-window solution for Android. I don’t know that Samsung has it perfect, but it’s a decent attempt.

Watch On & Awesome Note HD

One of the flagship features of the Galaxy Note 8.0 is its IR emitter and accompanying Watch On software. You can use the two to control your TV and/or cable box as a lightweight universal remote (you only get basic channel/volume control and the ability to navigate menus/inputs). Watch On is Samsung’s new content aggregation portal, allowing you to rent and buy content for use on your device from Samsung's own service or Blockbuster (no Netflix support yet). If you have a supported 2013 model Samsung TV you’re apparently able to wirelessly stream video content from your TV to your tablet and vice versa. I didn’t have a compatible TV on hand to test this out unfortunately.

I’m happy to see IR integration on modern smartphones and tablets, but I do wish someone would take the next step and really pursue true Home Theater integration. I’m talking about the ability to control more than just a TV + set top box. The ability to create macros, drive other IR blasters/repeaters, etc... I want to see someone turn their tablet/smartphone platform into a real Harmony competitor.

Samsung also secured the rights to the Android version of Awesome Note HD, which ships preloaded on the Galaxy Note 8.0. Awesome Note is a very powerful integrated organizer that gained popularity on iOS. The Android version is exclusive to the Galaxy Note 8.0.


The S Pen Camera
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  • Sleepingforest - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    I'm really excited about the multi-window support! I find myself switching between two apps (internet and note-taking) far too often on my phone--it's really annoying, even with multitasking tweaks and whatnot.
  • gnx - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    If you're into rooting and installing custom ROMs, AOKP with "last app" in the navigation bar is excellent for that kind of multitasking.

    But as an 8.9 user, I really wish Samsung or someone would build a under 1lbs, 1080p HD, 8.9 tablet. The form factor of 8.9 makes it like a slim ipad4, while the under 1lbs makes it possible to hold with one hand, and of course, 1080p HD in 8.9 would not only look great, it'd make note taking (with an S pen or any other stylus) much more accurate.

    Long ago, supposedly LG's consumer research showed the people felt the 8.9 as the ideal size. LG came out with the first one, and Sammy followed suit with a svelt Galaxy Tab 8.9. That was two years ago. Now, Amazon's 8.9 Kindle erred on being a tad too heavy (1.3 lbs), while this Galaxy Note errs on being too cramped. If Sammy would quite chasing Apple (and making a 8.0), and just go its own way with an upgraded 8.9.
  • Sleepingforest - Sunday, April 21, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the advice, but I'm actually an iPhone user (jailbroken!) It's starting to feel a bit slow though, and I don't know if I'm going to stick with Apple. I am pretty heavily invested in the app ecosystem here, but I'm sure an Android promotion will come up at some point with a Google Play giftcard as incentive.

    I'll keep your advice in mind though, as I'm looking pretty closely at the HTC One!
  • enmass90 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    If you're a jailbroken iPhone user, download a tweak called "accelerate". It will make iOS feel alot snappier, and you can choose how fast you want it!
  • TaylorSandler - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    Love my job, since I've been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online.(Click Home information)
  • Donniesito - Friday, April 19, 2013 - link

    Why don't we have the ability to report posts as spam? Can we please get rid of these absurd comments?
  • nerdstalker - Sunday, April 21, 2013 - link

    I kinda like them; they are mostly funny. Especially when they are posted in bold.; easier to spot and read. Ha! :)
  • DanielShaw - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    There is no doubt that Galaxy Note 8 is much more sophisticated and advanced than many other similar devices and Samsung products. It is very intuitive, quick and functional. It is perfect for using it on the go, when you need to take quick notes, write down some ideas, search for information, etc. Since I bought it few days ago, I am not stopping being impressed by this device.

    See my full feedback and review of Galaxy Note 8:
  • martie01 - Friday, May 17, 2013 - link

    I'd agree. Samsung note 8 is certainly a tremendous device, even despite the rather high price.
  • Gadgetguy52 - Friday, June 21, 2013 - link

    I agree. Since I got the Note 8.0, I haven't been annoyed with not being able to open up an additional window.

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