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printed December 17, 2017
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Review: Samsung Alcantara Case for Galaxy Note8

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Sep 15, 2017, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 is now on sale in the U.S. Though third-party cases are widely available, Samsung has its own, high-end Alcantara case for the phone. If you place style ahead of practicality, the Alcantara case is one option for protecting your Note8.

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Background

The Galaxy Note8 from Samsung is one of the most expensive handsets available in the market. At approximately $930, it's a piggy-bank-breaking purchase that demands some form of protection. While I generally dislike using cases — after all, why cover up all that beautiful curved glass — there's no way I'm going to march around city streets with the Note8 unprotected.

Companies such as Otterbox, Incipio, UAG, and others already have a slew of options lining store shelves. While these all do a fine job of protecting the phone, they lean more toward function than form. That's why Samsung created its own case for the Note8, made of Alcantara. This slim case may offer minimal protection, but it sure looks and feels good to use. Here is our review.

Hardware

What is Alcantara, you ask? I found this definition:

Alcantara is composed of about 68% polyester and 32% polyurethane, giving increased durability and stain resistance. The appearance and tactile feel of the material is similar to that of suede, and it may be identified as such.

It's a fuzzy material that resembles felt to the eyes, but suede to the touch. It's pretty much the opposite of Gorilla Glass 5, which forms the Note8's outer layer. Alcantara feels natural, authentic, and earth-y, despite the fact that it's completely manufactured in a lab. It's Samsung's answer to the leather cases Apple sells for its own iPhones.

A plastic core provides rigidity and gives the case its shape. All the surfaces of the case are covered with the Alcantara, including the interior. It's like putting a warm sock on your foot in the winter. You can imagine just how comforted the Note8 feels to wear such a fuzzy covering.

The case itself wraps around the Note8's curves more or less perfectly. It covers the entire rear panel, the left, top, and right edges, but leaves the bottom edge exposed in order to allow access to the headphone jack, charge port, and S Pen. The sides of the case cover just the right amount of the phone's sides, allowing you to fully access the Edge Panel functions on the curved glass without worrying about the case. All four corners of the phone are protected, which is important.

As to be expected, a large rectangle cutout on the rear of the case gives the cameras an unobstructed view and also allows your finger to access the fingerprint reader. You'll note a small hole on the top, which allows sound to reach the microphone positioned there. There are small bumps on the left and right sides that signify the Bixby button, volume toggle, and screen lock key. The keys are all easy to find and use thanks to the shape of the case.

The case is incredibly thin. It hardly adds to the phone's footprint at all. I doubt there is a slimmer case available for the phone. This may be clutch for some, as even without a case, the Note8 is pretty darned big.

The Alcantara is available in black, green, gray, and pink. These are not vibrant colors. In fact, the green looks more gray than green.

Performance

Does this thing actually protect your Note8? Some, but not a lot.

To start, the Alcantara is way more resilient than real suede or leather might be. I scratched the case, dropped it, scratched it again, dragged it along rough surfaces, and more. There's not a mark on it. There's no patina. There's no visible damage of any kind. That polyester stuff actually works! Seriously, it's far tougher than I expected.

By covering the back, sides, and corners, the Alcantara case does in fact help prevent damage from simple drops. Samsung hasn't rated the case for drops from any significant height, but I fumbled the Note8 a handful of times from waist height while it was wearing the Alcantara and it survived with all the glass intact. I dropped it onto concrete and ceramic tile.

Even though it worked, I still think I got lucky.

The sections of the case that line the top and bottom edges of the front are raised just a wee bit. This means you can place the Note8 face down on a flat surface and not worry about scratching the screen. Most of the bottom edge is exposed, however, and I fear a direct drop onto that edge might result in actual, expensive damage.

At a minimum, the Alcantara case keeps the back and side edges from getting scratched up, and will help with short drops onto many surfaces. I would not call this a rugged case, nor even a semi-rugged case. It doesn't feel like it would save your phone from significant falls. If you need real protection, perhaps an Otterbox is a better option for you.

Discussion

The Alcantara case from Samsung is not cheap. It costs $50, which is about what you'll spend on a fully protective, rugged case from competing case makers. There's an obvious trade off here: the Alcantara is a stylish option that provides minimal protection without impacting the everyday usability of the phone. A more protective case would make the Note8 even bulkier than it already is. I like the Alcantara case, particularly the way it feels to use, but I don't trust it to do more than offer the simplest level of protection.

Our Ratings

2.5
Overall
 

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