Is this a phone or a tablet, Galaxy Note is not the first Android product to be posed with this question. Other manufacturers have tried to tap this size/market segment with products like Dell Streak or even Acer Iconia Smart. They failed to transform buzz into sales or even give quality devices.
In this review, I will try and find out if Samsung Galaxy Note is a worthy addition to ever-expanding Android device line-up and will it make the consumers buy an over-sized smartphone.
Galaxy Note is clearly built atop already successful Galaxy S II but it does come with significant features improvements, specs bump as well a new addition in the form of S-Pen over S2.
- Dimensions: 146.9 x 83 x 9.7 mm, Weighs 178 g
- Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen display, 5.3 inches with Gorilla Glass
- 3.5mm jack
- Internal Memory: 16GB
- 1GB RAM
- microSD support (up to 32GB)
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot
- Bluetooth v3.0+HS
- USB v2.0 microUSB (MHL), USB On-the-go
- 8 MP Camera, autofocus, LED flash with 1080p@30fps recording support
- 2MP front camera
- Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
- Dual-core 1.4GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, Mali-400MP GPU, Exynos chipset
- FM radio
- GPS with A-GPS support
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- TV-out (via MHL A/V link)
- Digital compass
- Li-Ion 2500 mAh battery
By packing in a small smartphone sized box (even smaller then S II box), Samsung had made a nice attempt of not scaring consumers away from the very first moment. But once you open the box, you just can’t hide it. The 5.3 inch display is all over, I can even cover my fingers and palm with it, but company has tried very hard to make it confortable in your hand. Unless you have kids’ hands, you should be able to hold it properly with one hand, but stop thinking about operating it with one. Otherwise the experience is good and it grows over you with time. You will feel awkward at first but then you will start loving it.
Physically, Note is a rigid, nicely designed and feels solid. Similar to Galaxy S II, almost the whole front of the smartphone body is covered with single glass pane. Apart from that glass, you will find the two capacitive buttons, physical home button, ear-piece, front camera and bunch of sensors in the front.
On the back, you will the paper-thin battery cover, which is becoming normal for Samsung smartphones these days. It takes a little effort to take it out and then put it back but once it’s in place, it is firm. On the sides, there is volume rocker on the left and power button on the right, there is no dedicated camera button or anything else on the sides. Top side has the 3.5 mm jack and secondary microphone, while bottom has main microphone and USB port along with space for stylus.
Altogether, Samsung Galaxy Note is a beautiful device, which needs time to get appreciated. It is by no means your normal smartphone or tablet.
Samsung has launched smartphones with some great displays in the recent years and Galaxy Note takes it one step further with Super AMOLED HD display on-board. Color vibrancy is just great and the 285ppi subdues the issues that come with pen-tile displays.
The 1280X800px resolution in 5.3 inch display is just phenomenal; it gives you a lot to play with. Browsers, gallery, email or even messages – more information is available on the first glance than in other smartphones.
There is no need to talk about Touch sensitivity or even sensitivity to S-Pen, because they work perfectly and one should not expect any less than that on any high-end smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy Note’s 8MP rear camera performs pretty nicely and is similar to the one in Galaxy S II; you will not be disappointed at all. Company has put its own camera app on the device, which has plethora of settings to play with. Like any other modern camera phone, you can make comprehensive set of adjustments, while clicking a picture from your Galaxy Note.
As you would expect outdoor shots are great but indoor shots aren’t bad at all. Note’s camera gave us decent results even in low lighting conditions.
Coming to video recording, it is one of the best in smartphones. Even while recording a 1080p video at 30fps, there is no lag or motion blur in what you see on your display. In low lighting exposure adjustment might take a little time but works pretty good.
One of prominent features of Samsung Galaxy Note is its stylus support (S-Pen in this case). Companies have increasingly started giving the support for stylus in recent tablets but Note is first Android phone (although huge) to bring it. Personally, I didn’t have much use of it but it certainly can be used in many ways by most of you.
S-Pen It is based on Wacom’s Electro-Magnetic Resonance (EMR) technology, which means that it works by induction and does not requires any battery in the stylus itself. It performs pretty much like your fingers but a bit more accurate. As it is not capacitive, you will have to use your fingers with capacitive Android back and menu buttons.
Samsung has preloaded a few apps on Note, which works great with S-Pen but there is a clear need for more such apps to make stylus more useful. S-Pen has a button, which when pressed changes the function of stylus and can help in bringing up S-Memo at any time by double-tapping or taking a screenshot and opening it directly in an editor to help with annotations.
Samsung Galaxy Note comes with no-so-great combination of Gingerbread and Touchwiz 4.0, while TW might be nice at some places, it has own set of issues. You can read more about TouchWiz 4.0 and some handy tweaks in our Galaxy S II review.
Samsung has done some nice work with Android on Note by bringing the 5 column layout to properly utilize all the screen space. It gives you more room to put widgets and shortcuts. Company has also revamped the lock-screen but for worse, unlocking the device feels weird and has no visual cues for help.
Gingerbread does not need any introduction right now and I am expecting Samsung to push ICS to Note very soon, which should bring better and more robust software to the device.
On the apps front, company has pre-loaded the usual set of Hubs, Task Manager, Planner, Diary App, Video Maker, Image Editor, Polaris Office, Kies Air and Allshare apps. You can download more apps to the device via Android Market or Samsung Apps.
Performance, Connectivity, Battery:
The 1.4GHz dual core Exynos processor inside Note is a beast and it is clearly visible in overall usage of the device. There is no lag in the UI and game-play is just smooth. Whether you are playing Riptide or Asphalt or Angry Birds, you will have no issue whatsoever.
Browsing or video playback, performance is great and zippy. Ear-piece is a one big disappointment, I am not sure what is wrong with it but it clearly does not give the best results. Mic input is decent and the presence of secondary mic certainly helps in noise cancellation.
Connectivity Options: Galaxy Note comes with the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and none of them had any issues as such and work nicely. Wi-Fi performance is above average and the review device was connected to the home Wi-Fi network the whole time did not give us any problems.
Battery Life: Understanding the power consumption of a 5.3 inch Super AMOLED HD display, Samsung has bundled a 2500 mAh battery in Note and it gave us over 36 hours of backup with moderate usage. As such you should not have any issues with the battery backup and if your usage is average to low, it can even last two days without charging unless you start playing games or watching movies on the device because display is the biggest drainer of the battery in Galaxy Note.
Samsung has projected Galaxy Note as the ultimate converged device, which will replace your tablet, your phone and even your paper pad. But does it replace all of them – No, although it is a great device, but it cannot replace either of them. If you are someone who wants a 5 inch smartphone, then you cannot get anything better than Galaxy Note, but as the ultimate mobile device, it falls short.
Apart from the size issues, Galaxy Note is a powerhouse, be the 1.4GHz dual core processor or that vibrant 5.3 inch Super AMOLED HD display. Even the 8MP camera is pretty nice. All in one, Samsung Galaxy Note is a memorable device, one of the best on-the-go media consumption smartphones, but it is just too big for people with normal hands, who want a good smartphone. Choice is yours…