Review: Samsung Galaxy Note

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In a world of ever increasing screen sizes, what size is too big? We used to think that a smartphone that had a screen of 3.7-inches was plenty big, but now a 4.3-incher like the Samsung Galaxy S II or the HTC Sensation XE is considered normal. That was the question running through our minds when we were reviewing the Samsung Galaxy Note, a massive behemoth of a smartphone that dwarfed everything we’ve used before it in sheer screen size. But does size really matter?

Curiously enough, the Note isn’t the first smartphone to traverse the it-might-be-too-big-to-be-a-smartphone category – no, that dubious honor falls to the original Dell Streak with – less than stellar results. It’ll be interesting to see how the Note stacks up because like it or not, it’s treading the same waters that the Streak did almost a year ago.

Not that the Note doesn’t have a chance of survival. Far from it – the Note, externally is very pretty in its simple, elegant way. To be honest, it looks quite a lot like another member of the Galaxy family, the S II, and that’s not a bad thing. There are few controls scattered about in the device – a volume rocker on the left side, a power/unlock button on the right and a back button on the bottom that’s flanked by two backlit touch sensitive keys. Like any self respecting smartphone, the Note has an 8 megapixel camera on the back, along with a smaller front facing camera near the top of the device. The Note also has a stylus that’s stored on the bottom left on the back of the device, near the speaker grille.

Possibly the first thing that people will notice about the note is its huge screen. The 5.3-inch Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen is simply gorgeous. The screen is the reason for the Note’s 146.9 x 83 size, but Samsung being the company that they are, managed to trim the note’s overall thickness to just 9.7mm. Internally, you’re looking at a dual-core 1.4GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor with a Mali-400MP GPU. A customary glance at the Galaxy S II’s processor tells us that the Note is 200 MHz faster than its smaller smartphone brother. Other specs include 16GB/32GB storage and about 1 GB of RAM. As expected, the Note is packing Android 2.3.5 from the outset, and will no doubt get the ICS treatment later on.

Like any other implementation of Android, Samsung has infused the Note with its own TouchWiz interface. We’ve seen it before on the Galaxy S II and the Tab 10.1, and as always the apps and widgets it brings to the table is a welcome addition to the Android experience we’ve known and loved.

So what does the note bring to the table (aside from a humongous screen)? Well, the included capacitive pen dubbed the S Pen, allows you to do a couple of things. One, it makes it possible for you to just jot down notes during meetings via the built-in handwriting recognition software.

The same software also allows you to answer text messages using the pen, something that old school Palm Pilot users might appreciate. The pen also makes it possible for you to doodle sketches during meetings, which is especially important for creatives when dealing and talking to their clients.

Speaking of screen, we can’t say enough good things about the display on this device. Aside from being absolutely huge, it makes viewing web pages a pleasurable experience. No more settling for mobile versions of websites – with the Note, it’s entirely possible to render a webpage just as the designers intended it. The Super AMOLED touchscreen is simply beautiful to look at, and with a resolution of 800 x 1280, the resolution of the images you’ll be seeing on it will be the same if you were viewing it from a full-size notebook.

When it comes to performance, the Note doesn’t disappoint. It’s able to power through most apps that we used it with without any issues, and it’s completely at home with multitasking. As always, our synthetic benchmark of choice was AnTuTu, and as expected, the Note scored extremely high marks at 6348, beating out the Galaxy S II and the recently launched Galaxy Nexus.

Battery life was astounding. One of the biggest perks to having a big frame is that there’s a lot more room to squeeze a battery in and Samsung has managed to cram a huge 2500mAh battery in there. Combine that with the energy efficient Super AMOLED display, and you get a rock solid battery life of 9 hours with near-constant use, which would probably last you more than a day and a half with moderate use. Call quality was good, and we never experienced a dropped call while using the device. One of the things that the Note does inherit from the Galaxy S II that we didn’t like was the flimsy battery cover – we’ve seen how easy that thing was to damage, and it’s probably safe to assume the same is true for the Note’s cover.

Possibly the biggest issue people will have with the Note is it’s sheer size. It’s a heck of a lot of phone to grab with a single hand, and even with our larger than normal hands, our thumbs had a bit of trouble getting from one edge of the screen and back. People with dainty hands are almost guaranteed to use this device two handed. The size of the device also means that you’d want to get a decent Bluetooth device for it, unless you want to look foolish when handling voice calls.

Of course, all of that screen real estate and cutting edge speed means one thing: the Galaxy Note demands a premium price. Retailing at Php 35,990, it’s definitely not cheap. But we think the performance, battery life and utility that the Samsung Galaxy Note brings to the table is well worth the price of admission.

What’s Hot:
Fast processor
Extremely large screen
Excellent battery endurance
S Pen gives creative types more options

What’s Not:
Expensive
Large screen is difficult to use for people with small hands

Bottomline:
The Samsung Galaxy Note might be expensive, but you’ll definitely be getting your money’s worth.

Buymeter: 9.0

Tech Specs:

  • Operating System: Android 2.3, TouchWiz UI
  • CPU: Dual-core 1.4GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, Mali-400MP GPU, Exynos chipset
  • LCD size: 5.3 inch Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 800 x 1280 resolution
  • Physical Dimensions: 146.9 x 83 x 9.7 mm
  • Weight: 178 g
  • Band: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
  • Internal memory: 16GB/32GB storage, expandable through microSD