Samsung Galaxy Note II hands-on, first impressions

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We’ve been salivating at the chance to fondle the Galaxy Note II ever since it was announced in IFA a few weeks back, and now we’re happy to report that we’ve finally got a unit at our office. This is Samsung’s latest offering in the phablet domain, and to tell you guys the truth we’re really liking it a lot. This 5.5-inch smartphone is definitely one of the finest ‘droids we’ve handled so far this year.

The externals of the Galaxy Note II is eerily similar to the Galaxy S III – putting the two devices side by side reveals just how much loved the original design of the S III. The Galaxy Note II has the same soft curves of the S III, and has the same button layout as the S III. The most obvious difference of course, is size – the Galaxy S III looks diminutive when placed beside the Galaxy Note II. The Galaxy Note II uses a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen that has a display resolution of 720 x 1280, a .2 inch size difference from the 5.3-inch display of the original Note. Despite having a bigger screen, the Galaxy Note II has a slimmer 0.3mm thinner profile.

Externally, the Galaxy Note II doesn’t have a whole lot of ports – there’s a volume rocker on the left side with the power button on the right. On the bottom lies the ok key, which is flanked by two capacitive keys. On the back lies the 8-megapixel auto-focus camera with backlit sensor. Like the original, the Galaxy Note II houses the extremely useful S Pen on the back near the bottom right of the device.

The Galaxy Note II is armed with a couple of proprietary technologies by way of the TouchWiz UI placed on top of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It has the same Smart Stay technology that was on the Galaxy S III which basically watches your eyes to determine if the device needs to dim the display or not, as well as the S Pen functionality that worked well with the original device. Samsung has done a good job in integrating Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with their TouchWiz UI, which is an improvement over the Galaxy S III. A particularly nice feature that we liked is that you now get more detail with them – mail for example, now has sender information and the subject line, not just a generic alert that you have x amount of unanswered email in your inbox.

Specs-wise, the Galaxy Note II hits all the right spots – Exynos 4412 Quadcore processor running at 1.6 GHz with a Mali-400MP GPU, paired with 2GB of RAM. This means that the Galaxy Note II has enough processing power to get it through the most demanding of Android apps, whether it be games or productivity software.

The thing that really made the original Note shine was the included stylus that did more than just aid people in writing. That particular feature is back, and Samsung has improved the S Pen in a number of ways. It’s now a bit longer – 11.3cm in length – and thicker – 7mm in thickness – which means users will now have a more solid purchase when writing on the 5.5-inch display. The Galaxy Note II also knows when the S Pen isn’t in its tray, and will notify users of this fact when you start walking away without the pen tucked in its tray. Smart.

We’re sure we really haven’t covered everything that the Galaxy Note II has to offer, but remember we just got this unit today, so we’ll be doing a more in-depth review of the device soon.