The Samsung Galaxy Note is currently one of top devices from the Korean electronics giant. It has great specs, great design and offers great features. It separates itself from the rest of pack by combing both phone and tablet functionalities in a 5.3-inch package. At this size, the Galaxy Note is naturally big for a phone and is also small for a tablet. The question is, will this diminish the value and usefulness of the Galaxy Note? Or does is the device able to shine nonetheless? Read the rest of the review to find out.
Big. This is what immediately comes to mind when you hold the Samsung Galaxy Note. This is of course if you have a previous knowledge about the device being a phone. “Small” then comes to mind if you have previously been told that the Note is a tablet. In reality, the Galaxy Note is both, so you will actually feel confused if the device is big or small. What is clear, though, is that the Note is impossible to operate using only a single hand. Try doing this and you’ll end up tapping the wrong icons, or worse, you’ll drop the thing.
Samsung is practically the first to introduce this kind of device. It’s a “phablet” as some have labeled it, since it is both a phone and a tablet. As such, it’s hard to measure the device if you treat it as a phone, and equally hard if you treat it as a tablet. So what should we make of it then?
The Galaxy Note is a unique device that both enthralls and impresses. The construction of the Galaxy Tab is something that’s praise-worthy. Apart from the plastic back cover, I like everything else about the Galaxy Note’s design and materials. It’s a premium device no doubt. From the all black front part, to the silver trimming that outlines the phone, to the minimalist overall appeal, the Galaxy Note is simply beautiful. The display on the front abruptly ends on the edges, a design element that’s not exactly original but is highly useful on a touchscreen device since it lets users swipe until the edge of the phone without anything blocking or stopping the action.
The buttons have nice resistance to them, except for the Home button which is soft, but not in a bad way. The power button is located at the right side while the volume rocker occupies the left side. On top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and at the bottom is the micro USB port. The camera occupies the back part, joined by an LED flash and a speaker grille. The back cover of the device has a textured feel to it yet it’s still obviously plastic. What’s good about plastic back covers is they can be easily removed and that’s the case with the Galaxy Note.
Hardware and Display
The Galaxy Note is currently one of the best devices in terms of hardware specs. The combination of a 1.4GHz dual-core Exynos chip, 1GB RAM, 8 megapixel rear and 2 megapixel front camera, 2500mAh battery, and 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED display with 1280×800 pixel resolution make the Galaxy Note a superdevice. This set of specs lets you run apps, play games and videos and snap photos without lags or hiccups.
The most impressive hardware feature of the Galaxy Note has to be the screen. The 5.3-inch display on the Note is simply stunning. It’s arguably one of the best displays I’ve seen on a mobile device, possibly at par with the retina display on the iPhone 4S. The 1280 x 800 resolution makes the display crisp and sharp, and we all know how good Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays are. The version on the Galaxy Note is an HD version, so it’s even better than the one on the Samsung Galaxy S II for instance.
The 5.3-inch size is huge. It’s ideal for watching videos, playing games, reading ebooks or browsing websites. I prefer doing these tasks on the Galaxy Note than on my Galaxy Nexus because of the bigger screen real estate. This is an advantage of devices of with bigger screens. The downside, clearly, is lesser portability. I used to think that at 5.3 inches, the Galaxy Note is still going to as portable as my 4.65-inch Galaxy Nexus. I was wrong. The Galaxy Note is not meant for one-hand use. It’s simply impossible to do this if you have normal-sized hands. I tried to type text messages with a single hand and I always failed to finish what I was typing as it’s hard to reach for the letters on the other side of the display. This also holds true for tapping icons located at the upper left hand corner. For those who drive, you will not be able to use the Note while mobile. You may need a second phone for that.
Here’s the list of main specs for the Galaxy Note.
Samsung Galaxy Note Specifications
- 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED display (1280×800 pixel resolution)
- Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread
- Samsung TouchWiz UI 4.0
- 1.4GHz dual-core processor Exynos chip
- Mali-400MP GPU
- 1GB RAM
- 16GB internal memory (expandable via microSD up to 32GB)
- HSPA+ 21Mbps or 4G LTE
- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0
- 8MP rear camera with 1080p full HD video recording
- 2MP front-facing camera
- GPS w/ aGPS support
- FM radio tuner
- 2500mAh battery
- Size: 146.85 x 82.95 x 9.65 mm, 178g
The S Pen
When the Galaxy Note was first announced, I was surprised when I learned that it will be featuring stylus pen input. To me, stylus input died when the Palm pilots lost their relevance. I was therefore excited to see how Samsung integrated pen input, and if it would be awkward to use considering that the screen of the Note is capacitive, not resistive.
The stylus in the Galaxy Note is called the S-Pen, with the S possibly representing the word stylus. It is hidden on the side of the Note, only accessible through a gap at the bottom of the device. It’s rather small yet it’s comfortable to hold. When I first tried the S-Pen to sketch and write a few words, I found the experience rather good. I was expecting the input process to be less accurate, but to my surprise, the Note acknowledged the strokes accurately. You don’t need to put extra pressure on your strokes as the Note’s display is quite sensitive enough. The S-Pen feature is good for users who want to draw, sketch, or simply take notes using a pen device.
The Galaxy Note pairs the S-Pen with an S-Memo app, a multimedia application that records all forms of user-created content. It’s able to capture pictures, voice recordings, typed text, handwritten notes or drawings can all be captured using this application and converted to a ‘memo’. These are functions that are quite handy for personal as well as for business use.
Apart from the fantastic display of the Galaxy Note, the other best thing about the device is the camera. The 8-megapixel rear shooter takes surprisingly sharp photos. Even when viewed on the Note’s HD display, you will still see that the Note’s output is sharp. The color balance is also just right, although there’s probably a lack in contrast in some shots. I was able to bring the Galaxy Note with me during my recent trip to Vietnam. Here are some shots I took using the Note. Click on the photos to see the larger versions.
The Galaxy Note also captures great videos at 1080p resolution. I was satisfied with the sharpness and the color balance on the videos I took with the Note. Here is a sample video I took while I was travelling on one of the smaller channels of Mekong river. Change the player settings to 1080p to see the HD version.
Performance, Battery Life
The Galaxy Note claims to be among the best handsets currently available, a claim that my two-week use has proven to be true. The Note is fast in loading apps and can handle multi-tasking rather easily. The 1.4GHz dual-core processor proves to be a dependable workhorse and proves its mettle by how good it handles heavy games and HD movies.
As a phone, the Galaxy Note is a natural. Using it for calls is just like using any other smartphone, although you will surely get stares when you make calls in public. It grabs attention with its unusual size, but you can get used to its size quickly. Calls on the Galaxy Note are clear and solid and without any real issues. Get used to using the headphones though as it is the more natural mode for making calls compared to putting your ear into the device.
One of the strengths of the Galaxy Note is its long battery life. The 2500 mAh battery offers just the right amount of juice to get you through your day without having to do some quick charging. The Galaxy Note is more impressive with its standby time, pumping out more than 24 hours if you use it for games and videos sparingly, and more than 12 hours if you are heavy on these stuff, including wi-fi browsing.
The Samsung Galaxy Note is one solid device that features great specs that translate to a great performance. Among the things that stand-out with the Galaxy Note are its fast performance, solid battery life, nice looking design, and its huge display. The S-Pen is also a nifty feature that should find use with owners who prefer pen input when taking notes or those who want to express their artistic side through sketching.
The Samsung Galaxy Note however suffers from an identity crisis. It is too big for a phone, and too small to be considered a tablet. From days of using the Galaxy Note, I got used to its size. It’s still quite handy as it fits in normal sized pockets. The sad truth, however, is it cannot be operated with a single hand, unless you have extraordinarily huge hands. The huge display is however a distinct advantage of the Galaxy Note over other smaller sized smartphones. The 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED screen on the Note is one of the best screens on a device, making games, photos and videos really stand out.
If you think you can handle the huge form factor of the Galaxy Note, by all means go get one. Personally, I would prefer the advantages of a huge 5.3-inch display over portability. The Galaxy Note currently retails for P33,490.