Smartphone Review: Samsung Galaxy Note [Video]

(Disclaimer: Samsung is NOT a client of Sifabie.  )

The Samsung Galaxy Note has divided opinion since its launch: some people hate it because of its large size and impractical use as a phone, while others love it because of its large screen and extra features. It may be a hit with elephants, but will the average person enjoy using it just as much?

Specs

Weight & Dimensions: 178g (146.85 x 82.95 x 9.65mm)
Screen & Display: 5.29 WXGA HD sAMOLED
Resolution: 800 x 1280 (16 Million Internal Colour Depth)
CPU: Dual 1.4GHz ARM Cortex A9
Camera: 8 Mega Pixels
Memory: 16/32 GB Internal Storage
Battery: 2500mAh Battery Capacity
OS: Gingerbread (Android 2.3)

Screen Size

When discussing the Galaxy Note, the one that you can’t get away from is its large screen. The 5.3” screen is fantastic and there’s so many pixels crammed into the device, it makes everything displayed looks crystal clear.

The smartphone makes great use of this by making their interface as vibrant and colourful as possible and the 800 x 1280 display will certainly bring out the most of whatever happens to be on screen. Browsing web pages is also a joy as the large screen means that there’s no real need to zoom in on a page.

The screen is crisp and comes across best whenever it’s displaying vibrant images

The flip side to these features is that using the device one-handed is almost impossible. Unless you’ve enormous hands, your thumb is going to struggle to reach around the screen and any attempts to use it this way will result in you dropping it many, many times. The Galaxy Note is very much a device that requires you to operate it with two-hands, no exceptions.

Using it to make and receive calls can feel a bit awkward. Because the device is so thin, it feels like you’re holding a flat piece of cardboard to your head, and although people don’t pay much attention to the type of phone you using, you’re bound to get an odd look or two when using it. There’s also the problem of fitting it into your pocket. It’s not impossible, but you will have problems fitting it in and if you’re a petite person, you may as well just forget about it.

S-Pen

The second unique feature that the Note boasts is its S-pen or stylus, designed to take screenshots and add accompanying notes. Through the S-pen’s button, you can take screenshots of your display and then add notes onto it, which is a nice touch if you wish to mark locations on Google Maps or highlight something on a website.

For playing games and using certain apps, the S-pen and the large screen create a very potent combination. It’s probably better than gaming on a tablet due to the fact that it’s smaller and easier to store and playing games like Angry Birds becomes a lot easier as the stylus allows you to be more precise with touchscreen actions.

The stylus is handy for adding notes to screenshots, but suffers from limited use.

Yet one of the problems I had with the S-pen is that, outside Samsung’s specially created apps, there’s very little use for it which is a pity as it’s a handy feature. Samsung is encouraging developers to create specialised apps for the Galaxy Note though, but since very few smartphones actually use a stylus, these type of apps will be a minority.

There is the option to use the S-pen for writing messages or search terms, and after a moment or two of using it, the stylus was pretty good at recognising characters. Impressively enough, it even recognised joint writing for the most part, although to ensure best results, you’re better off writing large basic characters to avoid any confusion.

That said, it’s fine to use when you’re writing in search terms, but for writing anything longer, you’re better off using your hands instead. The same goes for navigating through the smartphone’s screens and options.

Hardware and Features

Overall, the hardware powering the Galaxy Note is pretty powerful. Its dual-core 1.4 GHz CPU makes switching from one app to another as smooth as you’d hope it to be. There are moments, however, where the phone can lag, booting up is one instance as it’s loading up features and browsing through images in your gallery is another, but unless you’re switching your phone on and off regularly, such instances are infrequent.

The Note’s 8MP camera is the same that you’ll find on the Galaxy S II, which is by no means a bad thing. The images taken are quite sharp and make great use of the extra screen size the Note provides. You can capture some high quality images and videos through it, although like all camera phones, it’s best to capture images under natural lighting.

With regards to its other features, the battery quality is quite decent considering the hardware its powering, but you’ll need to keep an eye on it as you will end up running low without realising it, especially if you’ve a number of apps running in the background, and the accessories included – mainly headphones, a USB cable and a handy fold-up plug for charging – do their job competently.

Conclusion

The Galaxy Note is certainly a device worth recommending, but whether you’ll enjoy it really depends on where your priorities lie. If you view smartphones as a phone first and a device second, then you’ll find it impractical. In this case, the Samsung Galaxy S II would better suit your needs.

However, if you’re more about the apps and technology, then there’s a lot to like about the Galaxy Note. The larger screen will put some people off, but for those who can overlook this will find a solid smartphone that has a lot to offer.

Pros
Large Screen (Great for gaming, browsing, images)
Sharp display and powerful hardware means a smooth experience
S-pen apps work well and allows greater accuracy for certain apps
Cons
Large Screen (inconvenient for making calls, requires two hands to operate)
Battery life could be better
S-Pen has limited use, outside specialised apps

Summary

Anyone willing to look past its large size will find a solid smartphone that has a lot to offer.
Rating: 8 / 10

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