Samsung Galaxy Note Review
The Samsung Galaxy Note is definitely not your ordinary mobile gadget because of it’s giant 5.3” screen. Actually the screen size is relative depending on your perspective. If you’re looking at this as a smartphone then obviously the 5.3” display is humungous. However if you’re treating it as a tablet then it’s actually not that big as you’d like. And that’s probably the best way to describe it: “A big phone that also happens to be a small tablet”. The Note is delicately balanced on the sweet spot between a phone and a tablet. A little bit of personal preference will tip the scales easily. In short this is a device that you’ll love or hate. There is no middle ground.
After using it for almost more than a week now as my primary phone and tablet I can say that the Note delivers well for me. It offers unique features joined together in one experience that you can’t find in any other device. The only thing wrong with it is that some people might find it too big for a phone.
Despite the impression that the Note is “BIG”, it’s actually thin and light. It weighs in at just 178g and measures 146.9 x 83 x 9.7 mm. In terms of hardware design, think of it as an enlarged Samsung Galaxy S2. The Samsung logo is proudly displayed at the top with the receiver grill on top of it. You’ll find the front facing camera to the upper left and at the bottom you’ll find the home key in between the menu and back touch-sensitive panels. The sleep/wake button is at the right side of the unit, the headphone jack at the top, volume control on the left, and the mini-USB port at the bottom.
As mentioned in the first part of this post, the Samsung Galaxy Note sports a 5.3″ touchscreen. It has an amazing bright Super AMOLED display that really impressed me from the get-go. It actually has 285 ppi pixel density (800×1280 pixels) making it very clear, detailed, and crisp. By the way the screen is actually scratch resistant since it’s Corning’s Gorilla Glass.
At the back you’ll find the 8MP camera and the flash. Below it is the Samsung logo again and the compartment for the s-pen wherein you can easily pull-it out or slide it in to store it if you’re not using it.
The back case is removable which means you can exchange batteries if you’re running low on juice. This is also where you put in the SIM card.
Over-all in terms of hardware design the Samsung Galaxy Note is a solid, well-rounded, and premium product. Nothing feels cheap except maybe for the removable back cover which feels very “plasticky”.
The Samsung Galaxy Note is a beast when it comes to specs. It runs on Android Gingerbread (2.3.5) enhanced with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI v4.0. It will be eventually be upgradeable to Android Ice Cream Sandwich in 2012. It’s powered by a monstrous dual-core 1.4GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor and it has a generous serving of 1GB RAM. To a techie the numbers sound beautiful but what does it mean in terms of performance? Simply put it’s near flawless. Applications load fast and the UI is very smooth and responsive. You’ll rarely feel any lag unless you have the Power Savings option on (it limits your CPU performance to just 25% of it’s maximum).
Let’s quickly go through some of the different applications and software options that we can do with the Note. Just read the captions of the photos below. :)
When it comes to browsing the web make sure you download the Opera browser app on the Android Market. It’s blazing fast compared to the default browser and it has more sharing features. By the way one feature of the Samsung Galaxy Note is that it’s compatible with the HSPA+ network which means if you’re in an area that has HSPA+ coverage your speeds can go as high as 12 Mbps. I’ve been using the Note both on Globe and Smart and hit 6-7 Mbps with both carriers in different locations on HSPA+. Not bad right? :)
To those asking about LTE, sadly the unit we have here in the Philippines is NOT LTE compatible.
The S Pen in action
For me this is where the Note shines. The S Pen is amazing especially if you’re in a profession wherein you need to give comments on various types of materials or if you’re into creatives yourself. Just to give you guys a background I’m into Digital Marketing. I get a lot of creative materials for website mock-ups, ads, and powerpoint presentations from my team. When I give comments all I do now is open the file up on the Samsung Galaxy Note, take out the S-pen and just doodle away. It’s one of the best ways to annotate!
The S Pen also isn’t your usual stylus. It was made specifically for the Samsung Galaxy Note. In fact it won’t work on other tablets or devices. This level of integration and customization means better accuracy for the S Pen and the Note. It’s so much easier to input stuff with it because of this. Also the S Pen has a button in the middle which lets you do several things. The best command probably is the screen capture. Just press the button while holding the pen on the screen for about a second or two and it will capture whatever’s is on your screen and you can doodle/annotate on it afterwards.
The Galaxy Note has several apps for the S Pen including S Memo which lets you doodle, draw, sketch, and even write down notes and it will automatically be converted into text. Check this video out.
As for sketching, here’s a drawing that my wife made of me, hehe. :P
The S Pen also works on everything else in the Note even when you’re writing text messages or e-mails. You can pick between the default Samsung Galaxy Note Keyboard or Swype. With the Samsung Note Keyboard you have the option of just using the S Pen to write whatever on the space below and it will input it using text on your phone. It’s not 100% reliable though. I personally prefer using Swype. With this feature you just drag the pen on the different letters and it will automatically form the words for you complete with capitalization and punctuation marks. Check out this quick video that we made showing Swype in action with the S Pen.
After using the S Pen for a while now I find myself disagreeing with Steve Jobs when he said in his iPhone Keynote that “stylus” pens are useless. If you have the software to compliment it then it’s “magical”. :P
You’d think that due to the size of the display that the battery of the Samsung Galaxy Note would be terrible. However that’s not the case. The Samsung Galaxy Note has a massive Li-Ion 2500 mAh battery running on it! That’s twice the battery that several smartphones have today. I’m a power-user myself and I usually end up having around 9-10 hours of battery life with heavy use daily. Check out the screenshot to the left.
If I want to extend the battery life I can turn on Power Savings mode on the Galaxy Note. This will affect the performance since it will throttle down CPU usage to just 25% of it’s maximum. Doing this though will drastically improve your battery life. You can go up to 17-18 hours on a single charge. That’s pretty amazing but then again you’ll have to bear with the laggy interface and slow loading times. It’s a fair tradeoff though.
The best way to balance this out is to customize your Power Savings option. You can have it automatically go on when you hit 30% battery life. You can probably get up to 12-14 hours on a single charge this way. Not bad right? :)
The Note has an 8MP, 3264×2448 pixels camera with autofocus and LED flash. Additional features include geo-tagging, touch focus, face/smile detection, and image stabilization. Just like with other smartphone cameras if you take pictures in decent light you’ll get pretty good photos. Remember our previous article on the opening of Beyond the Box in One Rockwell? All the photos there were taken using the Samsung Galaxy Note.
For video the Note can record 1080p (24-30 fps). It also has a front-facing 2MP camera.
It also has potential to become even better
Two reasons. First Samsung has confirmed that the Samsung Galaxy Note will receive the Android Ice Cream Sandwich Update in Q1 2012. Second, Samsung will release the API’s for the S Pen this month which means developers can create custom applications for the S Pen! I can’t wait to see what the free market has in store for us.
Verdict, Pricing & Availability
The Samsung Galaxy Note is one of the best mobile devices shipped this year and we highly recommend it. In terms of specs it crushes a lot of other smartphones in the market today and you can feel that when you use it. The device is blazing fast and the bigger screen gives you a much better experience for web browsing, reading, and videos. The camera is also awesome. The S Pen integration also puts it in a class of it’s own making if very useful for people who’s professions require them to annotate, make comments, or those in creatives.
You’ll love it or you’ll hate it but to those who do appreciate the Note you’ll probably retire all your other phones and tablets like what happened to me.
The Samsung Galaxy Note is now available in the Philippines either through SMART or various Samsung Distributors. I’d recommend that you get your unit from Digital Walker in Eastwood. They offer it for Php34,000 cash and you get 1 year Samsung Warranty, a free Samsung Flip Cover, and Urbanears Headphones. :)