Samsung Galaxy Note Review

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Is it a phone, a tablet…or both? The Samsung Galaxy Note is sure to evoke some looks from passersby. With a 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED display, the Galaxy Note is one of the largest smartphones available. Yet even with this enormous screen, Samsung has kept the design thin and stylish. Will the Samsung Galaxy Note be able to live up to its hype by providing consumers a hybrid all-in-one device between a smartphone and tablet? Read on to see how the Galaxy Note fares among the sea of Android devices.

BOX CONTENTS

The Samsung Galaxy Note comes boxed in a simple white package with the highlights of the innovative technology inside. The first impression most will get after opening the box is what a large smartphone this is, by having the Galaxy Note’s box being as small as possible to contain the device. Included in the box are the essential items to get up and running such as a quick start guide with handy information about using the S Pen, a European wall charger with USB port, a microUSB charging/sync cable, and a white in-ear headset. There are also different size ear-buds for the headsets so you can choose the set that fits best. This particular Galaxy Note came with a flip case that helps to protect the screen, which snaps onto the back and replaces the battery cover. The cover may be a promotional item as it states on the back “Not For Sale” which suggests it is bundled with the Galaxy Note. The battery is a 2500mAh lithium-ion, which is nearly the same physical size of other Samsung batteries. One item that is not included is a microSD card.

HARDWARE

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As a hybrid between an Android smartphone and tablet the Galaxy Note boasts some very impressive hardware. Powered by a 1.4 GHz dual-core Exynos processor with 1GB of RAM produces an extremely fast mobile experience.

The Galaxy Note has a few more goodies that set it apart from other Android devices. The first is the large 5.3 inch WXGA Super HD AMOLED display (1280 x 800) behind a Gorilla Glass capacitive multi-touch digitizer. The pixel density is jam packed at 285.3 pixels per inch, providing pixels indistinguishable to the human eye. The second is the S-Pen, a unique feature that is rare with other tablets or smartphones. The S-Pen uses the same Wacom technology that graphic designers and architects use with their Bamboo writing tools for the computer. This stylus has a secondary button that activates gestures and actions exclusive to the Galaxy Note.

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The dimensions of the Galaxy Note are 83.95 x 146.85 x 9.65 mm and it weighs 178 grams with the battery included. The internal memory is 16GB and can reach 48GB with a microSD card (not included). The device has many radios: quad band GSM (850, 900, 1800, 1900), quad band UMTS (850, 900, 1900, 2100) which is capable of HSPA+ 21Mbps speeds, an FM tuner with RDS, Bluetooth 3.0, assisted GPS, and Wi-Fi a/b/g/n. The sensors included are: light, proximity, gyroscope, barometer, and accelerometer. There are dual microphones for noise cancellation, and a mono speaker for audio playback and speakerphone. The ports include a 3.5mm headset jack and a microUSB 2.0 multiport.

The main camera of the Galaxy Note is capable of capturing stills up to eight megapixels resolution and record at 1080p HD video at 30fps. The rear camera also has a single LED flash. The secondary camera is 2 megapixels and is able to record video up to VGA resolution. The Galaxy Note comes equipped with a huge 2500mAh lithium-ion battery, which delivers over a day, if not days, worth of power.

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The build quality is similar to other Samsung devices and housing is comprised entirely out of plastic. The back battery cover is flimsy yet flexible and requires a little pressure to fasten it securely.

SOFTWARE

The Samsung Galaxy Note is running Android 2.3 Gingerbread and will be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich Android 4.0 in early 2012. The proprietary software incorporates elements from both a smartphone and tablet device, specifically in landscape mode. Samsung did not hold back when they decided to bundle great software suites onto the Galaxy Note. While most of the apps have been seen before on Androids such as the Galaxy S II, many are unique to the Galaxy Note. The best apps included are the email, Video Maker, AllShare, Readers Hub, Social Hub, Mini Diary, Polaris Office, and, exclusive to the Galaxy Note, S Planner and S Memo.

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Using the S Pen provides a distinctive enhancement to many of the apps and utilities on the Galaxy Note. The Wacom technology allows pressure sensitive drawing styles that mimic using an actual writing utensil by drawing thin and thick lines. Motion enhancements to the Galaxy Note employ the gyroscope to zoom in and out by tilting the device in various applications. Customization to the Motion settings allows for sensitivity to be adjusted.

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CAMERA

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In mobile cameras continue to evolve like the Galaxy Note there may no longer be a need for a stand alone digital camera. With up to eight-megapixel still photo capture and simple to use customization software, the rear camera of the Galaxy Note will rival point-and-shoot cameras with the same specifications. Along with capturing great still photos the rear camera is also able to record video up to 1080p full HD at 30fps. The only downside to the rear camera is the single LED flash, as opposed to a xenon flash that would have made the photography experience better in low light situations.

The front facing camera is able to snap self-portraits up to two-megapixel resolution and record video at VGA.

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BATTERY LIFE

Having such a large screen and powerful processor the Galaxy Note should have died in a few short hours of vigorous use. Contrary to this assumption, the device seems to last over a day, if not days, without needing to be charged. The capacious 2500mAh lithium-ion provides enough power for any mobile enthusiast to play games, watch video (up to 1080p HD), browse the web, make calls, and receive email for a good amount of time.

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PERFORMANCE

The 1.4GHz Samsung Exynos dual-core processor is nothing short of amazing. Transitioning between applications or screens is lightning fast with little to no lag whatsoever. Out of the box the Galaxy Note scored benchmark tests that only other overclocked Androids could touch.

Quadrant: 4223

Smartbench 2011: Productivity 4214, 2378 Games

LinPack Single-thread: 65.597 MFLOP, 1.28 Seconds

LinPack Multi-thread: 103.987 MFLOP, 1.62 Seconds

CALL QUALITY/NETWORK SPEED

Connected over AT&T in the greater Seattle the Galaxy Note was able to provide clear voice calls with no distortion. While driving on a loud freeway the dual microphones and noise cancellation technology helps to eliminate background racket. Using the included in-ear stereo headset allowed conversations to be heard while silencing ambient sound. The speaker on the rear is adequate for use in a quiet room, but did not provide enough volume for reasonable use in a car.

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The network speeds of the Galaxy Note are very good with an average 6.7Mbps download and 2.1Mbps upload. The Galaxy Note states that it is capable of HSPA+ speeds up to 21Mbps. Samsung mentions on the official Galaxy Note website that the device has LTE capabilities, but it is unclear which LTE bands are integrated.

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PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY

The Samsung Galaxy Note is available now unlocked though retailers overseas such as Clove for around $735 US for the dark blue version and $780 for the white version expected to be out in early December. It is unknown whether or not the Galaxy Note will make an official debut in the United States at this time.

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PROS

+ Thin and sleek

+ 1.4Ghz CPU is extremely fast

+ Great battery life that lasts for days

+ Gorgeous 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED screen

+ High-quality 8MP camera

+ Ease of use with S Pen

CONS

– Comprised almost entirely of plastic

– Requires two hands to text due to large size

– Awkward against head for voice calls

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CONCLUSION

Many people find themselves needing two devices to stay connected these days. A smartphone fits nicely in the pocket for use practically anywhere and a tablet provides a larger display for both fun and business. Depending on one’s needs the Galaxy Note is appealing for those who do not want to have two devices. Having to make sure that the smartphone has the same apps, photos, contacts, games, business information, etc as the tablet can be tedious. Some might say the Galaxy Note is too big for a smartphone or too small for a tablet, but like Goldilocks — and, hopefully for Samsung — others will think that it is just right.

We rate the Samsung Galaxy Note a 4.5/5.

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About The Author
Daniel Webster