Samsung Galaxy Note II review: Writing home
The Samsung Galaxy Note II N7100 is one beast of a droid and a major step forward for the class it represents. The second generation of the phablet is a massive upgrade, doubling the processing power of the predecessor, and bringing a bigger, and better, screen and an ampler battery.
The slimmer waistline and narrower body improve handling a great deal, and while the Note II still isn't the easiest smartphone to wield, it's much better than the original Note. There's also the new S Pen, which is not only more comfortable to use now, but also way better integrated into the platform.
Last, but certainly not least important, the Note II has received a host of software upgrades, which take the user experience a level up. From the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean platform and its Project Butter to the Buddy screens - it's obvious that Samsung's developers spared no effort to make the new Note as good as it can possibly get.
So the second-gen phablet comes across as a mature device that's able to deliver straight out of the box and give you a really smooth ride. A 5.5" screen however is certainly not for every taste, so recommending it isn't as easy as it may seem. As usual it all depends on the type of user you are.
The way we see it, there are several groups of users that would do well to consider the Galaxy Note II as their next device of choice.
First and foremost, it's those who want a true all-in-one smartphone. The Note II is able to match everything currently on the market for resolution and processing power and then raise the bid with the S Pen and the extra large screen.
Jelly Bean is still hard to come by on the market too, so the Note II is going to use that to its advantage as well, along with the various home-baked tweaks that Samsung delivered with TouchWiz.
So if you are the type of power user, who values performance over one-handed use and have pockets deep enough (literally and figuratively), the Note II seems like a perfect match. It certainly is more expensive than the Galaxy S III and the One X, but the screen upgrade alone is enough to justify the price difference, with the S Pen coming as a bonus.
The second group Samsung is aiming the Note II at is media buffs. Once again, the huge screen and the ample battery are the key weapons in the phablet's arsenal, but it also has vast codec support (both video and audio), and the expandable memory and mass storage mode to back it up.
If you fall in this group, you'll ideally have a tablet, which seems a bit better suited to the purpose, but it would be next to impossible to carry around in a pocket. We understand that the sheer size of the Galaxy Note II can put some users off, but we find it more than reasonably portable. Also there's the price thing - a capable smartphone and a good tablet will cost more than the Note II.
So if you want to save some cash and/or the effort to carry a bag for your tablet at all times, the Note II seems like a good compromise. In that case though, we'd suggest you check it out in person before forking out the cash.
Next up are people who like sketching things up on their smartphones (designers and the likes) and those who prefer taking notes the old-fashioned way - with a pen or a stylus. Samsung has made the Note II a pretty good device for the purpose and Wacom's input is easily able to make a huge difference between the Samsung phablet and anything else there is in the smartphone market.
And, finally, upgraders - and we'll just say it again: the Samsung Galaxy Note II N7100 is a worthy upgrade of its predecessor. You will notice an improvement in just about every part of the user experience, barring perhaps the camera. However, it's also a pricey upgrade and the original Note is still a pretty solid device. In a bit of a quandary there to be honest - if you love the original Note you'll want the second gen badly. But having money to burn will definitely help.
At the end of the day, the Samsung Galaxy Note II seems to have completed all it's here to do
. Samsung have solidified its lead in the phablet market, while offering enough novelties to keep those already in it interested. There's also plenty of exclusive stuff too.
We guess some people will still be less than impressed by a bigger Galaxy S III with a stylus. And we're not saying that a big screen and a stylus is exactly what makes a near perfect smartphone better. But they can certainly do wonders for the right users.