Sorry for my choppy English, I'm not a native speaker.
When we first reviewed the mighty Galaxy S II back in June, we called it the best phone ever
. But when the Galaxy Note was announced in IFA this september, we thought that it will be the new best phone ever
. As it turns out, it wasn’t, and here’s the explaination why.
Galaxy S II already was a huge phone. 4.3” might be too much for some people (usually for iPhone users). Keeping that in mind, try to imagine what were the initial reactions when we first took a glance of Galaxy Note in our hands. An unstoppable stream of many swearwords was ended by „...how big!”. And, if we look at the competitors, there is no surprise why it feels so big – Galaxy S II, Sensation and RAZR – all of them are 4.3inchers, Dell Streak is using 5” screen, but the smallest of tablets are sporting 7 inches. After two weeks of Note usage, almost every phone looks very small.
Image courtesy of GSMArena.com
Samsung itselves are calling this device neither a smartphone, nor a tablet – it is in a segment of its own. It is in a planet of its own. Of course, the big screen is comfy for Internet, Angry Birds or HD movies, but using this device as a, umm, phone
, is a bit tricky. You see, operationing with one hand is pretty much impossible, because the finger can’t touch this. Or that. Or every corner. (Hello MC Hammer!) To reach a control, you must change your grab, and it is not only unconvienient, but a bit dangerous too, since there is a possibility to drop the device and shatter your 700$ on the floor.
Apart from that, you must forget about tweeting and messaging with one hand, because it’s impossible to reach the keys in the other side of the screen. And when I was too lazy to use both hands, I figured that using my nose to touch the controls I can’t reach is good enough. Of course, that sort of device is bought by people who know they will confront with some inconveniences like these, and they just deal with it, knowing that 5.3” screen is included in their needs (architects, IT admins etc.) And, of course, the mighty experience of browsing Internet on screen this big is absolutely magnificient.
Galaxy S II users will recognize many familiar shapes, because the front of Galaxy Note is made by a single piece of Gorilla Glass, which is covering the big screen, a home button, and two illuminated capacitive Back and Menu controls. However, the distance between them is too big, and I can’t reach them with one hand. There is Samsung logo in the top, a speaker, sensors and frontal camera. The proximity sensor leaved us with a bit of disappointment, because its job was to lock the screen down during the call, but all it did was flicker the screen.
Image courtesy of GSMArena.com
The back is more flat on the Note than it was on S II, it hasn’t got the curve that was on the bottom of S II. The back cover is made from black plastic, which, although it isn’t as rough as it was on S II, feels a bit cheap
. It is very thin and light. The phone also is very thin and light. Anyway, there are lens on the top, which is companioned by LED, but on the bottom there is Samsung logo and very weak speaker.
Fortunately, the lock button is on the right, and, if you think about it, putting it on the top would be more than insane on a phone this big. On the left we find a volume rocker, which is too high, but on the top is 3.5mm jack and noise-cancelling microphone. There is S-pen stylus and microUSB on the bottom.
Design rating – 8
. The design and ergonomics are very well fitted for a screen this big, and, even though it is very inappropriate to think about Note as a phone for daily usage, and it’s too small for being a tablet, as a golden compromise it’s very good.
Even though there are many phones that have claimed its title, the mighty Galaxy S II still is the king of smartphones. Its hardware is very great and powerful, and it’s the closest definition of the word perfection
. And Samsung thought: If we have such a great piece of hardware, why should we bother of making new one, if the old hasn’t been broken?
Indeed, they did transplant it from S II to Note. For example, the chipset is the same (Exynos), the GPU is the same (Mali-400MP), and the ARM-Cortex A9 based dualcore processor (although it has been a tiny bit overclocked to 1.4GHz), is the same. Even though this configuration was initially launched in February, it is still one of the most powerful yet.
The device is powered by 2500 miliamperhour battery, which is huge, measuring it after phone standarts, and, once again, mediocre as a tablet battery. Assuming it is more of a phone than tablet, we will measure it after phone standarts. Even though Samsung is promising cake, magnets and unicorns with its battery life, we didn’t actually get more battery life than from a normal phone
, for example, S II. That said, it is very good indeed, meaning that you’ll end up with 20% of battery life at the end of a really busy day.
As we said earlier, the front is occupied by 5.3” SuperAMOLED HD display. Of course, it’s an AMOLED, what would you expect from it to do? Indeed, it has very great and vivid colors, deep blacks and high contrast. It has 800x1280 resolution, which is very popular among laptops, not phones. Its DPI is 285, but we aren’t sure if it’s any better than Galaxy S II which has much lower DPI rates. Prepare for James May
mode, because I’ll explain why.
See, SuperAMOLED Plus is better than the original SuperAMOLED, because it has RGB pixel layout instead of Pentile, which means it has the same amount of green subpixels, as it has red or blue subpixels, making it total of 12 subpixels within a pixel. However, SuperAMOLEDs are using PenTile rather than RGB, which means a lower amount of subpixels, making it a total of 9. That’s because AMOLED technology isn’t advanced enough to put enough subpixels in such high DPI, or, let’s put it the other way round, RGB AMOLED pixels are too big to make enough DPI – that’s where Pentile comes in. That’s the reason why Galaxy S II has only 217DPI.
Image courtesy of GSMArena.com
Of course, in daily usage you’ll not notice it. Only, viewed close, yes, you can say it’s PenTile. And, displaying very small text shows up all the disadvantages of PenTile. But, yes, that’s the mark against AMOLED – we hope that until the release of Galaxy S III, which, if all the rumors are true, has HD display too, Samsung will have resolved thi issue.
This phone, being a flagship, doesn’t lack everything in connection departement, and it sports WiFi b/g/n with DLNA and WiFi Direct, 3G HSPA, GPS, NFC in some regions, Bluetooth 3.0, USB-to-go and other familiar things. It has 16/32GB storage, which can be expanded with microSDHC card. It’s possible to connect the device to the big screen with MHL audiovideo cable.
The device has 8MP camera, which is the same as on Galaxy S II. Of course, it can capture HD video. Image quality is very good and you can think of it as a replacement of point-and-shoot
Hardware rating – 9
. The device is very well equipped. Of course, you would demand a RGB screen, but that’s not a big deal – just a little disappointment. Everything else is just great.
Note has Android 2.3.5, which is topped by Touchwiz 4.0. The device’s ROM is very well optimized and the battery consumption is handled nicely, bounding CPU frequency between 200MHz and 1.4GHz. The max frequency is used only 5% of time. Of course, this being XDA, you wouldn’t be interested too much in the stock ROM, but this is one of the best stock ROM’s I’ve ever seen.
The TouchWiz itself is very colorful and flash. Many will dislike it, but we loved it. It’s very functional and easy to use, and, because of the big screen, it has been made possible to put 5x5 icons/widgets on desktop or menu.
Software rating – 10
. TouchWiz 4.0 is great, the ROM is optimized very nicely, and it’s a very nice gesture from Samsung to have the bootloader unlocked.
To buy or not to buy...
Amazon has put Note’s price circa 700 dollars.... I would say – not to. Of course, if you aren’t the sort of person who especially wants a big screen – then, and only then – Note is a great buy. But, if you are a normal bloke who wants a great phone with a big screen, you wouldn’t want more than Galaxy S II. It has the same hardware, but a smaller screen, which would be more comfortable in everyday usage. It also is cheaper, more popular and with a better screen (SuperAMOLED+). If you want something smaller than Note but bigger than the pack, you should take look at HTC Titan/Sensation XL, but, because it is more expensive than it’s really worth, and, has the specs of 2010, we wouldn’t recommend it either. That’s the conclusion – if you want a Galaxy S II on steroids, buy Note, but if you are fine with the S II, why should you not take it in the first place?
+ Huge screen
+ Great performance
+ Nice camera
+ Android 2.3.5 + TouchWiz 4.0
+ S-Pen stylus
- Cheap plastics
- Price is too high
- Too huge screen
- Pentile ruins the party
CTRL.lv rating – [9/12]
(Galaxy S II had 11/12)