Measuring in at somewhere between big and bigger, the Samsung Galaxy Note literally looks like a Samsung Galaxy S2 that has fallen down the rabbit hole and consumed a sizable chunk of growth cake. Touted as a smartphone despite its tablet trumping dimensions, the Note sports an AMOLED HD screen measuring in at a whopping 5.3-inch, a dual core 1.4 GHz processor as well as an 8-megapixel camera with an f/2.6 lens. Finally, the killer feature that gives the Samsung Galaxy Note its name is it’s discrete stylus S Pen.
Samsung Galaxy Note: Design and build
Resting on a surface and the Samsung Galaxy Note is all face. While the sleek, black outfit and lack of bezel surreptitiously tries to mask its size, there’s no hiding the 5.3-inches of pure HD Super AMOLED display.
The Samsung Galaxy Note is big, but with its clean lines and curvaceous edges and corners, it still manages to sit comfortably in one hand while the other swipes. At a push, we found our large hands even manage one handed usage provided whatever app we’re navigating doesn’t require too much edge to edge action.
As mentioned, there is no getting away from the 5.3-inches HD Super AMOLED screen, but you have to ask yourself - why would you want to? With a resolution of 1280 x 800, its pixel density is an impressive 285ppi, putting it at the upper eschelon of AMOLED screens. It manages to deliver deep blacks, vibrant colours and stunning detail, with our minimal gripes centering around the blue hue associated with AMOLEDs when viewed at an angle and the vibrancy at times making the image look too lively. These points however are minimal and on the whole, you can confidently invest in the Note's sizable screen.
Navigating around the handset the physical home button is below the screen, two capacitive buttons are either side, there's a volume rocker along the left edge and a a power button to the right. The rear of the device houses a somewhat flimsy, textured back cover, akin to that found on the Samsung Galaxy S2, with the S Pen nuzzled into the lower end and the 8-megapixels camera above.
There is also a front-facing 2-megapixels camera on the front. Overall, despite the flimsy backing, when everything is fitted together and the S Pen is in tow, the Samsung Galaxy Note is a confident, solid bit of hardware.
Samsung Galaxy Note: User interface
Running Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, the Samsung Galaxy Note has a thick layer of Touch Wiz spread on top. For the most part, it’s the same Samsung Galaxy S2 experience we’ve seen before, but there are a few key additions.
The first of these comes in the form of the calendar. With the Samsung Galaxy Note pegged as a business-centric device, it all looks far more distinguished with sepia tones aplenty and a tabbed organisational system. This works well, however looks a little busy for our tastes.
The other bespoke elements hinge around the S Pen, Samsung’s stylus-esque input device that isn’t a stylus - according to Samsung. Classifications aside however the S Pen does offer some handy functionality, acting like a more precise finger for the most part and it can capture screenshots.
It also adds some basic gesture support, with a swipe left acting like a press of the back capacitive button, and a swipe up acting like a press of the left options button. Annotation functionality allows you to write all over screenshots, crop them or even frame them.
Finally, there is our favourite customisation, S Memo. Opening you up to a world of digital arts and crafts, we found ourselves revelling in doodles for the first time in years. Pens, pencils, markers, brushes, you’ve got it. Tweak the transparency, throw a map into the mix, clip art your heart out or just add a simple picture from your gallery or camera, the possibilities are endless.
Check out our Samsung Galaxy Note: Top 5 Apps
Samsung Galaxy Note: Browser
Eye candy. Web browsing on the Samsung Galaxy Note is pure eye candy. Text is sharp, performance is smooth, video looks incredible and you can have multiple windows open without any lag in sight. The size makes it more-than finger friendly and other than the slight blue hue of the AMOLED display, we really can’t fault the experience.
Samsung Galaxy Note: Multimedia
With an 8-megapixel camera, f/2.6 lens and a single LED flash, you get similar performance to the Samsung Galaxy S2. Detail is good and the single LED flash handles darker situations pretty well, though won’t light up a large room.
Video is captured at up to 1080p. In good lighting conditions, everything is clear and crisp, with a smooth 30fps playback. Naturally, venture to the dark side and noise will creep in there, but it is by no means intolerable, with the LED flash helping.
The screen size, quality and resolution all combine for an immersive visual feast that puts the Note in a league of its own when used as a PMP. Like the S2 is has 16GB of internal memory along with expandable storage via microSD.
Music output from the 3.5mm headphone jack is decent, though not sensational. A range of equaliser pre-sets and the ability to fine-tune a custom equaliser help things along nicely. The loud-speaker also produces decent quality though starts to get tinny when volume is maxed out.
Samsung Galaxy Note: Performance
Here is where it all gets a bit confusing. The Galaxy Note should be blisteringly fast. It should with its 1.4 GHz dual-core Exynos processor and 1GB RAM fly through even the most gruelling of multi-tasking, note-taking, video-playing days. And it does. The thing is, while it can whiz, pop and bang, press the home button and you’ve got a good second or two before it takes you home. This delay is probably more noticeable because everything else on the Note seems so zippy. As our device is hot off the conveyor belt however, we’ll put this down to the software being an early build, so lets hope its resolved soon.
Samsung Galaxy Note: Battery
As far as battery goes the reality is that if you are using the Galaxy Note heavily with all the sync settings on, you will unlikely get more than a day out of it.
It might not be for everyone, but we really like the Samsung Galaxy Note and more to the point, we’re quite partial to its stylus S Pen. It isn’t your run of the mill handset, and that works in its favour, with two strong USPs when so many releases don’t even have one. Firstly, with the S Pen you can annotate to your heart’s content which we actually did despite initially casting it off as a gimmick. Secondly, the huge, sharp, vibrant display also turns the Note into a stunning PMP with enough horsepower and juice to keep you entertained in full HD for hours.
We've been using the Samsung Galaxy Note over the last few months, check out our long-term test here