Samsung Galaxy Note Review

Author: 3oh6
Date: March 24, 2012
Product Name: Galaxy Note
Part Number: SGH-I717
Warranty: 1 Year (Manufacturer), Upgrades available
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OS Impressions

Our Samasung Galaxy Note came loaded with Android 2.3.6 (Gingerbread), running Samsung's TouchWiz 4.0 layer over top. TouchWiz doesn't alter the OS all that much and really does add functionality that is unique to the Note.

The S Pen functions all reside within TouchWiz, and truly add function to the S Pen in the form of the gestures already outlined. Additional enhancements include the ability to 'pull down' notifications from the top of the screen as well as take a screen shot with the swipe of your palm across the screen surface. There are some other graphical enhancements that die hard Android users will notice, but for the most part, TouchWiz stays out of the base Android OS's way and merely adds welcomed functionality.

Samsung has already mentioned intentions to upgrade the Galaxy Note to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) which is rumored to happen at some point in the first quarter of 2012...AKA anytime now.

Pre-Installed Applications

The software package that comes with the Samsung Galaxy Note is pretty straightforward with the addition of the S programs designed specifically for the S Pen. Each and every one of these is handy in its own way and really does allow the Note to stand apart from both smartphones and tablets. We do wish there were a few more inclusions to further aid the Pen's functionality but since you can use it in nearly every program, the sky's the limit anyways. Here is a rundown of the noted apps that we found useful and a brief explanation of what they are:
  • Samsung All Share - stream media from networked devices or from the Galaxy Note to a networked device or DLNA TV.
  • S Planner - Daily planner app.
  • S Memo - OS integrated note taking app designed for the S Pen.
  • S Choice - Mini-market for S Pen specific apps.
  • Polaris Office - View and edit MS Office Word, Excel, documents and more.
  • Social Hub - One stop social networking site. Update Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, E-mail and more.
  • Photo Editor/Gallery - Built in editors for photo manipulation. Integrated with S Pen support.

Samsung All ShareSamsung All Share
All Share is a pretty neat little app that allows the Galaxy Note (amongst other Samsung devices) to stream media to and from the device. If you have a DLNA TV, this is an absolute pleasure to use. We were even able to get Windows Media Player on computers on the same network to show up as a device we could stream to. Essentially, All Share let's you stream:
  • Directly to a DLNA TV from the Galaxy Notes file system (music/video/photos)
  • Directly to a DLNA TV from a network device like another computer acting as the intermediary
  • From the Galaxy Notes file system (music/video/photos) to another computer on the network running Windows Media Player
  • From one networked computer to another networked computer running Windows Media Player

During testing we didn't have any issues getting this feature to work exactly as promised. AllShare really can come in handy for anyone what wants to share files which are housed on their Note with a larger audience. There were however some minor issues. Playback would stutter once in a while during streaming from one device to another, but that was likely an issue with the wireless network being able to handle streaming 720P video than anything else. In addition, while DLNA is widely supported, its performance is largely determined by the receiving device rather than the host. This can cause some communication issues and incompatibilities but for the most part, pairing between two devices like the Note and a HDTV should be seamless. We wouldn't recommend using All Share for your permanent media solution on your home network, but it is a nice easy way to play content from the Note on other devices on a compatible network.

S Planner | S Memo | S Choice

Click on images to enlarge

Sometimes, manufacturer-included applications that are nothing more than fluff that are supposed to justify the inclusion of a certain feature but S Programs integrated into the OS are actually pretty good. In fact, the way S Memo integrates any other program makes it quite functional and useful. We've already talked about how it was easy to start using this app on a regular basis as it was so intuitively part of the OS. The best feature we liked about S Memo was its ability to directly export to PDF then e-mail, Dropbox, or send any number of ways. This is an example of a S Memo exported to PDF:a wireframe quickly doodled. For professionals looking for quick document markups, this ability will quickly become invaluable.

S Planner is a simple daily planner but due to a number of interesting functions like the ability to attach pictures to calendar events, it quickly became default planning software we used. It synced flawlessly with the Google accounts we set up on the phone, and it took very little time to figure out the necessary gestures to get the most out of the S Pen interface. We really enjoyed using it and going back to other day planners won't be easy, that's for sure.

S Choice is a nice feature where Samsung has made it easy to find S Pen specific apps, but the novelty of most apps wore off quickly. Regardless, the ability of the S Pen will definitely lead to more app development the longer it is available. With the S Pen enabled 10.1" Note coming soon, we hope for more apps that utilize the S Pen's abilities.

We could have talked about GPS and the WiFi here but thought we would leave that for the Benchmark section which is on the next page.

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