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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At the beginning of this review, we mentioned that the Galaxy Note can't be classified as a smartphone or a tablet even though it incorporates elements of both. It doesn't even bring any unique features to the table since the whole stylus / mini tablet design has been done before. However, unlike its predecessors the Note approaches its goal as a bridge between the tablet and smartphone markets in a rational, feature rich manner. In many ways it can be considered one of the smartest smartphones out there while being a tablet of dubious use. But that doesn't stop Samsung from making this pseudo tablet into an object of desire, and an abundantly useful one at that.

Our goal wasn't to focus on its size, but when a device that breaks the rules shows up, it is hard not to focus on the rule breaking aspects. In the case of the Galalxy Note, it is a 5.3" display and a genre defining feature set that makes it unique. From the early Palm PDAs to the more recent HTC Flyer many other companies have tried to make stylus input work on a small surface and few, if any have succeeded. In these early implementations the stylus became nothing more than a novelty that was rarely beneficial since there were no applications that took advantage of its strengths. Samsung has charted a different course by backing up their primary feature with a robust software package and while there are a few missteps, for the most part things work very well with their new S Pen. It is responsive, intuitive and a great addition to the Note even though it doesn't have to be used as the primary form of input.

In terms of actual smartphone-centric features, call quality is adequate, and the Note is capable of being carried around all day in a pocket. Perhaps not in your skinny jeans, but definitely within a sport coat or suit jacket pocket. If you are wearing loose pants, a front pocket location certainly isn't out of the question, but it can get some awkward looks as you walk down the street. This alone will have some claim that the Galaxy Note isn't a phone, and we would tend to agree.

With that being said, we have never touched a tablet as portable as this...if we were to classify the Galaxy Note as a tablet in the first place. The 1280x800 screen is tablet territory, although the next year will likely see that being the very low end. In addition the hardware/OS and user interface really makes the Galalxy Note feel more like a tablet than a phone. So again, we want to, but can't really classify it as a tablet either.

In the end, it doesn't matter which category Samsung's little mutant falls into. The Galaxy Note makes phone calls, sends text messages, runs any app on the Android Market, and can play any game. The camera is a great unit both in still photo and video performance, and is tied at the hip to a full featured photo editor. The S Pen is another feature we used a lot more than we first imagined we would, but the handwriting recognition could use some refining. If Samsung was able to clean that up, the S Pen's functionality would go through the roof, and the Galaxy Note would truly stand out from the crowd. As it is, the S Pen has a lot of features, but they are rather narrow in their scope. Hopefully the active Android developer community will pick up on its strengths and turn it into a real head turner.

If you want a device that gives the performance of a tablet and the freedom of a superphone in an all in one portable device, the Galaxy Note is for you. As someone who seems to constantly be sharing photos, web sites, and other items you see on your screen, again, the Note is a fantastic product. The ability to annotate and easily share a screen shot of anything you see makes the Galaxy Note the ultimate tool for the Perez Hiltons of the world, or on the go professionals that need a quick and easy note taking device without having to whip out their notebook. If the only thing that matters is getting the most attention when everyone sets their phones on the table at a meeting, head to your local cell provider and order a Galaxy Note right now. Without fail, it will get that job accomplished everywhere you go. Also remember that alongside the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich update Samsung will be rolling out their so-called "Premium Suite" which includes a ton of new items and upgraded functionality for the Note's more popular applications.

The Note's identity crisis actually turns out to be beneficial since its unique characteristics cater to an emerging market of people that need connectivity and tablet-like features bundled into a single device. Samsung has been able to offer up innovative features, a near seamless integration of the S Pen into every corner of the OS's applications and a near limitless number of options into a device that is as portable as it is useful. Furthermore, despite its faults, the S Pen is well integrated into the OS instead of being the afterthought we had seen with many other devices. Just remember to get one in your hand before laying down any money since its uniqueness may not translate all that well for some users.


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