Samsung Galaxy Note Review
Phone? Tablet? That is the question Samsung openly asks on the Galaxy Note web site, and the question most often first asked about the Galaxy Note. We will answer that before we finish the first paragraph: it is neither...and yet it can accomplish the tasks of both.
Weighing in with a 5.3" screen, as phones are measured by their screen now more than anything, is the Galaxy Note. The 1280 x 800 pixel HD Super AMOLED device measures 5.6" tall and a pocket busting 3.3" wide. A tablet it is not. Tablets typically come in 10" or 7" flavors, but not 5.6" and change. And yet despite this identity crisis, the Note knows exactly what it is: a new typy of handheld device that bridges the gap between tablets and cell phones while sporting the same basic functions of both.
But why do people look at us in technical disgust like we are holding a tablet up to our ear when talking on the Note? The answer is because it is bigger than a phone yet smaller than a tablet, and the market demands a label. We must put things in neat and tidy boxes that are easy to understand for comparison reasons. Technically, yes, the Galaxy Note is a phone. Yes, the Galaxy Note is a tablet. What we want to do today though, is not make this about what the Galaxy Note is, but rather find out what it can do...and can't do.
We have already talked about the size, so let's leave well enough alone and focus on the hardware specifications. First and foremost the Samsung Note is a 4G LTE device and ours will be tested on the Bell network here in Canada. The rest of the specifications list is pretty straightforward and standard for the Samsung Galaxy family, with the exception of the Note's boosted 1.5GHz processor over the Nexus and S II's 1.2GHz running speed. Needless to say, there is plenty of processing power to run the massive 1280x800 resolution screen.
Speaking of power, a 2,500 mAh battery is going to be the in charge of keeping the Samsung Note running all day long, and it is definitely needed. In comparison, the Galaxy S II and Nexus carry 1650 mAh and 1750 mAh batteries. The massive screen is no doubt responsible for the boost in battery size.
The Note runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but an upgrade to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is in the works from our understanding. The last item that we will look at a little later is the 8MP rear camera (3264x2448), and 2MP front facing camera. If anything this is what blurs lines between the Samsung Note being a phone and a tablet as most tablet's won't have as high a quality camera. We'll provide plenty of sample photos and insight on page three of the review.
Our sample of the Galaxy Note came straight from Samsung, and without any accessories or package. We'll keep our review focused on the device itself because of this.
Like other Samsung devices, the Galaxy Note is very clean with just a couple of exterior buttons. Along the left edge you can see a long button which is the volume up and down toggle. The right side houses a single sleep/power button. The front of the Note doesn't have any physical buttons, rather, four capacitive buttons along the bottom edge are used for Menu, Home, Back and Search in that order.
The back side of the Galaxy Note is pretty sleek with the textured carbon like plate. Rest assured it isn't carbon fiber but obviously plastic. The finish is nice and tight and the tactile feel is quite pleasing. There is just enough texture, but not too much to make it feel awkward. Our sample was used when we received it, so there were some marks in the plastic, but it maintains its good looks even after being marked up a little.
The 8MP camera and flash are mounted high up near the top of the Note and should be easy enough for aftermarket cases to work around without much trouble. Removing the back panel is very quick and didn't make us feel like we were going to break it. The battery is user replaceable and there are higher mAh batteries out there if you look hard enough. Removing the back also gives us easy access to the SIM card, and the microSD slot where the Notes storage can be upgraded by 32GB.
The last two exterior features are the speaker at the back in the lower left hand corner, as well as the S Pen tucked into its cubby hole. The S Pen is securely fastened in place, but not too tight that makes it difficult to pull out which is further facilitated by a small notch in the S Pens end. Overall, Samsung really nailed the design of the S Pen holster.
We have also made a short video taking a look at the Samsung Galaxy Note that elaborates on the photos here.
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