A Stunning 5.5” Screen / Expansion & Connectivity
A Stunning 5.5” Screen
In moving away from the original Galaxy Note’s 1280x800 layout, the 5.5” screen of Samsung new flagship has lost a few pixels to become standardized at 1280x720. Its 16:9 ratio is perfect for HD videos, which completely fill the space and a pixel density of about 267 ppi looks great despite being lower than some other devices. All told, there may only be .2” of extra screen real estate but the Note II is both longer and narrower, allowing for a bit more real estate when viewing web pages in a vertical orientation.
Many will likely be rejoicing about Samsung’s use of an advanced AMOLED screen rather than the PenTile-type display used on previous generation devices. While AMOLED does allow for crisp and bring images, its color accuracy leaves much to be desired. There is a distinct blue shift which is quite noticeable when viewing predominantly white backgrounds, forums or photos, where skin color takes on an unnatural hue.
For all of its color reproduction faults, this is still a stunning screen that can compete with some of the best. Everything from backlight output to viewing angles to contrast is top notch and the seamless transition between bezel and display is a feat of engineering that few other smartphones have accomplished.
While the Gorilla Glass coating isn’t as reflective as some may fear, it is still glass so viewing the Note II in broad daylight will be an issue, even with the brightness pumped to the max which drains the battery faster than you can imagine. There is a handy auto brightness feature which uses the Note II’s front facing camera to determine optimal backlight output but I found it focused on battery savings in low light rather than improving visibility outdoors.
Expansion & Connectivity
In keeping with the designs put forth by most other high-end Android devices, Samsung has included a MicroSD slot within their Galaxy Note II. This allows you to install up to 64GB of additional storage space which can be accessed through the on-device browser or as a separate folder when hooked up to a computer. All external device communication interactions are done through the almost industry-standard microUSB connector or through wireless Bluetooth transfers.
There’s also NFC radio which comes in handy when transferring data between Android devices but be aware that Samsung has modified the standard Beam function present within Jelly Bean. For some reason, the integration of a proprietary “S-Beam” application conflicts with the Note’s interoperability and handoff with certain phones. For example, I was able to successfully transfer a video to a Galaxy SIII with S-Beam and Android Beam enabled but performing the same operation with a Galaxy Nexus required S-Beam to be turned off.
A 3.5mm headphone / mic port rides atop the Note II’s slim profile but it doesn’t seem to be all that well designed. The jack on my Ultimate Ears earbuds and Sony noise cancelling headphones refused to make a good connection and constantly fell out while at the gym. Luckily, my beloved pair of Westone 3’s remained securely in place but this does point to a fault in Samsung’s design.
LTE coverage is expanding throughout Canada’s metropolitan areas and the Note II is more than ready to take advantage of its blazing speed. Higher bandwidth 40Mbps+ service hasn’t migrated to my area of Montreal but the slightly slower 28Mbps is still quicker than most people’s landline internet connections. There is however one small issue here: by taking a drink from a firehose-like LTE connection, you’ll likely burn through your data plan in no time.
Call reception was also exceptional. Throughout my time with the Note II, it never once dropped a call regardless of the network it was on. Even in my usual reception dead zone -on the elevator up to our offices- it consistently remained at two or more bars which is an accomplishment of epic proportions and resulted in jealous gazes from coworkers.
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