Review: Samsung Galaxy Note

I’m not entirely sure who the Samsung Galaxy Note is aimed at, but as somebody who gets to observe from the sidelines, this is one fun, functional and loveable device — although it comes at an out of contract price of around £450-500 upwards, give or take.

The biggest talking point of the Galaxy Note is its size: packing a 5.3-inch Super AMOLED display that sports full HD resolution of 1280 x 800p, this thing is BIG for a phone. That begs the question – Samsung actively encourages it – is the device a smartphone or a tablet?

To answer that question, let’s go with the official reasoning first: Samsung describes the Galaxy Note as consolidating several devices: the 24/7 portability and functionality of a smartphone (despite its size, this thing does make phone calls), the larger screen tablet experience, a note pad, and an organiser.

However, I’d go further: the Galaxy Note handles media player duties with ease, especially on the video side, and it isn’t a bad eBook reader either, for the casual book lover anyway (it’s no Kindle, obviously).

That said, holding the Galaxy Note up to your ear will require you to conger up your best Dom Jolly impersonation (“Hello?! Hello!? I’m on the phone!”). Of course, a head-set solves that particular problem and, besides, actually making phone calls is fast becoming a secondary consideration for a generation brought up on Facebook, BB Messenger et. al.

The stylus is dead. Long live the stylus.

They say it’s not size that matters, it’s what you do with it. And in the case of the Galaxy Note, Samsung has boldly seen fit to introduce a stylus to enable pen-based input. That means, despite the device packing a multi-touch capacitive touch screen for finger-friendly operation, you can write and draw on the display using the provided S-Pen. This gives host to an array of pen-driven functionality such as note taking, sketching, annotating documents and so on. This is provided through Samsung’s own bespoke apps as well as many more to be found in the Android Market.

On that note, the Galaxy Note runs Google’s Android OS version 2.3 (Gingerbread), which though not the very latest is well supported and full of Google-goodness if you’re that way inclined, and most apps scale adequately to the much higher resolution that the 5.3inch screen affords. Talking of which, the screen on the Note is gorgeous, web browsing is a particular joy — web pages render brilliantly crisp and video playback is a major benefactor too.

Build-quality is OK; the device is very light given its size but the drawback is that it feels a bit plastic for such a premium-priced product. Battery life is more in the smartphone rather than tablet region, a good day or more, with moderate use. The 2,500 mAh battery helps.

Other specs worthy of mention are the 8-megapixel camera capable of shooting 1080p video to match that screen, 16GB of built-in storage and a fairly snappy dual-core processor.

But in conclusion, any buying decision will ultimately come down to the Galaxy Note’s size and that stylus: If this inbetweener at 5.3 inches hits your sweet spot, you’ll love the Note. And if you yearn for the yesteryear of the stylus, you’ll love the device even more. Given the latter, Samsung has announced two larger variants of the Galaxy Note so it maybe worth holding onto your cash for now.

 

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last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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