April 8, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Note Review: Awesome Phone, If You Can Handle The Size

Quick Review: The Samsung Galaxy Note pushes the size of smartphones to a new extreme. In fact, this could very well end up being a niche device by sheer virtue of being awkwardly large for a good lot of users. Those who appreciate the current trend towards larger smartphone screens will probably love it, though, especially with the powerful hardware and topnotch multimedia performance.

Is it a tablet? Is it a smartphone? After you use the Galaxy Note, you know the answer's the latter. At least, one that doesn't quite fit in your pocket and requires just a little more care to secure in hand. The slim panel and rounded edges add to the premium design feel (which tapers down a bit due to the plastic parts), topped off with a gorgeous 5.3-inch Super AMOLED screen (1,280 x 800 resolution). As you expect, images look bright and vibrant on that large screen, with videos looking gorgeous when playing across the display. The size particularly makes browsing and typing a lot more comfortable compared to smaller devices.

As a phone, the Samsung Galaxy Note managed great call quality on both ends of the line. Sound wasn't perfect (it's not quite landline-level), but there was no discernable noise and everything came through clear. Battery is rated at a generous 26 hours of talk time.

One of the device's selling points is the inclusion of a stylus. While not necessary for regular tasks, you can use it to jot down memos faster than typing (there's a feature that converts handwritten notes to digital text) with great allowance in what you can write (far as I can tell, Samsung's 128 levels of pressure on the stylus seems accurate). The more apps that roll out taking advantage of this, the better, although I wouldn't hedge my bets on that one, given Android's widespread fragmentation. Those who enjoy sketching and illustrations should find this a fun tool.

The rest of the phone works much like any standard Gingerbread handset with TouchWiz running on top. You get robust messaging, solid connectivity offerings (including 4G LTE) and a whole load of preloaded apps (we especially appreciate the ones that take advantage of the S-Pen). Samsung's usual load of Hubs are onboard, too.

A 1.5Ghz dual-core CPU provides the muscle, allowing for speedy navigation and quick execution of apps. Movies run without hitch, too. The pair of cameras -- an 8.0 megapixel in the rear and a 2.0 megapixel in front -- are on par with the optics on Samsung's Galaxy line. Full-size photos and HD video (it can take 1080p) both look amazing.

At the end of the day, the Samsung Galaxy Note isn't a phone for everyone. But for those who want a large display, it sits in a pedestal all its own. Price is steep, though, at $299.99 on a new two-year agreement with AT&T.


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