Books & Review | Cole Garner Hill
Updated: Nov 07, 2012 02:32 PM EST

Galaxy Note 2

Samsung's highly anticipated Galaxy Note 2 will carry with the five major U.S. carriers: T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, U.S. Cellular (Photo : Reuters)

When Samsung first introduced the world to its not-quite-a-phone-not-quite-a-tablet, or "phablet," the Galaxy Note, many balked at its bulky size and questioned whether or not there was really a niche for such a device. After a little over a month on the U.S. market though, the verdict seems to be in for its second iteration, the Galaxy Note 2: People can't get enough of the "phablet."

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The world's largest maker of smartphones, Samsung continues to build on the success its had in 2012 with the Galaxy SIII smartphone. Samsung announced the company sold more than 3 million of its Galaxy Note II smartphone-tablets in the first 37 days the device was on the market.

Samsung Galaxy Note II specs

The device has a quad-core Exynos processor clocked at 1.6GHz, 5.5″ HD Super AMOLED display, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, microSD slot to expand the storage, 4G LTE (except on the T-Mobile version), 8MP rear camera, 1.9MP front camera, built-in S Pen, NFC, and a 3100mAh battery. The 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy Note 2, has a 1280x720 display, at 276ppi.

Reviews

Reviews are just as enamored with the device as the public. Most found relatively little to complain about in the second generation of Samsung's Galaxy Note "phablet," outside of minor quibbles with its size, kinks in the software, and handling of apps.

Time

While most reviews questioned the larger-than-average size of the device, reviewers finding themselves missing using smaller smartphones, Time loved the size of the Note II. "It's been a fun experience, but it's also tweaked my thinking; now, even 4.8-inch screens seem reasonable, and anything less feels insufferably puny," said the magazine.

"The fact that the Galaxy Note II is so much better than its predecessor might have something to do with [my change of heart]. This is largely due to the software, which is based on Android 4.1, codenamed Jelly Bean. Smoothness was the main focus for this version of Android, and it really shines on the Note II. Every swipe through the home screen is just as fluid as the iPhone-for a long time the high-water mark of interface fluidity-even with a full array of widgets and an animated wallpaper. I'll go so far as to say it's the smoothest Android phone I've ever used."

"This is one of the first smartphones in the United States with a quad-core processor, and it also has 2 GB of RAM to keep things humming along. I never had any performance issues when watching videos, playing games or just moving from one app to another. Shutter times on the phone's 8-megapixel camera were practically immediate."

"The Note II's display uses a 16:9 aspect ratio, so it's taller and narrower than the original 16:10 note, and the pixel density (and overall number of pixels) is lower. In the real world, the difference in displays is subtle. When you hold the Galaxy Note II up against any other smartphone, however, the difference is drastic."

"Although the screen resolution is the same as many other high-end Android phones-and the pixel density is lower-there's still something glorious about the Note II's roomy display, especially for videos, games and web browsing."

The overall size of the phablet isn't a totally turn-off for Time, but they're not convinced the phone is easily usable with one finger.

"The biggest problem with the Galaxy Note II is the one that's inherent to its size: You cannot comfortably use it with one hand. Sure, you can flip through the home screen and scroll through apps with your thumb, but good luck tapping something at the top of the screen, or reaching beyond the home button to either the back or menu buttons (depending on which hand you're using)."

"Of course, Samsung is still pushing the 'S Pen' stylus as a selling point for the Galaxy Note II, and I still think it's a gimmick."

"Samsung's shameless Siri clone, known as S Voice, doesn't bring much to the table. You reach it by double-tapping the home button, but I'd much rather assign that command to regular Google voice search. At this point, a few bad software decisions here and there are par for the course with Android phones, and the Note II is no different."

"The Galaxy Note II is an excellent device, however you want to classify it. I've noticed that I'm using my Nexus 7 tablet less, and I'm dreading the idea of going back to the smartphones that I once thought were just the right size. There's room for a device that straddles the line between both, and Samsung is showing everyone how it's done."

Droid-Life

Droid-Life loved the Galaxy Note II's hardware, and operating system, but came up undecided regarding the phablet's large size. The tech website didin't prefer it, but admits there are probably plenty of people who won't mind its larger-than-average size. 

"Thanks to the quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, there are few tasks (if any) that can slow the Note 2 down. In my couple of weeks with it, I don't know that I have even experienced more than a couple of stutters in the UI or while task switching. The processor and GPU combo handled all of the games I played, jumping between apps is buttery smooth, and all of the add-ons like Pop-up Play and Browser, run without hiccups."

"The S Pen on the Galaxy Note 2 has been greatly improved over its predecessor. It has this slick hovering feature called AirView that acts as a mouse (pictured below), while also showing you previews in apps like email and gallery. You can use the S Pen to quickly screenshot items, draw around the specific parts you want, write a note, quickly access apps or tasks using gestures, and more. Samsung is doing things with the pen that I don't think any of us had imagined. It also feels like the sky is the limit here, and that S Pen features will only grow substantially over the next couple of years."

"Too big for my liking. Now, that doesn't mean that you won't love it and find the form factor optimal - I'm just saying that I prefer a regular sized smartphone. I found myself fumbling with the Note 2 far too often, as it really is a two-handed device. Making calls on it is a bit awkward because of the size, reaching anything with one hand is almost impossible without major hand placement adjustment, and unless you are carrying a bag or purse around, it may feel incredibly odd in your pocket."

"This is a tough one. The Galaxy Note 2 is an incredible smartphone, there is no denying that. What you will all have to decide is whether or not you can deal with the size on a daily basis. I personally, couldn't wait to get back to my 'smaller' Galaxy S3, but that doesn't mean that the majority of you won't love the 5.5-inch display and large body of the Note 2."

"There really are few negatives to this phone. It's powerful, polished, stable, and Samsung's best work yet. It's just one of those hybrid products that there is no way for me to say one way or the other if you are going to love it. You are the one buying your next smartphone, so if you think the Note 2 may be it, I suggest you go get your hands on one. Pocket it. Caress it. Use the S Pen. Snap photos. Navigate around the UI. Hold it up to your head and look in the mirror. Like what you see and feel? Then I think you have made your decision."

InfoWorld

InfoWorld thought the Samsung vastly improved the Note II from the first version of the device, especially when it came to the device's smooth operation, and sees huge potential in the future of the device's S-Pen. 

"As you'd expect, the CPU is faster, and the Note II feels more responsive as a result. Ironically, the resolution of its Super AMOLED display is actually a bit lower: 1,280 by 720 (larger) pixels versus the original Note's 1,280 by 800 pixels. Its battery life is only adequate, running out of juice after about 10 to 12 hours of use -- faster than an iPhone."

"The Internet browser significantly outscores the Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" Internet browser in HTML5test.com tests: 434 points (out of a possible 500) versus 297 for the Android 4.0 version. It also beats the Chrome browser's 390 score on both the Note II and the Asus Google Nexus 7, both of which run Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean." For comparison, iOS 6's Safari scores 386. The Note II's Internet browser also has greater AJAX compatibility than the Android 4.0 version, so it's compatible with a broader range of interactive and forms-based sites, such as InfoWorld's Drupal-based content management system and its TinyMCE and JavaScript extensions."

"The Camera app has been enhanced with the kinds of image-correction features increasingly found in digital cameras, such as the ability to select each person's face in a group photo and choose the best version from a series of exposures. There are more such enhancement capabilities than in an iPhone 4S or 5, though the Note II doesn't have iOS 6's autostitching that assembles panoramic images from a series of photos."

"It's the pen capabilities that really distinguish the Note series from other smartphones. The Note II has amped up these capabilities, with more pen support than before. For example, you can now annotate your calendar, such as circling specific dates. You can add an actual signature to your emails. And in the included Polaris office-productivity app, you can draw on your presentations' slides."

"Samsung has implemented a lot of wise improvements in the Note II, resulting in a much better device than the original version. The UI enhancements, better browser, and beefier hardware all combine for a very nice user experience -- if only it had a well-designed Calendar app! I still think the Note II is too big for me, but if you can handle its size, it's a great smartphone -- and a decent micro-tablet."


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