Tablets are cool. But they have a purpose too. Larger screens, higher resolution and more mileage out of the battery make them better suited for certain tasks. That’s why people are not only fascinated by them but do end up actually needing one. What’s not so cool is the need to carry two devices all the time, especially when one of them won’t fit into any reasonable pocket.
That's where the Samsung Galaxy Note comes in. It aims to squeeze the high-res screen and battery longevity of a tablet into a package that is still pocketable. And it does - but success is by no means guaranteed. There's nothing between the Galaxy Note and 7" tablets. And while it sounds good to have all that room to themselves, Samsung need to fill it with meaning. The right kind of users will be easily convinced of the advantages of an enlarged Galaxy S II. Not so sure about a compressed tablet.
But there's no reason to go into this with a skeptical attitude. Just look at that specs sheet!
- Quad-band GSM and quad-band 3G support
- 21 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA
- 5.3" 16M-color Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen of WXGA resolution (800 x 1280 pixels)
- Android OS v2.3.5 with TouchWiz 4 launcher
- 1.4 GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU, Mali-400MP GPU, Exynos chipset, 1GB of RAM
- Pre-bundled with the S Pen active stylus
- 8 MP wide-angle autofocus camera with LED flash, face, smile and blink detection
- Video recording of up to 1080p@30fps
- Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 b, g and n support; Wi-Fi Direct and Wi-Fi hotspot
- GPS with A-GPS connectivity; Digital compass
- 16/32GB internal storage, microSD slot
- Accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensor
- Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
- Charging MHL microUSB port with USB host and TV-out (1080p through optional adapter) support
- Stereo Bluetooth v3.0
- FM radio with RDS
- Great audio quality
- 9.7 mm slim and weighs a reasonable 178g
- 2MP secondary video-call camera
- Full Flash support and GPU-acceleration for the web browser permit 1080p flash video playback
- NFC support (optional)
- Document editor
- File manager comes preinstalled
- Extremely rich audio and video format support
- 2500 mAh battery
- Won’t fit comfortably in every pocket
- Much harder for one-handed use than a regular smartphone
- All-plastic body
- No dedicated camera key
- HD screen uses PenTile matrix lowering perceived resolution
- Non-hot-swappable microSD card
- Sub-par loudspeaker volume
There aren’t many smartphones around that can instill an inferiority complex in the Galaxy S II, but the Galaxy Note does a pretty good job of it. The Exynost chipset's got a faster CPU, the AMOLED screen has a million pixels and, most importantly, there’s more of it. And even the notoriously power-hungry Android will have a hard time pushing through the 2500 mAh battery in a day, which is what many modern-day smartphones will do more often than not.
And there’s the S Pen, which promises to add a whole new dimension to the smartphone experience. Good old-fashioned notepads haven't been having a blast lately, but the Note threatens to put another nail in their coffin.Quite a beast we have on our hands here and it won’t be easy taming it. We'd better get to it then and keep the Galaxy Note busy.
Taking a peek inside the box
Samsung has managed to fit the Galaxy Note in a surprisingly compact box - just a few millimeters larger than the device itself. The bundle includes a charger, a one-piece headset, a microUSB cable and a quick start guide. That’s all the basics covered, considering that the device offers ample storage out of the box.
The bad news is that the MHL adapter required for HD TV-out and the USB adapter enabling the USB host functionality aren’t included. It’s a real pity – both work pretty well but many users will probably not bother purchasing them and won’t get a chance to try them.
Samsung Galaxy Note 360-degree spinAt 146.9 x 83 x 9.7 mm the Samsung Galaxy Note is not your ordinary smartphone. Samsung have done well to keep the waistline so slim. Big devices are extremely sensitive to that kind of thing. The Galaxy Note is huge but not the solid muscular type. The slim body and massive screen have a sense of fragility about them, lacking physical strength. At 178 g it’s lighter than you’d expect - the Note is just 10 grams heavier than an Optimus 3D.
Design and build qualitySamsung went for simplicity with the Galaxy Note's design and that seems like a pretty good idea. There's nothing even remotely subtle about a 5.3” device and going all fancy on the finishing would have probably pushed things a bit too far.
You get the patterned back that we’ve come to know and like from the Galaxy S II only this time it’s in dark blue (so dark, it’s as good as black). It has little to do with providing extra grip. A device this size is much harder than usual to handle and the texture of the battery cover can do little to fix that. And knowing how much it costs, you really wouldn’t want to drop it.
The Note has a metal frame running all around the sides and a front panel with a single control – the hardware home key. Of course, that’s the only thing to notice with the screen turned off. Once you power it on, it will easily get all the attention.
5.3” HD Super AMOLEDThe Samsung Galaxy Note N7000 features a 5.3” Super AMOLED screen of WXGA resolution. That’s right – we are talking 1280 x 800 pixels of unmatched contrast on the largest AMOLED screen on the market (a title the Galaxy Tab 7.7 is soon to claim for itself). Super AMOLEDs were impressive enough on a smaller scale, but this one is spectacular.
Having mentioned the specs, we hardly need to go on and on about the image quality. With a pixel density of about 285ppi and infinite contrast, the huge AMOLED is a joy to behold.
Brightness levels are adequate (though they aren’t a Super AMOLED forte to begin with) and we have the typically flawless outdoor performance. Everything remains perfectly legible on the Note's display, no matter how bright the sun is. Viewing angles are also top notch - it almost feels the icons are painted on the top of the glass.
Like the other recent AMOLEDs by Samsung, the Note display has a setting for the color saturation. You can choose between the super punchy but not quite real colors and a more natural look.
The only downside of the 5.3” screen is that, unlike its Super AMOLED Plus siblings, it uses a PenTile matrix, instead of a conventional RGB one. It means that each pixel is composed of two, rather than three subpixels, which lowers the effective resolution whenever subpixel rendering is used.
However, with the Galaxy Note having so many pixels the infamous dotiness is much harder to spot. Basically, you'll need to look from a much shorter distance than what feels comfortable for working with the smartphone. Bottom line is that with that kind of pixel density, PenTile makes much less difference.
The PenTile screen of the Galaxy Note compared to the Galaxy S II and iPhone 4 screens using an RGB matrix
Finally, here comes our traditional display brightness test, which confirms that the Galaxy Note Super AMOLED is only slightly brighter than the Samsung Galaxy S II. It’s the infinity scores in the third and sixth columns that matter the most, though.
|Display test||50% brightness||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
|Samsung Galaxy Note||0.00||287||∞||0.00||429||∞|
|LG Optimus 2X||0.23||228||982||0.35||347||1001|
|Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc||0.03||34||1078||0.33||394||1207|
|Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II||0.00||231||∞||0.00||362||∞|
|Apple iPhone 4S||0.14||205||1463||0.52||654||1261|