The Tablet/Phone market is booming, if LG’s Intuition and HTC DROID DNA are any indication to go by (though the DNA doesn’t come with a stylus). When the Note launched late last year, people wondered if there was a viable market for a phone with 5.3 inch screen. Well the original was a hit so the questions is how to you follow up such a hit? You make the screen bigger (5.5), add a quad core processor, make the S-Pen smarter and thicker and make in the Galaxy S III’s image. Is this phablet worth your time and money? Find out in the full review.
Much like the original Note was built like the Galaxy S II, the Galaxy Note II was built like the Galaxy S III. The same materials and color options so if you used the S3 you can pretty much determine what the Note II will be like. Still thin and light design with the lower right corner housing the improved S-Pen. Not much else to add here in regards to design. Again if you have used the Galaxy S III, the Note II will feel very similar to that.
The Galaxy Note II carries a 5.5 inch HD Super AMOLED screen. This means the Note II is actually bigger than the original Note but I think it works the volumetrically the handset is more compact. The display is also non pentile (hooray) but it is also very gorgeous. I mean that 5.5 inches of screen makes it perfect for media consumption and media creation via the S-Pen. Viewing angles are excellent and because it is an AMOLED screen, you have better power consumption and deep, deep blacks.
The Galaxy Note II brings the best of everything Samsung can muster. You have a 1.6 Ghz quad-core Exynos processor, 2GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage with Micro SD card expansion, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, 3100 mAh battery which is also removable (note that I had no issue getting through the day with the Note II). Also add in the factor that Android 4.1 is onboard and Project Butter is in full force that you have a seamlessly smooth experience.
The Note II utilizes the same camera sensors that the Galaxy S III uses so the camera quality should be on par. This is an 8MP sensor and in my daily uses, took superb pictures. You can see the gallery of my best shots below.
The Note II can also shoot 1080p video and I didn’t experience any issue with it. You can see day and evening sample videos below.
The Galaxy Note II is the first phone from Samsung that comes with Android 4.1 (Jellybean) out of the box. That’s wonderful for two reason. The first being that it is the latest version of Android (save for Android 4.2) and two that you get all of the enhancements of Jellybean. You get Project Butter which makes everything you do from switching between home screens to opening the app drawer smoother, you also get actionable notifications and most of all Google Now (sorry Samsung, it kills S-Voice). This is of course with a dose of Samsung’s Touchwiz skin on top. Since this is the Galaxy Note, there are a bunch of enhancements that make sure of the new and improved S-Pen. My review unit didn’t have the split screen windows update yet so I didn’t get to test that out sadly (step on it T-Mobile). Other options include a Blocking mode that is akin to Do not disturb in iOS6 which allows you to stop notifications and people from calling you.
Yes, yes, I know. I feel the S-Pen requires its own section. The S-Pen in the Galaxy Note II is thicker, longer and more intelligent if you will than its predecessor. Upon taking the S-Pen out of its slot, a new page called a “Page Buddy” will automatically be created on your home screen. It includes the ability to create a new list or note and will also populate the dock with apps that use the S-Pen. Another feature is called “Air View” which allows you to just hover the S-Pen nib above the screen and make different actions happen. You can use this in the gallery to get a preview of what pictures are in a particular album or you can use it to scroll up and down lists. The screenshot capability from the original Galaxy Note is still present. While I’m not an artists by any means, I didn’t enjoy using the S-Pen for its limited uses in my case.
T-Mobiles network while on the Note II wasn’t bad. While it isn’t AT&T’s LTE by any means, it was sufficient and certainly better than Sprint’s 3G (Sprint bring LTE to Vegas). Data speeds were between 3-8 Mbps which isn’t ground breaking by any means but for HSPA+ “4G” it wasn’t bad. Call quality was also good and I didn’t have to deal with dropped calls.
The burning question is now whether or not you should spring for the Galaxy Note II. If you bought the original Note or are looking for an all-around device then I highly recommend the Note II. It brings everything you love about the Galaxy S III to the Note in a pretty significant way. Also you have Jellybean right of the box which is awesome. While this phone isn’t for everyone, I can guarantee that those of you who pick one up, won’t be disappointed. You can pick one up at T-Mobile right now for just $369 on a two-year contract. Samsung continues to innovate and with the Note II behind us, I look forward to the Note III late next year.