The original Samsung Galaxy Note made quite the splash because it was caught somewhere between a tablet and a smartphone, and it was the first of its kind. The inclusion of its S Pen for drawing and scribbling notes further made it unique in a market flooded with too many Android phones. Now Samsung has just released the Samsung Galaxy Note II, and fortunately for us, it improves on almost all of its predecessors weaknesses. We’ve been playing with the Note II for over a week now and are ready to share our impressions of the device.
- It’s amazing how they managed to pack in a 5.5″ display this time around. The display is actually bigger than the display on the original Note! You really don’t need to carry around a tablet if you have the Note II.
- Speaking of which, the 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED display is bright with rich colors. It’s even a bit better than the display on the original Note. And of course, it really shines when watching movies on it.
- The Note II’s new rounded design makes it seem like it’s just an extra large Galaxy S III – but that is more or less a good thing.
- The S Pen is soooo much more responsive than it was on the original Note. The new S Pen can sense 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, which is four times more than the original S Pen. It’s also a bit bigger and feels more natural to hold.
- Yay, it comes running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean!
- When you remove the S Pen from the device, the Note II can automatically launch the S Pen menu which offers access to S pen apps. Sometime it’s the little things that count most…
- Popup Note is convenient for jotting down quick notes, especially during a phone call.
- The neat multitasking Split-screen option known as Multi-Window, that we first saw on the Galaxy Note 10.1, has not been brought over to the Note II yet. We hope they bring it over soon.
- Click on a link in an email, and Popup Browser opens a browser window as a popup. Try doing that on another smartphone!
- Popup Video is yet another similarly neat way to multitask on the Note. And why shouldn’t you be multitasking when you have all of this display real estate?
- Air View with the S Pen offers a neat hover functionality. Again, that is something that we have never seen on a smartphone.
- There are so many features and settings to learn! It’s a bit overwhelming trying to get a handle on them all.
- Home Screen Easy Mode helps streamline the interface for those looking for a more simplified, straight-forward, icon-centric U.I.
- S Beam is a smart and quick way to share large files, including video files, with other devices. But it’s dependent on the other devices having support for S Beam, so we’re not sure it will actually become popular enough to use.
- 50GB of Dropbox storage for 1 year is included. That is a $99 value – sweet!
- In NYC, T-Mobile’s 4G download speeds are holding up quite well in comparison to AT&T’s LTE download speeds on the Note. We’re seeing an average of 14719kbps down and 1282kbps up. So web surfing is still quite a pleasant experience.
- On T-Mobile’s network we’re also experiencing very good call quality.
- Thanks to the 3,100 mAh battery, battery life is great. We’re seeing two days battery life with moderate use on T-Mobile’s 4G network. Yet despite this great battery life, the device actually weighs a bit less than the original Note.
- Samsung’s very own Flip cover really is the ideal case solution for the Note II. And this time around it’s available in a choice of 7 colors.
- The device often gets very hot in use.
- Performance is excellent thank to the Quad-core processor inside. In Quadrant, the device earned a score of 5932, which makes its performance prowess similar to the speedy Galaxy S III.
- The Note II is sporting the same camera as the Galaxy S III. And just like the S III’s camera, the camera on the Note II is excellent. It produces sharp visuals with vibrant colors, and even handles itself well in low light. It’s shutter is also quick and the camera app loads up fast too. Also the burst shot and best shot modes first seen on the Galaxy S III have been carried over to the Note II.
- Share Shot feature lets you instantly share photos with other phones nearby. It’s a super neat trick that works quite well in practice. Again, it remains to be seen if this feature becomes popular to use or not.
Samsung Galaxy Note II Sample Photos
The Samsung Galaxy Note II phone isn’t for everyone… For starters, if you’re someone who makes a lot of voice calls, than holding this up to your face is gong to get tiring very quickly. Instead, this is a device more suited for a user who is primarily data driven. Also, there are so many features and settings to learn to master on the Note II, that some will feel overwhelmed. That said, the Samsung Galaxy Note II lies somewhere smack in the middle of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Galaxy S III, offering the best of both worlds, with a few additional features to boot. And while it’s on the pricey side for a smartphone, the responsive S Pen, excellent battery life, large display, and unique software features, all help justify the price. This really is a great smartphone and the ultimate choice for students and artists, and anyone who likes having a stylus handy.
This time around Samsung is making the Galaxy Note II available across all four major carriers. That includes Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and even U.S. Cellular, whom will all be carrying the device by mid November. T-Mobile is offering the Galaxy Note II for $369 with a 2 year contract, or for $419, off contract. Meanwhile AT&T will be offering the Galaxy Note II for $299 with a 2 year contract.
The Good: S Pen has very much been improved, excellent battery life, great display for movie watching, lots of unique multi-tasking features, flip cover is the perfect accessory to protect the device, free Dropbox storage, excellent camera with unique features, NFC, excellent performance, Easy Mode option is a great inclusion
The Bad: The sheer size of it is a bit unwieldy – especially for long phone calls, all the software features can get complicated to master, S Pen still has room for improvement, we’re not crazy about the TouchWIZ U.I.