November 29, 2012 | by Natesh Sood
Evaluated version: Samsung Galaxy Note II (Android 4.1 for Sprint)
Pros: Speedy quad-core processor, S-Pen integration, Awesome display
Cons: Large display, Samsung TouchWiz
Up for review today is the Samsung Galaxy Note II on Sprint. Let me start by saying that some consumers prematurely dismiss the Galaxy Note II from consideration based on its gargantuan size, but you should definitely at least play with it for a little bit. I was fortunate to test out the Galaxy Note II for a couple of weeks and I enjoyed most facets of the device beginning with its 5.5 inch Super AMOLED HD display. Before getting too far into my conclusion of the Galaxy Note II, let’s take a closer look at what it packs in terms of hardware and software.
The Samsung Galaxy Note II offers a stunning 5.5 inch Super AMOLED HD display with 1280 x 780 resolution, 8MP rear facing camera, 2MP front facing camera, 16GB of onboard memory, 2GB of RAM, 1.6GHz quad-core processor, microSD memory expansion, 3100 mAh battery, and 4G LTE connectivity.
The first thing I noticed about the Galaxy Note II (as I’m sure many individuals do as well) was its extremely large display. At first, 5.5 inches seemed too large for a smartphone bordering on a tablet, but as I used it more and more, it became more comfortable and intuitive. Browsing the web, playing games, watching videos, and reading emails was a pleasure. I started using my Galaxy Note II for all media related consumption and literally stopped using my everyday smartphone and tablet. In my opinion, the Galaxy Note II can take place of your tablet if you want it to.
Now, here is the drawback to having such an awesome display, it does feel a bit large in the pocket since it is long in size. It is, however, relatively thin so it does not feel bulky in the pocket. Sometimes, you need to use two hands for specific functions, so I don’t think the Galaxy Note II is meant for everyone. Even though my younger sister enjoyed using it from time to time, I doubt she would be comfortable using it for the long term as I would.
Moving on, the next thing I noticed is how snappy the device performs. Multitasking is a breeze — apps close and open extremely fast and it seems to never skip a beat. Undoubtedly, 2GB of RAM coupled with a 1.6GHz quad-core processor and Android 4.1 makes for a winning combination. Feel free to toss your most intensive applications at your Galaxy Note II, I am confident it will handle it with ease.
Now, the Galaxy Note II is similar to the Galaxy S III in many ways. Both devices are often compared and it is easy to see where Samsung got their inspiration for the Galaxy Note II from. By taking a cursory glance at the Galaxy Note II, the design form factor is very similar to the Galaxy S III in terms of contours and feel. Essentially, it is a larger version with souped up internals and runs Android 4.1 out of the box. There’s two points I want to make here. One, if you enjoy the Galaxy S III then you will very likely enjoy the Galaxy Note II especially if you fall in love with its display. Two, the cameras and sharing modes are essentially the same. The 8MP rear facing camera and the 2MP rear facing are quality cameras that take great pictures.
With that being said, the Galaxy Note II offers certain modes for pictures and videos such as Best Shot, Burst Shot, Low Light, and Share Shot.As with the Galaxy S III, it offers tight integration with the NFC chip found on board. For example, the ability to use S Beam and Samsung TecTiles is easy to initiate on the Galaxy Note II.
One of the chief complains of individuals purchasing Android smartphones is invariably battery life. Let me dispel your fear of battery life on the Galaxy Note II right off the bat. The phablet offers a 3100 mAh battery, which is awfully big and lasts a long time. The Galaxy Note II, when fully charged, can easily last me a day, so do not worry about constantly being tethered to a charger. I personally charged it once every other day, and some times just for thirty minutes to get it some quick juice.
On the software aspect of the device, it runs Android 4.1 coupled with Samsung’s proprietary TouchWiz UX. It is worth noting that the Galaxy Note II is one of the first non-Nexus devices to launch with Jelly Bean on board. At a time when the market share for Jelly Bean is not high at all, it’s great to see that Samsung put in the extra effort to ensure it launched with Jelly Bean. As a result, there are some great Jelly Bean features present such as Google Now, Project Butter, and smarter notifications. I personally enjoyed using the revamped Samsung keyboard, which is a hybrid of Swype and SwiftKey. It offers smart predictions but allows you to swipe to enter in text. Since you can swipe to input text, the device becomes a little easier to operate using only one hand.
One of the beautiful examples of smart hardware and software integration is the S-Pen. While it was present in the first generation of the Galaxy Note, it is evident that Samsung sought to revamp it in the successor. The Galaxy Note II now has a dedicated holster for the S-Pen and the device can actually tell when it is removed and inserted back. Upon removal, the device automatically brings you to a specific S-Pen homepage with shortcuts for specific applications such as S Note. The S-Pen is able to take screen shots by holding down a button on the pen itself and then edit the image on the fly. Similarly, it can crop a portion of the screen and attach it to a different app for editing.
Another facet of the S-Pen is its ability to hover over the screen which can bring up previews in apps such as Gallery. My opinion on the S-Pen is this, it’s a pretty nifty feature that can be used on the fly to jot down some notes or edit pictures in a humorous way, but I do not think it is a deal maker or breaker at this time. If I were to buy the Galaxy Note II, it would not be for the S-Pen integration, but for the display and blazing fast internals. However, some may enjoy the integration of the S-Pen much more than I did. Samsung is definitely making progress on the pen, but I still haven’t found a reason to use it everyday.
The last software aspect I would like to elaborate on is the Multi Window View feature, which was recently enabled in my Sprint Galaxy Note II through a OTA Software Update. Basically, it allows you to open two apps at the same time that can be used side-by-side simultaneously. For example, I can have Facebook open in half the screen and Twitter in the other half in order to satisfy my thirst for constant social network stimulation.
During my review of the Samsung Galaxy Note II, I honestly fell in love with its vibrant and large display. While I think it is a tad too large for everyday usage on my part, it does affirm my decision to purchase a smartphone with a large display. If you are fine with how the Galaxy Note II feels in your hand and pocket, then there is really no reason not to purchase it. Granted, the device is a little on the expensive side, but I imagine it will come down in the coming weeks and months. At the very least, I can definitively state it is one of the better phablets available in the market today. If you want to take notes on your smartphone, or want to use a device with extremely fast processing speeds, then the Galaxy Note II is undoubtedly worthy of your consideration.