Yeah, it's pretty mega. The first reaction that you're likely going to get from just about anyone about the Samsung Galaxy Note is that it's huge. It looks like Samsung has taken the idea of the superphone and blown it up to even more epic proportions, but was that really the right move? And is the Galaxy Note more of a smartphone or is it more like a tablet?
The Notable Overview
As you may recall, we met up with Samsung Canada a short while ago to discuss the Galaxy Note Android superphone. This coincided with the Canadian launch of the device across the three major carriers: Bell, Telus, and Rogers. It also recently launched with AT&T in the United States, following the launch of an international version a short time before that.
In case you missed it, embedded above is the interview I conducted with Ken Price. He goes over some of the main features of the phone, as well as who Samsung is targeting with the Galaxy Note.
The Goliath of a Powerhouse
Samsung is utilizing its signature Super AMOLED technology for the 5.3-inch display on the Galaxy Note, boasting an impressive resolution of 800x1280 pixels. The rest of the core specs are equally impressive with its 1.5GHz dual core processor and full gig of RAM. It's debatable whether it's as formidable as the Exynos processor in the international version, but I found general performance to be more than peppy.
You'll also find that the Galaxy Note supports 4G LTE connectivity and it has a substantially larger 2500mAh battery to help counter the increased power demands of the processor and the LTE. During the review period, I found that the Note averaged about a day under moderate usage, which is much the same as other (smaller) Android devices.
Bigger Screen Is Bigger Functionality, Right?
That's effectively the idea. Samsung is almost positioning the Galaxy Note as a "phablet," fitting somewhere between a tablet and a smartphone. It's for people who don't necessarily want to carry the two separate devices, but still want to have a sizable screen that will fit in their pocket.
No, the Galaxy Note isn't going to be quite as large and in charge as an Asus Eee Pad Transformer or an LG Optimus Pad, but the key advantage is that the Galaxy Note still fits in a (larger) pocket. And it also happens to be a phone.
You'll find an eight-megapixel camera on the back, as well as pre-installed photo editing software. There is a flash for lower light conditions too. I've posted several sample photos on my Flickr, some of which have been edited and some that have not.
That's an unedited photo taken at a restaurant with some overcast morning daylight coming in through the window. Details are reasonably clear, noise is minimal, and color reproduction is solid. This deteriorates significantly under lower light conditions, even when you dial up the ISO, but that's to be expected. As far as cameraphones go, the Galaxy Note certainly holds its own.
Utilizing the S Pen Stylus
For some reason or another, Samsung decided to reintroduce the stylus to the world but this time with a twist.
The so-called S Pen is a more than just a capacitive stylus (it doesn't actually work with other capacitive displays). There's a little button on the side of it for secondary functions too, which is going to be familiar territory for people who have used Wacom tablets for design work. If you hold the button and hold the stylus on the screen, for instance, you'll instantly take a screenshot. Hold the button and double-tap, and you'll open up a new S Memo to jot down some notes or scribble out a diagram.
The S Memo app that comes pre-installed is meant to replace the dead tree notepad that you may otherwise carry around. As you can quite plainly see, it's quite versatile. You can take notes, to be sure, but it can also produce some fun art in the right hands. You have options for different brushes, colors, and so on.
I'm not sure if going back to a stylus is really a step forward for the smartphone industry, but I guess that's why the Galaxy Note is a guinea pig is so many ways. Samsung just needs to see how consumers react.
Quadrant Standard and Speedtest
To test the overall performance, I ran the Quadrant Standard typical test, which looks at the CPU, memory, input/output, 2D graphics, and 3D graphics capabilities.
I ran the test a few times to make sure that the numbers were reasonably consistent and, with the exception of one test, the overall scores fell in the same 2600-2900 range. That puts the Galaxy Note ahead of the Galaxy Tab, Galaxy Nexus, and Nexus S. While customized and modified devices can achieve scores north of 3000, the Galaxy Note is easily near the top of the class at standard settings.
As far as the 4G LTE speeds go, I was provided with a Rogers SIM card, so I can only report on that network and in the Vancouver area. Running the test in various locations, I was able to achieve 22Mbps to 29Mbps downstream and 7Mbps to 16Mbps upstream. Pings ranged from 68ms to 77ms.
MEGATechie Phabulous or MEGATechie Phailure?
It's undeniable that there is a lot to like about the Samsung Galaxy Note. The performance is easily top notch, the 4G LTE support means you'll get things done faster, and that gorgeous Super AMOLED display is always a marvel for the eyes. You could even argue that the S Pen offers some intrigue and utility.
But the size is going to get you. If I can't use it with one hand, it's not really a phone. As you see in the picture above, when I properly cradle the device, my thumb barely reaches two-thirds of the way across the screen. If I let my fingers go, then it feels like I'm going to drop the phone. By and large, the Galaxy Note is going to be a two-handed affair, even if you have larger than average hands.
What you end up with is a phone that's too big and a tablet that's too small. I get what Samsung was trying to do here, but I think they went too far off in the deep end. The Galaxy Note is going to be very niche product and, for my part, I wouldn't really want to go any bigger than the Galaxy Nexus.