Overview and Design
Samsung created a niche market last year with its introduction of the Galaxy Note, an Android smartphone with a 5.3-inch display that blurs the line between a phone and a tablet (which recently has been drawing attention from consumers who've unofficially coined it a 'phablet'). While we concluded that the Galaxy Note is a device that either you love or hate, the reality is far from it. In August this year, Samsung announced that it has sold a whopping 10 million Galaxy Note devices worldwide.
The successor to the Galaxy Note was unveiled at IFA 2012 in Berlin where we had a hands-on and a quick look at its new features. We also got wind of its launch date in Singapore, which turned out to be true. Judging from the large turn outs at the launch events of the respective telcos, it seems that Samsung might have another winner on its hands.
So what does the Samsung Galaxy Note II possess to garner so much media hype and consumer demand for it? Well, we've spent several days with the final retail model so find out what we've to say in this review. Here's a run down of its key specs, and its comparison with the Galaxy Note: -
Key highlights of the Samsung Galaxy Note II LTE
|Samsung Galaxy Note II LTE||Samsung Galaxy Note|
|Networks||GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 / HSPA+ 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
LTE 1800 / 2600
|GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 / HSPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100|
|Display||5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED||5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED|
|Resolution||1280 x 720 pixels||1280 x 800 pixels|
|OS||Google Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
with TouchWiz UI
|Google Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
with TouchWiz UI
|Processor||Exynos 4212 Quad quad-core 1.6GHz||Exynos dual-core 1.4GHz|
|Storage||16/32/64GB internal storage options + microSD slot (up to 64GB)||16/32GB internal storage options + microSD slot (up to 32GB)|
|Rear Camera||8-megapixel with auto focus camera,
LED flash & BSI
|8-megapixel with auto focus camera & LED flash|
|Dimensions||151 x 81 x 9.4mm||146.85 x 82.95 x 9.65mm|
If you have seen the Samsung Galaxy S III, the design of the Galaxy Note II will hardly blow you away. The same 'hyperglaze' finish can be found on the Galaxy Note II, which some may lambaste Samsung for not putting much efforts in improving the build quality of its high-end phones.
You may question why Samsung still insists on outfitting its flagship devices with plastic, but the market sentiment proves otherwise. The Galaxy S III, which has some design influence over the Galaxy Note II, managed to land into the hands of more than 20 million consumers worldwide in 100 days.
While we cannot deny the fact that a better built would enhance the overall appeal, Samsung simply does not need that (for now). The Galaxy Note II looks and feels good in its own way.
For those who are unfamiliar with what hyperglaze means, it is basically a patented coating to help create a "seamless" and "organic" look while providing a more secure grip of the phone. When compared to its predecessor, the Galaxy Note II does indeed looks more elegantly-designed even though it is taller and has a larger display.
The placement of ports and buttons hardly deviate from the original. The Power button is still located on the right side of the Galaxy Note II, although it is slightly shorter now. This means that you may need to spend a little more time finding the button. On the left, you will find the volume controls, which are also shortened. We had no problems accessing these buttons as they are raised above the body.
Samsung has shifted the 3.5mm audio output jack from the left (on the Galaxy Note) to the right (on the Galaxy Note II). Right at the bottom center of the device is the micro-USB port, where it is used to charge and transfer files. The S Pen slot still resides at the bottom left corner of the back of the Galaxy Note.
When it comes to the handling of the Samsung Galaxy Note II, it is a very tricky affair. Even though it is slimmer and narrower than the Galaxy Note, the Galaxy Note II still feels a little overwhelming in our hands. The larger display and longer dimensions mean that we have to stretch our finger further. After using the device for the first few hours, our fingers started to ache. If you're wondering if this reviewer's hands are small, we've to disclaim that they are pretty average for the local demographics.
Similar to its predecessor, the Galaxy Note II is best used with two hands unless you don't mind sore fingers or you have a pair of really huge hands (or long thumbs) to navigate across the screen. While we awarded the Galaxy Note demerit points for the usability aspect, the Galaxy Note II appears to avoid a similar fate this time with several notable software modifications (more on these in our next section).
Slipping the Galaxy Note II into our jeans pocket is fairly easy although the heft of the device is immediately felt. The bulge caused by the Galaxy Note II is noticeable especially when you are sitting down, and this will not be a pleasant sight or experience for consumers who like to wear skinny or slim fit jeans.