Samsung Galaxy Note - Oversized Phone?

Launch SRP: S$998

Features

No Ice Cream Sandwich for Now ...

What chances will there be of the Samsung Galaxy Note running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) out of the box? Close to none. The only smartphone today that ships with ICS is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which is expected to be available in Singapore by January 2012. Do not despair as the Galaxy Note will be getting the ICS update together with the Galaxy S II next year. For now, the Galaxy Note runs on the latest Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread platform. You will also see the familiar Samsung TouchWiz user interface. 

The lockscreen on the Samsung Galaxy Note (left) takes on a different design from the Galaxy S II. Unlock the screen by swiping anywhere on the screen. Notifications also appear on the lockscreen such as missed calls (left).

Aside from the differences in Android versions, the rest of the user interface is similar to what you will see in the Galaxy S II.

One useful feature of the Samsung TouchWiz interface is the home screen panel navigation indication to double up as a scroll bar. Simply press and hold on the numbered dots and a scroll bar will appear (right), which allows you to scroll sideways to view each individual home screen panel.

In addition to the Android Market, you have access to Samsung Apps which contains a wide range of apps that are developed and selected carefully for Samsung mobile devices.

One of the most useful widgets you can find on the Samsung Galaxy Note (and other Samsung devices released this year) is the Task Manager widget. It allows you to monitor the active apps running in the background, free up RAM and check your storage capacity.

The huge 5.3-inch display of the Samsung Galaxy Note makes it perfect for split screen operation on frequently used native apps such as Email. For example, you can only view a single email at one time in portrait mode (left). By tilting it to landscape mode and making meaningful use of the extra screen estate, you are able to easily scroll down your emails with a preview window at the side (right).

 

Return of the Stylus (or S Pen)

Remember the days of personal digital assistants (PDAs) that came with styluses? Well, the advent of the Apple iPhone and its full touch screen user interface in 2007 made the stylus nearly obsolete. Since then, styluses are rarely seen on mobile devices. However, this year alone, we have seen them reappearing on tablets such as the HTC Flyer and the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet. The Samsung Galaxy Note is the latest device to be using the stylus, or in its own marketing terms, S Pen.

It works like a stylus but Samsung prefers to call it the S Pen.

Near the tip of the S Pen is a button. Do take note that the Pen does not need any power to operate.

Not only does the S Pen allows to you to doodle, it servers four main functions, such as:

  • Pen button + double tap = activate the S Memo
  • Pen button + scroll up = bring up the menu settings
  • Pen button + scroll left = cancel the last task
  • Pen button + long press = screen capture

You can activate the S Memo from almost anywhere on the Samsung Galaxy Note. Shown here is the ability to bring up the S Memo from the home screen panel (left) and on the Facebook app (right). We found this feature handy in taking down quick notes when there is a sudden need to do so.

Press the Pen button and scroll up to activate the menu setting of an app or home screen panel.

The S Pen is best used on the S Memo, where you can doodle and write anything.

The S Pen Experience, as Samsung calls it, extends to two other apps which are the S Planner and S Choice. The S Planner is basically a calendar while the S Choice provides you with a list of apps that are compatible with the S Pen.

During our time reviewing the S Pen and its capabilities, we found the experience to better than that of the HTC Pen (on the Flyer) and the Tablet Pen (on the ThinkPad Tablet). It is naturally better as the S Pen is designed for use with a smartphone (the Galaxy Note). It is much lighter and less bulky compared to the HTC Pen and Tablet Pen. Writing with the S Pen was a fairly good experience, registering our writing style with accuracy for the better part of our time with it. You can expect more apps to utilize the S Pen since Samsung has released the Pen SDK to developers. 

The S Pen is available as part of the Samsung Galaxy Note retail package. Should you misplace the S Pen, you are unable to purchase it separately at this point in time. We've checked with Samsung Singapore and they mentioned that the S Pen and a range of other accessories will be available as separate purchases in the near future. The pricing and exact timeline are not available at the moment and we will update this section when we get more information. 

8.5
Overall rating 8.5/10
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Design
8
Features
9
User-Friendliness
7
Performance
9
Value
8.5
The Good
Beautiful HD Super AMOLED display
Excellent battery life
Solid performance
Good implementation of S Pen
The Bad
Size may be too overwhelming for some
Flimsy battery cover