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Hands-on Samsung Galaxy Note II: Big, But Still Pocketable

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 21 comments

It's a massive phone, or maybe it's a tiny tablet. Some call it a phablet.

In a sea of Android devices all running the same underlying operating system, handset makers try to differentiate their offerings through custom software tweaks. More often than not, custom software just adds a layer of complication on top of the stock Android experience of Nexus devices. Samsung, while still customizing the UI with TouchWiz, has taken a drastic but effective route in differentiating its Galaxy Note smartphones.

Today we're taking a quick look at the Galaxy Note II. The first Galaxy Note has a screen size of 5.3 inches, while the new one has a 5.5-inch screen. While diagonally bigger, the resolution is actually lower. The original Note has a 1280x800 screen, while the Note II has now-Android standard 1280x720. There are fewer pixels overall (or technically more if you're nitpicking about the old Note's PenTile screen), but the screen is improved thanks to the Super AMOLED HD Plus screen with an BGR pixel layout. This AMOLED screen is the best we've laid eyes on, besting even the one in the Galaxy S III.

Galaxy Note II on Right; Original Note on LeftGalaxy Note II on Right; Original Note on LeftSize is clearly what sets the Galaxy Note II apart. Anyone laying their hands on a Note phone for the first time will feel it a little awkward, as it's larger than anything they've used previously (except for those who had a Dell Streak). The first thing anyone does when picking up a Note is to see how it looks and feels when put up against the face in a call position. Yes, it's definitely larger than anything out there, but it's not any longer than a regular home phone handset.

The larger screen also paved the way for customizations, like a pop-up browserThe larger screen also paved the way for customizations, like a pop-up browser The move down to a narrower 720p screen has also made the Note II a little skinnier than it's predecessor, making it slightly easier to hold with one hand. In our usage, we found that the Galaxy Note II would easily fit into jean pockets in either front or back – though the back pocket would sometimes leave a bit of Note II showing. Those who are worried about the Note II's pocketability should worry no more. This is mostly thanks to how thin it is.

Another thing that differentiates the Note II is the S Pen stylus, which can be used for drawing apps or even as a more precise way of navigating instead of using your finger. It's handy for sketching and taking notes, but in our use, the S Pen was holstered 99 percent of the time. Other people may have very different usage habits involving the S Pen, but when going from one phone to the next, we tend to do the same tasks just on different devices. That said, the S Pen is an asset to the Galaxy Note II, but one that the user is never forced to use.

Another benefit to such a big phone is that there is more room for battery cells. The Galaxy Note II has a 3100 mAh removable battery, which we found to be more than adequate for a full day of heavy use. The massive 11.8 watt-hour battery does a good job of giving the device slightly above average battery life while powering that huge screen. We're fans of removable batteries too, in case you need more juice away from an outlet.

In terms of performance, the 1.6GHz Exynos 4412 is Samsung's custom quad-core A9 chip. It's plenty fast for everything you'd ever want to do on the phone today, but it's no match for the quad-core Krait chips (like Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 Pro in the LG Optimus G and Nexus 4) that are just hitting the market right now. Nevertheless, the Galaxy Note II did not once lag or stutter. In fact, thanks to the "Project Butter" optimizations in its Android 4.1 software, this is the smoothest Galaxy device yet. The Note II is also Samsung's first product to ship with Jelly Bean.

 

The Galaxy Note II is the most unique modern Android phone on the market. It'll be a simple device for people in phone shops to sell, as consumers will either love or hate the size. Samsung told us that the original Note was very popular among women, who no doubt weren't scared off by pocketability of the large device thanks to their handbag carrying habits. It's worth repeating again that we didn't find the Note II difficult to carry around in pockets, and the large screen – while no greater in resolution – made the phone a joy to use.

Those who find the Note II just too much phone will find almost the same experience (minus the S-Pen) in the Galaxy S III. Both look so similar that one wouldn't be wrong to call either one a bigger or smaller version of the other.

Size Comparisons

Left to Right: S III, Note, Note IILeft to Right: S III, Note, Note II

Left to Right: S III, Note, Note IILeft to Right: S III, Note, Note II

Note II on top; original Note on bottomNote II on top; original Note on bottom

Note II on top; original Note on bottomNote II on top; original Note on bottom

Accessories

Stand with a spare battery charger.

Portrait mode dock with additional inputs and outputs.

 

First-party cases and covers.

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Display 21 Comments.
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Top Comments
  • 10 Hide
    LOBOBAST , November 6, 2012 5:08 PM
    ikyung, it's "once you go Note, you'll think 4ich's a joke
Other Comments
  • -5 Hide
    s3anister , November 6, 2012 4:36 PM
    Quote:
    we didn't find the Note II difficult to carry around in pockets


    The only time I've found it to be pocketable is when I'm wearing dress slacks. It does not fit in skinny jeans and is absolutely weird in shorts.
  • 6 Hide
    fedelm , November 6, 2012 4:40 PM
    Love it. I think it's a great idea; and it's paying off.

    I have a GS2 and I'm looking at the note 2 for my next upgrade down the road.

    Well done Samsung.
  • 2 Hide
    cscott_it , November 6, 2012 4:52 PM
    I usually wear dress slacks, but I pocket my Nexus 7 (Which initially blew my tiny mind when I first tried)
    I used to think anything over 5" was too big to be a phone, but a couple of my co-workers have Galaxy Notes and although it looks a little weird - they seem very happy with it. If I was in the market for a phone, I'd consider the Note II.
  • 7 Hide
    ikyung , November 6, 2012 5:06 PM
    Once you go Note, you can't go back.
  • 10 Hide
    LOBOBAST , November 6, 2012 5:08 PM
    ikyung, it's "once you go Note, you'll think 4ich's a joke
  • 5 Hide
    azathoth , November 6, 2012 5:12 PM
    Is that a Galaxy Note II in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
  • 2 Hide
    fedelm , November 6, 2012 5:14 PM
    LOBOBASTikyung, it's "once you go Note, you'll think 4ich's a joke


    fo shizzle
  • 2 Hide
    darkchazz , November 6, 2012 5:23 PM
    Quote:
    but it's no match for the quad-core A15 chips (like Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 Pro in the LG Optimus G and Nexus 4)

    S4 is not A15 :/ 
  • 0 Hide
    southernshark , November 6, 2012 5:35 PM
    I want a ballistic shield phone. Where the front is a bullet proof shield and the entire 4 foot back is a tablet. It should also have a spike on the front in case I have to impale someone. Razor blades on the bottom might be a nice addition to so that I can slam it down on someone's foot.
  • 0 Hide
    scook9 , November 6, 2012 6:03 PM
    Looking at this or the rumored Droid DNA as my next phone....(dam Verizon and their super slow phone releases)
  • 0 Hide
    halcyon , November 6, 2012 6:06 PM
    Yeah it is kinda neat, if you don't have a dedicated tablet this phablet could be for you and because its Samsung there's a good chance its pretty slick in use too.
  • 0 Hide
    boiler1990 , November 6, 2012 6:30 PM
    The Note 2 looks great. I think it would sell even better if a bluetooth headset were bundled with it, which would basically make it the best mobile assistant. The only thing I'm hating is the VZW logo on the damn home button...
  • 1 Hide
    Marcus Yam , November 6, 2012 6:37 PM
    darkchazzS4 is not A15

    Ah you're right. Got it confused with Krait! Fixed.
  • 0 Hide
    deftonian , November 6, 2012 7:05 PM
    I bought one yesterday during my T-Mobile upgrade and I must say I'm very pleased with it. It's amazingly smooth, responsive, and perfect AMOLED screen.

    My reasoning for getting this was because I have big hands with long fingers and typing on my old phones (4") was atrocious. I would make so many errors. But with this phone, typing is a breeze. For anyone with big hands, you will love this.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 6, 2012 8:13 PM
    I love my Note 1 but the 2 came out alot earlier than expected. Ill have to pay a arm and a leg to upgrade to it but I so want the faster specs. My Note 1 camera has alot of lag at times. 2GB of ram and a quad core cpu is just what I need with the even bigger screen. But dont like the lowered res to 720p.
  • 1 Hide
    silky salamandr , November 6, 2012 9:13 PM
    Picked up the Note2 for Sprint last week and I couldnt be happier. Im a big dude so its a one handed phone for me. I work with iphone fanatics and they could not leave my phone alone. A coworker put his iphone5 up to mine and hes feelings were hurt when his whole phone fit in my screen and you still could see the screen. Quad core chews through task like butter. Phone fits in slacks pocket for work and jeans outta work. If you have the chance, pick one up!
  • 0 Hide
    keither5150 , November 6, 2012 9:13 PM
    I have the note 2 on order with Rogers. Every store that I have stopped at has been sold out. This will be replacing my Blackberry curve and my laptop/ 3 g stick. One device to replace 3. The software that we use now has a mobile app that is fully fuctional. I haven't been this excited to get a phone ever. However, I am not retarded enough to wait in line for a phone. I have a life, a job, and a family. It will come eventually. All kickass stuff comes to those that wait (at home, not in line like a loser)
  • 0 Hide
    animeman59 , November 6, 2012 9:34 PM
    southernsharkI want a ballistic shield phone. Where the front is a bullet proof shield and the entire 4 foot back is a tablet. It should also have a spike on the front in case I have to impale someone. Razor blades on the bottom might be a nice addition to so that I can slam it down on someone's foot.


    So you want a Dethklock phone?
  • 0 Hide
    masterasia , November 7, 2012 2:57 AM
    Nexus 4 FTW! only because Samsung sucks at pushing out updates....well practically every manufacture sucks at pushing out updates especially Motorola and Google owns them...WFT?

    I'm only sticking to Nexus brand for now until everyone can get their shit together and release the updates faster and can guarantee at least a couple of upgrades.
  • 0 Hide
    abc_47 , November 7, 2012 4:19 AM
    I'm really on the fence on what to get. I really like the Galaxy Note II, but I don't want to get it right now, when there could be potentially better 1080p phones coming out soon.
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