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Posted on September 5th, 2011 by Sasha Muller

Samsung Galaxy Note review: first look

DSC01977Bravely stepping into the no-man’s land between phones and tablets, Samsung’s 5.3in smartphone, the Galaxy Note, attempts to bridge the divide between the 4.3in Galaxy S II and the newly announced Galaxy Tab 7.7.

DSC01970With a 5.3in, 1,280 x 800 Super AMOLED display beaming forth, the Galaxy Note immediately grabs the attention. The display is eye-searingly bright, and colours are as rich and saturated as we’ve come to expect from Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology. The huge resolution gives the Galaxy Note a super crisp 285 ppi (pixels per inch) pixel density, which leaves it not too far behind the 326ppi of Apple’s iPhone 4 Retina display.

Small hands will struggle with the Galaxy Note’s 83mm width – not to mention the fact that persons of a smaller stature will look like they’re holding a full-sized tablet to their ear – but this giant smartphone felt perfectly manageable in my larger palms. The 9.65mm thickness gives the Galaxy Note a slim, dainty profile, and while Samsung made no mention of weight, it didn’t feel it unduly heavy.

There’s a trick hidden in the Galaxy Note’s bottom corner, however: a removable stylus that Samsung’s dubbed the S Pen.


DSC02174This stylus partners with Samsung’s S Note software for making handwritten notes or even artistic sketches. It’s possible to choose from a variety of pen/brush types and thicknesses with the drop-down menu, and thanks to the Galaxy Note’s sizeable screen, inking feels natural and comfortable.

While it’s easy to scribble handwritten notes, or doodle to your heart’s content, you can also import pictures onto the canvas. While any photograph will do, it’s possible to grab a screenshot – from Google Maps, for instance – and then directly annotate it with the S Pen.


Basic handwriting recognition also allows you to use the S Pen within the Note’s messaging application. In our brief time with the Galaxy Note, however, it appeared that only single words could be converted, and there was a noticeable pause as the recognition process took place. Clearly, the Galaxy Note’s handwriting recogniton still has some way to go. Still, with Samsung planning to release the S Pen SDK to app developers, there’s a potentially bright future for pen-driven apps.

Happily, though, the S Pen makes a great partner with the pre-installed Swype keyboard – without a finger to obscure the view, we found it quicker to tap texts than ever.

Samsung’s also trying to tout the Note as a hybrid business device. With Juniper Networks’ Junos Pulse installed as standard – an SSL-enabled VPN service – and that high-resolution screen making remote desktop operation entirely feasible, the Galaxy Note is potentially more capable than a standard smartphone.

Going by the range of accessories on show, Samsung’s keen to stress the Note’s versatility. In addition to swish leather cases, larger styluses, docking stations and vehicle mounts, the appearance of Bluetooth keyboards seems to suggest that the Note is capable of much more than just phone, SMS and internet duties.


There’s no doubting the Galaxy Note’s potential. With a dual-core 1.4Ghz processor powering Google’s Android 2.3; 16GB or 32GB of internal memory; wireless networking that includes Bluetooth 3 and reaches up to dual-band 802.11n;  an 8-megapixel rear and 2-megapixel front-facing camera; GPS; and Full-HD video recording at 30fps, the Galaxy Note can hold its own against any smartphone on the market today.

But with no set price or mention of a release date, we’ll just have to sit patiently and wait for our very own review unit to arrive. Only then will we be able to tell whether Samsung’s over-sized smartphone is a genuine star in the making.

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15 Responses to “ Samsung Galaxy Note review: first look ”

  1. Mr Portman Says:
    September 5th, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Retro! Back to using a stylus?

  2. Lomskij Says:
    September 5th, 2011 at 10:39 am

    It’s not Super AMOLED Plus, is it? Probably at such high resolution it doesn’t matter anymore, but if real density is 190ppi, it’s still quite far from Apples’s :-)

  3. Mr Myers Says:
    September 5th, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Mr Portman, I assure you the stylus is hardly a retrograde step. Rather as the manufacturers are finally realising its actually the way forward, as its the only text entry method that actually makes sense with a tablet!

  4. coresa Says:
    September 6th, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Its not Retro to use a stylus today, many business professionals and artists use them all the time. People with large fingers also prefer using them.

    In terms of display, if you’ve ever held a Galaxy S2 next to the iPhone 4 and seen how much better the Galaxy looked you would know the Note is going to be amasing.

  5. Smurf Says:
    September 6th, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Stylus? Handwriting recognition??

    Forget infringing on Apple’s territory, looks like Samsung are reinventing the Handspring Treo and Palm PDAs :)

  6. PeterM Says:
    September 6th, 2011 at 9:06 am

    The trouble with Samsung is that they just don’t make enough models in the Galaxy range – there’s just the Play in 3.2″ and 4.3″, the Note in 5.3″, and the Tabs in 7″, 7.7″, 8.9″ and 10.1″. I think they really need to make a Note in say, 6.6″ just to balance things out a bit…

    “Focus is about saying no to some things” – you don’t really need me to tell you who said that, do you??

  7. Paul Ockenden Says:
    September 6th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    It’s a bit Dom Jolly isn’t it?

  8. Dominic Says:
    September 6th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I am Dom and it makes me jolly ;)

  9. ewan Says:
    September 7th, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Anyone remember the Dell Streak?
    It features a similar 5″ screen and 1200×800 resolution. From my experience, this is a good size for most applications, although using it as a phone is best with a hands-free kit. When I use an iphone or HTC, the screen feels cramped in comparison to my Dell. Good to see the format is being revisited.

  10. Paul Ockenden Says:
    September 7th, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Yes, a lot of us will remember the Streak 5. Didn’t sell, and Dell gave up on the form factor.

  11. Peter White Says:
    September 8th, 2011 at 9:39 am

    The HTC Ameo which was introduced in 2007 embodied all these features and more. Five inch screen, 640 X 480 screen, 3G,wifi, front and rear camera, MS word,excel and powerpoint. Oh and I forgot,built in GPS and movie facility and the most recent model which is two years old now runs windows mobile professional 6.5.

  12. Ceri Says:
    October 6th, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I wonder if you will be able to use the pen on other touchscreen phones, it would be great to use with my streak.

  13. Galaxy S2 Apps Says:
    January 4th, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    I have galaxy s2 and if anything it’s a bit too big, I can image this phone being far too big!

  14. Peter Steier Says:
    March 18th, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Have it for two month; to all who critisize the size: for a “regular” telephone earpiece, it is still to small. You just need large pockets in your trousers. I like to read .pdf in landscape without horizontal scrolling, for me it is the perfect size. I *WOULD* like the S pen, but as usual, Samsung has not taken care of the small things: the palm of the hand can not be put on the screen while writing, and I always hit the back key by accident. Finger touch and sensor keys should be completely disabled while the pen is active. Presently, the pen is rather useless for me, despite I use one on my notebook regularly.

  15. Sorin Says:
    March 31st, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    If you will write in landscape mode, you can put away the keys.


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