Samsung Galaxy Note review

16 Feb 2012

Samsung's big, friendly giant works brilliantly for some tasks, but its huge size means it's unlikely to extend beyond niche appeal

Price when reviewed: 
558inc VAT
Buy it now for 
5

Just how big is too big? Apple thinks 3.5in is the right screen size; others have moved up to 4.3in and even 4.7in. But can a 5.3in device ever really feel like a phone? Samsung, with its huge Galaxy Note, believes so.

It has all the features of a top-end smartphone. You can make calls and send texts without the need for a headset, and it runs Android 2.3 with Samsung's TouchWiz 4 customisation over the top, like the Galaxy S II. And given its size it's surprisingly light. At 178g, it's only 36g heavier than the Nokia Lumia 800.

Samsung Galaxy Note - front and rear

On the other hand, it's too big to fit comfortably in a trouser pocket, and using it one-handed — even for those with hands the size of a yeti — is a stretch of the thumb too far.

So, you should really view the Galaxy Note as a hybrid of phone and tablet, and in that light it makes more sense. It boasts the same 800 x 1,280 screen resolution as many Android tablets, and couples that with glorious AMOLED panel technology.

The extra screen space brings smartphone games and video to life, and makes shooting with the 8-megapixel camera a joy — and typing on the Swype-enabled keyboard effortless.

As well as replacing your phone and tablet in one fell swoop, Samsung hopes to replace your laptop and sketchpad too. Tucked in the bottom edge of the Note is a pressure-sensitive stylus that can be used to scribble notes, annotate screenshots, create simple digital artworks, and enter text via handwriting recognition.

Samsung Galaxy Note - with stylus

It works nicely as a simple scribble pad, but Samsung's S Memo app is frustrating: it limits each note and accompanying audio clip to a single page, and the handwriting recognition isn't great, either.

Still, one thing the stylus is good for is playing Flash games originally designed for a mouse, and for occasions that demand fine control, such as remote desktop applications.

Aside from the gimmicks, the Note is very powerful. Under the hood is a dual-core 1.4GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and internal storage of 16GB (of which 1.9GB is free for app installation).

It doesn't feel as smooth as the Galaxy S II, with the odd stutter here and there as you scroll through menus and pan around web pages, but it isn't far off.

And it excelled in benchmarks: the SunSpider test was completed in 3,093ms and it achieved a stonking 3,586 in Quadrant. It coped with most games without dropping a frame.

Surprisingly, even battery life was acceptable, with 60% remaining on the clock after our 24-hour test; that's quite an achievement given the screen size.

The camera is also excellent, with a superlative macro mode, good responsiveness and images that are colour-rich and detailed.

Samsung Galaxy Note - camera sample

Whether or not you're tempted by the Galaxy Note comes down to what you're prepared to lug around. For most people we suspect it will be a touch too big, but we can certainly see the niche appeal of such a large, bright screen and the fine control of that stylus.

Details

Price ex VAT £465
Price inc VAT £558
Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £34.00
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider www.mobilephonesdirect.co.uk
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 3

Battery Life

Talk time, quoted 26hrs
Standby, quoted 40 days

Physical

Dimensions 147 x 9.7 x 83mm (WDH)
Weight 178g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 1,000MB
Camera megapixel rating 8.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 5.3in
Resolution 800 x 1280
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Android

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