Review: hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Note (video)

9 Mar 2012

This phone would make Dom Jolly proud – ‘HELLOOOO’. At least that was my first impression of the Samsung Galaxy Note. We weren’t sure whether it was a smartphone or a tablet computer so we dubbed it ‘the phablet.’

Before I reviewed the Galaxy Note I played with it at the Mobile World Congress last week in Barcelona and I have to admit it made me curious.

Early reviews I’d read about it slated it because of its sheer size and I imagined I’d be doing the same. Little did I think I would actually fall in love with it for its large display.

The screen is enormous at 5.3-inches, bigger and wider than anything in the past that dared call itself a phone. That said, it is beguilingly light.

Return of penmanship

It’s called the Note because it comes with an S Pen for writing and drawing. This allows you to scribble notes and draw on screenshots of web sites, photos, maps, etc. reviews the Samsung Galaxy Note 

The technology revolution has pretty much cost me my penmanship and little did I think I would attempt handwriting on a mobile device again and I feared the experience would remind me of those old Windows Mobile PDAs from Compaq. . Needless to say it has proven my handwriting has gone to pot and

But it is a feature some people will admire and I know Samsung is pivoting in the direction of education apps using the Note technology.

What I really loved about the Note and its size, however, was how intimate and better the smartphone experience became on a 5.3-inch screen. Everything looks bigger, brighter and more crystal clear. Colours seem sharper and the size of content on the screen feels right.

The HSPA+ and Wi-Fi-enabled device is also brilliant for watching movies on. I find experiences like Netflix are better on tablet computers than smartphones only and I think the 5.3-inch AMOLED display is almost the perfect size for watching movies on mobile.

Power and design

The device is powered by a 1.4GHz dual-core processor and by combining the screen size with the speed of the processor you really feel you are enjoying mobile computing as it should be enjoyed.

The design of the device is Samsung to the core, not to different from the Samsung Galaxy S and other members of the family. One of my first criticisms would have been the really light, nylon-like back for the device that while it looks nice, feels flimsy.

But after carrying the device around for the last few days this is wholly necessary – if Samsung put anything heavier the Note would have become a brick, truly a brick. But it’s not – it’s light, fast and versatile. The screen-size combined with the 8-megapixel rear camera makes it perfect for shooting photos and recording videos.

Users can shot in a variety of modes, including action sots, beauty, panorama, etc.

Video can be recorded in high definition at 1080p at 30 frames per second.

The Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) device should soon be upgradable to Icecream Sandwich and it is very much a Google phone with various mobile services such as Gmail, Talk, Search, YouTube, Android Market, Places, Maps and latitude pre-installed.

It comes in two versions 16GB and 32GB internal memory and can be expanded up to 32GB with a microSD card.

One of the notable changes has to be the introduction of new content services like Readers Hub and Music Hub. This is Samsung’s foray into selling content like magazines, books and games and while it is a timely move, I found the Readers Hub eerily similar to Newsstand on iOS devices.

Fundamentally this is a HD device for enjoyment of HD content and I think the engineers behind this wanted to make a device that bravely endeavored to give the user a HD mobile experience with no trade-offs for style.

They succeeded. In fact they more than succeeded.

I expected to pan it for its size, instead I found its 5.3-inch screen to be its most redeeming virtue. Well impressed.

The Samsung Galaxy Note went on sale this week first with Vodafone. Prices start from €99 on bill pay.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years