It goes by the term phablet andtechnically it is a smartphone and is marketed worldwide as such. It is the near-perfect cross between a smartphone (in the sense of current models in the market) and a tablet. Truly speaking many get lost trying to figure out what it is. You may be lost in how to call it or which category to place it as far as mobile devices are concerned but there’s one area where you won’t be in any doubt: performance. Simply put, the device in question, the Samsung Galaxy Note II is a brilliant performer. I have used the device as my primary smartphone for the last one month and I have a lot to say about it.
Hot on the heels of its successful predecessor, the first generation Galaxy Note, the Galaxy Note II rises to the occasion to not only challenge its smaller sibling, the Galaxy S III for the crown of the best Android smartphone of 2012 but also many other smartphones from various manufacturers that are even yet to be released. The success of the first generation Galaxy Note meant that the second generation Galaxy Note will have larger shoes to fit. By clocking over 5 million sales in 3 months of its release, it seems to be in huge demand. From my own experience everywhere I go, those I meet and interact with be they co-workers, classmates or just friends, everyone wants a piece of it. Yes it is that good.
I named the review unit I had “The Beast” since it eclipsed every other device I had (of course all my devices are Droids) and even though the competition is also rising up to the occasion with offerings like the Optimus Vu from LG and the Butterfly from HTC, the Galaxy Note II will remain the ultimate leader for a long time until the next generation Galaxy Note is unveiled or worthy competitors (Ascend Mate?) come of age.
Design (General feel, style & build – form factor)
The Galaxy S III is the bestselling smartphone of 2012 and Samsung just built on the strengths of the S III when designing The Beast. The looks are those of the Galaxy S III only that the device is bigger. It has silvery lining running across the device to separate the front from the back. The whole device is plastic as is the case with Samsung devices (makes financial sense considering the power chipsets that this device packs under the hood). The plastic back is hyperglazed and gives you a soft feeling when holding the device. Forget all the unfounded vitriol you’ll hear from some quarters about the plastic nature of the device. Holding it, it silently whispers to you “premium”.
There are two microphones on the device both at the very top and bottom. There’s a micro USB slot at the bottom for transfer of media files and charging. Depending on the market, there should be an additional two small hole-like ports for wireless charging since the Galaxy Note II does support wireless charging.
Next to the speaker and the front facing camera at the top is the LED indicator. From my usage, it just works. It will turn red when charging the device and green when full. Blue means you have notifications.
At the back, unlike in the Galaxy S III where the speaker, the camera and the LED flashlight are placed next to each other in a Holy Trinity-like appearance, the Galaxy Note II only has the camera and its LED flash at the back. The speaker is placed at the bottom.
The physical home button still has its way in the Galaxy Note II despite Google’s attempts to have manufacturers use its touch-based buttons. The button is larger and more prominent, perhaps to act as a convenience for those of us who simply love to use it.
The volume rocker is on the side of the device (to my right when facing the device) and on the other side is the power on/off button (to my left when facing the device)
The device has Bluetooth 4.0. With it and my music-streaming habits via Bluetooth, life could never have been easier. In fact it is the first time that I found myself using stock Bluetooth settings app rather than installing my favourite Bluetooth File Transfer app. While Bluetooth capability is a hardware feature, the integration with the software is amazing. The 4.0 version of Bluetooth is fast.
The device has NFC capabilities and the best way to demonstrate this is by using Samsung’s S Beam feature on the device. NFC is still to attain mass adoption in the mobile world and generally in all fields of tech but it has had some presence on Android devices for a while now.
Check out the few photos I took of the device here to see its physical aspects.
The device has a massive 5.5 inch Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen with multitouch and protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2. The display has been hailed for being one of the few that allow viewing of “true-blacks”. What that means is that on black surfaces like the notification bar that is black and its drop-down, you get to see a purely black surface that is not affected by exterior light positioning or tilt angles to switch to grey or lean to white, it just retains its density. The same applies to images with black/darker spots. They stand out. Compare that to LCD displays that tend to be grey on otherwise black surfaces. Colour accuracy is well taken care of. You can as well use the settings of the device to enhance this though default settings worked well for me. It makes viewing photos a pleasurable experience. You really won’t understand this a lot until you actually try it on the device. Still the display on the Galaxy Note II does not use a PenTile subpixel arrangement that was the point of criticism for the Galaxy S III.
With a pixel density of 267 pixels per inch (720 X 1280 pixels) you won’t get enough of the mammoth display.
Under the Hood
As you already know the Galaxy Note II has a 1.6 GHz quad core Cortex A9 processor that gives the gallant device enough steam to take anything that either you the user or the operating system or the power-hungry apps throw at it.
To be honest, I’m yet to encounter any app that lagged on this device. The GPU is a Mali 400MP. I believe it is pointless to emphasis how great the device is at rendering graphics, just grab yourself a unit and see it firsthand. Trust me, it is amazing. You’ll be blown away.
Furthermore, I have overclocked a few Galaxy Note II devices belonging to both friends and strangers and it gets even crazier.
For you out there who love sniffing free Wi-Fi, the Galaxy Note II supports the standard 802.11 a/b/g/n so you are well covered. Of course this is pretty obvious on high end devices these days but get it from me; there are fewer Android devices that can match the power of the Galaxy Note II at this point in time. With its amazing battery, being on Wi-Fi all the time is finally worth your time (after all 3G drains battery faster). You’ll want to be careful while sniffing the wireless freebies on the go though. My “Beast” was snatched as I did what I like doing best: connecting to people’s wireless networks and exploring the online world.
You can also create wireless hotspots from the device. This is a no-brainer since it is a mainstay of Android devices. The Galaxy Note II also has Wi-Fi direct and dual-band DLNA. You know of All Share? It works by exploiting the DLNA capabilities of Samsung devices and the Galaxy Note II is not left out.
Of course the device supports 3G (I don’t need to mention 2G, EDGE and GPRS) HSDPA and HSUPA. For our friends overseas they have the option of going for the LTE version of the Galaxy Note II to take advantage of their 4G networks.
Memory & Storage
The Samsung Galaxy Note II has 2 GB of RAM, enough to do just about anything.
The device has 16 GB onboard storage that is expandable to 64 GB via a microSD card. There is a 32 GB version of the device though I am yet to hear much of it, the device I had at hand was the 16 GB version. I am not sure whether the 64 GB will be available any time soon but Samsung is full of surprises and this could pop out any time.