Review

Samsung Galaxy Note review: ridiculously enormous

Several weeks ago I tried out the HTC Titan, which at the time I thought was simply massive. A 4.7” display is really pushing the limits of mobile phone size, but somehow HTC managed to still make the phone comfortable to use. It was great for gaming and really good for watching videos, but sometimes the size was inconvenient and people often joked about how large it was.

You can imagine that they laughed even more when I pulled out the Samsung Galaxy Note from my pocket. With a 5.3” Super AMOLED HD display, the Note is blurring the lines between large phone and small tablet. It's simply enormous, and looks ridiculous when taking calls. Of course the display is fantastic, but is 5.3” too big to be useful?

Many thanks again to Mobicity.com.au, who provided the Galaxy Note for review today. Check them out if you feel like purchasing a Note for yourself; their shipping times are very good to the Asia-Pacific region.

Specifications

Like the Samsung Galaxy S II, the Galaxy Note is powered by Samsung's ARM Cortex-A9 based Exynos 4210 chipset and comes in at a blazing 1.4 GHz. You also get the top-notch Mali-400MP graphics processor, which as you'll see in the performance section is very good. The 1280 x 800 Super AMOLED display is also worthy of a mention.

  Samsung Galaxy Note
Product Codes GT-N7000
GSM Bands 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G/4G Bands HSPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
LTE 4G (depending on region)
Display 5.3-inch 800 x 1280 Super AMOLED HD
285 ppi pixel density
8-point capacitive multi-touch
Gorilla Glass
"S Pen" stylus included
Processor Samsung Exynos 4120 chipset
1.4 GHz dual-core CPU
ARM Cortex-A9 based
Graphics Mali-400 MP
RAM 1 GB
Storage 16 or 32 GB internal user storage
2 GB app storage
microSD expansion
Connectivity WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n (dual-band)
Bluetooth 3.0 with HS
A-GPS and Glonass
DLNA
Wi-Fi Direct
FM Radio
Camera 8 MP rear camera with autofocus and LED flash
2 MP front camera
1080p video recording (rear)
Ports MicroUSB (charging, data)
3.5mm audio jack
Stylus slot
Sensors Accelerometer
Magnetometer
Gyroscope
Light sensor
Proximity sensor
Barometer
Battery Li-ion 2,500 mAh removable
Launch OS Android 2.3.5 "Gingerbread"
TouchWiz 4.0
Launch Date November 2011
Size & Weight 146.9 x 83 x 9.7 mm
178 g

This device seems rounded and without missing features. You get enough storage (and it's expandable), you get an 8 MP camera and all the usual connectivity features.

Contents

  1. Introduction, Specifications
  2. Video Overview
  3. Design, Display
  4. Software
  5. Performance
  6. Camera
  7. Media Playback & Call Quality
  8. Battery, Conclusion
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48 Comments

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What the hell is it trying to be? I hope Samsung are alone in this. We don't need another device between phones and 7 inch tablets.

Perhaps you post a photo of the Note being used if the ridiculous size of the screen and how it looks as a phone is so important?

You know it's getting to be a bit big when you can cram a laptop resolution into something deemed as a phone.

Looks like a great device besides that (very nice on battery life).

One thing I find confusing about people laughing at the size of the device is, it seems like so many folk expect every device to be targeted at the average consumer. The concept of targeting niche markets is either lost on the tech savvy, or scorned by them (ie., early tablet market: "meh, the only people who found use for those were ____").

It makes a lot more sense to think of this as a device for people who have a use for quick stylus note-taking and personal planning. Not every handset has to be pocket-ready. This is, what, roughly passport sized? We keep those in our bags, so think of this as a bag-ready handset.

What's more concerning is how it feels like so many people who follow tech no longer want to hear about anything but what appeals to the lowest common denominator of users. Consumption devices are safe. Media devices are safe. But anything that starts ruling out some functionality to enhance other functionalities is immediately targeted for what's removed. This is in stark contrast to a couple decades ago, where tech advancements were all over the map, and it was just as interesting to read about how cartoonists were using computers more and more as it was to read about networking.

From the beginning, the Note struck me as a productivity device for people who didn't want to deal with the perhaps clumsier tablet form factor. A modem was thrown in because internet access on the go is a feature that makes sense, and if you use a bluetooth headset to make a call, it's NO different from ANY other handset in terms of comfort. Yet 9 out of 10 times, people seem to ignore everything else about the device just to point and laugh at how silly it looks to hold it to your face.

For me it was FUNCTION over form. Dell streak for over a year. Absolutely love the size.
Perfect for not having to drag out the laptop to quickly look up something on a company website for work. Many times I've used the 5" screen size as an advantage, rather than digging out the laptop.

Joshie said,
One thing I find confusing about people laughing at the size of the device is, it seems like so many folk expect every device to be targeted at the average consumer. The concept of targeting niche markets is either lost on the tech savvy, or scorned by them.
From the beginning, the Note struck me as a productivity device for people who didn't want to deal with the perhaps clumsier tablet form factor.

My personal car (Mustang) is manual transmission, which pretty much precludes using a blue tooth. Most of my work cars are manual transmission also. I just prefer to have both hands on the wheel. I'd rather look silly with a borg implant jammed into my head than trying to hold a phone to my ear. I have a Dell Streak, so looking silly with it next to my ear never is a problem with BT LOL.

bj55555 said,
Geez, have you ever heard of Bluetooth? If you're concerned about looking silly speaking into something that's still smaller than *gasp* a corded phone, then get a flipping Bluetooth headset.

To me, you know what looks even sillier? The opposite extreme.

http://www.joebae.com/wp-conte...2010/06/zoolander+phone.jpg

naap51stang said,
My personal car (Mustang) is manual transmission, which pretty much precludes using a blue tooth. Most of my work cars are manual transmission also. I just prefer to have both hands on the wheel. I'd rather look silly with a borg implant jammed into my head than trying to hold a phone to my ear. I have a Dell Streak, so looking silly with it next to my ear never is a problem with BT LOL.

Or you could spend the extra money, "for looks" and practicality, and get the bluetooth system that lets you use your cars stereo to talk. One of my favorite features on my MazdaSpeed3 which is also a manual.

When I had a Nokia 9210 Communicator in 2001-2002, just about every friend and colleague I had told me it was "too big". (My question "too big for what?" never found any meaningful response)

Well, guess what? Today, every one of those people - and that's a lot of people - are all sporting a superphone of some kind, some of them with 4.3-4.5 inch screens.

The lesson? Stop worrying what everybody thinks about how your phone looks - that gorgeous screen is AMAZING and it's worth the inconvenience of a few giggles. You'll be the envy of everyone when you watch a movie on it, while the people around you are forced to use a stamp-size iPhone.

Adamodeus said,
When I had a Nokia 9210 Communicator in 2001-2002, just about every friend and colleague I had told me it was "too big". (My question "too big for what?" never found any meaningful response)

Well, guess what? Today, every one of those people - and that's a lot of people - are all sporting a superphone of some kind, some of them with 4.3-4.5 inch screens.

The lesson? Stop worrying what everybody thinks about how your phone looks - that gorgeous screen is AMAZING and it's worth the inconvenience of a few giggles. You'll be the envy of everyone when you watch a movie on it, while the people around you are forced to use a stamp-size iPhone.

My Samsung Focus S has a 4.3" screen and it's very nice! Doesn't feel oversized at all.

Looking at Page 8 you seem to have the Android OS (AOS) bug affecting you in that shot so you would have even gotten more battery life if it wasn't for that. AOS is normally 2-6% on my SGS2. They fixed that bug in a later update on those devices. It should have been fixed in 2.3.4 however. The G-Note comes with 2.3.5 but something is still off.

Great review still! I love your formatting!!

God damn that's a massive "phone" -

I've been carrying a 5" Dell Streak for over a year. I use a bluetooth 100% of the time, so holding it to my head isn't an issue. Even though this Note is a 5.3" screen, it's actually SMALLER size wise than my streak. If the price gets down to around 500-600 USD, I'll get one, seeing Michael Dell has given up on the streak & android. Nothing "official" since 2.2.2
Yeah, you can find gingerbread hacked roms, but each one has its own bugs. My streak is PERFECT for what I use it for. Looked at a couple of the SGS2's, but after being on a 5" screen over a year, anything smaller than around 4.7 looks tiny.

This afternoon I saw someone call with one on the tram! Some people were actually laughing in their sleeves, because quite frankly words just cannot describe how retarded it looked.

Dumbest device ever. Way too small to be a tablet, way too big to be a phone. So where does that leave you? I'm guessing with a very expensive notepad running Android 2.3.

Edited by .Neo, Nov 12 2011, 3:05pm :

Kirkburn said,
Tablets themselves are somewhat of a new form factor ... why must all devices fit into a size bucket to be 'worthy'?

Because fewer devices in a particular size bucket leaves a customer with less choice when he/she likes the form factor but doesn't like a feature set.

.Neo said,
This afternoon I saw someone call with one on the tram! Some people were actually laughing in their sleeves, because quite frankly words just cannot describe how retarded it looked.

I laugh at people who take pictures with an iPad too.

.Neo said,
This afternoon I saw someone call with one on the tram! Some people were actually laughing in their sleeves, because quite frankly words just cannot describe how retarded it looked.

I remember my friend making calls on his Dell Streak, when he had it for a month. Looked pretty goofy. The Streak is 5" so I assume it almost looks just as weird for this phone.

Kirkburn said,
vanx, but who are we to determine said size bucket?

We are consumers, but as long as size of bucket = number of buckets then I don't really care that much.

Kirkburn said,
Tablets themselves are somewhat of a new form factor ... why must all devices fit into a size bucket to be 'worthy'?

Who said anything about being worthy or not? I'm just saying a 5-inch phone looks plain dumb and isn't practical in any way. Nor is it very practical as a true tablet (think keyboard, screen estate etc.). And honestly, what apps are going to be truly optimized for this?

Enron said,

I laugh at people who take pictures with an iPad too.

To me a back-facing camera is a pointless feature. But people would have ripped on Apple for not including one, so they might as well include it. The iPad 2 is actually cheaper than original iPad which didn't include cameras.

I don't think that size is a problem, you're not supposed to carry it in your jeans pocket. This is a phone targeting business men and people that need a smart device on the go, it's neither too big (like a tablet or a laptop can be) nor too small (like a smartphone can be), it's in my opinion the perfect size for what it is supposed to do. The stylus is a logical addition and one that should make it obvious to everyone that this is not a phone primarily.

Kudos to Samsung.

When I first heard about -Samsung Galaxy Note , I assumed its just like Galaxy S2 meant for taking notes except without call feature but only recently realized its a phone as well.

The 5.3inch is just too much for a phone and I feel anything above 4.5 is just too much.

daniel_rh said,
So, not a phone but a mini tablet

Probably more like 'Tablone' as it's a mix between the two, and a very nice one at that

Good to see a review, and by an Aussie to boot

Few things:

1) The price of the Note from Mobicity is over the top, because Mobicity charge through the roof for devices easily available cheaper elsewhere
2) Handtec's price of 495GBP was previous to their price drop to 449GBP, making the phone $740 for me inc shipping to Australia
3) The iPhone sells for a higher price and is [IMHO] inferior to even the GS2, let alone the Note. Also, higher prices can be because the cost of development plays a larger role in shelf prices when the target market isn't the average Joe.
4) I believe the S-Pen isn't a capacitive stylus, it's a pressure sensitive pen which requires a digitiser under the glass screen - you can't use it on the capacitive buttons nor on any other standard phone/tablet.
5) How is size an argument, really? It was marketed and designed to be a compromise between a tablet and phone, and that's what it delivers. Looking 'ridiculous' as a phone would probably not interest anyone interested in such a device. I've used a Galaxy Tab 7" as a phone up to my ear; I just don't care what others think and Dell Streak owners would probably agree on this.

My 2c; heard the magpies in the video background btw

bobsled said,
My 2c; heard the magpies in the video background btw

Lol nice, didn't think anyone would notice. And I will correct the capacitive stylus mention.

I still think the device is too expensive regardless if you can get it for $750 because it's more expensive than a tablet (Galaxy Tab 8.9 is US$500 and the HTC Flyer is about that as well with a similar stylus and functionality)

Scorpus said,

I still think the device is too expensive regardless if you can get it for $750 because it's more expensive than a tablet (Galaxy Tab 8.9 is US$500 and the HTC Flyer is about that as well with a similar stylus and functionality)

True about the prices there but I think the Note is almost in a category of its own, very similar to both a phone and a tablet but not really either one. Prices should come down to $500 within a few months I'd think, like the S2's lifecycle.

Well done on the review

The 1280 x 800 Super AMOLED display is also worthy of a mention.

Given the size of the device, I would hope the display is a little bit more than "worthy of a mention". Sigh...

TCLN Ryster said,

Given the size of the device, I would hope the display is a little bit more than "worthy of a mention". Sigh...

Check page 3

WOW Dude!!!! Sucker of a review! Really loved it! And loved the *phone* too.... !!

You may want to correct a typo - "Social Hub" is mentioned as "Social Hug" in its first instance on Page 4!

I don't care, i got enormous hands, Iphone is almost not usable, even my Nexus One (witch was bigger than the iphone when it was released) is too small..

Shane Ekanayake said,
post more reviews like this .love it (the review not the phone )

Agreed, but next time can you make it to fit into 16 pages? Because we clearly have 640x480 displays.

MidnightDevil said,
"ridiculously enormous"

I get that a lot and I'm not complaining


Coming from your mirror, not sure if thats a good thing.