Hey gang, Valkor here. And I'm checking in with a tasty treat from the gang at Samsung. Last time we met with the company, we took on the Galaxy S3 scoring it at 4.5 out of TOV 5 stars. This round, we take on the follow up to the Samsung Note – The Samsung Galaxy Note II and if you currently own the Samsung Galaxy S3 and think "I wish I could get more out of it" then you'll definitely want to invest in this. Check it out.
The Samsung Note II, on the outset, looks very similar to the S3. But of course it's bigger with a larger display. But before we dive in, I'd like to point out that the Note II will be available on all major U.S. carriers – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and most recently Verizon. And for this review we're checking out the AT&T version. Since I've never experience the first Note, I'm essentially in virgin territory in the smartphone/tablet area. From the outside, the Note II sports a wafer thin body with rounded corners (again like the GS3), weighs in at 6.4 oz. and measures in at 6" X 0.4" X 3.2". You can check out the image below to see the size comparison to the GS3.
At the back of the Note II you'll find a notch on the left side to where you have access to the SIM and MicroSD ports, as well as the battery. At the front of the device you have your 5.5" HD AMOLED 1080p touchscreen with a resolution 1280X720 and a contrast ratio of 16:9. At the top starting from the left is your notification light, earpiece, proximity sensor, and front facing camera, which checks in at 1.9MP. On the left side of the Note II you have your volume control and on the right there's the power/wake up button. At the bottom of the device you have your home button that sits between the menu and back touch screen buttons. And at the very bottom you have your microphone and power port. Last but certainly not lease we have the rear of the device, starting from the top we have 8MP camera w/ flash, and towards the bottom there's the speaker and S Pen port.
While the outside of the Note 2 may look like a larger GS3, the innards tell a different story. The Note 2 sports a 1.6 GHz Quad Core Exynos processor with 2GB of RAM. The smartphone runs on Android's latest OS Jellybean 4.1.1 and TouchWiz "Nature UX" interface. Jumping ahead, I have to say playing around in a Jellybean environment is pretty smooth and you'll flow through all of the phones features in a breeze – yes it's that fluid. For this review, we won't be going through the majority of the phones features – essentially anything you've read about here or other websites about the GS3 such as S-Beam, S-Voice, Allshare, Group Cast, etc, pretty much applies here. But other than the size, there's one feature that clearly separates the two.
It's all about the stylus or the S Pen.
The S Pen is the latest improvement over the original S Pen that came with the first Note; however since I've never experienced the first Note I'll accept what I've read in the press release. Once you remove the stylus from its holding, it opens up a set of options exclusive to the pen from writing notes to drawing sketches. But it can also be used to navigate the menus just as you would use your fingers. Holding the pen just about… well anywhere on the phone, you'll notice a small cursor. Off the bat you'll be able to use a feature called "Air View" by holding that cursor over an email, text message, app, or anywhere on your calendar to preview it, without having to open it up. You can hold the side button and use a feature called "Easy Clip", where you can draw around whatever and either save it to the clipboard to use in an email, message, or drawing or toss it away. Wanna jot down a quick note? Hold the button on the pen, double tap on the screen and viola! A small S Note box appears. This is called "Pop Up Note" and it's a wonderful feature to have. Next is Quick Command, which allows you to hold the button and drag the S Pen from the bottom of the screen to the top, opening up a command box where you can draw say "#" and a name to call someone or type "@" and a name to email someone. I think this is the long way to do things, but the feature is there for anyone who wishes to use it, plus it's customizable to do other things. I wasn't a fan of it, so I won't go in-depth with this feature. In certain apps you're able to write/draw on top.
So we've covered a lot of ground with this phone and to be honest, I don't think I barely scratched the surface. However I think I got the major points across. And with that let's dip into the TOV Breakdown!
The Samsung Galaxy Note II was meant to impress… and indeed, I was impressed. For starters, while many might be put off by the size, I didn't have too much of an issue single palming the device. Smaller hands my stumble a bit, but I many who I've let hold the phone didn't find it unwieldy. It also slips easily into my top pocket/pants pocket without feeling cumbersome. Next up, coming from the Galaxy S3, which has an incredible screen, the Note II trumps it with super crisp clear images and that extra real estate makes it easier for reading books, comics, reading web pages or watching films. The S Pen is the phone's biggest feature and productivity wise, it's a much needed accessory. From drawing sketches, jotting down quick notes, creating spreadsheets, gesture typing, clip/cropping photos and much more, the S Pen is truly what makes this phone special. Next, I'll admit, I'm still quite new to the Android OS, so I can't comment too much on it. But I love the subtle touches here and there in the Jellybean update; there's little touches here and there that really make the phone stand above it's predecessor, plus it really does navigate rather smoothly (thank you Project Butter). The camera is more or less the same as the GS3 and that's not a complaint because that camera worked out well. And the same can be said with the Note II's camera. I enjoyed taking photos with the Note II camera and with the larger view screen my test shots came out better than expected (see below). Finally that battery life – daaaaaamn! The Note II came through in a pinch when the area was hit by Hurricane Sandy. Being without power for a week really sucked, but thankfully I took it upon myself to fully charge all my devices before the lights went "poof". And for three days after without power, the Note II held strong. I've also gone a day or two without fully charging the device and it hardly ever came close to conking out on me before I could get to an outlet. Overall the Galaxy Note II is an incredible phone that's a solid performer.
For starters there's no Multi View mode? I'm sure all it takes is an update, but I was really looking forward to testing it out. Finally as much as I love the S Pen, there were times that I barely useded it. For the most part, it worked out great when covering press events, but for my daily use… I could do without. I will say that that's a serious nitpick and each individual who'll use the Note II may have more of a need for the pen than others. So that's not a negative in my book.
The Samsung Galaxy Note II is available now, just in time for the gift giving season. If you're not intimidated by the larger size of the phone then you'll be rewarded with powerful phone that looks great aesthetically and on screen, faster performance, amazing battery life, smooth navigation, and we can't forget that S Pen with all of its amazing features. So out of TOV 5 stars, I'm giving the Galaxy Note II a perfect 5. And it's been Valkor tested, TOV Approved!