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Samsung Galaxy Note review — bigger is better

The Samsung Galaxy Note N7000 makes me feel like an idiot for loving Apple. For years I defended the iPhone, calling it the next coming of mobile phones and now, out of the blue, the Note has knocked me flat on my back.

It’s the biggest, brightest and fastest smartphone currently available and Samsung is now the deserving wearer of the mobile crown. Samsung should also be congratulated for bringing the stylus back into the 21st century with an ambitious new embedded interface option called the “S-Pen”.

Bigger is better
The Galaxy Note’s most obvious positive is the 5.3″ super AMOLED screen. It’s uncharacteristically massive and flies in the face of mobile phone logic. According to Samsung, the Galaxy Note falls between tablets and smartphones and is a “new category of device”. It’s also hard to argue with Samsung’s logic as the Note is too big to be a conventional smartphone and too small to be considered a tablet.

The Galaxy Note fits comfortably in my hands but for teens or the petite, it may be too large. It is also possibly too large to be used for GSM calls when the phone takes over your face, leaving you feeling like a bit of an idiot. Despite its size it is light and slips in and out of most pockets with ease.

The 800×1280, screen is a showstopper. As with the Samsung Galaxy S II (its, smaller “light” family member), the Gorilla Glass screen protects the glorious display from harm as the colours simply explode off the phone. This is how content, be it film, TV, or still shots was meant to be viewed.

Back to the Future
It’s funny how technology works, seemingly always in cycles. A device is built and then scrapped when popularity wanes. The S-Pen, the stylus embedded within the Galaxy Note is a brave step back into the past for Samsung but works deliriously well with the phone. The S-Pen (don’t call it a stylus!) is a touch small but over time, works as well as any other interface option. Hell, the phone practically begs to be your replacement electronic diary.

Applications designed specifically for the S-Pen are remarkably easy to access, such as the instant note taking function (hold the button on the S-pen and tap the screen twice). Note taking is fast, mimics paper and allows multiple virtual pen selection. After a full day of using the S-Pen, I can see why I lost interest in handwriting, but designers and those blessed with beautiful writing skills will benefit the most from it.

Hidden on the side of the S-Pen is a button which adds navigational and app-specific functions to the Galaxy Note and it must be said that holding down the button and using the S-Pen is a bit of a chore. When you’re done with the S-Pen, it neatly slides into the bottom of the Galaxy Note. Unobtrusive, well-constructed and a pleasure to use, the S-Pen is a successful addition to this magnanimous mobile phone.

Gingerbread Men
The Galaxy Note runs Gingerbread 2.3.5, a fast, hassle-free operating system. Initially, the OS overwhelmed me thanks to the number of interface options Samsung was able to cram onto the Galaxy Note’s screens. After fiddling with the display (which is fully customisable to the nth degree), however, I managed to find a comfortable middle ground which suited my iPhone tendencies.

Between iOS and Android, the latter is clearly the better OS. I’ve used iOS for years now and have become complacent within my walled environment. iTunes especially ate into my life and being forced to upload and manage content through one of the worst interfaces of all time (patent pending) grated excessively on my soul.

Then I found Android. It’s customisable, fast, allows direct file access and so much more. Without gushing, let’s just say that it has never appeared better and sleeker than on the Galaxy Note.

There is hope that the Galaxy Note will be upgradable to Ice Cream Sandwich, an OS which will potentially turn the phone from great to greatest. Again, much like with the Galaxy S II, Android becomes a literal plaything in the right hands, a springboard to a unique experience.

It’s full of stars
The Galaxy Note, echoing its Galaxy Tab 10.1 legacy comes with an array of software options. Polaris Office is an outstanding mobile clone of Office 2011 and the enormous screen is ideal for documentation editing. YouTube defaults all content to HD and on the Galaxy Note the experience is akin to a miniature LCD TV display.

The social media options are front and present with Twitter and Facebook integration. Depending on what social media apps you have installed, content can be shared on any software platform, from Picasa to WhatsApp.

If you want it, you can download it. The Android App Store is brimming with applications for the Galaxy Note, but due to the size of the screen not every app will function correctly. I only encountered a few errors with random games, but most others ran smoothly.

The preinstalled apps will keep users content for a few hours, but the Android store holds the key to a fuller Galaxy Note experience.

Speed Freak
In terms of data and CPU speed, the Galaxy Note rules the roost. HSDPA+ is supported and the reported 21Mbp speeds are not far off. In an area with decent signal, Speedtest.net reported 8Mbps downloads and 4Mbps uploads.

The dual-core 1.4GHZ processor, combined with 1GB Ram is unstoppable, as shown by the independent benchmarking reports. Users don’t need arbitrary scores to see how fast the Galaxy Note operates, they simply need to swipe at the display and enjoy the instant, lag-free feedback. Browsing the web, watching HD content, playing games, chatting with the Samsung’s BBM like Chaton service or doing anything else is a pleasure.

Peter Parker would be proud
The 8MP camera is a leading class imaging device. With autofocus and LED flash combined with image stabilisation, pictures come out sharp and clear. Video is also top-notch and shoots in 1080p. Thanks to the phones 16GB/32GB (model dependant) storage, you will rarely run out of memory but in the likelihood that you do, 32GB SD cards can be inserted into the phone.

We love it
The full list of specifications can be found here. Discussing every aspect of the Galaxy Note is a pointless affair, but there is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the most feature rich smartphones in existence. The screen is huge, the S-Pen is an excellent addition to the hardware and the Gingerbread OS ties it all together nicely.

The only possible downfall is the price and from between ZAR7000 (US$880) to ZAR9000 (US$1 132), it may be too costly for some. For everyone else, the Samsung Galaxy Note is the phone to get and the current champion of mobile handsets. Everything else just seems small by comparison, especially iPhones.

Who it’s for:

  • Lovers of fast, beautiful smartphone’s.

What We like:

  • The 5.3 inch screen
  • the lightening fast wireless speeds
  • S-Pen interface
  • Thin and light design

What We did not like:

  • Slightly small S-Pen
  • Using it as an actual phone
Gear it or Burn it? Gear. 
Sample images:
Sample video (please excuse the poor sound):

Author Bio

Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon
Steven Norris is a born writer, living in Tamboerskloof, Cape Town and educated in the ways of graphic design but destined to follow in the footsteps of the worlds greatest authors. He has had many years of experience as an SEO copywriter, learning the ropes the hard way before... More
  • LBX

    I’m awaiting my Note and not concerned what people will think when I have it to my ear.  They will be the ones uncomfortable not me 🙂

  • when is the Galaxy Note coming  to the USA?

  • Just use a bluetooth headset, I have the dell Streak it always have people stoping me to ask what kind of phone is that?, so I can’t wait for the Note !!!


    Excellent review and pleased to see that one iphone fan has realised that Samsung is simply the best.Well done! Can’t wait for my Galaxy note to arrive.Orange will have it in stock through their own “orange shop” mid to end November here in the UK.

  • Welcome to Android and Samsung! The fun starts here!

  • It’s nice to see someone come from iOS and not be so biased, as a lot of people can be.  Glad to have you in the Android Camp dude!

  • Samsung Galaxy Note is just better than iPhone, finally come the real contender for iPhone.

    Galaxy Note Tips & Tricks – http://bit.ly/sNzEKP

  • Note – ultimate combination of tablet and mobile phone with rich features such as 5.3″ AMOLED display, Android Gingerbread OS, 8MP primary camera, 2MP fronr camera,video calling feature, 1.4GHz processor, NFC support, DLNA connectivity, HD video recording & playback, 16GB internal memory, powerful battery, multi-tasking feature, Social HUb, and mamy more

  • Please visit my blog http://mobilematinee.blogspot.com/ – all about mobile phones

  • Please visit my blog http://mobilematinee.blogspot.com/ – all about mobile phones

  • Gearbun


  • Samsung is really great Cell phone provider and here excellent information you have shared.

  • Pingback: Samsung Galaxy Note Review Roundup: What People Think of the 'Phone with a Pen' | Samsung Galaxy Reviews()