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Samsung Galaxy Note II Review

The Samsung Galaxy Note II is the successor to the wildly popular Galaxy Note. The original Note was a giant-sized phone at 5.3” screen display, and the Note II is even bigger at 5.5”. The Note II was released to the international markets in August 2012. US release dates lagged somewhat, depending on carrier. For this review, we will be looking at the T-Mobile variant in particular.

Unlike the Galaxy S III, the internal hardware of the US market Galaxy Note II is largely shared with the international model, aside from carrier radio modifications and a few other minor details like a missing FM radio and branding. Here’s what’s in the box:

  • Phone
  • Battery
  • USB Sync and charge cable
  • Wall charger
  • Headphones
  • Manual

Hardware

The phone packs the quad-core Cortex A9-based Samsung Exynos 4412 running at 1.6 GHz. This is the same processor as the Galaxy S3 international model, but running at a higher clock speed. The 5.5-inch display weighs in at 720 x 1280 pixels, which equates to approximately 267 ppi. Pixel peepers will rejoice at the fact that the AMOLED panel on the Note II does not feature a Pentile array. The panel itself is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2.

The Main Device specifications are:

  • Exynos 4412 quad running at 1.6 GHz
  • 5.5” Screen Super AMOLED HD at 720P with Gorilla Glass 2
  • 9.4 mm Thickness
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 16/32/64 GB storage options (also includes a Micro SD expansion slot)
  • 3100mAh battery Replaceable
  • 8 MP Camera
  • S Pen stylus
  • 183 grams
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with TouchWiz UI
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC

Over the course of a week of testing, the battery of the Note II demonstrated impressive longevity. On average, it lasted a solid day with heavy use and could go to 2 days with light to moderate usage. Despite having the same materials as the Galaxy S III, the weight of the Note II makes it feel like a premium device in hand. The processor is very fast, especially for those coming from the US variants of the Galaxy S3 that feature the dual-core S4 processor. The S-Pen is even better than the original, with more sensitivity and bigger size.

All in all, the entire phone is very well build and should provide a great experience when holding and using it on a daily basis.


 

The Interface

The phone runs Android 4.1 skinned with TouchWiz UI. The implementation is visible in every aspect of the phone’s interface. Because of this, if you are looking for a phone that provides the pure Google experience, the Note II is not for you. However, the options that are added are intended to help the user be more productive.

Multitasking is accessed with a long press of the home button rather than its own dedicated key. The apps and widgets are in the same position and work the same way as in stock Android. Folder creation is not the same as Stock android. You need to use the menu key to add a folder to the home screen rather than hold two app icons on top of each other.

The camera was modified as well, adding slow motion, panorama, and burst shot modes. Sadly, there’s no photosphere. The Messaging app was made to work with the extra space on the phone when in landscape mode.

It’s likely that those who use the device for a few days will grow to enjoy the little changes. However, if you want a pure Google experience, get a Nexus 4.

DESIGN

The Note II shows its Samsung lineage with many design traits similar to those seen on the Galaxy S III. The one main change is that speaker is at the lower back rather than near the camera, like on the GS3. NFC is built into the back cover rather than being part of the battery like on the GS3.

The Phone’s dimensions are 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm (5.95 x 3.17 x 0.37 in), and it weighs in at 183 g (6.46 oz). The S-pen fits inside the phone, and can be stored in the lower right side of the phone.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Note II is a big phone or Phablet, if you want to call it that. I came to this device from a Galaxy S3, and the first day was an adjustment period for my hand. I now see the Galaxy S3 as a small phone next to the Note II. I love the power under the hood of the Note II, and wish Samsung could have kept the US S3 variants more like the international model.

Make no mistake: The Note II is not made to be a one-handed phone, although Samsung includes a limited one-handed use option under dialer and the calculator settings. Regardless, you will use both hands for the S-pen.

The Note 2 will be available from all major US carriers soon. I could not pass the opportunity to get one on launch day, and have not put the phone down since.

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