Galaxy Note vs Galaxy S2 vs Galaxy Nexus – the Best of the Best?

by: RandyNovember 13, 2011

2011 has proven to be a very significant year for Samsung. Not only did they release the Samsung Galaxy S2 – a respectable phone with a reputation that holds its own; there’s also a Galaxy Note, the first 5.3” phone-tablet with an S Pen Stylus. Samsung also holds the privilege of releasing the 3rd Nexus phone – the Galaxy Nexus – running Android 4.0, and the first ever Android phone with hardware acceleration. They also clinched the top smartphone manufacturer in Q3 of 2011, as well as surpassed Symbian to become the No.1 manufacturer in South East Asia.

These are causes for celebration – and at the South East Asia Galaxy Note World Tour in Jakarta, Android Authority was privileged to be invited to preview the Galaxy Note and Galaxy Nexus. All these 3 devices have a solid spec sheet, and are similar in some aspects of hardware, but different in so many ways too.

Below are some thoughts I had about the Samsung Galaxy S2, the Galaxy Note, and the Galaxy Nexus after I attended the event. Please note that since there are so many difference between the devices, the focus of this article, mainly, will be to address the hardware differences.

Operating System

We all know that the operating system plays an important role in consumer selection and purchase. With the Galaxy Nexus, you will always have the most up-to-date version of Android – currently at version 4.0, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich, and the soon to come Android 5.0 Jellybean, if that’s what it’s going to be called. Ice Cream Sandwich is guaranteed for the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S2, though it’s hard to say if Jellybean will be a reality. Given the specs of both devices however, it certainly is possible, though it will depend on whether Samsung, or the carriers, will want to provide users the Jellybean experience. Should they give consumers Jellybean on the Note & SGS2, it will inspire consumer confidence – unlike the HTC Desire S, which was totally excluded from ICS even with the 18 months OS upgrade advisory from Google.

The Galaxy Note comes with the S Pen, which works well for those in the creative & business category and ICS would be a great addition as it will also mean that the Mali 400 graphics processor will be fully utilized for memos and sketching. The Galaxy S2 is already considered the best phone at the moment by many, and ICS will improve on what Samsung has already done. On a level Ice Cream Sandwich-playing field, it’s hard to say which device will win. In all likelihood, the Galaxy S2 will fare the best considering its current sales effect, while the Galaxy Nexus will win with Google Purists, and the Galaxy Note among the business savvy and creative group.

Blazing Fast Processors

At 1.2GHz, both the Nexus and Galaxy S2 are very fast phones. The Note has a 1.4GHz chip, and delivers equal performance, but at a higher screen resolution. The SGS2 comes in 2 variants – the I9100 and the I9100G. The former utilizes the Exynos chip while the latter is uses the TI OMAP 4430 chip. The Galaxy Nexus, on the other hand, uses the more powerful TI OMAP 4460 chip while the Galaxy Note is powered by an Exynos processor. Considering all factors, the user experience is consistent throughout all 3 of these Samsung products. Hence, processor speed should not be a necessary motivation for consumers to prefer one device over another.

Camera, Lights, Action

Both the SGS2 and Galaxy Note have an 8MP camera, while the Galaxy Nexus is a 5MP low light shooter. To be honest, I can’t decide which I like better. After a quick hands-on session with the Nexus during the Galaxy Note World Tour, I find the camera acceptable and the instant snapshots a useful too. It feels like a DSLR camera in a compact form. However, once the S2 and Note get the ICS upgrades, consumers might prefer the higher resolution camera. This is still pretty much guess game as we have no review sets of the Galaxy Nexus to compare with.

For videos, all 3 devices are capable of 1920×1080 (1080p HD) at 30 fps; with the low light sensor on the Galaxy Nexus giving it a slight edge for night videos. The Nexus’ 1.3MP front facing camera does the job, but falls short of the 2MP front camera on the SGS2 and Galaxy Note. To be frank, I don’t think 0.7MP makes much of a difference, but camera purists might disagree.


  • SGS2 – Super AMOLED Plus 800 x 480
  • Galaxy Note – HD Super AMOLED 1280 x 800
  • Galaxy Nexus – HD Super AMOLED 1280 x 800

Super AMOLED Plus displays uses the traditional RGB structure, while HD Super Amoled uses a PenTile matrix. Most tech savvy consumers would steer clear of PenTile matrixes, however this stems from a complete misunderstanding of PenTile. I have tested all 3 devices, and all I can say is that Samsung has done an extremely good job with HD Super AMOLED. Apart from crisp, bright and vivid images, you’ll also gain longer battery life with it.

That said, of the 3 devices, I personally prefer the display on the Note. The 5.3inch WXGA 1280×800 display on the Galaxy Note does make everything easier to read – and I suspect the Roboto font from Android 4.0 will make the viewing experience even better. The 5×5 grid on the Note does allow more items on screen, and allows more widgets and apps than before, compared to the 4×4 grid on the Nexus and SGS2. The Galaxy Note’s S Pen also adds a ton more functionality in a way that is unavailable on either the Galaxy S2 or Nexus.

Battery Life

Galaxy Note on the left, Galaxy S2 on the right

  • SGS2 – Li-Ion 1650 mAh
  • Galaxy Note – Li-Ion 2500 mAh
  • Galaxy Nexus – Li-Ion 1750 mAh

I own an SGS2 and had the opportunity to review the Note as well. I generally get about 14 to 16 hours on the Galaxy Note. On average, the SGS2 lasts about 12-14 hours for me. While I haven”t spent enough time with the Galaxy Nexus to definitively say whether or not we have a winner in this department, reliable reports have confirmed that it is quite good, and excellent in fact, for an LTE 4G device.


Very few devices have NFC for the moment, and the Galaxy Nexus is one of those few. I have no doubt that Western bound (USA) variants of the Note and the Galaxy Nexus will have NFC on board. That being said, in my part of the world, NFC isn’t a budding technology yet. Apart from Android Beam, there aren’t any other usages for NFC here, but it would be nice if manufacturers start releasing NFC capable MicroSD cards that we’ve heard so much about. This might change the trend here in Asia and revolutionize the market.


Let’s just assume for a second that all three devices are running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. If this were the case, I would be totally torn between the Galaxy Note and Galaxy Nexus. I find the S Pen to be a big help as an office companion, while the Nexus inspires OS update lust. The SGS2 is a solid device, and since Samsung has confirmed that both the Note and SGS2 will receive Ice Cream Sandwich in 2012 (we’re estimating Q1 2012), there are absolutely no worries about being left behind. It has been an amazing year for Samsung, and if they deliver on their OS update promises, I have no doubt that 2012 will also be another Samsung-dominating year.

Which is the device to rule them all? Let us know in the comments!

[poll id=”56″]

Image Credit for Macro shot of displays: Phone Arena

  • Anonymous

    “Should they give consumers Jellybean on the Note & SGS2, it will inspire consumer confidence – unlike the HTC Desire S, which was totally excluded from ICS even with the 18 months OS upgrade advisory from Google”

    How does it promote consumer confidence when a web site that should know what they are talking about makes misleading and inaccurate statements?
    Jellybean, even if that’s what it gets called, hasn’t been announced and how do you know it won’t have a minimum requirement of HD resolution or require a 4 core cpu so these devices could be left out of the running anyway?

    To be fair to HTC they haven’t said “NO” to a Desire S upgrade all that has happened is the handset wasn’t mentioned in the announcement regarding the first batch of handsets that will be getting an upgrade.

    They ended with this statement: “We’re continuing to assess our product portfolio, so stay tuned for more updates on device upgrades, timing and other details about HTC and Ice Cream Sandwich.”

    Contrary to your comment this quite plainly still does leave people with earlier 2011 handsets hope for an upgrade at least for now.

    Samsung got a bit of a bad rep in the past for lack of timely updates and now they are being touted as the upgrade king? Well, I guess time will tell.

    • Amine Elouakil

      As you mentioned HTC never said they aren’t updating the Desire S to ICS, and in terms of Gingerbread HTC is ahead of Samsung in terms of numbers amount and date of their phones updates and just notice how many handsets were annouced in their first wave ICS update.

      But back to Desire S and let’s be a bit objective the Desire S and despite it release date, it is at best a mid range phone with specs comparable to last year Desire HD (actually the Desire HD tops the S with a better camera and more rom for instance, so if HTC update to ICS I will respect them, and I think they’ll do, seeing the leaked Sense 3.5 and stuff shows that HTC is making the effort


      Here’s an official announcement from HTC.
      No Desire S upgrade!
      And it was released somewhere Q2 this year?

      The original desire was upgraded from Eclair to Froyo to Gingerbread.
      The specs of the Desire S is indeed similar, but this is one device HTC won’t deliver ICS at this moment.

  • Gregd900

    Should have discussed the HDMI capabilities of each phone. As I understand it the Nexus does not have this feature. In today’s want all market, HDMI can be a maker or breaker!

    • Anonymous

      Some information I’ve seen states that it has HDMI capability. It has a MHL chip and outputs the HDMI through the micro USB port. An adapter would be required the same as it is for the SGS2.

    • alright. Will add in a part 2 soon.

      • Gilgamesh

        I purchased Galaxy Note yesterday it is defently superior than S2 , while S2 is a good phone now when Nexus and note is out there is nothing realy in for a S2 thats it if you havent decide what to get yet…

        If you need smale phone then nexus, if you want a bigger screen then Note as simply as that….

        Still is hard to decide between Nexus and Note for me… i am still in time to change note for Nexus (nexus arrived in stores here today)….

        But i think what i will do is keep the Note then later buy a nexus and then use nexus for outdoor use and Note for indoor use…. my new PC is a gaming desktop PC and is in another room than my TV , so when watching TV in living room Having Galaxy note as a notebook remplacement is brilliant, then i can surf internet and facebook while watching a movie without having to surf internet only in comercial breaks :)

        Note is realy not that big….you can however decide for yourself even without going to a store

        find out the size of the devices and cut a paper size of it
        try it in pockets and up to your ear and you get used to what size is okey for you.

        I see a problem with Note for longer term use…so this is why i might get the nexus also in some months… BTW maybe then S3 is out and maybe i get S3 instead of nexus….

        Do you know see why i dont recomend buy S2 , S3 will be out very soon, Note will laste longer , and so will nexus.

    • I’ve not seen any indication that it doesn’t and plenty of places saying it does, though not seen someone using it yet.

  • Nexus for the purist.. yes. I have a Nexus One and love it. Want to upgrade to one of these devices, but one thing stands out between Samsung’s S2 and Note and having the pure one. The new Nexus doesn’t have a Micro SD slot for memory expansion which I think is a mistake. They should have included it for the price bracket. Secondly on the software front is the codec too. Native Xvid and Divx support on the S2 and Note, and nothing like that on the Nexus. Big resolution, big screen and no support for the popular codecs amongst other additions Sammy gives to their own breeds.

    I’m torn too. Going to have to make the decision by actually trying out the devices myself. i.e. I think there is no answer here, but a personal choice.

  • Anonymous

    Resolution of Nexus = 1280×720 as opposed to x800 :)

    • LearnYourScience

      Screen size is smaller so nexus still has a higher pixel density.

      • Anonymous

        It’s a play-off between pixel density and total resolution. I prefer a larger total res.

        • One

          Add to that the fact that the nexus is not always 1280×720 cos of the software buttons…

    • 26d548

      but the nexus has smaller screen than note and has more pixels so the image is clearly superior, nexus is much better than note

  • MMW

    I used to own SGS2 and have changed to SGNote. Now i gave my SGS2 to my wife after got the terrific NOTE. Frankly speaking i had no problem with S2 since it is indeed a great smartphone n my wife really loves it, she used to be using SGS, the reason why i bought the NOTE was because of the bigger size, s pen, faster processor n of course the much brilliant HD display. Besides that, i am really impressed with the performance of the battery life. I really love drawing, sketching n taking notes so the S pen comes in handy….SGS3 is coming next year but i think i will stick to NOTE until SAMSUNG really does something out of this world!

    • Richardsaunders37

      Samsung already has done something out of this world bringing the note to the worlds attention.. What more do you want ???

  • MMW

    I used to own SGS2 and have changed to SGNote. Now i gave my SGS2 to my wife after got the terrific NOTE. Frankly speaking i had no problem with S2 since it is indeed a great smartphone n my wife really loves it, she used to be using SGS, the reason why i bought the NOTE was because of the bigger size, s pen, faster processor n of course the much brilliant HD display. Besides that, i am really impressed with the performance of the battery life. I really love drawing, sketching n taking notes so the S pen comes in handy….SGS3 is coming next year but i think i will stick to NOTE until SAMSUNG really does something out of this world!

  • i own samsung galaxy s2 and i absolutely can guarantee u that this phone is a very2 good phone..totally worth for your money…

  • Indra Vladvamp

    I love Galaxy S2 ^_^
    please visit

  • Kumar Rocks15

    i have to buy an android of latest specs. please help

    • dario sucic

      Go with the Galaxy Nexus, way better than anything else.
      It seems the iPhone 4S and the Galaxy Nexus are the strongest devices on the market.

      • Leonghinhow

        Galaxy Nexus is a brilliant choice!

    • Ghanshyamjoshi97

      Galexy note is the best phone than others

      • 26d548

        no, nexus is superior

  • Guest

    I own both the galaxy S2 as well as the galaxy Note… They both are indeed extremely brilliant phones and stand apart but the Note surely is the superior one… With a better processor and screen resolution, it surely gets and edge over the S2… On the other hand i did not really find anything extra ordinary about the galaxy nexus apart from the os i.e. Android 4.0 (ICS)… and anyways S2 as well as Note will be getting the upgrade.

    So given a choice, I would prefer the Note over the other two.

    • galaxy note’s processor is same as the one in the S2. i think we can easily overclock the S2.

      • Edgey642

        The note has 1.4GHz and S2 has 1.2GHz

  • Anonymous

    Note is too big, really just too big, and I have big hands. Nexus has no ext SD card, SGS2 has no nfc, but then I understand nfc will be on future sims…
    so once it gets ICS, I think the sgs2 would be the one for me, till SGS3 arrives!

  • Umamahesh85 M

    can anyone suggest me which mobile is best among S2 and Note????????

    • it’s ur personal preference. look at me. i prefer the S2 mainly because of it’s portability. i disliked nexus because of the lack of micro sd card slot. i will be swapping my friends cards. note is too big. accidently in the tablet range. we will look stupid calling with it. atleast, in my country. people r nt very decent. if they find u have a good phone. that’s the end of it. screens not much. in person, u may find the S2’s screen to be more than satisfactory.

    • I love Note but I prefer S2 which I use. I like the small size of S2 although Note is far easier on the eyes. S Planner is very good and the handwriting recognition is also superb. My wife who wanted a compact phone likes her Note. Since she carries her phone in the handbag anyway, size does not matter that much. Extra battery life is a great bonus. At last you have a phone where you can watch video without problem. Final choice is personal and will depend on priority and preference

  • K Hemsley

    samsung galaxy s2 has expandable memory the google nexus does not that is a big thing with me and with the camera in the nexus only being 5 mega pixel that bothers me aswell with th upgrade to ics i feel the sgs2 will be better sure its got a smaller screem but hell who needs bigger than 4.3 inch on a mobile phone

    • Phil

      Not bigger, but higher density is still profitable for that given screen size. I can tell the difference between 800×480 and 1280×720 is huge in term of readability while surfing on the web… Also most of old games stations / computers you can emulate used a screen width of 640 pixels (MSX2, Amiga500/600/1200/2000… etc, SNES, Atari ST) that forces SGS2 users to run these emulators in landscape mode, making their gaming experience turn in nightmare with the poor virtual keypad horizontal layout you get in that case…
      Truly, even if I think the visual granularity limit is reached for a 4.65 inches, I would never switch back to a resolution less than that great 720p.
      The GNote sounds great too, but could be even more with a similar density.

  • Zaid Almaskari

    I guess Galaxy Nexus Is the BEST,( Screen HD,Faster,ICS softwsre really different)

    Just the sd card a mistake, Overall Neuxs is Top..

  • sreepada

    I feel Blutooth’s way better than NFC. Can anyone tell me the advantages of NFC over bluetooth. Personally i wouldn’t prefer NFC over bluetooth. NFC’s slower than bluetooth and bluetooth can transmit data upto 10m whereas for NFC its only 20 cm!!(source:wikipedia)
    So i think Nexus hasn’t got much of an advantage with NFC!
    The only advantage that nexus has over note/s2 is that nexus is up-gradable to jellybean(though jellybean’s a mere speculation as mentioned in the article)
    I’m planning to go for a note as i was impressed with the 8 meg cam.(i checked it out at a samsung store near my home) More so i was impressed with the clarity of video. But the stylus is the real add on for note! note .. mmmuuaaahh! take a bow!

    • dario sucic

      Are you brain damaged?
      NFC isn’t meant to be like bluetooth, it’s meant for sending small amounts of data quickly, not transfering files and such.
      Besides the Galaxy Nexus comes with bluetooth anyway.

  • Triptamittal09

    i prefer Note over the other two….loving its spen

  • I got a Samsung Galaxy s2 about a week ago , all I can say is WOW :) it beats my BB hands down
    It has NFC built in and the antenna is built into the battery , not many shops have the NFC terminals yet probably wont for about a year yet
    NFC can be used to make purchases in shops , from what I have read about you charge your phone with cash then when you want to pay for stuff you just swipe the phone over the terminal instead of getting your wallet out , might be the reason it only works within 20cm

  • Anonymous

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  • Lwendt33

    What about the Skyrocket 2 or the Skyrocket 2HD?

  • Asecbob

    Nothing beats the Note as of today…. the S Pen feature is superb..Steve Jobs once commented that if a phone has a stylus, then the manufacturers “blew it”. How prophetic, Iphone blew it…..Steve Jobs was a calligrapher and never considered SWYPE. Iphone also blew it.. SIRI came along but VOICE TALK has been there forever and now i rarely use the keyboard…..Was in the USA for the Xmas holidays and my friends were totally amazed and literally hiding their Iphones. Took travelogue videos, editing them using Video Editor, added photos edited with Photo Editor and sharing them instantly…… And this comment from a former SGS1 and SPICA owner.

  • Asecbob

    And talk about excellent service, yesterday i upgraded to the latest SGN firmware version…..…..took one hour to download and install. Worth the wait though. Am concerned that AT&T will issue a different model from my international version. Regardless, just you all wait and get that SGN, whatever model is available in your country.
    Am no techie, nor a samsung promoter…a retired public servant concerned with not contracting cataract.

  • Wavingheart

    I really liked your review. Even i am planning to buy a Note but my friends told me to wait another couple of months till it gets launched on ICS. But then I read it sumwher tht the existing Samsung Note models would also get upgraded to ICS.. Is that true ??

    • One

      Yes it is. You should get one now and enjoy the awesomeness ASAP…

    • 26d548

      NO, get the nexus because while the note is stuck with ICS the Nexus has Jelly Bean and recieve another update before the note gets its jelly bean update almost a year after

  • Anonymous

    This doesn’t take into account the numerous variants of the GS2. . .take the skyrocket HD. It blows the competition out of the water.

  • Samsung have really picked up their game in the last one year, since the SII. Look at the Note, I think its a splendid device. The SPen is brilliant, and not just that. The processor and the screen are just startling, especially if u see this retail mode video, its shows the exact features!

  • J.

    It seems that the pen with Galaxy Note would reduce problems with those like me who experience “fat thumb syndrome”. A few years ago I had a palm pilot with a pen. The biggest draw back with a pen is that I kept loosing mine. I just might get a Galaxy Note for my next phone.

  • Julia

    this great but will lousy the signal, smhh =]

  • christianm

    I just ordered a Nexus. The thing that made me chose the Nexus over the s2 and the Note (yeah, I actually chose between the three) was based on previous phones. I was left behind with my HTC Legend way back and therefore I couldn’t chose anything else than the Nexus. OS-upgrades is the way to go, make sure you get the latest and You’re good to go. Plus the note is ridicolous-looking when you put it to your ear, haha. I’ll love it when the guy next to me on the bus gets a phone call and he picks up the note. Will make my day=)

    • Steve Bauman

      good choice!! definitely the best out of the 3, i’ve owned the S2 and the nexus, and I returned the S2 to go to the nexus. the S2 was awful.

  • Madhurbogra

    Hey guyz can u please which phone to buy galaxy s2 or galaxy note..i have adoubt dat dey migjt be closed if galaxy s3 comes in the market..will they be closed or not…plz suggest me guyz.plz plz

    • 26d548

      get nexus….
      it gets updates MUCH quicker, and by that i mean MONTHS quicker, i got the nexus with jelly bean and the note or even the SGS3
      and the nexus doesnt lag as much as the note, it just goes smoother

  • Getting a Note at the end of my current contract – that display is just class, looks like it’ll be a joy to use. Also love the look of the S Pen for sketching…all in all, if you love your visuals, the Note is going to be your best friend!

  • Andrei3_ray

    You guys are stupid the nexus is clearly the better device.. ics is just fantastic compared to 2.3..and maybe you didnt know but the wifi speeds on the nexus top the gs2 and the note… not to speak that the nexus will most likely get android 5 while the note and gs2 will not…

    • Steve Bauman

      agreed, the nexus is the best out of these devices for sure.

    • 26d548

      YES!!! clearly the nexus is superior
      i have the GNexus and it is amazing. I have Jelly bean and the note or any other phone doesnt have it, so the nexus is clearly superior to the note and teh sg2

  • Now the Nexus retails directly from Google at crazy $399 unlocked. I’m just torn between that and a Galaxy Note which is about $140 more expensive w/o a contract. What should I do?

    • Steve Bauman

      I got the galaxy nexus a week ago, then went to the S2, and am now back to the nexus. The S2 was an AWFUL phone and I’m sure the note will be near the same as the S2. The keyboard is awful, theirs wake up lag (when you click the home or wake button it takes a couple seconds, so irritating), touchwiz was fucking atrocious and painful, i tried resetting, different roms, different kernals, and everytime i couldnt fix the issues with the S2. Please go for the nexus, its the best of android right now besides the HTC One series.

      • Thank you for the advice. Now the only thing keeping me from buying the GNex are reviews stating that there’s a higher possibility to get a lemon than the odds you have with other Android devices.

  • isaac

    Nexus for being free of vendor lock-in.
    Note for its 1280×800 screen (I hate 16:9, it is too wide).
    Though the Note 2 is the most powerful nowadays. It’s a shame Samsung didn’t keep the 8:5 (16:10) format.

    So, there is no perfect mobile for me yet.