Samsung Galaxy Note First Impressions

November 2, 2011
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Vivid. Thin. Big. Fast. 

That’s the 4 words that best describe the Samsung Galaxy Note.

I was fortunate enough to obtain a review set from Samsung Malaysia, and the first 24 hours has left me in awe at what they have done with the Galaxy Note.

Inside the box, the beautifully made Galaxy Note comes with manuals, a 2500mAh battery, a microUSB cable, a USB wall charger, and a pair of Samsung earphones.

Big Processor, Big Display

The display is big – 5.3inches big – with a thin bezel of about half a cm. This might be a bit tricky for people with small hands, but it fits nicely in my hands. One handed operation wasn’t complicated, though it will require some getting used to. The 1.4GHz dual-core Exynos, made everything smooth and buttery. Still, it’s almost as smooth as the SGS2, but do remember – the Note runs on a significantly higher display resolution.

The Galaxy Note boasts a 1280×800 resolution display; called the Super AMOLED HD. Everything looks breathtaking – even better than the Samsung Galaxy S2. Once Ice Cream Sandwich with hardware acceleration arrives on the Note, it will become just as smooth, if not better than iOS.

The Note has an 8MP camera with LED flash, and a 2MP front camera. Both does a great job, and it is rumored to be the same cameras from the SGS2. And like the Samsung Galaxy S2, The Galaxy Note takes crisp and clear photographs with ease. Full HD videos (1080p) plays easily on the Note, and to say it is more captivating than the Galaxy S2’s Super AMOLED Plus display, is an understatement. The speaker is loud and makes a perfect conference calling companion.

Less Touchy Buttons

The phone comes with minimum hardware buttons. There are only 3 – the home button, power button and volume rocker. This minimalist approach makes the Note not only a fantastic device to hold, but also a thing of beauty to the eyes. If you think the front is good enough to mesmerize you, you’ll salivate peeking at its back. The battery cover is etched just like the Samsung Galaxy S2, and this provides a good grip for all you butterfingers out there.

Home, Sweet Homescreen.

Once booted up, you’ll immediately find many TouchWiz similarities to the Samsung Galaxy S2. It’s almost a clone of the S2, except that this version of TouchWiz is improved in a good way. At the homescreen, you’ll see an icon for S Memo – an application developed specifically for the Galaxy Note – which allows you to scribble notes just like you’re working on a notepad. Samsung incorporated infinite looping into their homescreen, and you’ll find yourself reaching the screen that you want, fast – regardless of you swiping to the left of to the right. Pinch to overview is still there, so you could quickly zip between homescreens too. Your homescreen is a 5 by 5 icon display area, and this has been improved from the 4 by 4 icon homescreen on the SGS2.

An App Drawer Full Of Love

When you open the app drawer, you are lovingly greeted with the same 5 by 5 grid from the homescreen. The same smooth scrolling animations meet your slightest touch, while the display’s vivid Super AMOLED  HD shouts for your attention. If you prefer to see your apps in an alphabetical order, you can switch to list mode, which will also allow you to zip immediately to the app you are looking for from the alphabetical scrollbar on the right. As a person who carries about 200 apps in my phone, this addition is always welcome.

Gingerbread, Waiting For An Icy Treat

The device runs the Gingerbread 2.3.5 and is confirmed to receive Ice Cream Sandwich soon. Initially, I was surprised. I was expecting a Honeycomb interface, but Gingerbread already gets the job done. There is stylus support in Ice Cream Sandwich, and it would be interesting to see how that would boost the functionality of the S Pen.

Write With Style

The S Pen is a joy to use. It’s easy, simple and intuitive. Samsung kept the S Pen gestures to a minimum, which is good thing. With just a few taps and swipes of the S Pen, you can capture screenshots, open apps, exit apps, and even toggle the menu button. The accuracy of the pen is commendable, and Samsung has done a fantastic job in making sure this works. I tried using the S Pen on the SGS2, but it doesn’t function (obviously), and I can only conclude that there must be some awesome S Pen API under the Note’s hood. Apart from just taking doodles, the S Memo and S Pen also makes an impressive feat – converting handwriting to text. I tested this app 3 times, and I must say that the accuracy of the converter is very high – accurately capturing every word that I am attempting to express. While using the S Pen in the S Memo app, the device is intelligent enough to distinguish between an accidental stroke (when touched with your hand) and the actual pen stroke.

3G Browsing Powerhouse

Having become accustomed  to browsing on the SGS2, I did find the stock browser on the Galaxy Note required some getting used to. The Note’s browser is similar to the original Galaxy Tab browser, but with speed improvements. It’s faster and smoother than the original Tab, but a little behind the SGS2 browser. Considering Ice Cream Sandwich will pack hardware acceleration, the browser will cut through the World Wide Web like a hot katana through butter.

More Than Enough Power To Last The Day

First impressions last forever. I’m a moderate to high 3G user, and I’m already accustomed to good battery management habits. Testing the device on the first day (after a full charge), the battery lasted me more than 16 hours – with about 10% left in the tank. This is an impressive feat considering that I’m always checking emails, messaging and browsing on the go non-stop.

Lightning Fast GPS Lock With The Barometer

The Galaxy Nexus comes with a barometer, and so does the Galaxy Note. If you think Google was kidding about increased GPS lock speeds, you’ll be in for a surprise. With data and GPS on, I ran GPS Status, one of the trusted apps to test a device’s GPS capability. The first lock downloads AGPS data and took about 5 seconds. Subsequent locks without additional AGPS data download consistently lock at about 1-2 seconds. The phone locks on to the satellite as fast as the GPS Status app launches. Slow GPS locks will definitely be a thing in the past. Even the “future-proof” SGS2 clocks 6 seconds with AGPS data downloaded.

First Impression Conclusion

Would I recommend this device? Hell yeah! I think Samsung is tapping into the enterprise category and this device with be a strong contender in this category. The device is a godsend for users who work a lot with market research, Powerpoints, Word Documents and Photoshop. For the average Jane and Joe, this phone will give them a full-fledged entertainment device that will not disappoint. I find that the phone will fit perfectly in the hands of business professionals and creative masterminds alike.

Gallery

Video

Specifications

Network
HSPA+ up to 21Mbps 850/900/1900/2100
EDGE/GPRS 850/900/1800/1900
Processor
1.4GHz Dual Core Processor
Display
5.3” WXGA (1280 x 800, 285 PPI) screen*
HD Super AMOLED
Platform
Android™ 2.3(Gingerbread)
Camera
Main(Rear) : 8 MP with LED Flash / Front : 2 MP
Action Shot, Beauty, Panorama Shot, Smile Shot
Video
1080p Full HD video recording & playback
Recording: 1080p@24~30fps/ Playback: 1080p@30fps
Codec: MPEG4/ H.263/ H.264/ DivX, Xvid, WMV, VC-1
Audio
Codec : MP3, AAC, AMR, WMA, WAV, FLAC, OGG
Music Player with SoundAlive
3.5mm Ear Jack, Stereo FM Radio with RDS
Multi Input
Full touch
+ S Pen (Advanced smart pen)
Connectivity
Bluetooth® technology v 3.0 + HS
USB 2.0 HOST
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct
Sensor
Accelerometer, Digital compass, Proximity,
Barometer,Light
Memory
16GB Internal memory
+ microSD (up to 32GB)
Size
146.85 x 82.95 x 9.65 mm, 178g
Battery
Standard battery, Li-on 2,500 mAh
Value-added Features
Samsung Touchwiz/ Samsung Live Panel UX
S Memo/ S Planner/ S Choice (Apps for GALAXY Note)
Samsung Apps
Samsung kies 2.0/ Samsung kies air
Social Hub, Readers Hub, Music Hub
Google™ Mobile Services : Gmail™, Google Talk™,
Google Search™, YouTube™, Android™ Market,
Google Maps™ with Google Places™ and Google- Latitude™
A-GPS, Glonass

Any thoughts on the Galaxy Note?

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