IFA 2011: Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Note review

IFA 2011: Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Note review

Samsung has shown off the Galaxy Note at IFA 2011, a huge 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED handset which comes complete with a stylus called the S Pen.

We grabbed some time with it on the show floor just after Samsung’s press conference took place.

The Note has a 1.4GHz ARM-based dual-core processor inside, though we have to be honest and say that while some apps were snappy, there was a bit of lag when dropping into things like the web browser. that surprised us as we’d assume the units we saw on the stand were shipping models. And it’s doubly surprising given the Note’s speedy processor.


The 5.3-inch screen is WXGA resolution (1,280×800) and, as we’ve come to expect from Samsung’s OLED screens, everything is super bright and colours stand out brilliantly – even though it is the largest such display ever fitted to a mobile device. More on how video looks a bit later.

The cited 180 degree viewing angle is indeed in evidence – well, maybe not quite 180, but pretty darn close.

The Samsung Galaxy Note screen delivers 285ppi – the iPhone 4 delivers 326ppi according to Apple. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S2 delivers 218ppi, and the older Galaxy S 233ppi..

The Galaxy Note comes running Android 2.3 Gingerbread and boasts an 8MP camera with LED flash on the rear and a 2MP snapper up front (which you can see above). The Note can record full 1080p HD video as well as stills and is fast and responsive at taking snaps.

In the hand, the handset (if you can call it that) feels like a huge slab. But it really is thin, like the Galaxy S2 – though it’s slightly thicker at 9.65mm.

And there’s no getting away from the fact it looks really stupid when held up to your ear. just look at Samusng’s DJ Lee from the launch this morning for evidence.

Indeed, you can see just how large the handset is from our pics of the end of the Note below.

  • Check out Samsung Galaxy Note: what you need to know

As you can see, it really is a sizeable piece of kit – and no, we haven’t got micro-hands. The top has the predictable 3.5mm headphone jack.

…while the bottom includes a similar-looking hole for a stylus (more on that in a mo) as well as the charging port. despite the thickness, the battery is a 2,500mAh unit – that’s nearly twice as big as a typical smartphone battery pack. Quite incredible. Mind you, you’ll need a lot of power to drive that screen.

Rounding out the key stats, the device comes with 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, and networking support includes HSPA+ for high-speed 3G and 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. if you’re in the US, you’ll get 4G LTE support too.

The Samsung Galaxy Note includes a stylus called the S Pen. as we found out when having a play, it’s pressure-sensitive so you can write on the screen as well as launch apps, take photos and more. It’s like 1998 all over again. The Note also supports Samsung’s new ChatON communication service.

As you can see, it slots into the bottom of the device. having the stylus is a nice luxury, but with Android and TouchWiz being so good with touch, we’re not sure whether we’d actually use it that much.

Of course, Samsung hasn’t just launched the Note with Android 2.3. It also includes the latest version of TouchWiz – TouchWiz UX. The software can use cool gestures to activate certain features; for instance, swipe your palm across the screen and you can take a screengrab of whatever you’re looking at.

As you’d expect, there’s also Samsung’s social hub to integrate email, texts and contacts, while there’s also a calendar and task app called S Planner.

It also has a note app, called S Memo. Samsung reckons that we all still have to carry notepads with us, so it wants to alleviate that with the Note. as you can see, there are always plenty of shortcuts and some really great tips on using the S Pen.

Choose your note…

For multimedia the Galaxy Note is no slouch either and we were really impressed with the sound – the speaker is that pair of slots on the back of the device.

Music playback is quite impressive for such a small speaker…

..as is the sound for movies. actually, let’s look at video. Samsung says the device will support nearly every known media type: MP4, H.264, WMV, DivX and Xvid.

Here we’re choosing a video and turning on the auto-rotation so that it will appear in landscape.

Cleverly, you can hover your hand above a movie to pause it.

It’s a real shame you can’t see it here, but the colour of the video playback is excellent and – even though we’re watching high quality content here – playback is impressive.

The screen size is great for video. Where 4-inch displays can seem a little small, this really takes mobile phone video on a stage.

So the Galaxy Note then – would we buy one? The shame is that the Note will be expensive. It has to be, even with a contract. And we saw from the original Dell Streak (Streak 5) that there isn’t a huge thirst for devices like this. But with better mobile internet – the 4G model for the US market, for example – we can see a market there for a mobile video-centric device.

For the rest of us though, the Galaxy Note seems pretty overblown – unless you prize using your handset for media more than making calls. Because, let’s face it; you’d look stupid making calls on this.

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