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International Galaxy Note Review

The Galaxy Note truly is different from any phone you've ever seen.

Samsung released their 5.3 inch behemoth to some amount of fanfare last year. The huge screen, inclusion of a stylus and relative scarcity created a decent amount of news – but then nothing. I recently picked up a Galaxy Note International Edition and wanted to review it for all you out there.

The Note is unlike any Android device you’ve seen – it is broad and tall, yet seems impossibly thin. It is powered by a huge 2500mAH battery, has a stellar 1280×800 pixel display, and runs Android 2.3.6 (Gingerbread). It has Samsung’s own Exynos dual-core processor, 16GB of internal memory as well a microSD card slot. The international Galaxy Note uses a quadband radio, replete with HSDPA+ standard (21Mb/s speeds). What all these specs mean is that it is at the top of all Android devices in performance (it only lacks Android 4.0 – ICS). The Samsung Exynos processor is one of the most powerful ARM processors, yet is only incorporated into a few phones (allegedly because of incompatibility with LTE modems). Hence, the forthcoming AT&T Galaxy Note will feature a 1.5GHz QualCOMM Snapdragon processor in lieu of the Samsung Exynos silicon.

A lot of Corvette drivers may find themselves inexplicably attracted to the Galaxy Note

The Galaxy Note is so large it makes the Galaxy Nexus (with its 4.65″ screen) seem tiny in comparison. It’s a beast of a “device” (because calling it a phone just doesn’t seem right). Because of the size, the keyboard is a breeze to use in portrait, and I had to switch to SwiftKey Tablet X to find it usable in landscape. I’ve stated in prior reviews that I have large hands, but not this big. However, if you’re a NBA/NFL type – this is definitely the phone for you.

The Galaxy Note is a breeze to use, and easily the best Gingerbread device I’ve gotten my hands on. While I hate the Samsung TouchWiz interface – if you can’t figure out how to put a launcher you like on the device, it is simply not for you (for the record, I prefer Zeam). Additionally, the Gingerbread browser is problematic, but a simple installation of either Dolphin HD or Opera Mobile will cure any browsing woes.

Battery life is excellent (considering the size) and the speaker is loud (embarassing my Galaxy Nexus).

Wrap Up:

Pros:

  • Great Gingerbread device
  • Huge screen and fast modem (HSDPA+) make it great for streaming video
  • Long battery life for size
  • Brilliant screen
  • Fastest smartphone processor around
  • Have pen capabilities, but I have yet to fully take advantage of them
  • MicroUSB charging and MHL HDMI output – anytime you’ve got standardized plugs, I’m a happy camper
  • Offers full top row of alpha-numeric characters (unlike iPhone)
  • GMail app allows for delete or archive (unlike iPhone)

Cons:

  • Super big, like dwarf your hands big
  • Stuck on Gingerbread (blah…though Q1 ICS update promised)
  • International Version is 2G only on T-Mobile (so be careful)

Conclusion:

The Samsung Galaxy Note is a very cool device which successfully implements  stylus input into a quasi-tablet/smartphone form-factor. I think the Note is a great starter Android device (if you’ve still got your dumbphone for calls/texts) or readily complements a smaller phone such as the iPhone or any sub 4.0″ Android device. It’s a hard sell as a complementary device, but it is a great piece of Android tech. If you want to use it as a playtoy/fun Android device/reader, check out one of AT&T’s tablet plans, and use it to cruise the web and check mail on the go (or use some VoIP capabilities and make it everything you need). Additionally, the Note may gain some traction in the enterprise as it offers superior reading capabilities in a form factor that fits into jacket pockets (this will be especially true when the upgrade to ICS comes).

The Note is a new take on the tablet, and offering true smartphone capabilities enables Samsung to charge more for the device. However, they have packed some truly great features into its 5.3″ chassis. The Galaxy Note is making me seriously reconsider my Galaxy Nexus – if not for the unlimited data I have on VZW.

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More Stories By Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder of Crucial Point and publisher of CTOvision.com

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