One of last year’s unexpected hits was the Samsung Galaxy Note. Boiled down it was basically a Galaxy S II with a stylus, a bigger higher resolution display and a bigger battery. It screamed ‘my phone is better than your phone because it’s bigger’. I figured it would appeal to guys who wear huge watches, drive showy cars, that sort of thing. However, if you go out you’ll notice actually notice a lot of girls with Notes. Turns out a Note fits just fine in a purse. I guess size really doesn’t matter.
Anyways, it’s been about a year now and a lot has changed. Samsung is now the de facto power in the Android smartphone space so there’s a lot of anticipation on the Galaxy Note’s successor.
The new one now has a 5.5” display vs the 5.3” on the old one. It’s not actually that much bigger because the screen’s resolution is actually lower plus the aspect ratio has changed. I dusted off my calculator, the new one is only about 2% bigger. The old one had a resolution of 1280x800 while the new one is 1280x720. So, the new one is slightly taller but more narrow. This actually makes the Note a little easier to use in portrait mode which is how I use mine 95% of the time.
Probably the biggest change is under the hood. The old Note came with a Qualcomm S3 dual core processor clocked at 1.5Ghz. Basically, Samsung chose the S3 because it had LTE support. While I wouldn’t say that the Note is a slow phone, when I use it there are many times where it feels a little underpowered. The new one has a quad-core Exynos processor for Samsung which offers a substantial improvement in performance.
2GB of RAM is double what you get from the old one. It’s the same amount that Galaxy S III comes with. When I reviewed the S III a while back I wondered what benefit an extra 1GB of RAM would have but it actually makes the S III a very capable at multi-tasking. You can switch one program, run a bunch of others and then switch back without missing it breaking a sweat.
LTE is a given but the bigger battery is a welcome change. 3100mAh is quite large. We’ll have to see what effect it has on the actual battery life.
In my hand it feels an awful lot like a large Galaxy S III. I prefer the old note in this regard. While the new Note has a cool glass-like finish I don’t really like how it feels in my hand. It’s kind of slippery but more importantly, it kind of exaggerates the fact that it’s plastic. Anyways, this becomes somewhat of a moot point if you put the Note II in a case.
The Note II’s battery cover fits much more securely because the plastic tabs on it are much bigger plus there is more of them.
While the new Note is a bit narrower it’s not a big difference.
Like the original Note the Note II includes a stylus called the S-Pen. On the original you could use it to take screen shots which you could write or or use it to write notes with Samsung S-Note and S-Memo applications. On the II Samsung has added more software which makes use of the S-Pen. You can select specific area to screen cap.
There’s also a cool hover feature. When watching a video you can hover over the navigation bar to preview that point.
It ships with Jellybean Android 4.1. One of Jellybean’s main features is smoother transitions and indeed, I can tell there’s a difference between it and my Galaxy S III.
The Note will have the usual Samsung accessories A flip cover, some TPU cases and a dock.
The dock has an HDMI out, 3 USB and a microUSB (for power) so you can connect a keyboard, mouse and a monitor to use it like a computer.
Another interesting accessory is an AllShare Cast dongle. With it you can project whatever you’re looking at on the screen onto a HDMI equipped TV. It works better than you’d think though I’m not sure if it works well enough for gaming. If nothing else it could make a good practical joke. When a Note II owner isn’t looking project their screen onto a TV. It also works with the Galaxy S III.
That’s all for now. I’ll have a full review in a few days.