The new Samsung Galaxy Note is a unique device in the smartphone market. The Note sits between a smartphone and a tablet and has a huge 5.3-inch display that is considerably larger than the screen of any other smartphone available today (see image below next to an iPhone). For this reason, the note is rather unwieldy in the hand and is almost impossible to operate with one hand.
In order to make the most of the smartphone's larger space requirement, Samsung has tried to add "Don't Call-It-A-Stylus" functions to the Note with its S Pen input device. However, the dominant feature of the Note is again the 5.3-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. The form factor alone will put many potential buyers at odds, while others will appreciate the device's hybrid nature. Read on to find out our findings.
The Samsung Galaxy Note borrows heavily from the designs that Samsung used for its Galaxy S II smartphones. In fact, it wouldn't be fault that the Galaxy Note is just a Galaxy S II with steroids. The large display looks fantastic, with great, punchy colors, enormous viewing angles and good visibility outdoors. Pixel layout is the much derided PenTile format, but with so many pixels packed into the screen, you really have to look for PenTile patterns in images. It really is a great ad.
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Because of the massive screen, the Note has the same size – and that's where the difficulties I had when using it as a phone lie. The Note is 147mm tall and 83mm wide, which means it feels utterly massive when held in the hand. Even compared to the already large Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket with its 4.5-inch display, the Note is a huge beast (and makes the 3.5-inch iPhone 4S look positively small). I cannot reach the corners of the screen with my thumb without clearly moving and fully stretching the note in my hand, which worries me that the note slips out of my hand and falls to the floor.
So using the Galaxy Note is a two-handed affair, and there's really no way around it – unless you're a professional basketball player, I guess. Despite its large dimensions, the note remains very thin with a thickness of only 9.7 mm. As with many thin Samsung smartphones, the Note feels even bigger than it actually is because of the thin profile.
The back cover of the Note is made of the well-known, thin plastic material that Samsung used on many of its predecessor models. However, the back of the Note has a finer texture than the others, making it feel like it's of higher quality. The textured back helps with the device handling, although I'm not sure it will prevent users from dropping it at some point.
In the lower right corner of the note's frame is the S Pen input device. The S Pen uses Wacom technology and works with the digitizer in the note's display to allow users to draw and activate things on the screen with the pen-like tip. The tip has 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, so apps that support the features of the S Pen can allow the user to draw thick or thin lines depending on how much pressure they put on the screen.
The S Pen also has a side function button that can be used to perform various tasks such as screen capturing. In contrast to the Scrybe pen for the HTC Flyer tablet, the S Pen does not require a battery. The housing in which the S Pen fits fits well and the pen does not accidentally fall out. Even so, the S Pen is very thin and small, and many users are likely to lose it at some point during their Galaxy Note ownership (AT&T and Samsung are offering replacement S Pens for $ 29 a pop).