Oct 30 AT 2:42 PM Nick Gray 48 Comments

Samsung Galaxy Note II first impressions

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Now that all the Android 4.2, Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 news has settled, we thought it would be a good time to remind you of the Samsung Galaxy Note II. We were invited to last week’s Samsung Galaxy Note II North American unveiling in New York City where Samsung put on an impressive show in order to convince the press that the Samsung Galaxy Note II is quite literally “the next big thing.”

We plan to do a full review of the Samsung Galaxy Note II, but we thought we’d go over some of the handset’s highlights just in case you’re chomping at the bit. To say that the Samsung Galaxy Note II is the largest phone I’ve ever held would be a bit of a lie. I’ve used 3G-enabled 7-inch tablets to make phone calls from time to time, but there’s a huge difference between a tablet that can make phone calls and a phone with a massive 5.5-inch display. Holding the Samsung Galaxy Note II forces you to rethink how you hold your phone. Most of us are probably quite used to interacting with our devices using a single hand. While that’s certainly achievable with the Galaxy Note II (Samsung even has settings to make the on-screen keyboard smaller and shift it to the side of the screen to facilitate single-hand typing), we really wouldn’t recommend it. Like a tablet, the Note II wants to be securely held with one hand and beckons you to use your other hand to caress its gorgeous display.

The spec sheet of the Samsung Galaxy Note II looks like the world’s biggest nerd’s wish list to Santa. Samsung has included a 5.5-inch 720×1280 Super AMOLED display, 1.6Ghz quad-core Exynos processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, microSd card slot, 8 megapixel camera on the back, 1.9megapixel camera on the front, NFC, 3,100 mAh battery and nearly every radio connectivity option known to mankind. Yes, the list is certainly impressive, but the screen size, battery and S Pen support are the features that make the Note II truly unique.

The Samsung Galaxy Note II’s size may be a setback for many, but it lends itself well to the handset’s main selling point, S Pen support. Like its predecessor and its much larger brother (Samsung Galaxy Note Tab), the Note II is able to capture all your notes and doodles with the new S Pen. It’s longer, wider and lot more sensitive to pressure than previous versions. Note taking is extremely simple. Pull out the pen from the bottom on the Note II, and the device comes to life with various note options. Samsung has created an array for note templates and has even included about a dozen examples to inspire you with different note taking ideas.

The S Pen works flawlessly, but that’s not to say the note taking experience is perfect. Samsung’s software does have a few glitches here and there. There’s noticeable lag when using specific pen types with thicker brushes.

Using the Note II as a phone can be a little unsettling. The massive display on the device forces you to think about how you carry it around when you’re not using it. I typically put my HTC One S in my front or back pocket without a thought, but I found I’m constantly holding the Note II in my hand. The issue is not that it won’t fit into my pocket, but that it’s a hassle to get it in or out of the pocket. For ladies this shouldn’t be much of an issue, since the phone can easily be thrown in a purse.

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When it comes to performance, the Note II is on par with the best Android phone currently on the market. The quad-core Exynos processor has more than enough power to burn through the most graphic intensive games currently available for Android. The handset also benefits from running on Android 4.1 with Project Butter, which makes Samsung’s TouchWiz UI extremely smooth. Keep in mind, that does not mean we endorse Samsung’s UI in any way.

The camera on the Samsung Galaxy Note II is impressive. It’s hard to say if the phone can outperform the HTC One X or the Galaxy S III, but we’d be surprised if anyone actually complained about the quality. We’ll be sharing sample shots and video in our full review.

Our first impressions of the Samsung Galaxy Note II are fairly positive. The device looks good, performs admirably and offers unique functionality. The only real issue people should be concerned about is the size. With its 5.5-inch display, the Note II  is massive when compared to my HTC One S, but I find that surfing the web, watching YouTube videos and playing games on the Note II is much more enjoyable. The question that you need to answer is “Can I make room for the Galaxy Note II in my life?”

Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. Nick joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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  • DirtySanto

    Id love to but the price tag is steep!

    • Richard Yarrell

      There is NO DEVICE on the market period that is on the same wave length as the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. You personally may not like what you say is touchwiz but I am here to tell you Samsung and it’s nature UI is excellent. It offers so many features that it just makes stock android totally useless. Software alone NO device will ever touch this device unless it is the NEXT Galaxy Note 3 in 2013. The true multitasking abilities on this device overall just makes every device on the market look totally stupid. I could bet you Google wishes stock android had half the features the Galaxy Note 2 has. Battery life will be great hspa plus 42MPS network works fantastic with Tmobile. Plus with it’s Lte network upcoming in 2013 this device is ready for the real deal even thou if you bought the Galaxy Note 2 you will buy the Galaxy Note 3. Listen up folks Tmobile is the place of true enjoy for this device no BS shared data guys. No cosmetic changes or stupid branding that renders the device ugly for no reason. This Samsung Galaxy Note 2 will be the best all purpose/entertainment device ever made. Nothing tops this the next 180 days period… Unless something made by Samsung again meaning Galaxy S4 or Galaxy Note 3. Everything else have a seat and take a rest YES that means Lg Óptimus G, Lg Nexus 4, Htc DNA, Motorola Razr Maxx Hd, and anything else. Sit down and learn from the overall leader of android that’s Samsung…

      • squiddy20

        “You personally may not like what you say is touchwiz” The commenter didn’t say anything about Touchwiz you moron. He/she only quoted price. Can’t you read? And by the way, Touchwiz is Touchwiz. There is no “what you say” about it.
        “It offers so many features that it just makes stock android totally useless” If that were even remotely true, then how is my Galaxy Nexus able to everything your “pimp slapping” SGSIII can? What a sensationalist, biased dolt.
        “The true multitasking abilities on this device overall just makes every device on the market look totally stupid.” Yeahhhh, that’s why every single Android device DOESN’T have more or less the same multitasking abilities. What an idiot.

      • Aj

        this guys an idiot.. full of his gs3 or gnote 2 or tmobile

        hey man.. did u know dat d note2 only has 720p nd a phone from htc is supposedly goin to hav 1080p in just 5″ screen instead of ur 5.5″

        stop braging nd btw dere is nothin so special about touchwiz.. i lik d stock android nd sense 4+ more

        hav u seen d nexus 4.. it boasts almost all d features of ur gnote2 except ur giant screen size (made for a gorilla) nd its half d price of ur note

        tmobile.. tmobile,, tmobile ur just full of it, i mean wat is so special in it dat u want only tmobile…. atnt, verizon, sprint all offer better or atleast good enough connectivity

        sorry for d rest of d people.. i do not intend to insult anybody just wanted dis moron to stop braging about his note2, nd tmbo

      • RICS

        How long you been working for Samsung?

        • DROID Sam

          Let’s not forget that Richard was a loyal HTC EVO and Sprint fan for a long time. People are allowed to switch camp and be passionate about the phones they love. He does go a bit overboard, but I think that’s because he doesn’t have a filter.

      • Max.Steel

        Shut up, Dick.

  • irishrally

    How is the build quality?

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      Build quality seems to be the same as the Galaxy S III. Feels solid, but it is glossy white plastic. Looks better than Motorola and LG, but I’d prefer the One X or One S construction materials and looks.

      • dacatalyst41

        I gotta agree. Alternatively, the HTX DLX/DNA looks amazing, but that battery has me too concerned to purchase it.

        • SGB101

          Ive just ditched my HOX for the note2.

          I waited till the nexus news came out, hoping for a removable battery. But alas the leaks was correct. So I went strait out and fit the note2.

          The X style is better , build seems great same as wifes sgs3.

          Battery life is like a breath of fresh air, today was out all day still had 48% left. And tgat was with mid ti heavy use (new phone and all that) . My x would bearly scrape though 8 hours of low use.

          The big negative is TW it clutters the UI and over complicates it, not really adding to android. Whereas I alwasy thought sense seemed to add where andriid once lacked.

          But after using cm10 on the X, TW just seems fat.

          The pluses are screen size, media and games look great. Large battery and sd card.

          The spen is ok but no deal breaker for me. My 4year old loves it.

          One big problem ive noticed last night is the minimun volume is to loude.

          • vitriolix

            I really love this device… except I just can’t use TouchWhiz. It is too hacky and horribly thought out and cluttered. I am going to wait and see what the mod community can do with this device and pickup an N4 in the mean time. If this gets good AOSP support (with the pen based stuff included on top) I would love to switch over.

          • SGB101

            Sorry about the bad spelling, the notes keyboard can’t be as good as I thought it was. Lol.

      • nivekkev

        If I were to get one, I would just be putting some kind of case around it anyway. That is, if I can find some, haven’t seen any anywhere yet, at least not any that I will purchase.

        • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

          Like the GSIII, Samsung is selling the Flip Cover for the Note II. It works great, keeping the screen protected and replaces the back panel.

        • SGB101

          The tv advert in the UK has a great looking cover on it. Sad to say but it has the look of the iPad magnetic smart cover.

      • ChrisLH

        I don’t have a problem with plastic – it has a lot of benefits. That said, its time for Samsung to take the next step with its industrial design. The GS3, Note2 and the Mini aren’t bad, but they certainly aren’t inspired. I think most of the other major Android manufacturers have better hardware.

      • brandnew234

        Well, it has the same design language as the S3, but it survives drops MUCH better. Just look up any drop-test.

  • Paul

    My next phone! beats the Galaxy S III or anything else out there. It’s awesome.

  • Vance

    Some guys carry a “purse” too…just sayin’… Where else would I put my prime??

  • Paul

    Lets see:

    Powerful Processor: Yes
    Powerful Graphics: Yes
    HD Resolution: Yes
    Innovative Hardware Design to differentiate it from any other phone: Yes (Stylus)
    Expandable MicroSD Slot: Yes
    LTE: Yes
    Good Battery Life: Yes (2nd only to the RAZR MAXX)

    • 666

      LOL, wut?! Stylus falls under innovative hardware design? LOL.

  • noojAb

    I just picked one up Sunday.
    Very happy overall.

    1) very annoying that it doesnt include multiview at launch. (killer feature)
    2) stylus does not work on the menu/back capacitive buttons, so you still need to use finger while using styus.
    3) home button is not capacitive.

    I understand that (3) is so you can wake from a button press, but I’d much rather have soft and hard touch. Then you ‘soft’ is home and ‘hard’ is switch apps.. no more long presses!

    • Adrian Carrillo

      Look up stylus commands on your settings and quick commands, it will walk you through all the functions of the stylus pen, You never really have to touch your screen once you learn all the commands and settings to a T.

      • Richard Yarrell

        Exactly, No reason to touch the back button at all. Quick command options take care of everything.

  • Thomas Biard

    The functionality for this is through the roof amazing! I know I don’t have to stress it on here, but this phone is not for the faint of heart. To truly be able to use this phone without it being “just another phone with a ‘stylus’”, one has to be a power user. I would love to go this route.

    The multitasking is getting to be on par with laptop functionality now. Well done Samsung!

  • bryanizmir

    As a Note #1 user, honestly I hardly use the S pen. I think the phone’s best feature is what many laugh at…. its size. The screen is just brilliant, so I would think #2 is even better. My wife (also a Note #1 user) saw one the other day and noted it is lighter and thinner than the original note. She also liked the more rounded features and the physical button. She also told me she is planning on getting one off contract because she loved the feel of the new one so much. Now we just have to not feed the kids for a couple of weeks so we can afford it :P

  • Reuben Daniel DeVries

    So if you had a choice either pick a brand new Samsung Galaxy 3 or the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 for your day to day use which one would you choose?

    • perlowin

      I was really excited about the SIII. My brother got one and I played around with it a little, and wasn’t so impressed when I gave it back to him. I currently have an SII and I guess I just didn’t have it long enough to make it sing. So, I’m going to look at the Note 2 to see if it’s not too big for me to hold and handle, and if it’s not — it’s MINE!!!!

  • vicki

    I’ve had the note for a few days now. I had the HTC EVO 4G for two years.
    I loved my EVO but this Note is awesome. I can’t find anything bad to say about it.
    I find it very easy to use. The picture is beautiful. Phone quality sounds fine.
    I ordered a Zagg film for the glass. I’ve used it quit a bit and the battery lasts for a long time.
    After carrying the Evo around, the Note really isn’t that much larger but I do keep my phone is the side of my purse so I’ve never been a “phone in the pocket” person.
    The book that came with the phone was very well written and I read through the whole book once I came home with the phone. If you’ve had an Android phone before, then most of the phones seem to be similar to each other as far as app icons, etc.
    Honestly, I really can’t find one negative to say about it. I’m very pleased with it.

  • vicki

    I should mention that I also have the HTC Evo View tablet.
    I found myself hardly using it because it was big to carry around and when I traveled with the tablet, I noticed that it didn’t really work as well as the laptop does. I found myself using my hubbies laptop because it would work when my tablet wouldn’t.
    The choice to get the Note II over the Samsung Galaxy III was the quad core processor.
    I played with both items in the Sprint store and I really liked the Note better.
    When I play my games on the Note, there is no lag at all which I did have on my tablet.
    I will sell my tablet now because this Note II is everything I wanted. It truly is like having a tablet and a phone.

  • droilfade

    I was really apprehensive about the screen size et al. when note-1 released. But the way this form factor has taken off, it’s really interesting. I would like to know how someone is using the bigger screen size, S-Pen on a daily basis. Does it make you more productive, gives you shade from the sun/rain etc. Hats off to Samsung for making this form factor interesting enough to bring out iterations and making other manufacturers (HTC) want to come up with a device this size.

  • http://technicquill.com Jess Blanchard

    “It’s longer, wider and lot more sensitive to pressure than previous versions.”

    Heh. Heh heh. Heh. That’s what she said. Post-op. Heh.

    • mbt203

      Bigger is better, clear images satisfied your vision’s.

  • PaulieG

    Seriously, are we going to rehash this old territory again? All technology blogs could talk about on the Note 1 was its cumbersome size and how they didn’t think many would want to use it. Then the device went on the be a remarkable success for Samsung so much so that they released an even better version. Why can’t you guys accept there is a market for this? Sure, it’s not for everyone, but its obviously for quite a few more than you anticipated as well?! >5 devices appeal to mobile users who do more browsing, typing and media related activities than making calls. The bigger screen simply makes for a far more usable experience. When you prattle on abouts it’s cumbersome size, thats exactly the part about it we like! As a Note 1 owner the only negative I could think of is other peoples reaction to my device. Apparently I don’t conform to the societies norms or something. (Who knew a large phone could be considered so offensive?!) I’ve never had an issue with use, portability or any other apparent drawback to the larger device.

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      In no way was I sawing that the phone’s size is a detractor. That being said, many people will find it hard to carry around a phone of this size. Since I carry around my personal phone and a review unit at all times, I’m not necessarily the perfect candidate to judge what’s good for more people since most people think that carrying two phones is a bit crazy.

      The only negatives to the size of the Note II is lugging it around and single-handed use. If users can get over those issues, they will see that the Note II is a pleasure to use.

  • virexed

    “the world’s biggest nerd’s wish list to Santa”

    This is why I got this on release day. I love it.
    The pressure sensitive S Pen is a pseudo-artist’s dream. Brings me back to the good old days where my buddies and I try to draw comic books. I don’t think I can ever go back to a regular smart phone.

  • golfpedaler

    The size was a concern for me….I’m coming from a GNex, which now looks like a “mini” phone by comparison. However, with that being said it’s really starting to grow on me with no remorse. The features are intuitive although I am disappointed with the lack of multi-view like most. But the other features are easy and the phone is incredibly responsive. With all the home screen alternatives and rooting being an option, there is no end to the possibilities. I just hope that it receives updates with little delay.

    • golfpedaler

      p.s. I’m thinking that I may be able to totally replace my Xoom and it’s functionality. The Note 2 is much faster…!!

      • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

        This thing should be at least twice as powerful as your XOOM and the device’s resolution is very close to it as well.

  • Rossi Kwan

    For a lady, they mostly put the Note & Note II inside handbag instead of holding in hand XD

  • Steve Hartsock

    I just can’t get used to the low PPI after using the One X. I did give it a go for a week but had to return it….

    • SGB101

      The screen just isn’t ad good as the one X, i dont like the way it does (doesn’t do) white. Also the ppi is noticeable but not much. However the size of makes up for it in my eyes.

      The battery is stonking, I’d be classed as a power user and can get a day out of it. I my One X got me 5 to 6 hours with my use.

      Also jb with butter makes this thing so much more fluid than both the X on stock and with cm10.

      The pen for me isn’t a seller, it’s not something I’d use.

      The note2 for me offers the greatest package atm

  • Jandroid

    Whats with the new HTC Pne X+???

    How works the battery life?

  • Angie Wimberly

    I wish I noticed I could make perfect shapes when I drew that silly Kanye Android.

  • nobara

    “Can I make room for the Galaxy Note II in my life?” Ohhh, YESSSS, plenty :)

    But I guess I’ll have to wait for Xmas :(

  • DROID Sam

    Played with one of these this week. Very impressed. Can’t seem to fit the phone into my skinny jeans, but it fits perfectly into my back pocket. The thing I want to know is what do people actually use the stylus for? I’m not artistic and I don’t take written notes in meetings.

    To me the size could be a bit smaller, so I may wait for the HTC DROID DNA/DLX with its 1080p display.

  • nobile

    HTC One X is better