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Galaxy Note 2 Review [video]

[primer]I really hope to not make this a long review.  But it’s hard when it’s a device like the Galaxy Note 2.  There’s just so much to it, that it would be hard to do so in one go.  The first few versions of my youtube clip were over 25 minutes long!!  However, my time is short, so I’ll do what I can in a shorter review, and then if needed for further explanation, I’ll go bug my dad for his; as this review unit needs to go back to its proper home.  So I may not hit on a lot of features in the write up, as I’ll leave a lot of what I cover in the video.  If you think of something I missed in the write up, check the video – probably covered in there.  I may do more.[/primer]

The Galaxy Note 2.  Specifically the i317m from Bell.  I had been lusting after this device for a while.  I had made ‘quasi’ promises that this was going to be my next device.  I somehow had even turned Tom around on getting it, and it became his daily driver.  Without knowing it, I had converted an iOS user into getting it.

It’s a great device.  It was the first device we heard of that was going to have the quadcore and LTE.  That was usually a sacrifice we had to endure.  Even Tom, who bought the international version didn’t get that.

When I say it’s a great device, let’s look at the specs.

The Specs

5.5” @ 1280×720 – Gorilla Glass 2
1.6GHz x4, 2GB RAM
16GB storage / microSD
3100mAh
8MP / 2MP
JB 4.1.1

The Body

Let’s first address the size.  That’s item number 1 for most people.  Either as a source of ridicule or as an envy piece.  It’s big… there’s no getting around it.  Lots of jokes can be made, but we’ll just leave it at that.  It’s a big phone.. or is it a small tablet?  No.. big phone.

How do you handle this big phone? I’m a small guy… like 5’9″ on a good day, which means my hands are small.  Using the SGS3 one handed can sometimes be a challenge; so using the Note is almost impossible one handed.  Not truly impossible, but difficult none the less.  Just thinking about how I’ve had to adapt to “one glove style” while I walk around on Ingress hunts lately on my S3, I’d almost have to go gloveless with the Note 2.

You feel the size in your … well, was going to say pants, because that’s where I keep my phone, in my pants pocket, but saying I feel something 5.5″ that’s a little ‘stiff’ in my pants sounds dirty… anyways, you notice this thing in whichever pocket you carry it in.  The weight is definitely noticeable too.  In the winter now, I don’t notice the weight in my already heavy coat, but come summer time when I’d be biking, I’d have to make sure I pick the right windbreaker/jacket to accommodate.

The Note 2 is a lifestyle item… either it already matches who you are, or you have to adapt.

For the larger size it’s the same resolution as other devices, so your pixels are slightly bigger.  This can help in somethings like playing Angry Birds to help you get the precise angle, or giving you a little more ‘space’ to draw your sketches in Sketchbook… but a lot of that comes from the fact that you can use the better pen, rather than a chunky stylus (or your chunky finger).

You feel more ‘precise’ using it, you feel ‘immersed’ watching it.  What you do with it after you get used to that feeling is up to you, because QUICKLY you overlook the size, you don’t notice how big it is.  It just becomes ‘normal’, in such a way that when you go and pick up a regular device (say my SGS3) you immediately become aware of how small that screen is.  Not that “oh good, I’m back to normal”, but “how did I survive on such a smaller device?”  Kind of like how you feel if you ever picked up your friend’s iPhone and tried to use it… you find yourself squinting.

Okay… enough gushing over that.  Let’s talk about the build.

It’s got a great feel, somewhat sturdy.  The screen really feels tough, although the back you can tell is a little plastic-y.  Watch the video as I talk about the spot near the power button.  It feels a little loose.

Much like the S3 it’s that ‘pebble’ feel, which means it’s all smooth like and for me that means slippery.  I can’t tell you how many times my S3 has slid off of edges of couches (luckily onto the cushion) or off of my low night stand etc… holding something much larger and feeling somewhat slippery gives you a little extra sense of caution while using it.

The Pen

Aside from the size, the NOTE-able thing about this device is “it’s the one with the pen, right?” feature.  This is the main attraction.  Hardly anyone would buy a 5.5″ device on its own, but the pen easily makes it a desirable thing.

I miss my Palm days, so I figured I was a shoo-in for loving this pen.  And I do love it.  It’s a huge upgrade from last year’s.  It knows now when it was pulled out, and put back in, it’s curved for the hand, and that hover feature is really good.

You quickly get used to not touching the screen in many scenarios and just hovering.  Not only that, but it helps in playing games and whatnot to ensure that you’re going to touch the ‘right spot’, or it acts as a ‘hover’/'mouse over’ on the web.  Great thinking on this part Samsung.  Really great.

I will say that it wasn’t perfect.  What I was hoping for the old Palm-esque ‘Graffiti’ of text input.  They have a great ‘writing’ section, but it’s a steep learning curve.  I’ve forced myself to write that method only for a few days, and still haven’t quite got the hang of it yet.  Simple text is easy, but make it a few sentences and it gets tedious.

I’ll leave some more of the ‘specific pen stuff ‘ for the video.

The Software

Besieged by TouchWiz, there’s a lot of “Samsung” all over this device.  It feels … well, not wrong, but ‘unnecessary’.  Unfortunately, remove it, and you remove most of what would be cool about the pen in the first place.

Some of the add ons, like the weird gallery, the Paper Artist (dont’ even get me started on that) just … like TouchWiz, feel like they were some kid’s project that they decide “c’mon, let’s just throw it in”.  I’d rather have had the option to remove it.  But that’s me.  I’m sure your mileage may vary.

The Performance

Top notch.  The benchmarking I have it puts it just below it’s own benchmark, but it’s pretty high.  Then again, take a benchmark for what it’s worth.

 

For my usage, I never noticed a single lag on the device.  It performed superbly throughout.  Even having HUGE lists of apps, plus bigger games.  Only lag I noticed was in the gallery app (will discuss below).

Battery life?  You forget you have one (despite how most of the weight is probably coming from it) because it just lasts and lasts.  It does take a long time to charge, but even when it gets to ‘warning’ levels, you can still use for hours yet.

Also … for performance, it’s got a LOUD speaker on it.  Not in the, “oh great I can hear it while walking around”, more in the “WOW, okay, gotta turn that down… oh?  it’s already on the next to mute level?”  If I can have a complaint on the sound, it’s that there’s no in between the 0 and 1 level for it, I’d like to find something even quieter.  At about a 2-3 it’s louder than the my Galaxy Nexus was. My SGS3 is about comparitively to the 7-8 area on the Note 2, and then it goes to 11!

The Camera/Gallery

No complaints on the camera, good pictures, but like most cameras, the light makes all the difference.  Only difference you’ll see is that it’s a larger file size.  Nothing really ‘new’ here, as it’s pretty much the Galaxy S3 camera.  It has HDr, that makes me happy, however HDR causes it to take 2 photos… which I’d rather have the HDR only feature.  Plus you have strong/normal switch for it.

Of all the flaws or complaints I’ve had about the phone thus far, they could be all overlooked except for this one.  The Gallery… it stinks.  It’s slow.  Literally slow.  Click it, and it takes forever to load up.  If you click to the photo preview from the Camera app, it’s okay.  Load up the albums and you might as well go get a sandwich.

Now, I’ve figured it’s probably that it’s pulling in my Facebook photos, my Picasa photos, my DropBox photos.  That’s a lot of photos.  Like in Picasa alone I’ve got gigs and gigs easily.  Facebook… I used to post there a lot before G+… and DropBox is my ‘catch all’ for images from my phone as it autosyncs.  So all those are taking its toll on the CPU to display.  And here’s the thing:  I can’t find out how to turn off that feature.

I have Picasa Web Albums to not show… found Samsung’s Cloud settings and turned that off as it was duplicating all my DropBox photos (yeah, I had to go into my DropBox and I was seeing 2-3 of each photo, as the Cloud app would ‘sync’ it to the phone, the the DB app would sync it… it was a nightmare).

All the check marks have been un-ticked, but they’re still there… annoying.

The Video

Okay, you waited long enough… here it is.

Follow Ryan on G+ I no longer write for AiC, but you can follow me on over to Android Coliseum Oh, and here's my shameless plug for more space! Minus (I've maxed out!) | DropBox | SugarSync | CX

  • Mark Roberts

    Very good insight. Thank you.

  • GamingSV

    On your video, you said 16GB RAM instead of internal storage/memory. Also i believe the “wireless charging” is the NFC chip.

    • http://about.me/ryanmmoore ryanmmoore

      d’oh
      thanks!