It's baaaaaack! Call it a phablet, call it a phone, call it maybe. No matter what you call it, the Galaxy Note 2 is here and it's large and in charge. Before you fork over your cash, find out how it went when we put it through its paces.
What Is It?
It's the new Galaxy Note which is imaginatively called the Galaxy Note 2.
The original Galaxy Note had a 1.4GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM and a whopping 5.3 inch screen. You wouldn't think it possible, but the Galaxy Note 2 is a larger version of the original, 5.3-inch Note. Sizing up at 5.5-inches, the Note 2 is packing some serious hardware.
It's a quad-core, 1.6GHz chip with 2GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel camera and a screen that packs a 720 x 1080 pixels at 267 pixels per inch. We reviewed the 16GB version from MobiCity, which retails for $689.
More: Samsung Galaxy Note II: Australian Price And Availability The local version of the Note II will support 4G at launch — a change in strategy from Samsung's last few devices — and it will come packed with faster specs than the international versions. You get a 1.6GHz quad-core processor rather than the 1.4GHz chip and it packs the same 2GB of RAM.
The company's local head of telecommunications, Tyler McGhee, told a packed house that the device would cost $899 outright. That's a good $200 or so more expensive than 4G-enabled grey imports from the likes of Kogan and MobiCity.
So how does it stack up against the original?
Other than the immense size, the first thing you notice about the Note 2 is the difference those beefed up internals make.
Samsung dominates the Geekbench 2 charts, holding the top six of the first ten spots. The Note 2 holds the top spot with an insane score of 1994. It's close enough to be named the first mobile device to crack the 2000 benchmark. To put that in perspective, it has the same amount of power as the first Intel Core 2 Duo-powered MacBook Air, all in a thin, 5.5-inch package. Needless to say, it also blitzes the Quadrant tests, too, with a score of 5717. That leaves the top rated device — the HTC One X — in its dust.
On top of the awesome performance, the Note 2 mercilessly comes with Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean underneath the TouchWiz UI. This means that — on top of the mind-reading Google Now — you'll have Project Butter-goodness. All of these combined make using the Galaxy Note 2 a pleasure. On a side note, if I see another Android handset released this year without 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, I'll scream.
Despite the monolithic size, Samsung have tried to be understanding to people who want to attempt using it with one hand. Jumping into your keyboard menu brings you a gamut of options for one-handed operation. The keyboard jumps to the right and shrinks for easier navigation, for example. Nifty indeed.
The difference between the Note line and the Galaxy line is the S-Pen — the fancy name for a Samsung-branded stylus. It's remarkably responsive and pressure sensitive which is nice. The S-Pen is also longer and easier to grip than the stylus on the original Note. On top of that, it comes with a bunch of bundled Samsung creativity apps and templates so you can get your artist on. The size means that the device is good enough to be used by artist types for rough sketches when you're out and about.
As far as the camera is concerned, the 8-megapixel shooter is one you could feasibly usein lieu of a bespoke compact camera. That's a real plus, especially considering that its competition — including the little brother, the Galaxy S III — can leave a bit to be desired.
On top of all the other added goodness, the Note 2 still comes with 50GB worth of free Dropbox storage for two years so you can throw all your junk in the cloud.
The Best Part?
TWO GLORIOUS DAYS OF BATTERY LIFE! That was tested under heavy use, with Wi-Fi on and the brightness at maximum.
The S-Pen companion apps are just a bit twee for my liking. Sure, you can create some fun stuff to send to your friends and show off at dinner parties with, but it's not something you're going to use to be creative all the time. You'll want a copy of Adobe Photoshop Touch for that. Plus, having the creative apps pane pop up everytime you remove the S-Pen can get old. You'll want to turn that off early.
The only other major flaw we found with the Note 2 is that the multi-screen capabilities that the Note 10.1 and Galaxy S III support out of the box, don't work yet. All that screen space is ideal for holding more than one app at a time, and it's such a disappointment that you can't split your real estate just yet.
Samsung have promised an update to the Note 2 that enables multi-screen, but right now it's just a firmware myth that has rolled out in Europe. We're still waiting. Pick up your socks, Samsung.
The model we got from MobiCity, along with the one available from other online stores like Kogan, doesn't have 4G-compatibility. All signs point to Samsung releasing a 4G-compatible model in Australia shortly, but for now, this is what we'll have to put up with. It's still a solid handset, mind you.
Should You Buy It?
Despite everything, you should still wait to buy this handset. We've already seen the iPhone 5 and Samsung's latest Galaxy salvo has come in the form of a diminutive version of the S III, but there is still Google's Playground event to consider, where we're more than likely set to see a new Nexu devices. It's doubtful that anyone is going to bring us something that can match the sheer power and size of the Note, but it's still worth holding out at least until the end of November just to see if there is going to be a 4G version of the Note 2.
If you can live with HSDPA+, though, this handset is a steal. From the power under the hood through to the nifty S-Pen and all the goodness in-between, the Note 2 is a big phone with the performance to match and a price tag to surprise. Regardless of the connectivity, the Note 2 is my new favourite Android device next to the Nexus 7.