Samsung Galaxy Note II Review

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Samsung Galaxy Note II
The beast is back. A year on since Samsung wowed the world with its original Galaxy Note it's back with a new model and this time it's even bigger - with a huge 5.5in display. More surprising is a lack
competition in those intervening 12 months, with other brands opting not to follow suit. That means this monster handset, and its stylus, is still a unique proposition.

The Note 2 weighs in at 183g and measures a sizeable 15x81x9.4mm. Big, yes, but it's slimmer than the original Galaxy Note, and it's still just about small enough to fit in your jeans pocket. Its extra heft
makes it feel like a tough and sturdypiece of kit, and even though making phone calls continues to be a rather awkward exercise if you've only got one hand free to use it, its narrower dimensions do make it comfortable to hold. It's the Galaxy Note 2's vibrant 5.5in HD Super AMOLED display that really sets it apart from other smartphones out there. It bridges the gap between smartphones and tablets with style and grace, even if it does still have its predecessor's rather flimsy plastic back cover. Smaller tablets feel rather superfluous when you've got a screen this large. Its pixel density has actually been reduced as the larger screen has the same 720x1280 resolution as last year's model, it certainly didn't make much difference to us. Better still, despite the lack of Samsung's usual 'Super AMOLED Plus' branding,close-ups of the screen show a full RGB sub-pixel structure, rather than a Pentile design, such as on the Galaxy S3 . This explains its clearer and sharper image than paper comparisons might suggest.

The 1.6GHz quad-core processor also makes it one of the speediest Android devices on the market, plus it comes with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) with its super-slick front end. Web pages load in an instant, and it rendered the BBC News homepage in less than a second. Most pieces of text can be read very easily with just a double tap on the screen, although the touch-sensitive Back button underneath the screen can be a bit too eager to engage if you knock it accidentally. The most curious feature of the Galaxy Note 2 is the S Pen stylus. Making a return from the original Galaxy Note, it's now a much more comfortable 8mm in thickness and it fits snugly in to the bottom of the phone, allowing you to draw and take notes in its dedicated S Note app. If you remove it while making a phone call, it'll automatically pull up a small note pad for you as well, making it incredibly easy to
jot down important numbers over the phone or scribble down bits of info ifyou don't happen to have a proper pen and paper to hand. In the S Note app itself, it tracks your strokes very well, but if you're
drawing quickly or using the eraser then it can often feel like the cursor is yo-yoing after your stylus. We also found it struggled to recognise our hand-writing when we tried to convert our handwriting to
text, but it's a much cleaner and more accurate alternative to using your fingers.

Outside of the S Note app, the S Pen is slightly less responsive when it comes to general navigation, and opening links on web pages often took a few goes to register compared with using our finger. This calls into question the S Pen's overall value, because it soon becomes a rather redundant feature unless you're going to be making lots of hand-written notes. If you're the sort of person who likes adding artistic flair to your work then you'll absolutely love the S-Pen as it also lets you annotate photos and web pages, and hovering over items like emails and calendar appointments will pull up a small preview of it thanks to its AirView feature - which works essentially like rolling your PC mouse pointer over elements in a webpage without clicking. Where the Galaxy Note 2 doesn't improve on its predecessor is the 8-megapixel camera located on the back of the phone. This is still very much the same, and still takes great photos, but its AllShare Play app does make sharing your snaps that much easier. At the touch of a button you can share your photos instantly via email, social network and DropBox, and it mirrors the same easy elegance we found in the automatic pop-up
notepad when you remove the stylus while on a call. Despite the dreary conditions, there's plenty of colour and detail in this shot.

Its battery life is also very impressive. We saw seventeen hours when playing an H.264 video on repeat, which trumps the Galaxy S3's 10 hours and is almost double that of the original Galaxy Note. Overall, the Galaxy Note 2 is a pretty formidable smartphone. Its stylus really makes it stand out from the crowd, and you won't find a larger or more gorgeous screen anywhere else. It's not as expensive as we feared, with generous contracts available with a free handset from £33 per month. It's an all-round improvement on the original Galaxy Note, bringing everything that's good about the Samsung Galaxy S3 to an even bigger screen. There's no direct competition at present in the UK, and
for most people it will be a matter of getting the Note 2 or settling for the cheaper and smaller S3.
Its sheer size will divide opinion, but if you're looking for something that is neither phone or tablet, but a bit of both, then the Galaxy Note 2 is definitely for you.
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