Sunday, January 6, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Note II Review


When Samsung introduced the Galaxy Note smartphone, the company likely was testing the waters. At that time, no other manufacturer had a phone that was a size between smartphones and tablets. The Note’s internals, hardware, and performance were all top notch. But it was only available on one carrier- AT&T. Apparently, the market was receptive to the idea of a “phablet.” Samsung recently came back with the Note 2, optimized with a bigger battery, powerful internals, and the most recent version of Android. This time, Samsung brought it to all of the major carriers. Is the Note 2 ready to take on Verizon’s other high-end smartphones? Read on to find out!


Design and Hardware
With its chrome bezel perimeter and glossy white front, the Note 2 has a clean, aesthetically-pleasing design. A power button is on the left side, a headphone jack is at the top, a volume rocker is at the right side, and a Micro USB port and nook for the S Pen are on the bottom.

As you have probably noticed, the Note 2 is a very big phone. How practical is it to use? Well, there are some definite benefits to having a phone that is almost six inches tall. First, texting on the Note 2’s spacious on-screen keyboard will leave you wondering how you ever did it with such tiny screens. Ditto to web browsing, watching videos, and playing Angry Birds.

However, you may be wondering, “Is it comfortable to use such a big phone?” First, I found the Note to be easy enough to hold and use. Though the Note bordered on being too wide for my hands, Samsung made the Note 2 a bit skinnier and taller than the original. As I stressed in my Note review, it is still a good idea to go to a store and try out its size for yourself.

What about transportation? I found out that the Note 2 was way too big to carry in my front jeans pocket. However, if you usually carry your phone in your purse, work bag, or a pocket that can accommodate a 5.94 inches tall phone, you won’t have any problems.

The Note 2’s large size can accommodate a very big, beautiful screen. Though it is a bit smaller than the original Note’s screen, it has plenty of pixels to spare. Its large size is great for browsing the web, watching videos, gaming, viewing pictures, you name it. Bright colors, deep blacks, and pure whites make it a screen that you will enjoy looking at.

Software and Performance
The Note II features the very latest version of Android, Jelly Bean. As with all of its Galaxy phones, Samsung has applied a “skin.” A “skinned version” of Android has manufacturer-applied tweaks to icons and home screen gadgets such as clocks, menus, etc. “Stock” Android is untouched by the manufacturer. Almost all the tweaks Samsung has made seems to be useful or attractive. For instance, Samsung has added simultaneous apps, a unique multitasking feature.  This feature lets the user to choose two apps to run on the screen. For instance, Internet and Polaris Office can be run at the same time. One app will display on the upper half of the screen; and the other app will occupy the lower half of the screen. This feature, I think, borrows from Windows 7’s ability to “snap” windows to appear on the right and left sides of the screen.

Verizon’s tweaks include permanent apps such as: Verizon Navigator, NFL Mobile, Amazon MP3 player, and....Zappos online store? Don’t ask me why it was beneficial to the customer to pre-install that app. However, I suppose quite a few people would download the Amazon Mp3 player or NFL Mobile even if they weren't pre-installed on their phone.

Next, let’s talk about the Note 2’s performance. It has top of the line specifications: a 1.6Ghz quad core processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 4G LTE capabilities. As you would expect from a phone this powerful, it handles web browsing, games, and apps with agility and ease. Opening and closing apps are quick and smooth. I never encountered a stutter or lag.

S Pen and S Notes
Though the S Pen doesn't look complicated on the outside, it performs an array of functions. It is pressure sensitive. It can use gestures to select text, navigate backwards, and crop part of the screen. You can even create your own custom quick gestures.

Though I had a little trouble with the accuracy of the previous Note’s S Pen, this Note 2 pen was problem-free. When the S Pen hovers over the screen, a small bubble appears where the S Pen will draw.

The S Pen App allows the user to jot notes via handwriting, handwriting to text recognition, or on-screen keyboard, insert pictures and voice recordings into memos, e-mail them, and export them as PDFs or JPEGs. Handwriting to text recognition doesn't work perfectly for my rather messy scrawl, but it would perform better for those with neat handwriting.

Battery Life
And I thought the Note’s 2,500 mAh battery was big. The Note II, one-upping its predecessor, has a 3,100 mAh battery. Needless to say, the Note II has great battery life. Even with heavy use, the Note II had at least a quarter to a third of battery charge over at the end of the day.

Camera
In indoor and outdoor situations, the Note 2’s 8 MP camera produces very good photos. Even in artificial light, the Note 2 captures photos with correct color, maximum detail, and little noise with a high dynamic range. The only weakness I found was an occasional softness in low light when image stabilization is not turned on.

Call Quality
The Note 2 provides loud, clear sound quality, with good reception even indoors.

Conclusion
All in all, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is an excellent smartphone. I would venture to say that it is one of the best high-end smartphones on Verizon. It has a sleek design, gorgeous screen, handy S Pen with improved features, excellent performance, and a good camera. Depending upon your personal taste, its size can be a pro or con. In my experience, the Note 2’s size has grown on me. Sure, it made me think of sewing larger pockets into my jeans so that it would fit. Now that I’m back using a regularly-sized phone after returning my review unit, I’m already missing its gorgeous, over-sized screen.

Product Info

Price:$299 on 2 yr. contract from Verizon
Manufacturer:Samsung
Pros:
    Attractive design, gorgeous and spacious screen, excellent performance, good camera  
Cons:
  • Huge size isn't for everyone

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