• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

Big may well be beautiful, but when it comes to mobile phones, is this still true? And how big does a mobile have to be before it becomes a tablet? This is the dilemma facing the Galaxy Note from Samsung. The Korean phone maker is already marketing the Note with the line “Phone? Tablet?” so obviously it doesn’t know either. As a phone it’s huge, and yet as a tablet, it’s tiny. So how does it fare in a hands-on test?

Think big

If you think of it as a phone, the Samsung Galaxy Note really is massive. It feels huge to hold – unsurprising as it measures 146.9x83x9.7mm – yet still manages to be pretty slim, only a little thicker than its Galaxy S II stablemate. It’s also pretty weighty at 178g, although it doesn’t actually feel that heavy, considering its size. You’ll manage to get it into a man’s jeans pocket, but women and anyone of small stature might want to try it out in a shop first, to see how portable it is going to be.

Some may question whether this is a phone or a tablet, but as it fits in a pocket, and you can make calls on it, it definitely sits in the phone category for us – even if its massive 5.3 inch display makes the 3.5 inch screen on our usual iPhone 4 look tiddly.

On the top of the device there is a 3.5mm audio jack, the volume rocker is on the left edge and a lock on/off button on the right. An unusual addition is the S Pen (more of this later) which slots in at the bottom, rather like a Nintendo DS stylus. Under the display sit two touch-sensitive Android keys for Back and Menu and a hard key for Home.

On the big screen

The screen is certainly an eye-catcher. It’s more than half an inch bigger than that on the HTC Titan and a whole inch larger than the screen on the Galaxy S II. Protected by Gorilla Glass, this Super HD AMOLED display has a 1280x800 resolution (that’s 285ppi). It’s simply a showstopper – clear and bright and all you could ask for if you want to use it for multimedia purposes. And it can multitask happily thanks to the powerful 1.4Ghz chip at its core.

To try out its movie-playing capabilities, we watched Batman Begins on the Galaxy Note’s big screen. And what a great experience it was – it’s amazing to have this kind of quality media experience that can fit in your pocket. Colours were rich, and the film was bright – there’s support for formats including the ever-popular DivX and Xvid as well as MP4 and many more. And to store your movies, games and music there’s 16GB of onboard memory (expandable to up to 32GB with a microSD card).

Sweet system

The Samsung Galaxy Note is running Android’s Gingerbread 2.3 (its newest sibling, the Samsung Nexus, which is due to be launched soon, will boast the very latest Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0). This version is designed for phones and has the benefit of Samsung own interface – TouchWiz 4.0. There are seven homescreens that can be customised with widgets and shortcuts as you like. On the main homepage you’ll find Social Hub (for integrating Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook into one feed); Readers Hub (which offers a shortcut to online magazines, papers and Kobo-powered books, as well as a reading rack) and Market (where you’ll find the half a million or so Android apps at your disposal). There is another shortcut that takes you to an area where you’ll find illustration apps.

Why? you may ask. Well, one of the Note’s USPs is its drawing capabilities. It can act as a notebook, for anyone who likes to either draw, take notes, or both. This is where the S Pen comes into its own – you can use it on the screen like a pen. There are several apps to try – such as Hello Chalk, Hello Crayon and Makeup (pretty simple and aimed at children, really), but we fully expect there to be more complicated illustration apps appearing soon.

Okay, so the Note is not the first device to feature a stylus (the HTC Flyer tablet comes to mind, for instance). But the precision and responsiveness achieved by the stylus on the Note is far superior to the Flyer. It really is akin to drawing on paper – there’s no lag, and you are rewarded with a smooth drawing experience.

Already on board is S-Memo, which is a basic notepad app, with simple art tools at its disposal. Choose from pen, paintbrush, pencil and felt, and you can then add shadow effects, change the thickness and have fun with the colour pallet. It’s reminiscent of Microsoft’s free package MS Paint. Integration is fantastic – draw something and get it on Facebook in a few moments.

You can also use the S-Pen for writing notes, drawing points on maps – or just drawing funny beards and glasses on profile pics if you want. A button on the stylus offers a selection of drawing features when you tap on the display.

Get connected

As you’d expect from a high-end smartphone, connectivity is good, with Wi-Fi, GPS and HSPDA all on offer. Surfing the net is great – web pages load quickly (Flash support is on offer) and you won’t need to zoom in thanks to the size of the screen.

Pretty as a picture

The onboard camera is the same eight-megapixel model on the Galaxy S II. It offers LED flash and autofocus – pictures come out pin sharp, and videos are rich in colour. And with that stylus to hand you can take someone’s portrait, draw on a funny moustache and load it on Facebook before they’ve finished saying cheese. There is a front-facing snapper (offering two megapixels) for self-portraits and video calls.

Our conclusion

If you fancy some of the features of a tablet (such as a big screen for movie viewing and net surfing) but want something more portable, the Samsung Galaxy Note is a great choice. And anyone who likes taking handwritten notes, or drawing and doodling will love the drawing features. However, it will just be physically too big for some – as will the £600 sim-free pricetag – but it still has an awful lot to offer.



Type of phone:



candy bar






N/A colours




8 megapixels

Special Camera features:

LED flash, auto focus

Video recording:


Video playback:


Video calling:


Video streaming:


Music formats played:


3.5mm jack port:


Handsfree speakerphone:


Voice Control:


Voice Dialling:


Call records:

Practically unlimited


Practically unlimited entries and fields, Photocall

Ringtones customization:


Display description:

Super AMOLED capacitive touch-screen







Standard color:


Launch Status:






Operating system:




Announced date:

September 2011

What's in the Box:




International launch date:

October 2011

Battery life when playing multimedia:



Dual-core 1.4GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, Mali-400MP GPU, Exynos chipset

FM Radio Description:

Stereo FM radio with RDS

Internal memory:

16GB/32GB storage

Memory Card Slot:



IM, Email, MMS, SMS

Internet Browser:


E-mail client:

Attachments, Push email






Yes and downloadable

Data speed:





Not specified


Not specified

Display size:

5.3 inches



Audio recording:


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