Whoever said ‘Bigger Is Better' was definitely not thinking about smartphones in that day and age! These days however, no one shirks away from flaunting their over-sized ‘smartie'. And why not, especially if it can double up as a tablet too! However, striking the right size balance is important; the few failed tabs that have tried to also behave as handsets are witnesses.
But, many smartphones today don't just manage to pull off sleek looks on a big form factor, but also pack in the sort of smartphone experience that converts users into addicts. Does the latest from Samsung have it to turn you into one?
I'm talking about the Samsung Galaxy Note.
The Samsung Galaxy II had a smooth-like-ice-cream screen and if there was anything smoother, I think the Galaxy Note has it. This makes working with the mammoth of a 5.3-inch screen an absolute delight. More so, because of the HD Super AMOLED screen (1280 x 800 resolution) which manages to make stills, feature-length films and even Web sites look gorgeous. You should check out Breakfast at Tiffany's on it to believe it!
Right now, the Galaxy Note runs on Android 2.3. Apart from the usual bunch of apps – Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube etc - that come pre-loaded with the latest Android phone and the Samsung's proprietary ones like Social Hub, Readers Hub and Kies Air, there are also a couple of them to optimise the use of the S Pen, the smart stylus - the S Memo, S Choice and S Planner.
Bringing the stylus back into vogue, the Galaxy Note is one of the very few phones today that you can put to some real work. Take the S Memo for example. Now, we are used to quickly typing in a reminder or a to-do list on our smartphones. The S Memo allows you the freedom to get really creative with it.
I whipped out the stylus to scribble on the Memo and quickly checked to see if the smartphone recognises my ‘scrawly' handwriting. It did not. But then, I'd be surprised if anyone did. So, I tried making it more textbook-ish and it worked! It got everything I typed and converted into text, right, most of the time.
What's even more awesome is the fact that I could add a grab from Google Maps or a mugshot from my Photo Gallery and add it to the Memo. And here's the best part! In case I need to share the Memo with someone or add a mental note to it, I can quickly record a voice message and it'll be incorporated as a part of the Memo. A real boon to those who know how to put these things to good use!
One problem with holding the handset in the portrait mode and drawing or writing on it was that my wrist was annoyingly close to brushing against and activating the Back button. Although it did not happen too frequently I had to be always conscious of it.
Samsung's app store has a couple of apps created for optimal use on the Note. We tried out a couple of fun ones like Omni Sketch, Animating Touch and Makeup – all three of which can turn out to be really addictive! However, one's far away from being spoilt for choice here.
The handset runs on a 1.4GHz Dual Core Processor, one of the most high-end ones right now. You get to store your media files in the 16GB internal memory, which is expandable up to 32GB aided by a microSD.
The Samsung Galaxy Note comes with a whopper of a battery; a 2,500 mAh one that took us through the day with the screen set at its brightest, Wi-Fi connected all day and intermittent voice calls and app usage.
Samsung continues to impress with the camera it integrates into its high-end smartphones. The 8-megger at the rear gives better results than other 8-meggers I've tried my hands at. Pictures taken without firing the flash also came out well-lit and sharp.
The video camera captures motion at 1080p Full HD at 24-30 frames per second. The plus point of having a great camera to start with is that I could have a lot of fun with other camera apps such as FxCamera and PicSay.
Now, the ‘big' debate. Does the huge form factor of the Note lend itself to a being a decent primary handset? Well, surprisingly, it does! The first smartphone-tablet device I had reviewed - the Dell Streak, just slightly longish than the Note – didn't lend itself to be an ergonomic device, at least when it came to making calls. But, with the Note, the moment I slid it into my pockets and it fit snugly I realised it wasn't exactly ‘disproportionate'. No ends jutted out and it felt like carrying any other smartphone around would.
When I held it against my ear to make voice calls, I didn't have to stretch my fingers to hold the handset in place. And the call quality too turned out to be strangely clear and actually loud – so much so that the first time I was on a call I wondered if I'd activated the ‘Speaker' mode accidentally.
The design of the handset too prevents the Note from looking like a digital monster. At its thickest, it is just under 10mm, and the fascia has only one button to work your way around the handset with. The Lock/Unlock is on the right bezel and the volume rocker on the left. The slightly contoured surface on the back panel provides for a decent, anti-slip grip.
The Samsung Galaxy Note is addictive. Maybe, it's because of the gorgeous screen real estate. Or because you can do so much with the S Pen. Maybe it's the fact that despite being a biggie it still feels comfy in your hands and gives you great clarity on calls. The camera makes you look great and the HD videos it captures are super crisp. Pick your reason from a handful that the Note offers to woo you with.
However, it's no secret that something that pleases you this much comes at a steep price. Also, you would have to ask yourself how comfortable you would be using a tablet-smartphone.
The Samsung Galaxy Note is a good option for those who are looking for a smartphone that they can really put to work, for example, fashion designers, executive busybodies, budding cartoonists and the like. For the rest, this is a top-end smartphone you can aspire for or own if you're willing to shell out the big bucks.
Love – Brilliant screen, great camera, highly functional S Pen
Hate – Average battery life, multimedia volume not too impressive
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