A first look at the Samsung Galaxy Note

We go hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Note, an Android smartphone with a huge 5.3in screen

The Samsung Galaxy Note and its S-Pen, otherwise known as a stylus

The Samsung Galaxy Note and its S-Pen, otherwise known as a stylus

Don't like your smartphones big? Then look away now. Samsung's Galaxy Note is the definition of big: it has a whopping 5.3in touchscreen that's a full inch bigger than the company's own Galaxy S II, and almost two inches bigger than the iPhone 4S. We've just got our hands on the phone many are calling a "phablet" so let's take a first look!

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Is that a Galaxy Note in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

The Samsung Galaxy Note is big. Very big. It measures almost 15cm tall and 8.3cm wide, so it can feel awkward to hold single-handedly. If you have average sized hands or smaller, you're more than likely going to find the Galaxy Note too big to use as your primary smartphone. It also looks strikingly odd when held up to your ear on a phone call.

The Galaxy Note's sheer size may be too big to handle for some but Samsung deserves plenty of credit for a great design. For starters, the Note is just 9.7mm thin. As a comparison, the Apple iPhone 4S is 9.3mm thin and Samsung's own Galaxy S II is 8.5mm thin, so there's not a huge difference. When you consider its extra large footprint, the Galaxy Note is both thin and light.

The Samsung Galaxy Note has minimal hardware buttons. On the right there is a power/lock key and on the left a volume rocker. Both of these keys are high along the side of the Galaxy Note: we think they would have been better off slightly lower, as this would have made them easier to access with one hand given the large size of the phone. The Galaxy Note looks similar to the Galaxy S II: it's basically a larger version of that chassis. Like its smaller sibling, the Galaxy Note has a thin, plastic battery cover that feels flimsy to remove, but its etched finish once again makes the device easy to grip.

The best thing about the Galaxy Note's size is all the room it's left to include a 5.3in Super AMOLED HD display. The screen has a whopping resolution of 1280x800, making it a WXGA panel with 285 pixels per inch (ppi). That's a notch below the iPhone 4S's "retina" ppi of 326, but it's a massive improvement over most other Android phones on the market including Samsung's own Galaxy S II. The sheer size of the screen naturally makes it a great device for reading, Web browsing and video playback: colours are vibrant, text is crisp and visibility in sunlight is excellent.

Don't call it a stylus: it's the S-Pen!

Steve Jobs hated the mere thought of a stylus, but that's exactly what Samsung has included on the Galaxy Note. Called the "S-Pen" (Samsung doesn't seem to like the word stylus either), it's stored in the bottom right of the phone and allows users to take notes and draw onto the screen.

The S-Pen is a little tough to remove — you've really got to dig your fingernail in the slot to pry it out — and it's also a bit short for our liking, so it doesn't feel like a real pen. That being said, it's reasonably comfortable to hold and is largely accurate and responsive. It's also pressure sensitive. When drawing or writing on the screen there's only a very slight delay before the text appears on the screen. The lag is particularly noticeable when you move around quickly, for example if you are scribbling on the screen. It doesn't really detract from the S-Pen feature on the whole but it's definitely noticeable.

In addition to drawing and scribbling on-screen with the S-Pen, the Samsung Galaxy Note features handwriting recognition, which means it will type words and letters you write. Results are hit and miss: in our brief play with the feature we noted that you really need to write as accurate as possible to avoid mistakes. This is hard to achieve if you want to jot down some quick notes in a meeting, for example. Unfortunately, handwriting recognition is a feature of the Samsung keyboard, so using another keyboard (like the included Swype) removes it.

We'll publish a full, comprehensive review of the Samsung Galaxy Note in the coming days, but in the meantime if you have any questions about the phone, let us know in the comments below!

Tags Samsung Galaxy Notesamsungmobile phonessmartphonesGoogle Android

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World

23 Comments

Neil

1

Any idea if it will be coming to the us or t-mobile for that matter??

antonio

2

Will the galaxy note arrive on the US shores in black and white simultaneously ?
No matter the carrier I'm leaving my iPhone 4 for the galaxy note in white

Ross Catanzariti

Staff

3

Hi guys,

I have no information on a US release, sorry.

Torez

4

What will it likely cost on a two year contract?

Frank

5

I don't care if I'm not eligible for an upgrade. I want this phone! If it comes out in the US, I'd pay full price for it!

Jack jackson

6

They need to release this thing already but a version without the phone.

ZE KUN OH

7

Thank you Samsung for making the best ever smartphone.The Samsung Note is simply amazing.Can't wait to get mine within the next couple of days.Why do people even bother with that American rubbish called iphone????

Spandsbab

8

This is the kind of smartphone I have been waiting for, every aspect of it is perfect for me!

Grant

9

What version of Android is it running?

Shaun C

10

Have some respect. Way too early to be saying "turn over in his grave" about Mr. jobs.

Ross, you're disgusting.

amy

11

look great!!!

Kevin

12

I do know it will update, if not, ship with ICS4.0. I am curious to see if Sprint will carry it. As for not wanting a carrier. No brained order online and ship to US and don't activate. Only use via WiFi

Hallua

13

What about finger touch the screen while writing?!. Thanks!

Steve

14

I sure Sprint gets this phone do you know if there will be an cdma version

frank

15

Awesome idea! Really wish they would get this s-pen right! It's just such a damn shame they can't do it without lag and with high digitizer resolution like the old Dell Axim x51v and Palm TX! Those were amazing for jotting down notes, drawing, sketching! If they can get this right in Note v2 and include HDMI, 4G, and 3d screen, stereo cameras, and unlocked bootloader CM7 compat. - I'll buy one for everyone in my family! :) AMAZING LOOKING SCREEN!

ohboy

16

Quickly, someone give samsung all of my money. i want that phone

SriGuru

17

Ross,

Thanks for a hand-on review. Would you please inform if the writing/handwriting feature is as good as the PalmPilot (which I used for many for the handwriting and other goodies it offered). Also does Samsung Galaxy Note provide a alphanumeric guide/manual for the handwriting feature? Samsung and LG did not do this on their previous handwriting mobile phone models, but PalmPilot did. Thanks, SriGuru

SpiritBeam716

18

I'm waiting for this device to be my next phone here in America, but I do have concerns as to how it will comfortably fit in my pocket. This will require a hip/belt carrier and a protective case as well. Then it might be too much to carry around in a everyday practical manner.

Me

19

Does this phone support LTE? If so, what bands are supported? I see LTE support listed on Samsung's site, but no information about the frequencies supported.

Also, do you know if the bootloader is unlockable?

Thanks!

K. Manzer

20

Will it play Netflix.

Ross Catanzariti

Staff

21

To answer some of these questions:

- I have no idea when this is launching in the US, or on what carrier it might launch on. It is expected to launch in Australia in early 2012.

- It currently runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but it should be upgraded to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in early 2012.

- There is no alphanumeric guide/manual for the handwriting feature.

- There is likely to be an LTE version for the US market, but once again nothing has been confirmed.

Markus

22

I travel in the outback, will it have a external antenna access conector like the Galaxy SII

Joseph

23

Hello Ross i was wondering if u could send me a list or link of all the pro's & Con's about that cell phone including the features... Also what do you think the the best cell actually is. Thanks

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