The Samsung Galaxy Note II is finally here in Malaysia, who would’ve thought that a gigantic phone with a huge 5.5” display could be so successful? When Samsung first announced its first generation Galaxy Note device last year that packs a 5.3” display, it received mixed reaction from the crowd. Many thought that the display was too huge and the overall phone dimension would be ridiculous to have in your pockets but fast-forward a year later, the Samsung Galaxy Note II is one of the most anticipated devices in the market right now.
Retailing at RM2,299, the 5.5” Samsung Galaxy Note II packs a 1.6GHz quad-core processor on board with 2GB of RAM, and runs on the latest (until Google announces the rumored Android 4.2 in its postponed event, at least) Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system. The one in our market comes with 16GB of internal storage, which is expandable via microSD card slot. Other specs include Corning Gorilla Glass 2, 720 x 1280 pixels with 267ppi, NFC, HSDPA, Wi-Fi, 8MP rear camera and 1.9MP front camera, and more interestingly and importantly, Samsung’s very own stylus known as the S Pen along with a whole suite of apps dedicated for the stylus.
Hit the break to check out part 1 of our review of the second-generation phablet from Samsung.
While the 5.5” Galaxy Note II may seem larger than the first generation Note that features a 5.3”, it actually isn’t, thanks to a slimmer design and a thinner bezel. The original Note measures at 146.9 x 83 x 9.7mm while the Note II is only a tiny bit longer with a measurement of 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4mm. In fact, it’s also thinner with a slimmer width, making it good to use even with one hand.
I’m sure the overall design needs no introduction, it takes on the same “designed for humans” concept from the Galaxy S III, making it look and feel like a Galaxy S III XL. The right side of the device features the volume buttons, power button is located directly opposite on the left side, while the top is adorned with the 3.5mm audio jack and the Micro USB slot at the bottom. Below the gigantic display is the physical home button and the top comes with the 1.9MP camera and sensor. Finally, the back is nicely designed with the camera on the top middle with a LED flash right next to it, and the speakers located on the bottom. The S Pen is neatly tucked in the right back of the phone.
One of the biggest question people think about when it comes to the Galaxy Note II is the size and if it’s practical. I think it’s pretty good to use even with one hand, and it even fits into my pockets though, I won’t be able to sit properly with the phablet in my side pockets. The new thinner design makes it even possible to be used with one hands but if you’re having doubts, Samsung also included a “One-handed operation” option in its Settings menu that pushes the keyboard, keypad, calculator and unlock pattern to one side, making them more accessible for your thumb.
With a 1.6GHz quad-core processor on board, the Galaxy Note II is without a doubt, snappy. The Note II even comes with Multi Window feature that allows you to run two tasks simultaneously and of course, it works perfectly well but unfortunately, you’re only allowed to use Multi Window on selected apps like browser, email, gallery, S Note, Google Talk, Maps, messaging and such. To activate Multi Window, just press and hold the “Back” button.
There is also a “Popup Browser” and “Popup Video” option that allows you to browse or watch videos anywhere on the display while working on another task.
I’m sure this isn’t a problem solely based on the performance of the Note II, when I first received the Note II and added all my accounts to it like Google, Facebook and Dropbox, the Gallery app in the phone synced all my pictures from Picasa and Dropbox and boy was the gallery slow. It took ages to load and if I didn’t have any connection like when I enter the carpark or the lift, the Gallery app wouldn’t load. Occasionally, the device would hang too with an error message related to the cloud; I also had problems adding pictures to S Note no thanks to the Gallery.
To resolve this problem, go to Settings and click on Google under Accounts. Tap on the particular account and uncheck “Google Photos” and “Picasa Web albums”. Dropbox gallery sync can be removed via the Cloud tab under Settings. Once done, enter Application Manager, open Gallery under “All” apps and “Clear data”. Your Gallery app should only show your local images. Of course, if you would like to sync all your images from the cloud, feel free to do so, I just hate it so much because it lags so badly and frankly speaking, I do not wish to see my Picasa images that were uploaded years ago.
Finally, my favorite part of the device, the S Pen and Samsung’s suite of apps that are catered for the stylus. The S Pen is now bigger than the original one, making it better to write and draw with. It also comes with a new ability that allows you to hover the pen over the Note II and you can perform several tasks like preview the files inside a folder, scroll through web pages and notes, and more.
I think Samsung has done a wonderful job with the palm recognition on the Note II, if you were wondering if it’s possible to write while resting your palm on the display, the answer is yes you can, it literally feels like you’re writing on a notebook and not a phone where you normally have to hold your palm in the air.
Screen capture and capturing something on the display has also been enhanced using the S Pen. All you need to do is press the button on the stylus and make a selection. A full screen capture is still possible of course, just press the home and power button together, but if you wish to select a particular image or section of text, you can use stylus and then use whatever you captured in a note. The only complain I have with the S Pen is how you can’t use it to activate the “back” and “menu” buttons on the bottom.
This shall end the part one of our review. For now, I love the Galaxy Note II, it crashed on me once, my Gmail, Facebook and Play Store were all inoperable so I had to do a hard reset but no worries, all my precious pictures were uploaded to Dropbox automatically and I could still access my S Notes to save them before performing the reset. I still love it, in fact, I love it so much that if I were to rate it, I would give it a 9.5/10 because I already have a phone and a large tablet, a 7” tablet is too big for me. This 5.5” is a great in between and together with the S Pen, it’s not your typical Android phone. The only thing that is putting me off from buying one is the price tag, which is probably where that 0.5-point went to, and maybe also the fact that it crashed on me once. Of course, I could be bias, I almost bought the original Note, then rumors and leaks of the Note II came along and I held off my purchase, so you could say I’ve been longing to get a Galaxy Note for so many months that I am still all excited about the Note II’s arrival in Malaysia. Nonetheless, stay tuned for part 2 of the review, we shall see if I actually cave in and buy one for myself.