Somewhere between 5 and 7-inches is a fine line that separates tablets from smartphones. Because so few devices have display sizes that fall into that range, it?s impossible to tell exactly where in that range smartphones end and tablets begin.
Entering this no-man's land is the Samsung Galaxy Note, a device Samsung dubbed "neither a smartphone, nor a tablet" at its unveiling at IFA in Berlin. With a 5.3-inch screen, it?s bigger than the biggest smartphone and smaller than the smallest tablet.
Apart from its atypical size, Galaxy Note differs from a smartphone as it comes with S Pen, an active stylus that provides an entirely new user experience (new to those who never owned a PDA, anyway) for smaller screen devices. Furthermore, the Galaxy Note sports some impressive particularities, including an exceptionally fast 1.4-gigahertz dual core processor, a Super AMOLED screen with a resolution characteristic for larger tablets and a 2500 mAh interchangeable battery, which is substantially more than most smartphones have to offer.
This review covers the international version of the Samsung Galaxy Note, released several months ago in Europe. The device is nearly identical to the Galaxy Note launching for AT&T.
BUILD & DESIGN
The 5.3-inch screen makes the Galaxy Note seem more like a smartphone like the Galaxy S II, which has a 4.3-inch screen, than tablet, like the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus. Similarly, weighing .4 pounds, the Galaxy Note seems more like a smartphone than any other tablet when held in hand ? it is very light and does not feel unnatural to carry around all the time, even inside a pocket. Still, considering its dimensions (5.8 x 3.2 x .4-inches), the Note is not the least bit natural for making a phone call.
Everything apart from the slim edge on all four sides is constructed from plastic materials. The battery lid covers the entire rear side of Galaxy Note and it is crafted out of dark blue plastic with a rough texture, fitting perfectly in hand. The metal border gives it an elegant touch and suggests the screen won?t break or crack easily, even though the Note is very thin. The same thing goes for S Pen, which is entirely made of plastic, apart from the upper edge, which is metal and contributes to the efficacy of its design.
Only one physical key is featured on the front - the homescreen button, and when the device is turned on, two capacitive keys appear next to it: menu activation and the back key that are characteristic for Android OS 2.3. The power key is located on the right edge while the volume control key is on the left edge. The upper edge includes a headphone slot, while a micro USB slot for both the charger and connecting the Galaxy Note to a computer is featured on the bottom edge.
It is a shame that the microSD card slot is situated under the battery, which means it is necessary to turn the device off when the user wishes to replace the card. Also, it is a shame that a special button for camera activation is not featured on such a large device ? there is definitely room for one.
The resolution on the 5.3-inch Super AMOLED screen is 1280 x 800 pixels. This display build technology combined with this pixel density (approximately 285 pixels per inch) is one of the more impressive Galaxy Note features. Imaging is exceptionally sharp and the contrast has a supreme balance; the same goes for color expression. All these display features are identical despite the viewing angle. Even at direct sun exposure, the imaging is above average ? only a slight part of the contrast is lost.
The vivacious colors and high pixel density combine to give the impression that the Gingerbread icons and other objects float on the screen surface, and it looks a bit surreal. There are surely users who might have a problem with this, which is why Samsung added the color saturation option, making it possible to tone down color vivacity in order to attain a somewhat more natural look.
The display?s shortcoming can only be sought on a technical level, invisible to the eye. The Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone uses a Super AMOLED Plus screen, with each of its pixels containing three subpixels, not two, as Galaxy Note's Super AMOLED does. If the pixel density on the Note was not up to par, certain image sharpness would be lost. Thanks to a 285 ppi, this is not the case. Given the combination of its size, colors and a host of other factors, the Note has one of the best screens on a mobile device to date.
Nothing but praise can be said for the display response to touches and finger movements. Tasks take place fast, the device interprets them precisely and typing on the virtual keyboard is as simple as if it were a tablet due to the large size of the keys.
Samsung Galaxy Note specs:
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