Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review: first look and pictures

News Richard Goodwin 15:04, 3 Oct 2012

We go hands-on with Samsung’s monstrous Android Jelly Bean-powered Galaxy Note 2

The original Galaxy Note was something of an aberration with its gigantic display, stylus, and dualistic nature, leading to it being called a phablet by many on account of it having both smartphone and tablet attributes.

Samsung marketed the device as something you could draw and take notes on, hence the name. This was its USP – along with the obvious multimedia benefits that such a large display afforded the user.

And yet despite this many simply could simply not get past the sheer size of the device, resulting in it being written off, at least initially, as a rather ridiculous experiment that was destined to go the same way as Sony’s Xperia Play.

That, of course, didn’t happen and the Note proved to be very popular with consumers – 10 million of you bought the handset. And that could only mean one thing: a sequel was required.

Launched at IFA 2012, the Galaxy Note 2 was designed to pick up where its predecessor left off and remedy some of the original device’s teething issues: general performance, the stylus, overall design, and build quality. 

So does it measure up?

The handset itself is thinner (9.4mm), longer (151mm), and slightly heavier, too, weighing in at 182g versus the original’s 178g. It does, however, feature a larger 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED display.

The handset itself, although huge, does not feel all that different from the original in the hand. The design is definitely more polished, with a slimmer bezel, but the overall physical changes are subtle – this device is a refinement of what came before, not an evolution. 

In order to tackle the performance issues that plagued the original Note, Samsung has introduced 2GB of RAM (double that of the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3) and upped the clock speed to 1.6GHz.

It still uses the same Exynos 4 Quad chipset and performance out the box is extremely snappy, with smooth UI transitions, rapid multitasking, and fast-loading applications. 

Closer examination of the handset’s performance over a prolonged period of time will reveal whether the performance issues that plagued the Note first time around have been put to bed for good, which we’ll look at in more detail in our review next week.

Initial impressions in this respect are very good though – the handset does seem transformed by the additional clock speeds and 1GB of RAM. 

The addition of Android Jelly Bean has no doubt aided in this improvement and the presence of Google’s Project Butter is apparent throughout, with silky smooth transitions, fluid navigation, and stutter free scrolling. 

The Note 2’s stylus, which now uses the same Wacom technology as the Galaxy Note 10.1, has come on in leaps and bounds since 2011.

On the original Note, the stylus was something of a novelty. It performed to an adequate standard, generally speaking, but it was never going to replace your notepad and pen, realistically. 

I still wouldn’t use the Note 2’s S-Pen and Notes application over my trusty notepad and pen, but the improvements Samsung has introduced here, ones that were first seen on the Note 10.1 back in August, cannot be disputed. 

We’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the Note 2’s digital writing abilities, as well as all of the S-Pen’s new features, inside our full review, which will be going live on Monday afternoon. 

Our only real issue with the Note 2 is that it runs Samsung’s TouchWiz UI on top of Android Jelly Bean.

TouchWiz, in case you are unaware, is a clunky mess of useless widgets and bloatware. The vanilla UI of Jelly Bean, as seen on the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7, is now far superior and should used by all as the default UI on anything running ICS or higher.

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