It hasn't officially been released in Australia yet and Samsung has kept quiet on a potential Aussie launch date, but we've been lucky enough to get our hands on Samsung's newest smartphone, the hotly-anticipated Galaxy Note II.
Thanks to Australian online store MobiCity, we've been using the Galaxy Note II for a few days. Is it significantly better than the original Galaxy Note and how does it stack up against other flagship smartphones on the market? Here's five things we love about the Galaxy Note II so far.
1. That huge 5.5in screen
Samsung may tell you that the key feature of the Galaxy Note II is the S Pen stylus, but we think its the huge screen that attracts most buyers. That screen is now even larger at 5.5in, up 0.2in from its predecessors 5.3in display.
The screen uses the same super AMOLED technology as the original Galaxy Note but has a slightly lower resolution of 1280x720 compared to 1280x800. The lower resolution gives the Galaxy Note II a pixel density rating of 267ppi compared to its predecessor's 285ppi. This isn't a significant downgrade, however, and we suspect 99 per cent of users won't be able to tell the difference if the phones are side-by-side.
The Galaxy Note II's screen is certainly impressive. It's bright and vibrant, just as you'd expect from a super AMOLED panel, has excellent viewing angles and displays rich blacks. The screen does have the tendency to oversaturate some colours but the result is usually a vivid and eye catching image. If you're not happy with the colours, a setting in the display menu allows you to adjust the saturation from four presets: dynamic, standard, movie and natural.
2. Speed and performance
The Galaxy Note II is one of the fastest and most responsive Android phones we've ever used. From the moment you take it out of the box and turn it on, you'll be impressed with how smooth and fluid it is. We suspect that Google's Jelly Bean 4.1 Android software has a lot to do with this but Samsung also deserves plenty of credit for managing to include its TouchWIZ UI overlay without affecting responsiveness.
Whether its swiping between home screens, opening apps, playing games or using the camera, the Galaxy Note II is certainly fast and efficient. It's faster than any Android device I've used, including the impressive Galaxy S III which has been my daily driver for a few months. While these are only small improvements over admittedly already impressive devices, the smooth and responsive nature of the Galaxy Note II makes it feel far more polished than many other Android phones on the market. This adds to the overall user experience.
3. Good ergonomics for its size
Make no mistake: the Galaxy Note II is a huge phone and one that will simply be too big for many people. But those people who aren't put off by the large size will be pleased to know that Samsung has made the phone thinner and slightly smaller in width than its predecessor. The Note II is 9.4mm thick compared to 9.7mm and is 80.5mm wide compared to 83mm. Granted, it's 2g heavier than its predecessor and around 4mm taller, but these increases are so small that you'll barely notice if you're coming from the original Note.
What you will notice is a phone that feels comfortable to hold. While it's debatable in itself that the Note II can be used effectively with one hand, the rounded corners and curved edges combine to make it easier to handle than its predecessor. The S Pen is also longer, which makes it more comfortable to grip than the original.
4. Handwriting recognition with the S Pen
Samsung's Wacom-designed S Pen is definitely an innovative feature, but one of our biggest criticisms of the original model was its poor implementation of handwriting recognition. That seems to have been significantly improved on the Galaxy Note II.
In our brief testing so far the handwriting recognition feature works well enough that we would consider using it more frequently. Unlike the original model where you really had to write as accurate as possible to avoid mistakes, the Galaxy Note II seems to translate our writing into text even if we aren't jotting things down clearly. It still struggles a little with spaces and capital letters at the start of sentences, but all in all this is a big improvement from the original Note.
5. Battery life
The Samsung Galaxy Note II comes with a large 3100mAh battery, which is about what we expected given it has to power that huge screen. We've only been testing the phone for a few days but so far, battery life has been excellent. The Galaxy Note II is powering through a full day of use without needing to charge before the end of the day. I consider myself a heavy user and usually have to change most Android phones before the end of the day, so this is a great result.
Keep in mind that the model I am reviewing is a 3G version and is not 4G compatible. There are rumours that Australian users may eventually get a 4G, LTE capable version of the Galaxy Note II, though this is yet to be confirmed. If this was the case we would naturally expect battery life on a 4G model to be significantly less than a 3G-only version.
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