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Samsung Galaxy Note Review

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3oh6

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Phone? Tablet? That is the question Samsung openly asks on the Galaxy Note web site, and the question most often first asked about the Galaxy Note. We will answer that before we finish the first paragraph: it is neither...and yet it can accomplish the tasks of both.

Weighing in with a 5.3" screen, as phones are measured by their screen now more than anything, is the Galaxy Note. The 1280 x 800 pixel HD Super AMOLED device measures 5.6" tall and a pocket busting 3.3" wide. A tablet it is not. Tablets typically come in 10" or 7" flavors, but not 5.6" and change. And yet despite this identity crisis, the Note knows exactly what it is: a new typy of handheld device that bridges the gap between tablets and cell phones while sporting the same basic functions of both.

But why do people look at us in technical disgust like we are holding a tablet up to our ear when talking on the Note? The answer is because it is bigger than a phone yet smaller than a tablet, and the market demands a label. We must put things in neat and tidy boxes that are easy to understand for comparison reasons. Technically, yes, the Galaxy Note is a phone. Yes, the Galaxy Note is a tablet. What we want to do today though, is not make this about what the Galaxy Note is, but rather find out what it can do...and can't do.


We have already talked about the size, so let's leave well enough alone and focus on the hardware specifications. First and foremost the Samsung Note is a 4G LTE device and ours will be tested on the Bell network here in Canada. The rest of the specifications list is pretty straightforward and standard for the Samsung Galaxy family, with the exception of the Note's boosted 1.5GHz processor over the Nexus and S II's 1.2GHz running speed. Needless to say, there is plenty of processing power to run the massive 1280x800 resolution screen.

Speaking of power, a 2,500 mAh battery is going to be the in charge of keeping the Samsung Note running all day long, and it is definitely needed. In comparison, the Galaxy S II and Nexus carry 1650 mAh and 1750 mAh batteries. The massive screen is no doubt responsible for the boost in battery size.

The Note runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but an upgrade to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is in the works from our understanding. The last item that we will look at a little later is the 8MP rear camera (3264x2448), and 2MP front facing camera. If anything this is what blurs lines between the Samsung Note being a phone and a tablet as most tablet's won't have as high a quality camera. We'll provide plenty of sample photos and insight on page three of the review.


Our sample of the Galaxy Note came straight from Samsung, and without any accessories or package. We'll keep our review focused on the device itself because of this.


Like other Samsung devices, the Galaxy Note is very clean with just a couple of exterior buttons. Along the left edge you can see a long button which is the volume up and down toggle. The right side houses a single sleep/power button. The front of the Note doesn't have any physical buttons, rather, four capacitive buttons along the bottom edge are used for Menu, Home, Back and Search in that order.


The back side of the Galaxy Note is pretty sleek with the textured carbon like plate. Rest assured it isn't carbon fiber but obviously plastic. The finish is nice and tight and the tactile feel is quite pleasing. There is just enough texture, but not too much to make it feel awkward. Our sample was used when we received it, so there were some marks in the plastic, but it maintains its good looks even after being marked up a little.

The 8MP camera and flash are mounted high up near the top of the Note and should be easy enough for aftermarket cases to work around without much trouble. Removing the back panel is very quick and didn't make us feel like we were going to break it. The battery is user replaceable and there are higher mAh batteries out there if you look hard enough. Removing the back also gives us easy access to the SIM card, and the microSD slot where the Notes storage can be upgraded by 32GB.



The last two exterior features are the speaker at the back in the lower left hand corner, as well as the S Pen tucked into its cubby hole. The S Pen is securely fastened in place, but not too tight that makes it difficult to pull out which is further facilitated by a small notch in the S Pens end. Overall, Samsung really nailed the design of the S Pen holster.

We have also made a short video taking a look at the Samsung Galaxy Note that elaborates on the photos here.

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3oh6

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Features - S Pen | Battery Life | Call Quality

Features | S Pen



What makes the Samsung Galaxy Note stand out from other devices? Obviously the large screen, but accepting that and moving on leads us to the S Pen. Using the name S Pen instead of stylus is a smart move by Samsung since the word stylus is old, overly used and doesn't truly describe the adaptability of this pointing device. A stylus is a static pointing object, the S Pen is a "Precise, Fast, and Rich input similar to an actual pen". Notice the word input. Samsung's goal for the S Pen was to be more than just a gimmick, but rather an integral part of the device and the OS.

Based on Wacom's Electro-Magnetic Resonance technology, the S Pen offers 256 levels of pressure sensitivity making it a very formidable tool. There is also a single button that improves functionality, although the button is hard to find upon first grasping the S Pen, or after you shift the S Pen in your hand. One major improvement Samsung could make is to provide more of a tactile surface to the button so it is easier to locate.


Click on images to enlarge

The S Pen is quite intuitive in its operation, but there are a couple of things you will want to know about it that we had to figure out from the inter-wide-web-nets (gesture controls are in the manual).

Holding down the S Pen button and swiping backward (right to left) on the screen emulates the Back key. Holding down the S Pen button and dragging from the bottom to the top emulates the ancilary Menu key. As mentioned, the Note's buttons along the bottom edge of the device are capacitive and the pen won't trigger them.

The gestures fill the gap...for the most part. There is no way to emulate the Home key or the Search key, again, a small addition Samsung could make to enhance S Pen functionality. A few other gestures allow us to launch S Memo Lite (a handy little note taking app) with the double click of the S Pen from any screen while holding the button. A screen capture can be taken as well by holding the button and pressing on the screen for a couple of seconds. Integration into the OS is nice, but a few more tricks wouldn't hurt.

The only real functionality complaint of the S Pen is the slight delay between the tactile feel and the response on screen. At first the response time lag was distracting but as we used the S Pen, that feeling went away and is almost non-existent now. It does take some getting used to, and perhaps might deter some from using the S Pen without that immediately gratifying experience out of the gate. Removing that delay could prove huge for the S Pen's functionality to first timers.


Click on images to enlarge

Over the course of carrying the Note around, we quickly started to rely on the S Pen for more than just writing notes or playing Draw Something...which by the way the S Pen greatly enhances. While riding the bus, or riding in a car, we found the S Pen to be infinitely useful as a pointing device. Instead of relying on our sausage fingers being bounced around from the rough London, Ontario roads, the S Pen made accurate typing and menu choices easier. Considering the ham-fisted tip size of many comparable pointing devices, the small sweet spot of this one was welcome and allowed for a much less frustrating experience.

The S Pen also opened up the world of quick note taking and drawing. For a web designer, the Galaxy Note also facilitated a quick wire frame idea that we would have sitting waiting for a meeting or hanging out downtown. Being able to capture the influence of the surroundings through a preferred medium of drawing is great, but it will never supplant pens and a notepad which are carried everywhere anyway. We'll talk about the OS on the Galaxy Note and the built in applications later, but right now we want to discuss the handwriting recognition as it pertains directly to the S Pen.


Click on image to enlarge

The prospect of being able to hand write in almost any text box and have it instantly translated into a more legible font style is very appealing, and we think that is where the most value in the S Pen lies. In theory this feature allows you to use the S Pen to scribble a text message, email or anything else. Unfortunately, however, that value is lost in inconsistency.

The experience of hand writing recognition on the Samsung Galaxy Note with the S Pen isn't awful, but there is a lot of room for improvement. For the most part it really isn't all that bad, but to use it on a regular basis would be immensely frustrating. Text ends up garbled and incoherent at some point in almost every sentence. We thought perhaps it was our grade 3 level chicken scratch printing that was the cause, but even with several colleagues and friends trying their luck, no one had success to the point of it being enjoyable or useful. We really spent a lot of time trying to make it work better, but couldn't imagine using the hand writing recognition function to send text messages, e-mails, or tweets on a regular basis.

We feel that Samsung would really have to improve the handwriting recognition in order to make the S Pen more than a novelty item. Again, we really like the prospect of popping it out, tapping twice, and writing a note. But to rely on the writing to accurately send a tweet or an e-mail isn't an option at this point.


Battery Life



Click on image to enlarge

The Samsung Galaxy Note has a formidable battery with the 2500 mAh behemoth parked in its back pocket, and the specs on battery life are impressive: "Talk time: up to 9.4 hours / Standby time: up to 14.7 days". But we all know these numbers don't really count when it comes to daily usage which typically consists of music playing, YouTube watching, mobile browsing and GPS geotracking. So we'll run a battery of tests to give a little more insight into the Galaxy Note's abilities (see what we did there?).

For all of the following tests, the following were the Samsung Note's settings. Audio was played through the Note's speaker at max volume, screen brightness was manually set to 3/4 brightness, and the default power saving profile was enabled. Wifi and GPS were enabled but Bluetooth was disabled. Push notifications were enabled and the phone would notify when e-mails and tweets came through on the various accounts we had set up.


In-Call Battery Test | Talk Time = 5:18:04


Click on image to enlarge

We don't want to call the Samsung Galaxy Note a phone, but that doesn't mean we can't test it like one. The Skype Mirror Test is simply a never ending conversation between me and...well...myself. A recorded 5 minute conversation of myself was looped to both sides, one into the microphone of the Note, the other from Skype on a computer that the Note was called from. The conversation continued on until the Galaxy Note gave us the first low battery warning (15%) from a full charge. The screen was only enabled momentarily a few times to check battery life.

We apologize for the screenshot of the battery drainage above, but apparently Skype kicks off any call after 4 hours. We weren't paying attention when this happened and the phone idled for just under an hour. Our total talk time was 5:18:04...which is still a little disappointing. This is a worst case scenario though with a lot of background noise in the conversation, constant talking, and the volume turned to max. We still expected at least 6 hours out of this configuration though. Also keep in mind, the test only takes the battery down to 15%, so there is at least another another hour tucked away, which should bring the Note's talk time up up to acceptable levels.


Movie Playback Battery Test | Play Time = 3:26:59


Click on image to enlarge

The Jesse Eisenberg Test involves looping Jesse Eisenberg movies. In this case we watched The Social Network on repeat. The movie was ripped to MKV in 720P from Blue-ray, then converted to MP4 via Handbrake with quality as the focus of the settings. From a full charge, The Social Network played back to back with the settings noted above until we got our first low battery warning (15%).

That warning came at the 3:26:59 mark, as can be seen in the screen shot on the right above. The predominant use of battery was clearly the display with the media server only using up 9% of the battery during the almost 3.5 hours of movie playback. Needless to say, the Samsung Galaxy Note gets 1.5 Jesse Eisenbergs.


MP3 Playback Battery Test


Click on image to enlarge

Like the previous tests, the Atmosphere Careers Test is simply testing battery life during MP3 playback. We loaded up Atmosphere's discography, and tested to see how far the Galaxy Note could get through their long career. Playback was on a pair of Sony MDR-V300's plugged into the headphone port through the built-in music player with enhanced bass audio profile selected.


Typical Use

Naturally, we just had to take the Galaxy Note to work and use it as we normally would for a cell phone / tablet type of device. A typical day consists of photos, Twitter, E-Mail, texting, browsing the web, RunKeeper, etc... The chart above illustrates the typical usage, at work, and at home over the course of a day. Obviously everyone uses a device differently, but throughout a heavy usage day, we never had to charge the phone until late at night, and usually we could go until 1/3 of the way through another day before it actually needed charging. We think for heavy users, without abundant video watching or a ton of talk time, a fully charged Note will take them right through an entire day.


Call Quality


Call quality is rather subjective so we will keep this brief. We didn't find the Galaxy Note to be the best quality we have ever heard on a cell phone, nor was it the worst. A lot of typical responses came back with asking the people on the other end how we sounded. "A little flat and hollow" wasn't uncommon to receive for a response.

The ear speaker is loud enough for quiet areas, but in an open space with a lot of ambient noise, it was best to find a quieter spot in order to hear the person on the other end. With a microphone/ear bud combination, the audio improved and the Note was difficult to decipher from any contemporary phone. Samsung does bundle a decent microphone/ear bud combo with the Galaxy Note, so we suggest you take their hint and use it. Besides, people often looked at us a little weird when talking on the Note up to our ear...as if we had a tablet pressed to the side of our face.
 
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3oh6

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Screen Quality | Camera & Video Testing

Screen Quality



Obviously the Samsung Galaxy Note is all about its screen. At 5.3", it is the currently the biggest screen available for a device that's able to make calls. Again, this is what Samsung wanted to do and this mantra is embraced within their marketing literature.

Regardless of whether or not this is a phone or tablet, it will impress you and likely any bystanders as well. Remember that the Super AMOLED (WXGA) screen is 1280 x 800 pixels which gives it a 285ppi resolution. The Galaxy Nexus and Apple Retina screens on the iPhone 4 and 4S do have a higher ppi at 316ppi and 326ppi respectively. This leads us to conclude that side by side, with a keen eye and in certain situations, you can actually see the slightly "softer" screen of the Galaxy Note. But that is going a bit far. The screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass that doesn't seem to fingerprint up too bad, but it isn't magic either and does require a wipe every now and then.

The lack of "Plus" after Super AMOLED means that the Galaxy Note uses a PenTile display like the Galaxy Nexus, whereas the Galaxy SII uses the Super AMOLED Plus. The difference is simply a sub-pixel one since this type of display is composed of RG/BG sub-pixels instead of R/G/B pixels but it likely won't be noticed by anyone except the most discerning user. The result is more green sub-pixels than red or blue. Some will say this leads to a slightly washed out or green prominent screen, but the Galaxy Note doesn't display this at all and the colors are distinct and vibrant. Our camera tests will focus on red to show this.


Click on images to enlarge

Before we move onto the video and camera quality of the Galaxy Note, we want to take a quick look at something we noticed while browsing web sites. The screenshot on the left is taken of a development site that is in production which has a transparent PNG gradient behind the "Binea Press" logo. On an Apple iPhone 4, 4S and iPod Touch-older generation-pre retina displays, the gradient displays fine. On the Galaxy Note in either the system browser of Firefox, the gradient shows up like above. We have yet to find a reason but are looking into why. As a web-designer it is a quite important to find a good resolution as mobile means Android now more than ever, and gradients are not uncommon.

The other screen shot on the right is just that of the Hardware Canucks home page. The screens are saved in JPG for file size sake, and don't do the Note justice, so don't judge it on them, but just look at how much pixel-estate there is. For web-browsing and looking at photos or documents, the Galaxy Note is a dream with the amount of pixels it pushes and the size of its screen.


<b>Video Playback</b>


Click on images to enlarge

The real reason for choosing The Social Network for the battery tests is because it is a great screen test for video. Every frame of this movie is dark, and the Galaxy Note handled it quite well. The images above are just a couple random screen shots that display the Note's ability to find detail in all the dark corners of The Social Network. We watched a number of movies in MP4 format through the standard video player, as well as MKV's through MX Player that we downloaded from the Android Market. The Galaxy Note's screen really does a great job running 720p and makes it enjoyable to watch on.

The rear speaker for audio output is okay, but headphones are ideal as the bass can be enhanced and the audio is far superior on even a basic set of headphones. Would we rather have a tablet on a long flight to watch a movie on? Sure, who wouldn't, but the Note isn't a bad secondary option.


<b>Camera Testing</b>


As we mentioned in the introduction, one of the possible distinctions between a phone and a tablet is the camera that the Samsung Galaxy Note sports. The specifications again are an 8MP rear camera capable of recording video at up to 1080p and stills at 3264x2448 with a 2MP front camera. The Flash is LED and relatively strong as long as your objects are close. Overall, the camera is quite impressive, and we are die hard SLR users. Obviously the Note's camera is still a cell phone camera, and benefits greatly from bright light conditions, but it isn't unusable in the dark. Let's look at some sample photos.


Click on images to enlarge

The image on the left shows that the camera can handle bright colors, but when doing so can lose detail in blacks. In the camera's defense, an SLR wouldn't handle this contrast all that well either. Focus is solid, and the colors with that bright light are bang on.

On the right, is an almost pitch black room with light only coming from the candles you can see. We really just wanted to see if the Note could focus on the candles and it did a decent job. Obviously this is asking a lot of the camera in a situation like this, but for being handheld in the dark, we can't complain about the quality.


Click on images to enlarge

One day at work there was this great shot of sunlight shining through the gap between two taller buildings and a motorcycle parked remarkably in the center. It was as if a spot light was on the bike. We grabbed the Note and took the photo on the left above. Again, the bright colors of the bike aren't overly blown out, but are a bit bright. Meanwhile the shadows are still exposed rather well. Personally we would turn the exposure down a bit, but for straight auto from a camera phone, we'll take it.

The last photo we'll look at is one from the campus of Western University. With a lot of moving objects, and asking the camera to capture the whole scene, focus is right where it should have been. On the whole, the camera acted exactly how we wanted it to in most situations. We even have a great photo of a Dairy Queen run late in the night...but there is no need to share evidence of an ice cream addiction, so we'll put that one on the shelf.

Our only complaint with the Galaxy Note when taking photos is the orientation that you have to hold it in when taking your snapshot. We kept finding ourselves wanting to use the power/sleep button or the volume button to take the photo rather than tapping the screen. Perhaps letting users map buttons for photo taking would be beneficial to some.

Here are links to the full size (2~3MB) versions of the four photos above in the same order they appear: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3, Image 4.


<b>Video Recording</b>

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We took a quick video sample at 720p from the Galaxy to give us an idea of the video quality it can produce. From a foggy morning to late afternoon sun, the Galaxy Note really did a decent job. We did some panning up to the sky and from brightly lit objects onto shadows and the adjustments in exposure were rather smooth and unnoticeable for the most part.

Obviously the Note isn't going to be the camera of choice for your next video project, but it is definitely capable of taking quality high definition video. The audio isn't bad but suffers from wind noise as was demonstrated in the last clip.

Overall, we are quite pleased with the optics of the camera for both still shots and video. The Galaxy Note is a capable tool, and in the right hands should create some great results. Our only complaint would be a lack of a video editor included in the software package. We understand that it might not be able to handle HD video, but it is still a little disappointing not being able to edit on the spot and share instantly.
 
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3oh6

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OS & Software Impressions

OS Impressions




Our Samasung Galaxy Note came loaded with Android 2.3.6 (Gingerbread), running Samsung's TouchWiz 4.0 layer over top. TouchWiz doesn't alter the OS all that much and really does add functionality that is unique to the Note.

The S Pen functions all reside within TouchWiz, and truly add function to the S Pen in the form of the gestures already outlined. Additional enhancements include the ability to 'pull down' notifications from the top of the screen as well as take a screen shot with the swipe of your palm across the screen surface. There are some other graphical enhancements that die hard Android users will notice, but for the most part, TouchWiz stays out of the base Android OS's way and merely adds welcomed functionality.

Samsung has already mentioned intentions to upgrade the Galaxy Note to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) which is rumored to happen at some point in the first quarter of 2012...AKA anytime now.


Pre-Installed Applications


The software package that comes with the Samsung Galaxy Note is pretty straightforward with the addition of the S programs designed specifically for the S Pen. Each and every one of these is handy in its own way and really does allow the Note to stand apart from both smartphones and tablets. We do wish there were a few more inclusions to further aid the Pen's functionality but since you can use it in nearly every program, the sky's the limit anyways. Here is a rundown of the noted apps that we found useful and a brief explanation of what they are:

  • Samsung All Share - stream media from networked devices or from the Galaxy Note to a networked device or DLNA TV.
  • S Planner - Daily planner app.
  • S Memo - OS integrated note taking app designed for the S Pen.
  • S Choice - Mini-market for S Pen specific apps.
  • Polaris Office - View and edit MS Office Word, Excel, documents and more.
  • Social Hub - One stop social networking site. Update Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, E-mail and more.
  • Photo Editor/Gallery - Built in editors for photo manipulation. Integrated with S Pen support.

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/samsung/galaxy-note/apps-1.jpg" alt="Samsung All Share" style="float: left; margin: 0 20px 10px 0;" />Samsung All Share
All Share is a pretty neat little app that allows the Galaxy Note (amongst other Samsung devices) to stream media to and from the device. If you have a DLNA TV, this is an absolute pleasure to use. We were even able to get Windows Media Player on computers on the same network to show up as a device we could stream to. Essentially, All Share let's you stream:
  • Directly to a DLNA TV from the Galaxy Notes file system (music/video/photos)
  • Directly to a DLNA TV from a network device like another computer acting as the intermediary
  • From the Galaxy Notes file system (music/video/photos) to another computer on the network running Windows Media Player
  • From one networked computer to another networked computer running Windows Media Player

During testing we didn't have any issues getting this feature to work exactly as promised. AllShare really can come in handy for anyone what wants to share files which are housed on their Note with a larger audience. There were however some minor issues. Playback would stutter once in a while during streaming from one device to another, but that was likely an issue with the wireless network being able to handle streaming 720P video than anything else. In addition, while DLNA is widely supported, its performance is largely determined by the receiving device rather than the host. This can cause some communication issues and incompatibilities but for the most part, pairing between two devices like the Note and a HDTV should be seamless. We wouldn't recommend using All Share for your permanent media solution on your home network, but it is a nice easy way to play content from the Note on other devices on a compatible network.


S Planner | S Memo | S Choice


Click on images to enlarge

Sometimes, manufacturer-included applications that are nothing more than fluff that are supposed to justify the inclusion of a certain feature but S Programs integrated into the OS are actually pretty good. In fact, the way S Memo integrates any other program makes it quite functional and useful. We've already talked about how it was easy to start using this app on a regular basis as it was so intuitively part of the OS. The best feature we liked about S Memo was its ability to directly export to PDF then e-mail, Dropbox, or send any number of ways. This is an example of a S Memo exported to PDF:a wireframe quickly doodled. For professionals looking for quick document markups, this ability will quickly become invaluable.

S Planner is a simple daily planner but due to a number of interesting functions like the ability to attach pictures to calendar events, it quickly became default planning software we used. It synced flawlessly with the Google accounts we set up on the phone, and it took very little time to figure out the necessary gestures to get the most out of the S Pen interface. We really enjoyed using it and going back to other day planners won't be easy, that's for sure.

S Choice is a nice feature where Samsung has made it easy to find S Pen specific apps, but the novelty of most apps wore off quickly. Regardless, the ability of the S Pen will definitely lead to more app development the longer it is available. With the S Pen enabled 10.1" Note coming soon, we hope for more apps that utilize the S Pen's abilities.

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We could have talked about GPS and the WiFi here but thought we would leave that for the Benchmark section which is on the next page.
 
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3oh6

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GPS / WiFi Testing | Benchmarks

GPS / WiFi


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/samsung/galaxy-note/small/wifi-1.png" alt="Speedtest.net results WiFi and 4G LTE - Sasmung Galaxy Note" style="float: right; margin: 0 0 10px 20px;" />There is no messing around when it comes to the wireless capabilities of the Samsung Galaxy Note.

We tested the WiFi on a residential DSL 12 Mbps/100 KBps (down/up) network that consistently scores a wired connection 10~ Mbps/100~ KBps. The two peach tests in the screenshot show an almost perfect 9.80 Mbps/112 KBps which bested several notebooks we've run through this test.

We also have access to a faster connection on the University of Western Ontario at the Unlondon Unlab and tested the Wireless-N there as well...those are the Green results. Let's just say the Note had no problems keeping up with the limits of a seeminly limitless network. These match and in some cases beat the numbers we usually get over the wireless N at the Unlab.

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/samsung/galaxy-note/small/gps-1.jpg" alt="Runkeeper and GPS functions are spot on with the Samsung Galaxy Note" style="float: left; margin: 0 20px 10px 0;" />The last two tests, (Blue & Red) are on the Bell 4G LTE network. Now here in London, or at least where we have checked, the most we can get is 3 bars which is a less than perfect signal but still good nonetheless. The standard is 2. The difference is obvious based on the test results to the right. If you haven't already, go ahead and click on the screen shot to see it full size. We can't draw too much from any of these results because the speeds really are determined by the network, but the Galaxy Note certainly should be able to handle any wireless network you throw at it.

The GPS on the Samsung Galaxy Note was spot on throughout our testing period as well. We have had the phone for a good two weeks now and have done everything from track our runs, to bike rides (like the one to the left), to use Google Navigation for our GPS. Bell has a GPS program pre-installed, but we couldn't get it working due to not having an official Bell user password. Regardless, the Google option which was also pre-installed was excellent and received voice directions admirably; even without any voice recognition training.

GPS was sharp and right on point the entire time giving us roughly 300M of notice for turns and felt very fluid. Our runs and bike rides were tack sharp in their accuracy and timing with Runkeeper. Overall, we'll vote 10/10 for GPS with the Galaxy Note on the Bell network.


<b>GL Benchmark</b>


Click on image to enlarge

Gl Benchmark (v2.1.2) tests the graphic capabilities of the device by measuring the OpenGL performance. It involves a mix of 3D and 2D tests. We didn't run the entire suite but all of the pertinent tests. You can click on the thumbnail above and see all of the results we gathered. The Galaxy Note is a strong device, this we know. We didn't spend much time playing games on the Note, but any game we briefly tested ran fine. Despite the large 1280x800 screen, the Galaxy Note has more than enough processing power to run the display.


<b>Quadrant</b>

Click on image to enlarge

Quadrant (v2.0) benchmark is more of a PC Mark-like system test for those familiar with computer benchmarking. Quadrant tests multiple sub-systems, and then produces results of those sub-systems as well as a final score. Clicking on the thumbnail above will show the results of the Galaxy Note, both the sub-sytem results along the bottom, and the final score. We can see the Galaxy Note again tests well when compared to other devices. We did notice that some reviews had the Galalxy Note receiving 3000 points in Quadrant, so be mindful of the variations benchmarks can have from one system to the next.
 
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3oh6

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Conclusion

Conclusion


At the beginning of this review, we mentioned that the Galaxy Note can't be classified as a smartphone or a tablet even though it incorporates elements of both. It doesn't even bring any unique features to the table since the whole stylus / mini tablet design has been done before. However, unlike its predecessors the Note approaches its goal as a bridge between the tablet and smartphone markets in a rational, feature rich manner. In many ways it can be considered one of the smartest smartphones out there while being a tablet of dubious use. But that doesn't stop Samsung from making this pseudo tablet into an object of desire, and an abundantly useful one at that.

Our goal wasn't to focus on its size, but when a device that breaks the rules shows up, it is hard not to focus on the rule breaking aspects. In the case of the Galalxy Note, it is a 5.3" display and a genre defining feature set that makes it unique. From the early Palm PDAs to the more recent HTC Flyer many other companies have tried to make stylus input work on a small surface and few, if any have succeeded. In these early implementations the stylus became nothing more than a novelty that was rarely beneficial since there were no applications that took advantage of its strengths. Samsung has charted a different course by backing up their primary feature with a robust software package and while there are a few missteps, for the most part things work very well with their new S Pen. It is responsive, intuitive and a great addition to the Note even though it doesn't have to be used as the primary form of input.

In terms of actual smartphone-centric features, call quality is adequate, and the Note is capable of being carried around all day in a pocket. Perhaps not in your skinny jeans, but definitely within a sport coat or suit jacket pocket. If you are wearing loose pants, a front pocket location certainly isn't out of the question, but it can get some awkward looks as you walk down the street. This alone will have some claim that the Galaxy Note isn't a phone, and we would tend to agree.


With that being said, we have never touched a tablet as portable as this...if we were to classify the Galaxy Note as a tablet in the first place. The 1280x800 screen is tablet territory, although the next year will likely see that being the very low end. In addition the hardware/OS and user interface really makes the Galalxy Note feel more like a tablet than a phone. So again, we want to, but can't really classify it as a tablet either.

In the end, it doesn't matter which category Samsung's little mutant falls into. The Galaxy Note makes phone calls, sends text messages, runs any app on the Android Market, and can play any game. The camera is a great unit both in still photo and video performance, and is tied at the hip to a full featured photo editor. The S Pen is another feature we used a lot more than we first imagined we would, but the handwriting recognition could use some refining. If Samsung was able to clean that up, the S Pen's functionality would go through the roof, and the Galaxy Note would truly stand out from the crowd. As it is, the S Pen has a lot of features, but they are rather narrow in their scope. Hopefully the active Android developer community will pick up on its strengths and turn it into a real head turner.

If you want a device that gives the performance of a tablet and the freedom of a superphone in an all in one portable device, the Galaxy Note is for you. As someone who seems to constantly be sharing photos, web sites, and other items you see on your screen, again, the Note is a fantastic product. The ability to annotate and easily share a screen shot of anything you see makes the Galaxy Note the ultimate tool for the Perez Hiltons of the world, or on the go professionals that need a quick and easy note taking device without having to whip out their notebook. If the only thing that matters is getting the most attention when everyone sets their phones on the table at a meeting, head to your local cell provider and order a Galaxy Note right now. Without fail, it will get that job accomplished everywhere you go. Also remember that alongside the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich update Samsung will be rolling out their so-called "Premium Suite" which includes a ton of new items and upgraded functionality for the Note's more popular applications.

The Note's identity crisis actually turns out to be beneficial since its unique characteristics cater to an emerging market of people that need connectivity and tablet-like features bundled into a single device. Samsung has been able to offer up innovative features, a near seamless integration of the S Pen into every corner of the OS's applications and a near limitless number of options into a device that is as portable as it is useful. Furthermore, despite its faults, the S Pen is well integrated into the OS instead of being the afterthought we had seen with many other devices. Just remember to get one in your hand before laying down any money since its uniqueness may not translate all that well for some users.


 
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