19
Feb
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Nearly half a year ago, Samsung shocked the smartphone world with the unveiling of an entirely unconventional phone at IFA 2011. Why was it unconventional and shocking, you ask? Well, because it sports a massive 5.3-inch screen. That phone is none other than the mighty Samsung Galaxy Note.

The phone is scheduled to release today, February 19th, and we've seen quite a bit of banter going around on what to expect. However, the most prominent question is whether it's a tablet or a smartphone. Obviously it's meant to be a phone with tablet-like features for on-the-go productivity, but is it practical to carry this thing around on a daily basis or is it just a gimmick that is destined to flop? I'll give you my full opinion on the matter after I've had a bit more time to acclimate myself to the new world of Phabletry (yes, I certainly did make that up), but for now I offer my initial impressions to you.

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Before we get started, check out a full list of the Note's specifications:

  • 5.3" 800 x 1280 HD super AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass
  • 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor
  • 1GB of ram
  • 16GB of internal memory, expandable via microSD
  • 8MP camera with 1080p HD video capabilities
  • 2MP front-facing camera
  • Gigantic 2,500 mAh battery
  • 178g (6.28 ounces)
  • 5.78" x 3.27" x 0.38"
  • Android 2.3.6 with Samsung's latest TouchWiz UX
  • 4G-LTE capable
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi

Unboxing And Build Quality

When I first opened the Galaxy Note's packaging I gazed on in both wonder and confusion. I didn't want to pick it up for fear of breaking my arm, but its beautiful glossy screen beckoned me. It was much more monstrous than I envisioned, but so much more sexy, too. The sleek exterior shot my reflection back at me, and I could see my sister looking over my shoulder, jaw dropped, trying to find the right words to say. All she could come up with, though, was but...why does it look like that?

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After coming to the realization that this was indeed a phone, and not some sort of freak accident, I picked it up. Much to my surprise it was ridiculously light. Weighing in at just 178 grams (that's only 31 grams heavier than my MyTouch 4G, which has a puny 3.8 inch screen), it didn't feel like I was holding a device that sports a gigantic 5.3 inch screen and a 2500 mAh battery.

The screen is made out of glossy Gorilla Glass bordered by a sexy aluminum bezel.  I was wondering how Samsung managed to make it so light, but the flimsy plastic backing says it all. I was almost afraid to remove it for fear of snapping it in half.

First Use

Trying to figure out how to hold this thing took some time. It's a bit too big to hold in one hand comfortably, so two hands is usually a must. If you have spider fingers and learn how to cradle it just right, there just may be a few instances in which you can forego the second-hand backup. Unfortunately, I use my phone is tons of situations that only allow for one hand use, so we'll have to see how that pans out after I've used it some more.

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After giving it a onceover (and second and third), and relearning how to properly hold a smartphone, it was time to turn it on.

Having never used Samsung's TouchWiz UX before, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually liked it. Coming from HTC's Sense, I've always had a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to manufacture designed overlays. Looking past the homescreens that were jammed full of and overly-cluttered with bloatware (which seems to have become the norm with new devices these days), I was greeted by an extremely responsive and fast device. Transitions between homescreens, the app drawer, and everything else were flawless and smooth. The powerful 1.5GHz processor really shows its brawn when you use this device.

The Note's beautiful screen immediately blew my mind. The 800 x 1280 Super AMOLED display instantly casted a huge, unforgiving shadow over any other device I've previously owned. One issue I noticed almost immediately, though, was the fact that the phone's software isn't really designed for such a large screen. The easiest way to spot this is to look at some of the homescreen widgets. Many were clearly designed to fit nicely across a regular-sized device, but leave extra space on a display with extra real estate. It seems almost sinful that Samsung didn't make additional UI tweaks to make it appear more seamless.

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After thoroughly exploring every corner of this phone, I remembered that it came with the S-Pen. This handy stylus was designed specifically for the Galaxy Note, and even has its own apps on the device. I've never truly been a big fan of styluses, but I must say that this one is pretty spectacular. It has an ultra-fine tip, so drawing or writing smaller lines is very easy (a feature that most styluses don't have). Not only does it work well while navigating the screen, it also responds to pressure while drawing, and has a button on the side that can summon note-related apps or screenshots with gestures or taps.

Conclusion

When it came time to leave the house panic quickly washed over me. Where do I put this thing? It didn't come with a shoulder strap? Will it even fit in my pocket? If you have small pockets, you're out of luck. This hunk of a device took up most of the space in mine, and it was a little uncomfortable at times. It'll take some getting used to, but I'm sure I won't even notice the size after a while (I hope).

I'll be lugging this beast around with me for the next several days, so look out for the full-blown review here. I can already tell it's a great top-notch device, but will sheer size be its single downfall?

Brandon Lancaster
Brandon says he likes to live life on the edge. By that he means eating ice cream for breakfast and wearing house slippers to class. Aside from all of the ballsy action he partakes in, he's a mass communications student that spends much of his time studying or tinkering with his phone.

  • http://wingesoft.com kikorb

    I has receltly buy this Phone in Amazon and waiting it to come home.

    I think the screen size is not a problem, but the "convention".

    I rarely use the phone to call this days, but I use it a lot for mailing, IM, browsing... so the biggest the best.

    Big screen means big keyboard, big webpages, big letters in mail, big resolution.

    I am a fan of Samsung since Galaxy S and now I have a Gorilla Glass, dual core, 5.3" inches display phone. Can wait to hold it (with two hand) and start using it.

    Also hopping Samsung releases ICS for this monster asap.

    • Jon Garrett

      I think I have small hands for a man and this phone is NOT too big. yeah its nearly twice the size of my iPhone and about 20% larger than my Galaxy S II but it still fits nicely in my hands.

  • Big Man

    Hey man I like my phones like I like ma women!!

    The bigger the phone, The bigger the.....

  • Ken mckean

    Been using one in the UK for some time and its absolutely fine size wise. I thought the Yanks like anything big......helps their inferiority complex!

    • rchao

      Which is why you've been using it?

      • toshistation

        ^ Hilarious. You win.

  • Nastybutler

    I think the target market for this phone is the business user. The typical business man wears a suit to work every day, and in case you've never worn one, they tend to have ample inside pockets that this phone would fit into nicely. So I see this phone striking a chord with that demo.

    • Doods de los Reyes

      Fits my jeans pocket and I'm not a big guy

  • OFI

    "Gigantic 2,500 mAh battery"

    It's not that much bigger than the batteries in most of the current phones and certainly smaller than the one in the MAXX ;-)

    Looks far too big to me, can't imagine there is a big market for it but Samsung has to test the market some how.

    To be really used as a notepad I hope they've done something pretty magical to make it last longer on that battery.

    • Brandon Lancaster

      Most current devices have batteries in the 1700 mAh range. The MAXX is an exception and is advertised to have a gigantic battery.

      From what I've seen so far, the 2500 mAh battery in the Note is definitely big enough to last a full day with heavy use.

    • Stevie

      You obviously don't know much about smartphones today. Standard battery sizes are around 1650, with Samsung's batteries being generally better than others and HTC's the worst.

      The Maxx is an exception since Motorola screwed up big time with the Droid Razr, which had a criminal battery life. To make up for this disaster Motorola released the Maxx and specifically focused on the battery life in their advertisements.

      With 2500 mah, the Note definitely has the best battery life out of any smart phone except for Motorola's apology phone.

  • sari

    I've been using it for close to two months now. And I gotta give it to samsung,they made a masterpiece on this handset. Its great for browsing, mailing, whatsapp-ing and most games are really more fun when your fingers aren't blocking the screen like in smaller phones. Stylus is a great tool for a phone this big. But I don't use it most of the time. One problem is the mentioned "widgets aren't big enough", another is the large size of the screen makes it prone to scraching. Otherwise, I highly recommend it

  • Oliver

    If AT&T doesn't have anything up its sleeve for MWC, I'll be grabbing a Note and not looking back! :)

  • sgman

    Reading and replying to this on the international version of the Note. I've owned it since November and I have enjoyed it very much with no qualms whatsoever. My needs revolved around reading documents and spreadsheets on the go. I don't carry any satchel or bags, so the largest pocketable screen available is a must. I have not been disappointed or inhibited with the large size. Most other commenters in other forums say they can't "imagine" using a device at this size, but once you have the phone in hand, you'll see what a fantastic experience the Note offers.

  • JohnK

    I think it's to small...anyone have $300 they could give me so I can afford this phablet?

  • funk

    I just picked one up and love the size. You learn to one hand text/use the phone after a few days, and I have average guy hands.

    Nice partial review. Glad you weren't too subjective on the size like a lot of pointless reviews and going to give it a chance.

  • Larry Vandemeer

    Oh my God!! I loooove this phone... Samsung has done it again. And I switched from an iPhone at that. Samsung has done a gorgeous job. And the build in stylus is the killer app. It is BETTER than sex.

    • JB

      Agreed. My wife plays with her white Galaxy Note more than me. And that is only downside for me for having this beauty in our family.

  • p51d007

    Had mine for a little over 3 months...got tired of at&t dragging its feet releasing it, plus, LTE won't hit my area for at least another year, and I prefer the home button and the Exynos processor, not to mention the lack of BLOAT that at&t stuffs on a phone.

  • Spydie

    I've had mine for about 2 months (internation al model) here in the U.S. I don't think I could ever go back to a "regular" size phone. they are just too small to do anything on except call. I love the size. It fits in all my shirt pockets just fine. And customer complaints on the is phone are almost non-existant. I've never seen a phone released with so few problems. ICS coming the end of March will really help the poor battery life. With light use, I can get through a day, but really isn't outstanding like some people say.

  • Matt

    He must have tiny hands. This phone is easily handled in one hand if you are normal male.

    • Brandon Lancaster

      What defines "normal male"? Hahah, well regardless, I do have "normal" sized hands. It does get easier to handle in one hand once you get used to it, but coming from a regular-sized phone doesn't make the transition easy.

  • casey anthony

    i got this on att. im 5'9 skinny female and i can handle it with one hand. it also fits in my skinny jeans, his pocket comment is bs. there is plenty of room for it. im in love with this phone. i ditched my iphone couldnt be happier

    • Caylee Anthony

      I will haunt your dreams for all of eternity.

  • casey anthony

    now i can party everyday with my note. no more babysitting

  • Joe T.

    If you're familiar with the Galaxy S2, you know the thin battery cover is actually very high quality. There's a youtube video that shows someone deforming it to the extreme, but it doesn't even break and still retains its shape after popping back to its original form.

    Don't let the thin plastic on the Note fool you. It's extremely high quality.

  • Flint

    You'll get used to it. Took me around a week, and now I'm loving the phone, wouldn't trade it for anything smaller.

    Also, the battery life is fantastic for a device with such a big screen.

    Fun fact - my friend's Galaxy S2 seems tiny in comparison.

  • Viking

    I carried the 7" galaxy tab everywhere and used it as my primary phone/tablet. No problems at all. If you can't fit a 5.3" device in your pocket you must be wearing childrens clothing.

    Gah, I get so annoyed with reviewers, either the screen is too small, or the device too big. Quit being such a little pussy.

    • Brandon Lancaster

      Oh, so you'd rather a reviewer tell you that they liked everything about the device they're reviewing? Got it.

      I never said it was too big. I merely played on the fact that switching from a smaller device to a larger device takes getting used to. Take your trolling elsewhere.

    • Cameron Summerson

      That is completely uncalled for. To disagree is one thing, but there is no reason to be so disrespectful. We openly welcome criticism, bu there's nothing constructive about this crap.

  • Toni

    As a femail loyal reader of your site, it would be really helpful if you tossed some of your devices over to a chick to review. I for one had to go with the Droid Pro because touchscreen keyboard are difficult to use if you have even conservative nails, also size is not that much of an issue if you have a purse.

  • http://factsforfolks.in Pratik

    i am using this phone and i simply love this phone! really! it rocks...