11
Sep
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So, the other day, in New York, Samsung gathered up a bunch of bloggers and showed us the international Galaxy Note 2. They wouldn't tell us anything about their North American plans, only that the international version would be pretty close to the NA version, and that they'd be sending out NA review units soon. So, while we're waiting for the real one to get here, we thought it'd be fun to take a quick look at the international version.

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The Note II is a crazy piece of hardware - just holding it is an experience. It has to be the biggest screen ever released on a phone. Pictures just can't do it justice, but here's a lineup of the Note 2, Galaxy Nexus, and Motorola DROID RAZR M, anyway. Remember when the Nexus was considered big?

The Note II's massiveness is due to the 5.5 inch screen. That's a .2 inch increase over the original, but, thanks to a slimmed down bezel, Samsung was actually able to shave a few millimeters off the width. If you want to get specific, the measurements are 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm for the Note II and 146.9 x 83 x 9.7 mm for the Note I.

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I brought the Razr M along, knowing I'd then have one of the biggest and smallest Android phones next to each other, and let me tell you, these two together are hilarious. The Razr M's entire body can fit inside the Note II's screen. And, just for good measure, here it is versus an iPhone. You can just see the fear in its beady little retina eyes.

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The Note II's button layout is just like the Galaxy S III: a clicky hardware Home button flanked by Menu and Back. You can't see in most of these pictures because they still turn invisible after a few seconds. Long pressing on the Home button brings up the Recent Apps list.

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I will forever be fearful of the build quality of the Note series after having reviewed the horribly built Note 10.1, but I'm happy to say the Note II didn't inherit the spongy, creaky exterior of its big brother. I only had a limited time to play with it, but so far the Note II seems to be built like the Galaxy S III: made with cheap-feeling glossy plastic, but solidly built. The plastic is really a shame given the recent unveiling of the Samsung Ativ, a Windows Phone made with all brushed aluminum. Samsung can use higher quality materials, they just don't want to.

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An iPhone 4, HTC Evo 4G LTE, Galaxy S III, and the Note II.

While the build quality is about on par with the Galaxy S III, the Note II looks much better. Samsung has kept their lawyers away from this one and actually made it a normal, simple, straight-sided rectangle with corners that aren't so swoopy. I wish the GSIII skipped the goofy "pebble" shape and went with this design, it looks great! Apple is probably adding this to a lawsuit as we speak.

They also dumped the GSIII's seam-filled, silver plastic rim and went with a shiny, chrome-colored plastic rim, which is much nicer looking.

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The back peels off just like the Galaxy S III. You can see the massive, 3100mAh battery, and the microSD and SIM slots. Previous NFC Samsung designs, like the Galaxy Nexus and GSIII, put the NFC antenna in the battery, but here the antenna is built into the removable back, and there's a set of gold contacts connecting it to the phone.

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The S Pen feels similar to the pen on the Note 10.1. Samsung had mentioned they changed the tip material for a little more resistance - I didn't really notice in my limited time with the device. It does have a new trick though, if you leave the pen out of the phone and walk away, an alarm will sound to alert you of the missing accessory.

They've also tried to make the S Pen more useful. The touchscreen can track the pen when it is above the screen, so you can use it to hover on web pages for navigation, and they've added some hover functionality to various Touchwiz apps. Hovering on a stack of pictures will fan out the top 6 and give you a preview, and hovering on a video seek bar will give you a thumbnail.

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You get a choice of grey or white, and yes, that's grey, not the dark blue color of the Galaxy S III. They had a few Flip Covers on display for the new phone. I believe black and white are also color options for the covers.

Performance on this thing should be pretty awesome. The Note II is running Jelly Bean, and Project Butter is here in full force. If that weren't enough, the Note II has a quad-core 1.6GHz Exynos and 2GB of RAM. Everything felt pretty smooth, even with a video floating around. Oh, and if you're worried about a processor change, don't be. Samsung hinted they had finally figured out the quad-core/LTE issues that had been plaguing their North American phones.

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Of course, Touchwiz is back and even crazier than ever. My favorite is the Gallery, which will now display your pictures in a swirling vortex or a Star Wars intro style crawl that, for some reason, only fills the bottom 2/3rds of the screen.

Artem and I doubled teamed the Note II event (on opposite coasts!), and he scored this awesome hands-on video. It covers a good deal of the new Touchwiz features.

They brought over some of the floating mini apps from the Galaxy Note 10.1. I saw floating versions of S Note, the web browser, and the video player. In typical Touchwiz fashion, actually opening these floating apps is a complete usability mess. The floating video player opens from a button in the main app. That's great and easy to find. A floating S Note window, however, can't be opened from the S Note app; you can only open it with an S Pen gesture. The floating web browser also can't be opened from the app, nor can it be opened with a pen gesture, this one will only open by clicking on a link from another app and choosing "Web Everywhere" from the app picker. 3 of the same type of app, 3 totally different ways to open them. Why couldn't they have just added buttons to everything? And no, I'm not missing anything; I double checked this with the reps.

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The camera software has gotten an upgrade, too. Burst mode isn't a mode anymore, just hold down the camera button and the shots keep coming. There's also a crazy feature that will let you take multiple shots of a group of people and mix and match the faces from each photo for the best look. It's like automatic Photoshop!

So it's huge, it's fast, it's got Jelly Bean, and Touchwiz has even more crazy stuff to look at. A review of a US variant will happen eventually. Getting a closer look at this thing sounds like fun. You'll know more when we do.

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • GliTcH

    Damn. I think I just may get this instead of the Galaxy S III. I was also considering holding out for the next Nexus.

    • PINJ

      Yeah I Think HOLDING Will Be A Problem Here ;)

  • New_Guy

    "You can just see the fear in its beady little retina eyes...." Ahahahahah!

    • PINJ

      Was About To Quote Tha Hah

  • enrique

    what is the iphone doing there? whoever is looking at the s3 or note will not consider iphone.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      It's just a size comparison.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I threw it in there, mostly for the lulz.

  • fixxmyhead

    the iphone lol that thing is a fucking toy phone compared to the note

  • bonerp

    great hands on review. Now 4g has been announced in the uk any chance it will come with capability?

  • GraveUypo

    crossed the line. that's a tablet.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I disagree, if I weren't waiting for the next Nexus, I'd go for this. Unlocked, LTE, powerful, pen-enabled, that'd be a beauty.

      • GraveUypo

        still, a tad too big. if it had no side bezel and half as much vertical bezel, then it'd be a phone. my gs3 already sticks out of some of my smaller-pocketed pants, i imagine this thing will be even worse.

        • Freak4Dell

          It's slimmer than the first one, so it's more of a phone than that thing was. It's still way too big, but at least they worked on making it ever so slightly more manageable with one hand.

          • fadilkarim

            Butyou see this phone was meant for people who love large screen sizes and don't mind using the note with two hands.. I loved the original notes width because you could see more and have more screen estate. Now it just looks like a confused big phone instead of a distinct phablet.

  • Tan

    Im gutted that I didn't wait 6 months for the note 2 but I have the original note and I love it

  • Bob the Fish

    Does it come with the Chrome browser? (I didn't see it mentioned)

    • Bob the Fish

      I see they brought over the web browser from the original note, so I guess that means no.

      • bossmonkey

        It looks like it has Chrome. The leaked AT&T and Sprint dumps for the Note 2 have

        appChrome.apkappChromeBookmarksSyncAdapter.apk

        • bossmonkey

          and
          Chrome.apk

    • spydie

      you can always download chrome browser.

    • ssj4Gogeta

      Chrome is available for all devices running 4.0+ from Google Play.
      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.android.chrome

  • true_talker

    Lets see how the ipad mini kills this one, apple is just droping.....lol...

    • spydie

      there is no ipad mini... did you miss the latest apple release news? Besides, if there were an ipad mini, it won't be a phone... so it's back to square one for apple.

  • spydie

    Wish they would have left the form factor alone. The Note was the perfect size. The new note looks long and skinny, even though it's only 7mm longer. combine that with 3mm less width really brings out the long-skinny look. Also my accessories won't fit the new one... that pisses me off. Why make a beautiful Phablet UGLY by making it longer and skinnier? Samusung screwed the pooch on this design. I still have to have one, but I'll always tell everyone that the first Note looked better and fit everything better. It will be interesting to see what new capabilities they will actually put on the old note to make it look/run more like the new one. I suppose they won't update it much or else people will buy the cheaper older notes on close-out. I know I've considered it, and may still if I find out they have updated to run just like the new note.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      They changed the aspect ratio, which is why the dimensions changed too. Maybe they thought it was harder to hold something wider and shorter than taller and skinnier. I don't know, I love the new design and everything about it but TouchWiz and the plastic.

    • fadilkarim

      I totally agree with you on here, ill still bbe getting it but i wish they kept it just as wide! Now it looks less like a phablet and more like a bigphone...I really like my note 1's aspect ratio much better

  • akamanonthemoon

    The fact that it is narrower will enable one handed operation better than the original Note. Add the rounded corners to that and it will feel nicer in the hand as well. The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 will be mine!! The Binford Power Phone!!! Argh! Argh! Argh!! Good review!! I will post it up on my Facebook Page to give you some more hits!!

  • Freak4Dell

    Those pictures just make me want the Razr M so much more than I already did.

  • Jon Garrett

    I hope the US version of the Note II has the same shape home button as the S III.

  • mckooter

    As a person with an N7000 i would really enjoy a good comparison. I don't really see a good reason to switch, especially considering the cost of a new note vs my n7000

    • faceless128

      If you have the original Note, there's no real reason to switch. I wouldn't upgrade if i had the first Note.

  • http://twitter.com/Dave_BG Dave Bg

    I cant wait to get one!

  • faceless128

    "
    The plastic is really a shame given the recent unveiling of the Samsung Ativ, a Windows Phone made with all brushed aluminum. "

    The ATIV is actually plastic, the backplate just has a brushed aluminum looking texture, but it's just as plastic as the pebble blue or whatever color texture the Note 2 has.

  • myNickname

    What is that calendar app on the galaxy nexus in the first picture? Looks pretty slick.

  • Idle Time

    Wish it were available outside of AT&T

  • Ryan Fino

    anyone know what the weather app on the Nexus pictured is? with the weather along the top and displayed in text on the right?

  • iPhoneFan

    You guys are all morons seriously you keep talking trash about the iPhone and apple keeps getting more money up to have more money than the fucking country i seriously laugh at these morons 100 vs 100,000,000,000 dumb asses can you see the difference between the 4s retina and the GS3 even the retina looks better which is a lower resolution learn before you talk and stick your finger up your ass if you don't have anything else to do

  • My Discretion

    a lot of words for nothing to say!!! Just answer the question, does the Note 2 Global work with the GSM providers in Europe ?