Samsung announced its smallest Android 3.2 tablet to date last week, but for many gadget fans its hybrid handset and tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note, will be of more interest. PC Advisor spent some quality time with the hybrid gadget, we think Samsung's gamble could just pay off - as long as it prices it well. Read our Samsung Galaxy Note review to find out more.
Samsung Galaxy Note: Design cues
The Samsung Galaxy Note is an enlarged version of the Galaxy S Android smartphone it launched in mid-2010 to much acclaim. The lightweight handset with the AMOLED screen and the chutzpah to carry off a distinctively different look to most other Android phones went on to the year’s biggest seller. Only the iOS-based iPhone 4 outsold it. See also Samsung Galaxy Nexus review
It was a surprise, therefore, when Samsung designed the Galaxy S for version II and this year came out with a smartphone that was closer in appearance to other Android handsets. Fans of the original design will be pleased to see it make a reappearance in the Samsung Galaxy Note. Spying it at IFA, we were drawn to its bright and expansive screen and generous onscreen Qwerty keyboard. We’re sure we won’t be the only ones to fall under the Samsung Galaxy Note’s charms.
The mooted price tag of £600 will be less welcome. This seems a lot for a 5.3in-screen Android tablet with calling capabilities. Two notable tablets with 7in to 10in screens (the HTC Flyer and the Motorola Xoom) have recently had their prices taken down a peg to £329 each [http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/tablets/3301248/motorola-xoom-slashed-to-329]
Samsung Galaxy Note: Price sensitive
So far, we have only online gadget e-tailer Clove’s word to go on. Beneath its preorder information page is the message that the price has yet to be announced by the manufacturer. As an outright purchase price, £600 would be the equivalent to £25 a month over a 24-month contract. This compares with a BlackBerry Bold 9780 (albeit with 3G onboard) for £26 a month or a £36-a-month Samsung Galaxy S II with 3G. In short, we can see a market for the Samsung Galaxy Note with business users and those who want a single device to provide both business and leisure features. We’ll be intrigued to learn the final 3G pricing for this device.
Samsung Galaxy Note: Screen test
The Samsung Galaxy Note has a now familiar superAMOLED screen (it's very bright and colourful) with a resolution of 1280x800 pixels. Even on fairly mundane photos such as German municipal buildings shown as demo shots on the Samsung Galaxy Note at IFA, the brightness was notable. On superior shots of landscapes and wildlife, the colours were nearly eye-popping. We’ve seen slightly tighter resolutions, but Note owners will little to complain about in the screen. Browsing through photo galleries is one of the key points from such a screen-centric device.
We were also very taken with how light the handset seemed to be: we had to double-check it weighed as much as 178g. The nearest equivalent tablets we’ve recently tried out – the 7in-screen HTC Flyer and BlackBerry Playbook - each weigh 420g. Samsung has done well to distinguish this hybrid device by managing to make it around a third the weight of these smaller tablets while sacrificing only a modest amount of screen estate.
Samsung Galaxy Note: Hold me in your hands
It’s definitely too big, we think, to be thought of as a regular smartphone, though that didn’t seem to hold back the original Galaxy Tab tablet from selling well through mobile operators. We found the Note’s 83mm breadth too much to be able to grasp in our palm, but since it’s so light, it’s no problem to hold it by one edge and tap away with digits on the other hand. An alternative here is to instead use the S Pen stylus that Samsung includes with the Samsung Galaxy Note. An S Memo app sits dead centre of the app list right next to the Note’s hardware Home key.
Samsung is keen to point out the creative possibilities for stylus-based input: Apple is rumoured to be offering just such functionality in its next iPhone, and the 7in HTC Flyer also makes a good case for this sort of touchscreen input.
For text entry, the 5.3in screen allows for plenty large enough keys. Typing accurately using our standard hunt and peck method was easy enough, but there was a curious lack of tactile feedback. We also noted how responsive the Samsung Galaxy Note was. Characters we typed in appeared instantly, rather than having to catch up with speed input. For tapping out longer email messages, this will be an important distinctive between this handset and some of the others we’ve tried and been frustrated by. The 1.2GHz processor clearly doesn’t harm the handset’s performance.
Samsung Galaxy Note: Keep in touch
Samsung’s Social Hub integrated messaging and updates can also be accessed directly from the main screen. Here, you can opt to view all your feeds or just your Twitter or Facebook updates, for example. Photo ID for these is supported, giving you an at-a-glance overview of whose messages you’re browsing.
Photos and video features are also well-provisioned. The 8Mp camera shows little lag and has its own LED flash. There was little call for this in the bright environment of Samsung’s cavernous hall at IFA, however. Full 1080p video can also be captured and we were pleased to find support for a good range of video, music and photo formats. Among the less common to be included are DivX and xVid, H.263 (as well as H.264), Flac and OGG Vorbis .
Media files can be stored on the 16GB internal flash memory (a 32GB model will also launch). Samsung includes support for 802.11g and n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 and microUSB connectivity, but there is no big screen-friendly HDMI port. Find the latest Samsung Galaxy Note deals.