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Review: Samsung Galaxy Note II

The original Galaxy Note was a bit of a gamble for Samsung when it first came out. While there was some demand for large screened devices back then, the Galaxy Note was one of the first devices that broke the 5-inch screen barrier. The only other device that went big prior to the Galaxy Note was the Dell’s Streak, which really didn’t turn out that well (unmitigated disaster would be the best words to use here). That’s possibly the reason why many were surprised at the Galaxy Note’s initial success – Samsung couldn’t make enough of the things – and laid the ground work for a tablet version of the device, and the inevitable successor in the form of the Galaxy Note II.

Samsung didn’t mess with the formula of the original too much with the creation of the Galaxy Note II. It still has a bigger than average screen, powerful stylus and hardware built into it. Its design borrows heavily on another member of the Galaxy family, the S III – so much so that if you look at it from pictures without something beside it for scale, you’ll mistake it for the smaller Galaxy S III. It has the same design of the Galaxy S III – a white front and back which is complimented by plastic chrome accents. On the front of the Galaxy Note II sits the large 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display, with the front facing camera and ambient light sensors immediately above it. On the bottom of the display sits the home screen and two capacitive keys for navigation, with the charging port located just below them. The volume rocker is on the right of the device while the power/lock button sits on the right. On the back you’ll find the 8-megapixel camera and LED flash. Wander lower down and you’ll see the housing for the ubiquitous S Pen on the lower left of the device.

Fans of the original are probably curious about the changes in size compared to the older Note. The Note II is slightly thinner and narrower than its older sibling, and is a bit taller; owing to a larger 5.5-inch display (the original Note had a 5.3-inch display). Its overall dimensions are 151.1×80.5×9.4mm which means that the Galaxy Note II isn’t the most pocketable of devices.

One thing we’ve come to expect from Samsung and its hi-end devices is build quality. Though a lot of people don’t like the plastic materials used in the construction of the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note, you can’t fault the Korean electronics giant when it comes to sheer build quality. Simply put, the Galaxy Note II feels solid and sturdy – and there’s absolutely no flex on it anywhere.

Because of the size of the device, certain design tweaks were needed to make it easy to use for everyone. The power button and volume rocker on both sides of the device is located about 3/4ths of the way down, which means even people with small-ish hands won’t have trouble operating it. While one handed operation is obviously a bit troublesome because of the size, Samsung has thoughtfully included a one-handed operation mode with the Note II.

The Samsung Galaxy S III’s display was panned by some because of the use of a pentile type display. Seems that Samsung has learned from that mistake – the Note II now uses a non-striped BGR matrix layout in the display, resulting in better image quality. The 5.5-inch Super AMOLED screen combined with the 720 x 1280 resolution give the Note II a pixel density of 267 ppi, which isn’t too shabby, considering the size of the display.

Hardware-wise, the Galaxy Note II sports Samsung’s brand spanking new Exynos 4412 quad-core 1.6GHz processor paired with 2GB of RAM. The Note II comes in three variants when it comes to built-in storage capacity 16, 32 and 64GB, which can be then further expanded using a microSD card. Our particular review unit came with 16GB of storage. There’s also an 8-megapixel camera located on the back, as well as a smaller, 1.9-megapixel camera on the front. The Galaxy Note II is powered by Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and as is customary for hi-end Samsung products, has their TouchWiz UI interface layered on top.