27 October 2012, SINGAPORE – I was one of the lucky ones to get my hands on the Samsung’s latest smart phone: the GALAXY Note 2 LTE on the launch day. Here’s my take on this device, the good and the bad from a typical user’s point of view after using it for over a week.
A simple physical home button is found on the front of the phone, similar to the iPhone. The difference, is that beside the physical home button, there are two hidden touch sensor buttons, one on the left of the home button and the other on the right of the home button. The one on the left brings out the application menu tab and the one on the right is the universal “back” button. For the GALAXY Note 2, this “back” button will also bring out the ‘short-cut’ applications tab, in which the user can use to switch applications easily, or bring out the compatible applications for the multi window multi-tasking.
The headphone jack is located at the top of the phone. At the left panel of the phone, is the volume control button, and at the right panel is the on/off switch. Located at the bottom is the data transfer/charging socket. The back of the phone conists of the speaker and main camera, which offers a 8 Megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash. I must state here that the flash size is bigger than that on the iPhone. The front camera is 1.9 Megapixel.
The GALAXY Note 2 LTE offers a very generous screen size of 5.5 inch with a HD SUPER AMOLED screen. The screen size is what attracted many users (me including) to the GALAXY Note 2. How does this screen compare to Apple’s Retina display? Honestly, in terms of pixel resolution, I think the Retina display is slightly better, text are significantly clearer in the Apple’s Retina display. That being said, the HD Super AMOLED seems to offer richer colors compared to the Retina. This means that photos and videos does look better on the GALAXY Note 2. Without question, this display is so much better than the GALAXY Note 10.1 which has WXGA LCD screen (read GALAXY Note 10.1 review here). Indeed the big 16:9 screen ratio offers a better movie viewing experience. The bigger screen also mean that gaming experience is going to be better due to a bigger viewing real estate.
The GALAXY Note 2 LTE boasts a 1.6 GHz quad-core processor with 2 GB RAM. Apps opened almost instantaneously and switching between applications is a breeze. I must say that I am indeed impressed. Well, it must have a powerful processor if it is going to offer multi window feature.
The S-Pen stylus is responsive and a joy to use. It is just like writing with a pen on paper. If your stylus experience is not anything like what I described, you might have a faulty stylus and you should visit a Samsung service center to get it replaced. Unfortunately though, the S-Note application is not yet optimized. For example, while you are typing on the S-Note, you can’t scroll up to see what you have written earlier. I do hope that Samsung will continue to make this app better.
Multi window is a very nice feature to have. I can use it to watch a movie while browsing on the internet. Unfortunately though, the multi-window feature is limited to a handful of applications. At the moment, only 15 apps is supported in the multi window feature. Thankfully some popular apps such as facebook, twitter, chrome, youtube and gmail are supported. I expect more apps to be supported in time to come. The video player pop up mode however, will work with any apps. This mean that you can always watch a video when you are using other application. This is one nice feature that I really like.
Another feature that Samsung introduced is the photo note. This mean that you can scribble notes on the back of your photos. I thought this was a nice and fun feature to have. However, in every pic that you have scribbled notes on, it will leave an “folded paper” icon on the right hand corner to indicate that the picture has a note at the back. This mean that you can’t view the picture without the annoying fold. The only way to view the photo in its original state is to remove the photo note. Nedless to say, I have stopped using this feature to write meaningful notes on my photos.
Also, photo editing software does not come pre-l0aded with the phone, unlike the iPhone where you can do basic photo editing in the Photos app. You have to either download it from the Google Play store or from the Samsung Apps store. The one from the Samsung apps store is free of charge.
The battery lasts about 7 hours for moderately heavy use with lots of internet browsing with live wallpaper running. I thought that it was rather decent, but I will not leave the home with my external battery juice pack. Charging on the laptop (I am using the macbook air), for some reason, is really slow. Thankfully, it is not that bad using the charger provided with the phone.
One thing that I don’t like about this phone is that the charger cable came off from the socket so easily. This means that when you are charging on-the-go and using the phone at the same time, chances are at some point the phone is not charging because the cable has came off from the socket. Also, I feel that the on/off button can be better located (and harder) to prevent accidental press. A number of times when I am trying to take a landscape mode photos, my screen went blank because my thumb was resting on the on/off switch. One negative aspect about the big screen size that this phone offer is that it makes one-hand operation really challenging. Furthermore, I noticed that the touch-click accuracy during browsing can be off. This mean that when I meant to click a link for a topic discussion in a forum board, the topic below the topic I clicked was selected instead. This happens several times (I was using google Chrome) and I had to use the stylus to get to the page I wanted. This never happens to me on the iPhone.
The only nightmare I had while using this phone is the Gallery application will collect your facebook photos and picassa albums from Google+ if you have them installed in your phone and you did not uncheck the sync photos capability. This means that it will eat up a lot of your mobile data bandwidth! My experience is that it cripples my instagram application because it loads my facebook photos whenever I want to share a photo from my album. To be fair, tt runs perfectly fine once I uncheck the sync capability in my facebook and google+.
Should you buy?
My recommendation is a resounding yes. And if you like to take notes with a stylus. The screen is huge and renders beautiful colors. The processor is blazing fast, you can open and switch apps effortlessly. The only things you will miss is the more seamless sync of iTunes, and some beautiful apps developed by Apple.
Samsung GALAXY Note 2 LTE is only available in 16 GB internal storage space, but it can be expanded to 64 GB using external micro SD card.
How much and where can you get it?
Samsung GALAXY Note 2 LTE is now available in all major electrical stores, Samsung Experience stores and major telcos. The retail price without contract is S$998.
Brief technical specs:
• 5.5 inch 16M colours (1280 x 720) HD SUPER AMOLED display 1280 x 720, 16:9 cinema-like widescreen
• 1.6GHz Quad Core Processor with Android™ 4.1.1 (Jellybean) platform
• LTE capability delivers high connectivity (up to 100Mbps)