Pushing the boundaries of smartphones with its massive 5.3-inch display, the Samsung Galaxy Note (AT&T) promotes itself as a cross between a smartphone and a tablet -- a "phablet." While it comes with a speedy processor, fast 4G data speeds, an impressive camera and a superb display, experts say the Note's enormous size may turn users away.
Measuring 5.8 inches tall by 3.3 inches wide and 0.4 inches deep, the Note looks like someone "accidentally spilled Miracle-Gro on a Galaxy S II Skyrocket," says Jessica Dolcourt of CNET. The Note's size proves too large for one-handed use, and pocketing the smartphone is "an exercise in either frustration or denial," says Vlad Savov of TheVerge.com. All that space makes room for a gorgeous HD Super AMOLED display "ideal for showcasing multimedia," says Dolcourt. "It's frankly a struggle to express how delightful an experience it is to watch a movie or play a game on a screen like this," says Savov.
On the software side, the Galaxy Note runs Android Gingerbread (with plans to upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich) and the TouchWiz interface on top. The 1.5 GHz dual-core processor is a "legitimate powerhouse," Savov says, and keeps the phone zipping along. 4G data speeds also prove quite speedy, with Dolcourt reporting an average of 12 to 25 Mbps downloading and 5 to 12 Mbps uploading.
The Note is stuffed with a variety of apps, including apps specially designed for its S pen stylus. The stylus allows users to write or draw on the Note's screen, though experts say the handwriting-to-text feature needs some work. The Note's 8-megapixel rear camera "oozes quality from every shot," according to Savov, and 1080p HD video recording is crisp and clear. Battery and call quality also rank well. All this combines to make an excellent smartphone, but experts wonder if there's a market for it. "The Note is too large and complex to satisfy smartphone newcomers, and those with more refined tastes will likely lean towards the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy Nexus (*Est. $300 with contract). That leaves a small portion of viable users for the Note," says Devindra Hardawar of VentureBeat.com.
TheVerge.com focuses on the details and tech specs of the Samsung Galaxy Note, comparing its performance against the iPhone 4S, the Galaxy Nexus and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 tablet. PhoneArena.com offers a more detailed review, carefully going over every hardware and software aspect. CNET and PCMag.com offer battery, data speed and call quality testing (with PCMag comparing the Galaxy Note to several other smartphones and tablets) while VentureBeat.com provides an overview of the Note's major features and performance.
Praising its dual-core processor speeds, 8-megapixel camera and "gorgeous" display, Vlad Savov notes that the only thing holding the Note back from becoming a "truly memorable mobile device" is its "one-size-fits-none" form factor and some software bugs.
Review: Samsung Galaxy Note Review, Vlad Savov, Feb. 16, 2012
Rating the Galaxy Note at 8 out of 10, "John V." praises its large display, "streamlined" construction and "exceptional" battery life, but notes that it may be too large for some and has some "sluggish" performance.
Review: Samsung Galaxy Note LTE Review, "John V.", Feb. 15, 2012
Scoring the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 out of 5 stars -- a rating of Excellent -- Jessica Dolcourt concludes that those looking for a large screen will find a "top-notch device that lets multimedia shine" while for others the phone will simply be "too big."
Review: Samsung Galaxy Note (Unlocked), Jessica Dolcourt, Feb. 13, 2012
Calling the Galaxy note an "unfortunate tweener" that doesn't satisfy either phone or tablet buyers, Sascha Segan rates the Note at only 3 out of 5 stars for its large size and software that doesn't take advantage of the bigger screen.
Review: Samsung Galaxy Note (AT&T), Sascha Segan, Feb. 15, 2012
Though Devindra Hardawar says it is "nice to see a new Android phone that looks completely unlike any other," he states it's unclear who the phone is marketed for and "that may be its biggest problem."
Review: Samsung's Galaxy Note Is Big, Bold, and Hopelessly Dorky (Review), Devindra Hardawar, Feb. 23, 2012