An unlikely merger of smartphone and tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note II phablet builds on the unexpected popularity of its 5.3-inch predecessor with a larger 5.5-inch screen, highly improved pressure-sensitive S Pen and two-day average battery life. The first quad-core smartphone to hit U.S. markets, the Note II is "dazzlingly responsive," says Vlad Savov of TheVerge.com. Although packed with the latest hardware and software, its large HD display can appear slightly washed out compared to those of other flagship smartphones. Shoppers who want a smartphone with a crisp display they can manage single-handedly should consider the Samsung Galaxy S III (*Est. $200 and up with contract) while phablet fans looking for the highest-quality display should look into the HTC Droid DNA (*Est. $200 with contract).
Feature-packed interface attractive yet overwhelming. With a hint of a curve to its profile for better ergonomics, holding the Note II in one hand is no problem, though using it one handed is a different story, according to experts. Anticipating this problem, Samsung has included a one-handed keyboard option (for both righties and lefties), though two-handed typing is still easiest.
Running the TouchWiz user interface over an Android 4.1 operating system, the Note II offers a feature-packed, responsive experience, but Samsung "continues to emphasize quantity over quality," says Savov. The interface can "overwhelm" users with too many settings and options while many preloaded apps lack "real value."
Nothing slows a quad-core processor. A 1.6 GHz quad-core Exynos processor and 2 GB of RAM keep the Galaxy Note II running at lightning speed, even with an enormous screen to power. Gaming, web browsing and video streaming are no match for the Note II's processor. The Note II comes with 16 GB to 64 GB (dependent on carrier) of internal storage with a microSD card slot for up to 64 GB of expansion.
All that power isn't wasted on short battery life. The 3,100 mAh battery can withstand up to two days of average usage or a day's worth of heavy use. Call quality is also above average, with crisp tones and little background noise.
More to hold, but still durable. Despite looking "cheap," Savov says, the Note II proves durable. A polycarbonate chassis shields the device from bumps and tumbles, while the curved shape of the body makes its large size easier to grasp.
A slim, stylish handful. "If you've seen the Samsung Galaxy S3, then the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 holds few surprises," says Jessica Dolcourt of CNET. Its rounded corners and glossy screen make the Note 2 (also known as the Note II) look like a stretched Galaxy S3 with a stylus slot. The Note II features a 5.5-inch display on a curved body measuring 5.95 inches by 3.17 inches by 0.37 inches. Though the Note II is comfortable in the hand, single-handed use is tricky, and holding the massive slab of a smartphone to your face can look slightly awkward. The Super AMOLED touch screen is excellent for games, movies and ebooks but just barely fits in a pocket.
At 1,280 pixels by 720 pixels, the Note II's display is short a few lines compared to the 1,280-by-800-pixel display of the original Note. The new display moves away from PenTile matrix technology, often disliked for its greenish tint, yet still doesn't provide the same crisp, high-quality images of smartphones such as the Droid DNA.
High-end camera captures high-quality memories. Like the Galaxy S III, the Note II offers the same high-quality images from its 8-megapixel camera. Outdoor pictures look crisp and colorful, while indoor shots appear slightly muted but still acceptable. Movies record at 1080p. Both video recording and camera shutter speeds are lightning fast with the quad-core processor. Video playback is excellent on the massive display, and the screen is large enough to double as a handheld game console.
Samsung's latest S Pen is more functional and comfortable than the original. This iteration utilizes Wacom Electro-Magnetic Resonance (EMR) technology for 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. Drawing, handwriting-to-text and menu navigation through tapping and hovering are all possible with the new S Pen; experts agree it is an excellent feature. "If you never unholster the phone's signature stylus, you can still enjoy full use of the Note 2," says Dolcourt. "However, if you do wield the S Pen, drawing and productivity tools await."
Review Credibility: Excellent Scoring the Galaxy Note II at 8.5 out of 10, Vlad Savov finds it is an "unambiguous upgrade" to the original Note and can challenge the Galaxy S III for "best Android device."
Review: Samsung Galaxy Note II Review, Vlad Savov, Oct. 8, 2012
2. Los Angeles Times
Review Credibility: Very Good For those who don't mind holding a "jumbo phone," the Galaxy Note II combines a large display with upgraded software for a smartphone that "won't let you down," concludes Salvador Rodriguez in this video review.
Review: Review: Samsung Galaxy Note II Is a Solid Jumbo Smartphone, Salvador Rodriguez, Dec. 8, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good Calling the Note II an accomplishment that will be "hard to match," Brad Molen concludes that the latest Galaxy Note is "decisively" better than its predecessor and offers high-quality features and hardware.
Review: Samsung Galaxy Note II Review, Brad Molen, Oct. 8, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good Rating the Galaxy Note II at 4.5 out of 5, Jamie Lendino concludes that its fast processor, "gorgeous" display and abundance of features make it an excellent smartphone -- though the HTC Droid DNA scores slightly higher.
Review: Samsung Galaxy Note II (Verizon Wireless), Jamie Lendino, Dec. 6, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good Jessica Dolcourt rates the Note II at 4 out of 5 stars for its large display, fast processor and improved stylus, along with excellent battery life.
Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Review: The Ultimate Anti-iPhone, Jessica Dolcourt, Oct. 22, 2012