Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Following countless Samsung Galaxy Note 2 rumours, the second-generation stylus-loving handset has arrived with a new screen, processor, stylus... In fact, it's pretty much a complete update of the original Samsung Galaxy Note. But is it worth the upgrade, and will it convince you to finally take the plunge into the murky waters of massive stylus-packing phones? We've been hands-on to find out.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Design
Design wise, the new Samsung Galaxy Note 2 feels just like a big Samsung Galaxy S3. It has the same overall styling, same plastic back and same colours. Well, it has the same colours as the S3 will have. It's available in white and a grey brushed finish that the Apple iPhone 5 rival will soon be sporting too. Both look pretty good, though if you weren't a fan of the S3's slightly plastic feel, the Note 2 may disappoint with its similar build.
Although the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is slimmer and lighter than its predecessor, measuring in at 9.4mm thick and 180g in weight, there's no getting away from the fact that this is still a very large phone. Larger than the original Note in fact having made the jump from an already expansive 5.3-inch display to a new, 16:9 ratio 5.5-inch offering.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Specs
Other external hardware is just like the first Note. You've got a 3.5mm headphone jack up top, volume rocker on the side, power button on the other side and a microUSB port on the bottom alongside the slot for the S-Pen. Missing are HDMI output and a camera shutter button. The cameras themselves haven't had an upgade either, so you will still find a decent 8-megapixel model with an accompanying LED flash and auto focus abilities on the rear and a 1.9-megapixel snapper on the front.
Maintaining the plateau laid out by the unchanged stills offering, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 video recording capabilities are also untouched meaning the 1080p Full HD option intertwined with the rear-mounted camera will be familiar to many.
Under the hood there's still a microSD slot for bolstering the 16GB of built in storage, though sadly, unlike many modern handsets and tablets entering the market, Samsung has opted to omit integrated NFC technologies from the second-gen Note.
Central to this phone is of course its enormous screen, which has gone up from 5.3-inches on the original Note to 5.5-inches on the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. The size difference isn't all that noticeable in isolation but it should prove even better for video in particular as you should get fewer black bars in widescreen video.
To account for the slight change in panel shape (from 16:10 to 16:9 ratio), it has dropped a few pixels in width, down from 800 x 1280 to 720 x 1280 but panel quality has improved. Instead of a pentile subpixel arrangement where each pixel has only either red and green or blue and green, here each pixel has all three colours. It's not a conventional layout, though, as the blue subpixel is double the height of the others. The change is difficult to see in isolation but should result in an even sharper look, and of course being HD super AMOLED, the display overall is incredibly colourful and bright and thanks to its size makes video and games look particularly compelling.
The new screen tech has a large blue sub-pixel on the left and smaller green and red ones on the right.
With the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 cameras and screen staying the same from the first-gen offering, save for the increase in display size, the big upgrades, then, come in the form of the revamped S Pen stylus and the now positively zippy processor.
Starting with the processor, we didn't have time to run any benchmarks but the 1.6GHz quad-core processor Samsung has squashed into the Note 2 feels extremely fast and is a marked improvement on the already powerful dual-core offering situated within the original Samsung Galaxy Note.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Stylus
As for the S Pen, it's now fatter (8mm wide) for easier grip and has a rubber tip to stop it sliding on the glass screen. The combination works very well, making it feel a lot more natural scribbling away on the display. Add in the extra pressure sensitivity of the new pen - up from 256 to 1024 - and you've got an input option that really can cut it for doodling, hand writing notes or dictating text - it's a big upgrade over the original.
Helping greatly to make the experience feel even more complete and convincing are the new software features. The one that really stood out was called Easy Clip. This enables you to simply trace round something on the screen and instantly copy it, ready to paste into an email or MMS. It works well and is super convenient for quickly annotating your work.
Likewise we liked the new S Planner app that lets you scribble all over your virtual calendar, highlighting certain dates or literally crossing off days until your deadine.
We'll be back with some more details shortly but in the mean time here are our closing thoughts.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 First-Look Summary
We're rather taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. It's still going to be a device that splits opinion due to its enormous size but assuming you like the idea of a huge phone with a stylus, it works very well. The new stylus is impressively accurate, the quad-core processor lightning quick and the even bigger screen is pretty impressive. Combined with the myriad software upgrades that really integrate the S Pen stylus into the workings of the phone, it feels like a pretty solid upgrade over the original Samsung Galaxy Note.
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