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Samsung Galaxy Note review

Ardjuna Seghers




  • Recommended by TR

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Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
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  • Samsung Galaxy Note
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  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
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Our Score:


User Score:


  • Gorgeous HD screen
  • Slim and light
  • Powerful yet long-lasting
  • S Pen useful and versatile
  • Great for playing and recording video
  • Excellent value


  • Too large for some
  • Calibration issues with S Pen
  • Difficult to use one-handed
  • Gingerbread (but ICS update soon)

Key Features

  • 5.3in 1280 x 800 sAMOLED screen
  • 1.4GHz dual-core CPU, 1GB RAM
  • 16-32GB storage, microSD expandable
  • Wacom S Pen stylus with 100 pressure levels
  • Under 10mm thick, weighs less than 180g
  • Manufacturer: Samsung
  • Review Price: £480.00

Is it a tablet? Is it a phone? No, it’s the Samsung Galaxy Note! With its 5.3in screen, the Note can be seen as either a very small tablet or a very large phone, depending on your perspective. However, given its SIM and 3G capabilities, we’re going to have to go with the latter on this one. And the Galaxy Note - or GT-N7000 in model number parlance - isn’t just any ‘phone’ (phablet, tabfone, whatever).

For starters, that screen is of the Super AMOLED variety, meaning it offers superb viewing angles and contrast. What’s really exciting is that it combines this with a 1,280 x 800 resolution – yes, higher than HD Ready televisions, and more than a match for the cream of the current phone crop, including Google’s flagship Android phone (Samsung’s own Galaxy Nexus with a 1,280 x 720 display).

Samsung Galaxy Note video review

Not impressed yet? How about a dual-core 1.4GHz processor backed by 1GB of RAM and a Mali 400MP GPU, 16GB or 32GB of expandable storage, optional NFC support, and a whopping 2,500mAh battery that lasts longer than most, all packed into a sleek body that puts phones with smaller screens to shame?

And if some of the best internals, screen and battery life of any smartphone aren’t enough to whet your appetite, there’s the Note’s trump-card: a Wacom-based active digitizer stylus that’s thin and light, works without batteries and, most importantly, is pressure sensitive. Samsung calls it the S Pen, and it should be great for taking notes and sketching.

Impressive as this all is, however, it’s not going to matter if the device isn’t good to use.

As we’ve come to expect from Samsung, the Note is slim, light and attractive. It’s under 9.7mm thick, which truly is remarkable for a device with such a large display and battery. Likewise the Note’s weight is remarkably low, coming in at just 178g. To put that into perspective, the 5.5in Dell Streak was 220g, while the small 3.5in iPhone 4S weighs 140g.

Samsung has also kept the bezels on its biggest Galaxy phone just as thin as the rest of the family, and the device’s resultant width of just under 83mm makes it very comfortable to hold. Or at least it does for someone with large hands; if you have small mitts it may be a little awkward, and either way you’re likely to need both hands when navigating or typing. This and its requirement for large pockets are really the only inconveniences of the Note’s mini-tablet size.

Build quality is excellent. The entire front is a sheet of flat Gorilla Glass, which should withstand a fair number of bumps and scrapes. There’s a chrome strip around the edge, while the back is lightly textured plastic. Samsung seems to be competing for the flimsiest back cover ever, as the Note’s rear peels off to an almost paper-thin sheet held on by tiny clips. However, both cover and clips held up well during multiple removals, and once attached there’s no flex and it all feels very solid. Our only real criticism is that the chrome sides are a little slippery.

In summary, the Note is light, well-built and, thanks to being essentially an oversized Galaxy S2, very smart-looking.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut


February 9, 2012, 2:21 pm

I think you have the business with the screen mixed-up. I'm sure the S2 has the plus screen, whilst the others mentioned haven't.

Also, while the phone is far to big for me to consider, it seems odd to essentially mark it down for being a big phone - That's exactly what Samsung have intended it to be. Your criticism would stand, say, if they were trying to cram a lot of tech into a device, but but they couldn't do so without making it huge. This was designed from the ground-up as a big phone.


February 9, 2012, 4:59 pm

Good spot thanks, that link was meant to point to the Galaxy S rather than the S2. The S2 does indeed use Plus.

I'm not only marking the Note down for size but also for a few other factors, not least of which are the stylus inaccuracies.
However, the reason it does get negative marks for its size is because it compromises some of the product's usability as a phone. I don't criticize it for being large per se :)


February 9, 2012, 5:03 pm

I think it's an inherent limitation of review scoring and criticism. You could just aswell say "The phone tried to be big and succeeded!"

The A380 is a fantastic plane but its too big to go to all airports - but thats exactly how Airbus wanted it.

By the way, I don't mean to be mean, but why does TR have the most awkward sign-in process of any website in the galaxy? Can we not just have a simple sign in box at the bottom of the page? What's the deal with the enormous pop-up containing the entire page again?

Also the orange sign-in button takes me to a "page not found" error.


February 9, 2012, 6:16 pm

jgsm is correct about the screens, you completely messed it up. S2 uses the Super AMOLED Plus, while the Nexus uses Super AMOLED but with a pentile matrix

Michael G

February 9, 2012, 6:23 pm

"especially annoying when attempting fine detail work"

You have got to me kidding me. For gods sake, it's for at most doodling and taking notes, not for creating the next Picasso.

Consider how much a decent tablet costs, around the £400 mark, that you have such functionality built in with this phone in the first place is brilliant.

Stop asking too much. We could only dream of phones like this several years back and you STILL nitpick over ridiculous details that nobody cares about.

Sheesh, comments like this really put me off TR to be honest, not to mention how shocking the "new" website is.


February 9, 2012, 7:03 pm

I tried one of these out in a high street store and was quite excited to see how it could be used as a business tool.

Don't get me wrong, I thought it was great in just about all regards and a good size for using as a business tool, especially if you could take notes during a meeting, check spreadsheets, etc.

However, for me, it was the taking notes with the stylus that I didn't like. I want it so it writes like a pen, but there was a 'delay' with the writing always catching up to where your at. The 'delay' is not huge, but I found it difficult to keep continuity.

All I would say, is if you are considering one of these, I would recommend having a play with it before jumping in.


February 9, 2012, 7:17 pm

I'm just going to answer all the comments so far in a seperate comment as people don't seem to read replies :)

The question we should be asking is, were phones meant to be this big? Personally I like the form factor, but a few colleagues think the Note is simply too large for comfort.

Regarding the sign-in process, not at all, we appreciate the feedback and will try to improve the experience.

As I already said in my reply to @jgsm, the link should have been to the Galaxy S rather than S2, sorry about the confusion. The error has been fixed but hasn't gone through our slow cache yet. In fact we even mention the S2 is sAMOLED Plus on the page the previous link in that same sentence refers to!

@Michael G:
No, sorry but I have to disagree with you there. Many digital artists (which I'm guessing you're not?) were very excited to finally be getting a Wacom stylus on an Android 'tablet', thinking the solution would be superior to N Trig's. When it not only features fewer pressure levels but also suffers from niggles which should have been easy to rectify, it's thoroughly disappointing!

Just because you're not in the category of people that "cares" doesn't mean this is not a valid criticism, AND if you had read the entire review you would have noticed that I say: "For writing and doodling [the two bits you mention], the S Pen works a treat".

Sorry you don't like the new site design btw. It does take some getting used to but we are constantly trying to make it better with your feedback.


February 10, 2012, 2:58 am

I'd just like to comment re. super amoled screens. I have a Galaxy S1 and am fussy re colour, I use colorimeters with my PC screens.

I'm not saying there isn't a blue/green color shift with sAMOLED. Just that I haven't ever noticed it. Even when I've been looking for it. I just want to encourage people not to worry about the colour. Really I doubt even graphic designers would be irked by this screen unless they were actually working on it.

I say this as someone who is a real nerd when it comes to colour accuracy in photos etc.


February 10, 2012, 6:02 am

I don't get the score: four times a 9, once an 8 and even once a 10. To me the overall score should be a 9 then?


February 10, 2012, 3:29 pm

Thanks for your informative comment @Goodmane!
I'm a colour accuracy enthusiast myself and, incidentally, also own an S1. I'd just like to note that the blue/green shift is actually worse on the Note than on the S1.

It's no deal-breaker if you're aware of it though, and as you say the screen shouldn't be an issue unless you're actually doing highly colour-sensitive work on it.


February 10, 2012, 3:33 pm

Thanks for your comment @Spir.

This is because we don't have scores for all categories on which it is possible to judge a product (for example, in the Note's case we don't have a 'stylus' score), and thus our overall score is not an average of the sub-scores. They're only there to indicate how well a product performs in the given category.

Hope that helps to clarify things :)


February 10, 2012, 3:53 pm

I've played with one a few times now, it's impressive no doubt, but yes the back is incredibly flimsy, i'd like to know how long one was tested in the lab before it split or the clips snapped off, one drunken fumble and it could all be over ( applies to other situations as well ). The screen appears to be like all of the Samsung's at a weird colour temperature, when compared next to the iPhone4 it looks too cool, the contrast and colour reproduction look wrong. Stylus stuff is great, if only I could draw, thankfully my friend can and he uses his for designing on the fly.

Martin Daler

May 11, 2012, 3:47 am

Contrary to your review and video, the Galaxy Note does not use Gorilla Glass. This from Samsung's own Q&A:
"We can confirm that the Galaxy Note does not use Gorilla Glass but instead uses our own version."

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