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Samsung Galaxy Note – Camera, Battery, Value and Verdict

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers



Our Score:


User Score:

The Note sports an LED flash-assisted 8-megapixel camera that can capture 1080p video. Stills are reasonably good, with nice tonal balance. As with nearly all phone cameras, low-light performance isn’t great but the LED flash gives usable results, and the Note is fast to focus.

Though there are no physical camera controls on the Note, Samsung’s app features an intuitive layout and makes snaps a doddle to take. Touch focus is supported, and that glorious huge HD screen allows you to adjust shots with pinpoint accuracy. Only the flush lens positioning makes it a little too easy to accidentally hold a finger in front of the camera.

Video is impressive, with smooth, detailed 1080p at 30fps. Full autofocus and digital zoom support is on hand (though digital zoom is choppy), and videos play back smoothly thanks to the Note’s powerful processor. If HD video is a priority for you, the Galaxy Note is one of the better Android smartphones out there.

The Note’s whopping 2,500mAh battery gives it plenty of juice for its hungry screen. We found that in an intensive mixed usage scenario it lasted easily a day and a half, where our Galaxy S managed less than a day in a similar case. Only if you set the Super AMOLED screen to full brightness and intensively use 3G and/or Wi-Fi will you be at any risk of depleting the battery within a day, but that kind of usage is extremely unlikely. For most users, the Note should last at least two days.

So what is this powerhouse of a phone/tablet hybrid going to set you back? Well, on contract it’s free for around £30 a month, which makes it excellent value. SIM-free its price is even more of a bargain. You’re looking at £480, which is around the same price as an unlocked Samsung Galaxy Nexus – to which the Note compares very favourably, with a few more pixels crammed into its screen and a little more power under the hood, not to mention better battery life, expandable memory, superior video quality, and the S Pen stylus.

Its price also compares very well with the Apple iPhone 4S, which still demands £499. Of course, the two phones couldn’t be more different and the 4S is in many ways easier to use, but on specs, versatility and value for money the Galaxy Note wins solidly across the board.


The Note doesn’t quite live up to Samsung’s marketing slogan: “Jack of all trades, master of all”. It’s on the large side for a phone, doesn’t fit into small pockets and usually requires two hands for messaging. However, if you can live with these compromises the Note is a sleek, attractive powerhouse with one of the nicest screens we’ve ever seen, superb battery life and great video recording plus playback. Once it receives its ICS update, it should match the best. Meanwhile, for artists looking to sketch on the go, it joins the ThinkPad Tablet as one of the few Android choices we would recommend thanks to its Wacom S Pen stylus.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Camera 9
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9
  • Usability 8
  • Value 10
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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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