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.