The Samsung Galaxy Note’s connectivity is good. Unlike the otherwise superb Samsung Galaxy Nexus, its memory is expandable using a microSD card slot, though you’ll need to remove the case’s back and battery to access it.
There’s also a headphone jack at the top and the practically universal microUSB port at the bottom. We actually prefer the latter to be placed at the top too, like on the original Samsung Galaxy S (it makes it easier to use the phone while charging), but that’s a personal thing.
Before you complain about the lack of HDMI output on a media powerhouse like the Note, that micro port is actually a bit more than just USB, as it also supports MHL. Mobile High-definition Link basically replicates HDMI’s functionality and can transfer an uncompressed 1080p signal along with 8-channel (i.e. 7.1) audio, while also supporting charging. All you need to hook the Note (or indeed the Nexus and Galaxy S2) up to your TV is an MHL adapter cable, which should set you back no more than £15, and many of this year’s TVs support it natively.
Not that you’re as likely to want to hook this phablet up to an external display as with most, since its 5.3in, HD Ready Super AMOLED screen is simply stunning. Squeezing a 1,280 x 800 resolution into an area this small gives the Note almost Retina levels of sharpness: 285ppi compared to the 326ppi of the Apple iPhone 4S. While Apple’s smartphone might have the edge in density, it’s not noticeable in real-world use, and it’s important to remember that the Note’s resolution is far superior to the iPhone’s 960 x 640. Just to put things into perspective, this Galaxy offers over a million pixels compared to the iPhone’s 614,400.
Not only does the Note let you view websites, documents and movies full-width without resizing or scrolling, but it has the same resolution (and thus 16:10 aspect ratio) as most premium 10in tablets on the market, and this combined with its fast processor means you can run some tablet-optimised apps (like the HD versions of Android phone games).
The only limitation here is that Gingerbread/Android 2.3 is a made-for-phone OS and, until the Note receives its promised update to Ice Cream Sandwich/Android 4 (slated for sometime over the next two months), some ‘tablet’ apps won’t install. Another minor niggle is that, with some apps and games, the details simply become too small to make out clearly – though this is a failing of the software rather than the display.
Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S2, which uses Super AMOLED Plus, the Note’s screen is of the Super AMOLED type. Fortunately, it avoids the visible pentile RGB sub-pixel problem of the Samsung Galaxy S’ screen by dint of its high pixel density.
Samsung Galaxy S2 on the left, Galaxy Note on the right.
This leaves you to enjoy AMOLED’s impressive benefits without distractions. Viewing angles are simply superb, with only the off-axis blue/green tinge characteristic of AMOLED panels preventing top marks. Colours, meanwhile, are stunningly vibrant (to the point of being oversaturated) and combine with incredibly deep blacks to make for a dynamic and contrast-rich experience. If you can live with its few colour inaccuracies, this is pretty much the best phone screen to date for movies, pictures and games due to its size, resolution and vibrancy.
Unfortunately the Note’s audio doesn’t match up, being merely average by large smartphone standards. The sound from its rear speaker doesn’t suffer any serious flaws, but is beaten by many competitors (including the iPhone 4S) in volume and bass. Then again, we always recommend using headphones with a mobile device anyway.
For calls, meanwhile, we’ve certainly heard better but the Note had no noticeable problems and retained good clarity. The noise cancelling microphone also prevents too much outside interference.