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Samsung Galaxy Note - Connectivity, Screen and Audio

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

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.

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jgsm

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.

TechVegan

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 :)

piesforyou

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.

Joey

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.

Neil873

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.

TechVegan

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 :)

@piesforyou:
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.

@Joey:
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.

Goodmane

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.

Spir

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?

TechVegan

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.

TechVegan

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 :)

Aggress

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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