I’ve been exploring a new gadget this weekend, a Samsung Galaxy Note that I have for review. If you looked at it, you’d think it was a rather large smartphone. Indeed, compare it to the Samsung Galaxy SII that I have – which is a rather large smartphone – and you’ll see it needs another description.
You can see the size of it when looking at these two devices side by side in the photo above – the Note on the left and the SII on the right.
When I first looked at the Note on unpacking the box, my immediate thought was – this is like the 5-inch Dell Streak in terms of size. In fact, I have a Dell Streak so a comparison is easy to see at first hand as this photo below shows: Galaxy Note on the left, Dell Streak on the right.
Pretty close in overall size dimensions. Pretty close, too, in screen size – the Note has a 5.3-inch display and the Streak has 5.0 inches. Not really much in it. Compare that to the SII at 4.3 inches – an inch less in overall dimensions – or the iPhone 4: at 3.5 inches, its screen is nearly 2 inches smaller overall than the Note’s (and almost 1 inch smaller than the SII’s).
You may be wondering why I seem to be fixated on size. Does size matter? Well, it does if you’re thinking of a smartphone and how you’d use that with emphasis on the ‘phone’ part of the word. I don’t know about you, but I really wouldn’t want to have to use a device the size of a Note or a Streak as my primary phone. Imagine something that big stuck to your ear!
Although the Galaxy Note does have a slot for a SIM card so you can make and receive phone calls and text messages, I wouldn’t call it a smartphone as what you’re far more likely to want to do with it is run apps and connect to the net. So a cellular connection as well as wifi is handy, letting you be online just about anywhere. And if push comes to shove, you can always make a phone call if you really want to.
This device is a mini tablet – a hybrid, in fact, in between a smartphone and a tablet. It’s the space Dell first entered in 2009 with the 5-inch Streak. But it’s a space they’ve now vacated entirely in the major markets of Europe and North America, leaving it to Samsung in particular to make the most of it.
The Galaxy Note I have is unlocked, not tied to any particular network or mobile operator. It works just fine on wifi without a SIM card, although I did notice something interesting – when I first turned it on and configured a wifi connection, it notified me of a new firmware update.
But it wouldn’t let me get it without a SIM card installed.
(As an aside comment on that, searching for a firmware update on the SII – which, like the Note did, has Android version 2.3.5 installed – produces no result. Yet 2.3.6 is available. Maybe the fix that 2.3.6 brings – for a voice search bug – isn’t relevant to the SII. Or, as that device is tied to a mobile operator – Three UK – perhaps it’s waiting for Three to release the update)
As I opened the box only yesterday, I haven’t yet kicked the Note’s tyres in a meaningful way. Not run any apps nor explored some interesting aspects such as the S Pen – a hi-tech stylus that may seem conceptually familiar to you if you remember devices like the Compaq IPAQ from a decade ago – and some of the neat ways you can use it.
The short time I have spent so far with the Note shows me a mobile device that’s powerful, fast, familiar, light in the hand, feature-laden and a pleasure to use. One other thing I noted in particular was the battery – 2500mAh capacity. (Wikipedia explains mAh if you’re interested.) What that means to you and me is that a device this size with a screen this big needs all the juice it can get. Depending on use, I’d expect battery life to be on a par with what I get from my Galaxy SII with a smaller capacity battery (1650mAh) for a smaller-size and smaller-screen device – about a day’s charge with my typical use.
Would the Note be good as a primary mobile device, eg, as your phone? No, I wouldn’t recommend that. But if you want a tool that lets you do much of what you can with a full-size Android tablet (or iPad, for that matter) but in a pocket-size form factor – the best of both worlds, perhaps – then the Note may appeal to you.
Here are the top-level specs:
- 1.4GHz ARM9dual-core processor
- 1Gb RAM
- 16Gb internal storage (32Gb version also available but not in the UK)
- MicroSD card external storage support for cards up to 32Gb capacity
- 802.11a/b/g/n wifi
- 5.3-inch Super AMOLEDHD display with 800×1280 resolution
- 8 megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash plus 2 megapixel front-facing camera
- Android 2.3 Gingerbread with upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwichcoming
- Screen capture capability (making screenshots)
More thoughts to come as I get to know the Samsung Galaxy Note.