Samsung Galaxy Note 2: What's new?

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 has been one of the biggest announcements of IFA 2012 and is set to take the world by storm. Many mocked the original Note when it arrived last year - is it a phone, is it a tablet - and somehow the nickname "phablet" seemed a bit of a joke. Samsung, it seemed, had the last laugh as the device gained huge cult popularity. So, just what has the company added to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 to make it better? Here is exactly where those improvements lie.

Network: HSPA+ and 4G (same)
The original Samsung Galaxy Note was already both HSPA+ and 4G LTE enabled. It just rather depended upon where you lived and what your local network could support as to what speeds you’d get out of your device. The same is again true for the Samsung Galaxy Note II. No word as to whether its 4G signal will be compatible with Everything Everywhere’s LTE network or those of the rest of the UK’s mobile service providers for next year.

Processor: 1.6GHz quad-core (improved)
The type and tale of CPU is something that Samsung hasn’t told us but, compared to the 1.4GHz clock speed and dual-core set up of the original Galaxy Note, this is doubtless an improvement.

Memory: 2GB RAM (improved)
A doubling of the RAM on the Galaxy Note 2 up to 2GB is a welcome bettering of the original’s solitary 1GB. The Galaxy Note has never been that sluggish but you can never have enough memory to work with.

Display size: 5.5 inches (improved)
It’s quite possible that the 5.3-inch display of the first Samsung Galaxy Note was already enough for you but, according to our man on the ground with his Samsung Galaxy Note 2 preview, the additional 0.2 inches on the diagonal is a good fit. It also brings the aspect ratio to a widescreen movie-friendly 16:9.

Display quality: HD Super AMOLED Plus 1280x720 (improved)
If we were going by the pixels count alone, technically speaking, the screen on the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is worse. The major difference, however, lies in that word Plus. While the original Note had Samsung's PenTile type display the Note 2 is an HD Super AMOLED Plus screen which should make for crisper detail and better colour saturation. The screen quality was certainly excellent even under the glare of the show floor lights at IFA 2012.

Android version: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (improved)
As one would imagine, the Galaxy Note 2 benefits from the current release of Android out of the box, namely Jelly Bean. At present the original Note is upgradeable from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich if you have a non-Snapdragon varient.

Rear camera: 8MP with LED flash (improved)
The hardware of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 camera is the same on spec but there is still an improvement to the phablet’s photography credentials, thanks to the software and the addition of back-illuminated sensor. Drafted in from the Galaxy S III come Best Photo, Best Group Pose, Low Light Shot and Best Faces modes to sit alongside the already present likes of Action Shot, Beauty, Panorama Shot and Smile Shot.

Front camera: 1.9MP (same)
We can quibble over the 0.1MP that’s missing between the 2MP front-facing camera on the original Samsung Galaxy Note but, ultimately, it’s the same thing here. Again, the sensor is now of the rear-illuminated variety and the addition of the Smart Stay software does mean that your Note 2 will recognise you face and identify that you’re looking at it rather than switch itself into standby.

Video capture: 1080p/30fps (same)
As is standard for just about any non-specialist video recording device, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 will record 1080p at 30fps.

Video playback: Full HD and MKV (same)
Playback of 1080p MKV files is present and correct on both devices. Nothing really to improve upon here.

Music playback (same)
Again, the Galaxy Note was already equipped for all of your audio needs as far as file types and sound technologies go, and there’s been no additions on this front to the Note 2.

Stylus (improved)
With the S Pen the star of the show, it’s of small wonder that this is where many of the improvements to the Samsung Galaxy Note lie. The stylus of the Note 2 has been made thicker, longer and more ergonomic with a rubber tip and a better grip. It now has 1,024 different levels of pressure sensitivity and plays host the Air View feature which allows the user to get a preview of emails and other enabled content by just hovering the S Pen over the desired icon. Defintelt some fun to be had here.

Connectivity: BT 4.0 & NFC (improved)
For what it’s worth, the Bluetooth standard on the Galaxy Note 2 has been upgraded to Bluetooth 4.0 from 3.0 but the real addition to watch out for is that of NFC. Owners of the new device can look forward to contactless payment and other local wireless data transfer.

Storage: 64GB + microSD (improved)
Before it was a case of a 16GB variant with a microSD slot of up to another 32GB on top. Well, it’s a whopper now with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. There will be three on-board storage versions with a choice of 16, 32 and 64GB each of which can be bolstered by a massive 64GB microSD card. Now that, is a lot of space.

Size: 80.5 x 151.1 x 9.4mm (thinner)
The original Galaxy Note was a bit wider, a bit shorter and a bit thicker, making the Galaxy Note 2 a shade narrower, taller and thinner. It’s rather up to you whether you find that better or not.

Weight: 180g (heavier)
By just 2g.

Battery: 3,100mAh (bigger)
The original Samsung Galaxy Note has a slightly smaller 2,500mAh battery and, despite the higher clock speed, and increase in RAM and CPU cores, one would hope to get more life out of the Note 2.

Looks: like the S III
Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but the Galaxy Note 2 is certainly more up to date in the design department. It’s borrowed its stlye from the Galaxy S III much as the original borrowed its from the Galaxy S II. The Note 2 comes in a choice of White or Titanium Grey.

S Beam (added)
Like Android Beam but better, Samsung’s S Beam combines Wi-Fi Direct and NFC into one glorious sharing capability. Bumping phones together will let you transfer data between handsets by tapping one button.

Pop Up Note (added)
A double click of your S Pen on any screen activates the S Note application, allowing you to take down handwritten details on to a memo note whenever you need.

Quick Command (added)
Quick Command adds pen gesture orders as shortcuts to actions on your Note 2. There are direct symbols for messaging, emails, phone calls and more.

All Share Play (added)
Screen mirroring taken a step further. You can let your Samsung Galaxy Note 2 appear on a bigger screen and then use it as an external controller to do things like play games.

All Share Cast (added)
This application allows you to connect remotely to a computer when you are away from home. Once logged in, it's possible to look at files and photos as well as to stream videos if you want to.