(Pocket-lint) - The Galaxy Note 2 is the successor to the, erm, Galaxy Note, which is predictable. What wasn't predictable was how we would feel about this new handset. The Note, you see, is a bit of an enigma. A massive phone, or really small 3G tablet. It sits in a space that doesn't exist, with an unknown audience.
People who haven't used a Galaxy Note - the original, or this new model - won't get it. This is a phone you have to live with to truly understand. Most people will take one look at the size - it dwarfs the already massive Galaxy S III - and rule it out as being impractical. In our view, that's a mistake, because this phone has a lot to offer besides its size. And the size isn't much of an issue, as we discovered.
When you get the Note 2 out of its box, your first reaction will be to its enormous size. Some will find it absurd, but those who want a big screen with loads of beautiful detail, a much better battery and some cool pen features will "get" it within 10 minutes of holding it for the first time.
The Note is a device that shouldn't work. A device that the Koreans dreamt up after too little sleep, and too many energy drinks. But somehow, it's the most captivating phone we've used for a long time. It manages to invalidate the tablet to some extent, because it's big enough to be a powerful media device, but small enough to carry everywhere.
It isn't a phone for everyone, but those who love gadgets will take to it, and it will change their lives.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2
- Fantastic screen
- Pen is great
- Loads and loads of power
- Great battery life
- Handwriting recognition needs some work
- It's expensive
Not too big
We've travelled around a fair bit with the Note. We've been asked a lot about the size, and honestly, it's not a problem. It will fit in your jeans pocket, assuming your jeans aren't too tight, and you won't really notice its extra weight.
Strangely, it's not really any harder to use with one hand than a phone such as the Samsung Galaxy S III. As Apple points out, there is a ratio that allows for single-handed use, and most modern Android phones ignore it. So while the Note is hard to use single-handed, it's not any more difficult than any other Android phone.
It's a bit heavier though, which might bother some, but it has a nice weight, and a great overall balance.
In terms of style, there's a power button on the right-hand side, with volume controls on the left. The top has the headphone jack, while the bottom holds the USB socket for charging and data transfer.
Under the battery cover you'll find the, erm, battery, along with the micro-SIM card slot, and the microSD card. Here you can add capacities of up to 64GB - which is quite a lot of storage for a phone.
There is a camera on the back, with an LED flash, and on the front is another, video-conference-type camera.
The pen is mightier than your sausage fingers
The pen on the note is interesting. We have mixed feelings about it, to be honest. The most exciting idea is to use it for handwriting recognition, but there are a few little bugs that prevent it being entirely practical. We've done a lot of tweeting and text messaging using the system, and while it can work brilliantly, there are times when it just gets things wrong.
We noticed that getting the software to detect spaces was difficult at times. The problem was that there was a lack of consistency. If it never got spacing right, you could work around it, but it did get it right about 50 per cent of the time, meaning you'd assume it had done its job, then look over your message and discover it hadn't.
Capital letters were also a problem. The phone doesn't seem to apply any logic to this, so sometimes words would have a random initial cap. This is obviously because of how we wrote the letters on the screen, but it's fairly easy to remove caps through autocorrect, so we're amazed the Samsung doesn't seem to.
Other than that, the recognition itself is pretty brilliant. Its accuracy is very good, as long as you don't write like an idiot and the screen/pen combination works really well. It's arguably a little too small for much writing, but it works for short notes.
Of course, the pen does other things. You can use it as a finger, if you wish, meaning you don't need to get grease all over your phone screen. It can be used to draw too, as you'd expect, and there are some note-taking apps that allow you to record your writing as either
We'll be candid about the camera
The 8-megapixel shooter is a bit weak in reduced light. So indoor snaps are little more than average. Outdoors, in strong light, and things get a lot better. There is enough detail in the images for most use. They won't disgrace themselves when printed out on sensibly sized paper and they'll be fine for sharing via Facebook and the like.
There are also some nice features such as a burst shooting mode, that fires off lots of shots in rapid succession. These are stored in the phone memory, which might lead to some confusion about where to find them later.
You also get a lot of control, and there are plenty of modes which allow you to grab the "best photo" from eight shots, which the phone snaps - as with the burst mode - in rapid succession. In addition to all this, there are the usual settings to tweak, to get the best possible photo. And, to give the Instagram lovers a treat, there are some basic photo filters too.
The camera app is pretty easy to use. The usual touch-to-focus is here, and we didn't have any problems with it failing to focus properly - something that seems to plague cheaper phones. It's also nice and quick to get a lock. We also found face detection worked well, and although we've never made much use of it, it's good to see it included.
Motion and gesture control
Things get very cool when you look at what Samsung has added, both in terms of motion detection and gestures. Like many phones, you can turn the Note over to silence it when it's ringing. Also, rather brilliantly, if you have a contact on-screen, then simply lifting the phone to your ear will call that contact. There's a little buzz of vibration to confirm this is happening.
Our favourite feature though, has to be the gesture to pick up the phone. When you do this, by reaching toward the handset, the screen illuminates telling you if you have missed calls, new text messages and the level of your battery. It's fab, although it uses the camera to pull this trick off, so expect it to destroy the battery life of your Note.
All of these features can be enabled or disabled individually too, so you can pick and choose the ones that suit your needs. We found most of them to be slightly pointless, and we never once managed to get the screen grab gesture to work.
Powerful and fast
With LTE in the UK being a bit of a mess, the whole situation has the potential to confuse. The Note 2 will be available on EE in a 4G variety. There are also other versions of the phone that support 4G on 700MHz and 1200MHz for regions where those frequencies are being used. If you want the Note 2 in a 4G flavour, you should seek help from your mobile network.
READ: Galaxy S III vs. Note 2
Based on the theoretical maximum, the Note 2 can download at 100mbps and upload at 50mbps. That's some serious speed, and while we doubt most people will see anywhere near that, it's a cool thought that your phone could download faster than your home broadband.
The rest of the phone is super-fast though. A quad-core processor means that there's almost no lag at any time. There's 2GB of RAM too, which should help to keep the phone feeling light, powerful and responsive. There are 16 32 and 64GB capacities too, although the one you're likely to be buying is the 16GB.
Perhaps the best thing about the Note is that screen. At over 5-inches, it's a formidable size for all things video, and the Note has some pretty cool tricks up its sleeve for this. But best of all, its 720p (720 x 1280) resolution is ideal for lots of media, and you'll get a lot out of video that uses this format, as it's brilliantly matched to one of the most common HD formats. Being an AMOLED panel, there's no shortage of colour here, with bright tones bursting out of the screen. Samsung, perhaps aware of the criticism OLED gets for being quite unrealistic, has also provided modes to tone down the colour, should you want more natural tones.
As usual for Samsung's high-end handsets, there is plenty of video playback support. MKV files - which have MP4 video within them - playback perfectly, and with sound too, which isn't the case on a lot of other phones.
If you use the stock video player, you also get the option to watch video in a pop-up window. This means you can browse the web, send text messages or do any other phone task, while watching your video in a small window. It's a nice feature, that makes use of the Note's impressive processing power.
And then, of course, you've got Netflix, YouTube and countless other video players that will give you access to stacks of content, all on that big, bright, beautiful screen. Video is a real treat on the Note, so if you're looking for a media device with a bigger screen than a phone, this is quite likely to be the device of your dreams.
Picture and sound quality are both brilliant though. We really liked the Note as an entertainment device. Music sounds great, and the music player Samsung includes is pretty good. You get access to Samsung's Hub too, which allows you to store music online, but you will need an account with Sammy to use this - and that won't be for everyone.
After much dilly-dallying about getting Jelly Bean on the SGS III - it STILL hasn't arrived, officially - we were very pleased to se