Samsung Galaxy Note preview: First look


They used to be big, later they became redundant. As soon as smartphones were ready to offer the same features, PDAs were on the way to becoming extinct. With a device like the Samsung Galaxy Note though, one can’t help but wonder if they’re making a comeback.

It’s got a big touchscreen for reading and entering text, with a stylus for jotting down notes and sketches, with powerful hardware that beats most phones in processing power and features. Sounds like a new-age PDA to us.

Samsung Galaxy Note official photos

The screen is part of the new HD SuperAMOLED line and boasts the impressive 1280×800 pixel resolution. It uses a PenTile matrix, but with 285ppi you can’t really tell. Stretching over a whopping 5.3 inches, it makes browsing those web pages an almost tablet-like experience.

The Samsung Galaxy Note shares the Exynos chipset with some of its Galaxy siblings, but it’s the one with the 1.4GHz dual-core CPUs. We’ve already had a look at its performance and we can say it’s blazing fast.

If it’s becoming hard to keep track of all the features, here’s the gist of the Galaxy Note specs in summarized form:

Samsung Galaxy Note at a glance

  • Form factor: phone/tablet crossbreed
  • Dimensions: 146.9 x 83 x 9.7 mm
  • Weight: 178g
  • Display: 16M-color 5.3” Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen of WXGA resolution (1280 x 800 pixels)
  • OS: Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, TouchWiz UI
  • Chipset: 1.4 GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU, Mali-400MP GPU, 1GB of RAM, Exynos chipset
  • Camera: 8 MP autofocus camera, 1080p video recording, LED flash, 2 MP front-facing camera
  • Memory: 16/32 GB internal memory, expandable via a microSD card slot
  • Connectivity: quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and quad-band (850/900/1900/2100 MHz) UMTS with 21 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA support, dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi direct, Assisted GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, microUSB connector
  • Battery: 2,500mAh
  • Misc: S Pen, Gyro sensor, accelerometer sensor for auto rotation, ambient light sensor, Adobe Flash Player 10.3 support, DivX/XviD support, TV-out (adapter required), optional GLONASS, optional NFC

The Samsung Galaxy Note packs the same camera as the Galaxy S II, giving you 8MP stills and FullHD video recording. If the image quality is on par, the Note should easily beat its tablet competitors in the photography department.

One important area is portability – Samsung have made the device as small as possible (there’s hardly any bezel around the screen) but 5.3″ is pretty big. Figuring how to carry the Galaxy Note around will be a challenge, but if you find a way you can leave your phone at home – the Note has top of the line droid specs and full phone functionality too.

Samsung Galaxy Note 360-degree spin

The Samsung Galaxy Note measures 146.9 x 83 x 9.7 mm and weighs 178g. That puts it halfway between a phone and a tablet in terms of size, but it’s surprisingly light.

Design and display

The Samsung Galaxy Note has a 5.3″ SuperAMOLED screen of WXGA (1280×800) resolution. That’s 16:10 aspect ratio, which is close enough to the HD aspect (16:9) to fit videos just right but it’s a bit wider, which comes in use when browsing the web.

Samsung Galaxy Note Preview
Screen size comparison: Galaxy S II vs. Galaxy Note

SuperAMOLED offers great contrast (theoretically infinite), saturated, lively colors and 180-degree viewing angles. It’s not a ‘Plus’ model, which means it uses PenTile (2 subpixels instead of 3 per each pixel). But the very high pixel density – 285ppi – puts pixels so near the edge of human vision that you have to stare closely to barely make out the PenTile grid.

For comparison, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 display has 196ppi, the Galaxy S II has 217ppi, HTC Sensation XE – 256ppi and the iPhone 4 offers 326ppi.

Samsung Galaxy Note Preview
The 5.3″ SuperAMOLED of the Galaxy Note is impressive

We took some close-up shots of the screen of the Galaxy Note along with the Galaxy S II and iPhone 4 to illustrate the difference. The photos are shot at the same magnification, so you get an idea of how the different pixel densities affects the amount of fine detail in the visible image.

You can see the PenTile matrix of the Galaxy Note, but its pixels are closer in size to those of the iPhone 4 than those of the Galaxy S II so the “grid” look typical of PenTile is practically invisible on the Note’s screen.

Close up shots of the

Plus, users will typically hold the bigger screen farther from their eyes, which increases the perceived pixel density further.

We mentioned that the theoretical contrast is infinite – that’s because black pixels are completely switched off (that is, they give off zero light). In practice, reflections limit that to a finite number, but it’s usually several thousands, well above any display that uses a backlight.

Samsung have gone through a lot of effort to make their SuperAMOLED technology as non-reflective as possible and they’ve done a pretty good job of it. Outdoor viewing is good, but there’s another problem, brightness.

The 5.3″ screen on our test Samsung Galaxy Note is rather dim. We don’t have a retail version, so it might be a pre-production issue that will be fixed. This is probably the case, since we didn’t have this problem with the bigger, 7.7″ SuperAMOLED on the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

We won’t be doing brightness measurements this time around, we’ll wait for the retail units to come out and include the results in our review.

The rest of the body

The Samsung Galaxy Note uses portrait orientation by default and packs practically the same set of controls as the Galaxy S II. This is a Gingerbread device, not Honeycomb like the Tab 7.7, so that’s no surprise.

Above the screen you have the proximity and ambient light sensors, along with the 2MP front-facing camera. On the other side of the screen is the hardware Home button plus the capacitive Menu and Back keys on its side.

The usual set of sensors above the screen and the hardware controls below it

There’s an earpiece on top and a mouthpiece at the bottom, so you can use the Galaxy Note as a phone. Holding it with one hand is not particularly comfortable but we’ll get back to that in a minute.

At the bottom, next to the mouthpiece is the standard microUSB port (hooray!), which leaves a quadruple life – it’s a data and charging port, TV out port too (via MHL) and supports USB On-The-Go.

The bottom is also where the S Pen lives, – that’s what Samsung calls the active stylus of the Galaxy Note.

On top of the device, there’s just the 3.5mm audio jack and another microphone.

Mic pinhole microUSB port and S Pen at the bottom • 3.5mm audio jack and another microphone on top

The sides of the Samsung Galaxy Note are pretty barren – there’s a volume rocker on the left and a Power/Lock key on the right and that’s it. They are thin and barely protrude, so they’re not the easiest buttons to press, but it’s not a major problem either.

Samsung Galaxy Note Preview Volume rocker on the left • Power/Lock key on the right

We complete our hardware inspection at the back where we find the 8MP 1080p-video-capturing camera accompanied by an LED flash. The back also houses the single loudspeaker of the Galaxy Note.

We have the usual complaint here: the camera lens is not protected from scratches and fingerprint smudges and the loudspeaker gets muffled when you place the Note on a level surface. But most manufacturers seem to ignore such issues more often than not.

The back cover is made of finely textured plastic (very similar to that of the Galaxy S II), which is nice to the touch and great at hiding fingerprints. You can see the back of the Note compared to the back of the Galaxy S II and how the two stack up size-wise.

Samsung Galaxy Note Preview
Size comparison: Galaxy Note vs. Galaxy S II and Samsung Galaxy Note vs. BlackBerry PlayBook

Popping the back cover open reveals the 2,500 mAh battery. Samsung are mum on the battery time.

Also here is the SIM compartment, next to the microSD card slot, neither of which are hot-swappable as they’re blocked by the battery. How Samsung could put the microSD card slot there on such a huge device is beyond us. They have more than enough room to put the slot in a more convenient location.

The 8MP sharpshooter and the loudspeaker at the back • 2,500 mAh battery under the cover

The Galaxy Note is a monster compared to regular phones – but then again, it’s not exactly a phone. It’s thin (9.7mm), light (you wouldn’t guess it weighs 178g) and the rounded edges help ergonomics.

But still, one handed use is a problem – your thumb most likely can’t reach every point on the screen (certainly not comfortably) and unless you have big hands, you can’t easily wrap your fingers around the Note to hold it without fear of dropping. Two-hand thumb typing is absolutely spot on, however.

Pocketability is an issue too – you can certainly slip in into your pocket (the thin frame helps a lot here), but a lot of people won’t find that solution acceptable. Still, most coat pockets or purses will find enough room for the Galaxy Note, which is worth having around with all that screen real-estate.

Also known as Samsung GT-N7000, Samsung I9220

General 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
4G Network LTE 700 (region specific)
Announced 2011, September
Status Available. Released 2011, October
Body Dimensions 146.9 x 83 x 9.7 mm
Weight 178 g
– Touch-sensitive controls
Display Type Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 800 x 1280 pixels, 5.3 inches (~285 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass
– TouchWiz UI v4.0
Sound Alert types Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
Memory Card slot microSD, up to 32GB, 2 GB included
Internal 16GB/32GB storage, 1 GB RAM
Data GPRS Class 12 (4+1/3+2/2+3/1+4 slots), 32 – 48 kbps
EDGE Class 12
Speed HSDPA, 21 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps; LTE
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth Yes, v3.0 with A2DP, EDR
NFC Optional
USB Yes, microUSB v2.0 (MHL), USB On-the-go
Camera Primary 8 MP, 3264×2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
Features Geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, image stabilization
Video Yes, 1080p@24~30fps
Secondary Yes, 2 MP
Features OS Android OS, v2.3.5 (Gingerbread), planned upgrade to v4.x
Chipset Exynos
CPU Dual-core 1.4 GHz ARM Cortex-A9
GPU Mali-400MP
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
Messaging SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM, RSS
Browser HTML5, Adobe Flash
Radio Stereo FM radio with RDS
GPS Yes, with A-GPS support and GLONASS
Java Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
Colors Black, White, Pink
– S Pen stylus
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
– NFC support (optional)
– TV-out (via MHL A/V link)
– SNS integration
– MP4/DivX/XviD/WMV/H.264/H.263 player
– MP3/WAV/eAAC+/AC3/FLAC player
– Organizer
– Image/video editor
– Document editor (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF)
– Google Search, Maps, Gmail,
YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk, Picasa integration
– Voice memo/dial/commands
– Predictive text input (Swype)
Battery Standard battery, Li-Ion 2500 mAh
Stand-by Up to 960 h (2G) / Up to 820 h (3G)
Talk time Up to 26 h 10 min (2G) / Up to 13 h 30 min (3G)
Misc SAR US 0.16 W/kg (head)     0.96 W/kg (body)
SAR EU 0.34 W/kg (head)
Price group
Tests Display Contrast ratio: Infinite (nominal) / 2.970:1 (sunlight)
Loudspeaker Voice 64dB / Noise 64dB / Ring 72dB
Audio quality Noise -90.4dB / Crosstalk -87.4dB
Camera Photo / Video
Battery life Endurance rating 39h

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This entry was posted on May 11, 2012 by in Technomania.
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