by George Heymann

Livin’ large with the 5.3” Galaxy Note

 Is that a large smartphone in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

by George Heymann | @techeadlines

By now those of you interested in the Galaxy Note, have probably already looked at the phone statistics and any number of reviews. Rather than just give you my initial impressions, What I’d like to do do is to give you some insight on what it’s like to live with the rather large but svelte member of the Samsung family.

There is almost no getting around the fact the phone is large, the Galaxy Note sports a 5.3″ WXGA (1280 x 800, 285 PPI) HD Super Amoled screen. For me the size has been more of an asset than a detriment in day to day use. The extra screen real estate on the Note has made mobile web browsing productive and for the first time for me on a smartphone, enjoyable!

Think about it, the screen is how you interact with your smartphone, if the touch screen, is low resolution or unresponsive, you’re not going to have a good experience with the phone. The Galaxy Note screen shines here, the screen is bright, high resolution and very responsive, it makes interacting with the phone better in every instance. From sharing photos with friends and family to sitting back watching media on Netflix, the HD screen on the Note makes it a pleasure!

That being said, there is a down side to the larger size, for the majority of users the Note will require two hands for some operations, like texting or messaging. Whether you choose the stock Android keyboard or if you are a Swype user like I am, you are not going to be able to use the Note to text one handed. For me keyboarding on the Note is strictly a two-handed operation, phone in one hand, swiping with the other. Surprisingly because the phone is so thin the phone doesn’t feel unwieldy for most other uses.

From the start, I’ve had to make an accommodation in order to to carry the Galaxy Note. In the past I’ve carried my smartphones in a leather horizontal belt case. The size of the Note makes this impractical. Instead, I’ve moved my wallet with my keys in my left front pants pocket, and carry the Note in the right pants pocket. Because the phone is only .38” thick and weighs just over 6 ounces, it’s comfortable to carry and no one has asked me is that a large smartphone in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Others reviewers have commented about the phone size being awkward when holding the phone up for making phone calls, which is contrary to my own experience. The Note feels perfectly natural and comfortable for me to use as a phone even when using the phone with a case attached. By the way the call quality on the Note has been excellent. The speaker phone is also pretty good although the speaker sounds a bit distorted to my ears when turned up on the higher volume levels.

If you were wondering what the most common comments I have received they are:

  1. Is that a new iPhone?
  2. That screen is gorgeous!
  3. That’s a big phone, what is it?

However, for users that feel self-conscious about using the Note for making calls, bluetooth 3.0 is supported and inexpensive bluetooth headsets are readily available.

The Notes performance has been very good, and the battery life has been more than acceptable it easily lasts through my workday.

Although I haven’t extensively tested the camera(s), it has served me well. The Note includes an 8 MP camera with flash that is capable of recording 1080P video at 30 frames per second but doesn’t include a dedicated camera button.

My two remaining gripes with the Note is the lack of a physical LED for notifications, and the phone being released with Gingerbread. Why Samsung chose not to include an LED for notification, is a mystery to me and an oversight that I sorely miss but no one else seems to mention. You can compensate with the use of a great free Android app “NoLED” that will give you the ability to display notification icons/dots for phones like the Note that lack a physical LED.

Samsung has already missed the self-imposed release date for the Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Note (ICS), several builds have been leaked, so all indications are that the ICS update will be available soon for both the International as well as the AT&T (i717) version of the Note.

Overall the Samsung Galaxy Note is great smartphone, in my experience, its been the best smartphone I’ve ever used, the ICS update should make a great smartphone even better and I can recommend it without reservation.

If you are still concerned about the overall size of the phone, go down to a store and pick one up and try it on for size. If you don’t mind the size you’re going to love the phone.

Key features

  • Quad-band GSM and tri-band 3G support
  • 21 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA
  • LTE network connectivity
  • 5.3″ 16M-color Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen of HiDef resolution (800 x 1280 pixels)
  • Android OS v2.3.6 with TouchWiz 4 launcher
  • 1.5 GHz dual-core Scorpion CPU, Adreno 220 GPU, Snapdragon S3 chipset, 1GB of RAM
  • Pre-bundled with the S Pen active stylus
  • 8 MP wide-angle autofocus camera with LED flash, face, smile and blink detection
  • Video recording of up to 1080p@30fps
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 b, g and n support; Wi-Fi Direct and Wi-Fi hotspot
  • GPS with A-GPS connectivity; Digital compass
  • 16 GB internal storage, microSD slot
  • Accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensor
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Charging MHL microUSB port with USB host and TV-out (1080p through optional adapter) support
  • Stereo Bluetooth v3.0
  • Great audio quality
  • 9.7 mm slim and weighs a reasonable 178g
  • 2MP secondary video-call camera
  • Full Flash support and GPU-acceleration for the web browser permit 1080p flash video playback
  • Document editor
  • File manager comes preinstalled
  • Extremely rich audio and video format support
  • 2500 mAh battery                                       *Specs courtesy: GSMArena

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