Look and Feel
The look and feel Samsung's Galaxy Note is going to be the most important part of our review. I can show you benchmark scores, spec sheets and more all day long, but the biggest point of the Note is the size and ultimately the feel of the device. As I said for my first impression, it felt big - almost too big. But after a couple of weeks with the Note, I've come to truly love it in some areas and dislike it in others.
You can see in the photo above that it feels big in my hand, I have average-sized hands and the Note, depending on the way you hold it, feels fine.
The Note's 5.3-inch screen is gorgeous to look at, there is absolutely no doubt. Colors pop, it's sharp and beautiful. Coming from the Galaxy S II, the Note's screen is just as good. Looking at an S III, the Note loses out in a way. The S III's screen seems to "pop" out more, but the Note's slightly larger text and icons look better. The S III's screen is impressive and you get used to it, but the extra size on the Note gives it that edge.
One of the first things I did when I got the Note, as I do with all Android-based devices, is sync my Google account to it. I love this and Google, I love you for making it that easy. Once synched, I signed into the Play store and downloaded SwiftKey 3.0. SwiftKey is awesome; if you have an Android device and don't use it, get it. It replaces the stock Android keyboard with a predictive text-based keyboard that learns how you type and chat. It can use your history from Gmail and Facebook and thread your conversations much better, making you type less and take less time to do so.
The Note is a joy to type on, its bigger screen definitely makes its use known when typing and I found it much easier to punch out an e-mail or SMS message on the Note versus my previous phones (S II, S III and iPhone).
The Note's super lightweight of just 178 grams comes into play considerably, so holding the 5.3-inch phone in your hands for extended periods of time, such as using Facebook or web-surfing, doesn't cramp your hand. I used the phone extensively on Facebook, Instagram and Chrome, as I would normally use my phone and it never once felt too heavy, too wide or too big.
Looking at the Note, you'll find it looks identical to Samsung's Galaxy S II, with the same styling used. They've used their prominent logo at the top of the device and their home button down the bottom, as usual. The volume rocker is too high up the phone and I found myself hating that fact. When on the phone I had to physically move my hand up to reach the buttons. If it were down to a little over the half-way mark, that would be perfect.
I guess the "looks' department can include the operating system (OS), too. Samsung have shipped the Note with Android 2.3, but it has recently received an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The ICS update to the Note is something Samsung should've done quicker. I used a Note previous that featured Android 2.3 and it wasn't the same experience as it is with ICS. ICS is smoother, prettier, faster, has better features and includes extra apps that use the S Pen.