Samsung Galaxy Note 5.3in Smartphone - Using the Note

Article Index
Samsung Galaxy Note 5.3in Smartphone
Features and Specifications
Phone Tour
Using the Note
Camera - Still and Video
Downsides and Final Thoughts

Using the Note:

If you're an Android user, the layout and feel of the Galaxy Note will be pretty familiar to you.  If you use the Samsung Galaxy S II, the TouchWiz UI is pretty much exactly the same and you'll be very familiar with the device when you first pick it up.  That is not always a bad thing as it doesn't have much of a learning curve, but a part of me wanted something new, different and exciting with this device.  That's not to say, there aren't differences.  There are a whole suite of applications designed specifically for the S Pen and are part of Samsungs Apps.  There are a bunch of features and enhancements for the S Pen and the S Planner, S Memo and more that are really handy.

S Memo
S Memo
Making Notes
Making Notes

When we were briefed on the Galaxy Note, I honestly thought I'd never use the S Pen more than once or twice but after moving to the Note as my main device for a few weeks, I found that the S Pen is pretty handy for sure.  After a couple of days, and a couple of App Pick of the Week posts where I was able to easily grab screenshots, I fell in love with the S Pen and the features and functions of the S Memo program.

You can quickly and easily annotate images, documents and more and then email them as images, PDFs and even make changes to PowerPoint, Excel and more without messing up the original document.  This is a great feature and proves that the Galaxy Note is designed for those with business in mind.

 

The S Pen is not merely a stylus; it's a pressure-sensitive input device that is similar in function to a Waccom stylus in some respects.  It doesn't have the same range of pressure sensitivity, but it is pressure sensitive and it does have a button that can be used to launch apps and for control in apps.  In fact, you can open up the S Memo application by pushing the pen button double tapping on the screen anywhere.  Other functions of the S Pen include opening the menu when you press the pen button and swipe upwards on the screen.  If you want to cancel a function, press the pen button and then swipe across the screen from right to left.  Best of all, if you want to take a screenshot, press the pen button and then press on the screen with the pen for about a second and it will take a screenshot and allow you to review and save.

S Pen

With all of the features and additional functionality of the S Pen, I was a bit disappointed that the Galaxy Note didn't ship with Ice Cream Sandwich as the Operating System of choice.  Still, I do understand why Samsung opted to stick with Gingerbread a little longer as there are still a bunch of Apps that haven't been written for Android 4.0 and they want great compatibility and a solid platform as this is designed for business and power users in mind.  

Even with a dual-core 1.5GHz processor in this phone, the UI feels a bit slow at times.  This is not an issue with the Galaxy Note specifically, it is typical of Android 2.3.x.  I'm hoping that when ICS comes to this device is fixes some UI lag and we get a much more fluid experience out of the Note.  Still, it's not all bad as Android certainly has a host of things in its resume that iOS can't do.

Web Browser
Web Browser
Full Res
Font & Screen

 

With a screen resolution of 1280x800 (or 800x1280 when viewing in portrait), the web experience is very good on this phone.  Many website load and look great with the standard, non-mobile versions.  If you rotate the phone to landscape, you have more resolution on this device than with many netbooks and a lot of first and second generation tablets.  This makes viewing content - whether web, multimedia or images very good.

One of the awesome features of this Samsung device is the AllShare feature.  If you have a compatible Samsung Smart TV or Blu-Ray player, you can stream content from your phone directly to your TV with a couple of simple clicks on your device.  This is a great way to share video, images and music from your portable Samsung device to the screen of your choice.  I had the opportunity to demo this at VulcLAN 2012 and it was a big hit as I could stream content to the 59" Samsung Plasma TVs in the venue from anywhere inside the 802.11n coverage.


Granted, the Galaxy Note is not a gaming platform, and it will never compete with dedicated platforms such as the Sony PS Vita, but gaming on it is still very decent.  ShadowGun runs pretty well on this device - and while it's not as fluid as NVIDIA's Tegra3 demo, it still runs pretty good.  Asphalt 6 HD runs like a dream and looks very good on the display.  There are a host of S Pen related games available in Samsung's App Market as well - but I have to say my skills at SketchIt still suck as I simply can't draw - even though it was picked as our App Pick of the Week.

Gaming Up
In Game

 

With a screen only slightly smaller than an e-Ink eBook reader, I spent some time reading books from on the Galaxy Note and with the HD Super AMOLED screen, things were very good.  Reading books on a standard LCD really sucks, but with the high contrast and black blacks on the screen, there is very little eyestrain and reading books from my Kindle library is a great experience - unless you're in direct sunlight and then you have to deal with glare.

On the next page, we'll take a quick look at the camera quality, functions and features as well as some video recording on the Note.