Samsung Galaxy Note 5.3in Smartphone - Downsides and Final Thoughts

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

Battery, Calling & More:

As previously mentioned, the battery life on the Galaxy Note is surprisingly good.  It easily gets me through a day with heavy use and when I forget to use it, I get 3-4 days of standby - even in a poor coverage area.  When using this in a much better coverage area, I was able to go 5-6 days with light use on the device.  Even when powering such a large display, the 2500mAh battery has the stamina it needs to make this device useful - and not just a paperweight.

Call quality on the Galaxy Note is actually very good.  The earpiece volume is more than adequate and even at loud volume doesn't distort the callers voice.  The dual-microphones provide a great user experience and I've asked a few people about the call quality vs. the Nexus S and the winner is always the Galaxy Note.  This is something worth noting for sure and makes it a great phone - even if you won't be using it as a phone too much.

The biggest benefit and consequently, the biggest downside to the Galaxy Note is it's size.  While the screen size is a beauty for web browsing, picture taking and viewing as well as watching videos, in the end, the sheer size of the unit makes it difficult to operate with one hand.  While you can move the keyboard to the right or the left according to your preference (albeit with a software update), this phone is a bit unwieldy.

App List
App List
In Hand
In Hand


Note: This update hasn't rolled out OTA to Rogers users in Canada as of 03/26/2012


Final Thoughts:

At the end of the day, the Samsung Galaxy Note is a beast - and quite possibly one of the handiest devices we've looked at in years.  While it certainly isn't a full-on personal computer, it is a tablet-device that is small enough to be very suitable as a phone, yet large enough to be useful for a lot more than making calls and sending simple text messages.

Dialer The HD Super AMOLED screen is amazing.  The contrast is stellar and the auto-adjusting brightness works very well.  The AMOLED technology allows the screen to be quite viewable outside - even on bright days - unless you catch the glare from the sun off the Gorilla Glass.

I'm surprised at how durable the Note is as well.  I don't recommend dropping any Smartphone of course, but this one has taken it's fair share of bumps and has survived without any visible bruises.  The screen is nice and hard and because it is surrounded by the metal edge, it should survive pretty well.  I don't have a case for this device and it's resided in my pocket with some lose change and keys and doesn't look any the worse for wear. 

The overall volume and quality of the audio - both into the microphone and out of the earpiece and speaker are adequate.  The call quality is great, but the overall speaker audio quality isn't as great as the iPhone 4S.  With the speaker on the back of the device, the sound gets quite muffled when you lay it on your desk and attempt to stream some Netflix.

The 4G LTE version here in North America supports a ton of different frequencies so coverage should not be an issue.  As the LTE bands are pretty wide open here at the moment, download and upload speeds should be pretty incredible.  There have been recent rollouts of LTE in Canada and some of my colleagues have seen download speeds of over 50Mbps with uploads topping out just over 7Mbps.  It's fast - at least until the LTE bands get overloaded.

My complaint right away with the phone was the too-large keyboard and too-large dialer that made it very difficult to operate with one hand - and that has been fixed with a software update - but isn't available yet in my area.  I can't complain too much here about Samsung as it is likely carrier specific.  I've included a picture of Regina "Tigger" McDougall - our App girl - holding the phone and you can see that it looks like a full blown tablet in her small hands. 

Clearly, the Galaxy Note isn't for everyone, but if you're considering a tablet purchase in the near future and are also up for a new phone on your contract, take a look at the Galaxy Note as it combines most-of-the-best-of-both-worlds in a single device.  Best of all, you don't have to pay for an extra data plan for your 3G/4G equipped tablet.  Many phones are pretty intuitive and are a pretty safe bet, but with a format change like the Note brings to the table, my advice is to try before you buy.  Stop by your local wireless retailer and pick one up and play around with it before you drop your cash and sign your contract.

In Canada, you can expect to pay $199 on a 3-Year contract with this device, so make sure you will like it and have the hands it requires to manipulate this device.  If you match up, I'm sure that it will treat you right.  If nothing else, you'll get a lot of people talking and rubber-necking when you use it in a public meeting place.


  • Large
  • Super fast LTE-capable 
  • Super AMOLED HD 1280x800 screen
  • S Pen is more than a Stylus
  • Gorilla Glass = rugged
  • Dual-Core with lots of RAM
  • MicroSD slot
  • Great battery life
  • Good camera
  • Good call quality



  • Very large - too big for one-handed use for some people
  • Poor speaker location



If one kid says to another "I love jello!" the response is often "Then why don't you marry it then?"  I have to admit that I love the Galaxy Note - despite a couple of issues.  Unfortunately, I can't marry it - in Canada and even if I could I probably wouldn't.  I have a feeling that the next thing from Samsung will make this look beefy and chunky.  

It is a little large, but even if Samsung kept the 5.3" screen, they could slim down the outer bezel and reduce the area at the top and bottom of the screen to make this 5.3" device feel like a 5" device.  If they could pull this off - and drop in a Tegra 3 - I'd be impressed... and probably rush out and buy two.  As it stands, I'm going to shed a few tears when I send this back, but hopefully I will be able to save my pennies and pick up one before E3.

I'd like to thank Samsung Mobile for dropping this phone off for us to take a look at and for meeting us in Calgary to show us the capabilities of this phone.  If you want to check out the caricature sketches they did during the briefing, please check out the comments section below.