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Review: Samsung Galaxy Note II is a solid jumbo smartphone [Video]

December 08, 2012|By Salvador Rodriguez

If you're an NFL lineman or a basketball player, Samsung has got the phone for you.

The South Korean company's Galaxy Note II is a massive tablet/smartphone hybrid with a whopping 5.5-inch screen.

Samsung bills the phone as having the best of both worlds, and with its massive display, you really do have more to see than other smartphones on the market. That makes it a solid choice if you're looking for something that you can use for reading books and magazines or playing video games.

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But what's not so great about the display is its quality. With a 1,280-by-720-pixel HD resolution you think you're getting what could be one of the best smartphones for watching movies and videos, but every time I tried watching something the images were a bit washed out. I would have liked the details to be sharper and for there to have been more contrast.

But like a small tablet, the big screen was great for reading.

The apps for Google Play Books and Google Play Magazines looked great. I felt like I was getting good use of the real estate and was holding a small-sized Kindle or e-book device. Magazines, with their big pictures and two-page ads, also looked great on the Galaxy Note II. I don't normally read magazines on my phone, but I might if I had the Galaxy Note II.

The screen, combined with the Galaxy Note II's powerful 1.6GHz quad-core Exynos processer, was also excellent for gaming. Of course, this phone doesn't have a control pad or game-control buttons, but its display is bigger than the one on the PlayStation Vita.

The Galaxy Note II's other calling card is the Samsung S Pen stylus.

I don't normally have a need for a stylus, but if you get the Galaxy Note II, it is nice knowing you have that extra tool with you.

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During my week of trying it out, I found myself in a situation where I needed to draw shapes for a class I'm taking. I personally like to keep things digital, so I was pretty happy when I did the assignment on the Galaxy Note II and didn't have to pull out a pen and paper.

The S Pen also comes in handy for texting. With the Galaxy Note II, you pretty much always have to type using both hands, but you can also vary it up and use the S Pen. Simply write whatever word or letter you want to type and the Galaxy Note II is pretty good at recognizing what you wrote -- which is saying a lot considering I have horrific handwriting.

As for the typing issue, if you do want to type using one hand, there's a setting that will shift the keyboard to one side of the phone. That's supposed to make it easier for you to type using one hand, but I didn't find it too useful. Instead, with the Galaxy Note II you should simply embrace the fact you'll need both hands because at that size, it's not very difficult at all to type on a touchscreen keyboard.

But how big is this thing exactly? Well despite having a larger display than the original Galaxy Note, which had a 5.3-inch screen, the Galaxy Note II still has a similar size and shape.

The two devices practically weigh the same and have the same thickness. As for width and height, the Galaxy Note II is taller but more narrow than its predecessor.

Compared to any other phone, though, the Galaxy Note II is a giant. It managed to do what I thought was impossible and makes the Galaxy S III seem like a small phone even though it has a 4.8-inch screen and is pretty big in its own right. You can also fit the entirety of an iPhone 5 within the display space of the Galaxy Note II.

With the rest of this phone, you're basically getting the standard features you'll find on most good Androids.

The Galaxy Note II has a front-facing camera and a rear-facing 8-megapixel camera. The phone comes equipped with Near-Field Communication technology, or NFC, so you can quickly send photos and other files from the device to other Android phones.

The speaker on the Galaxy Note II was louder than what you'd find on other smartphones, but wasn't much better than what you'd expect from most smartphones.

With battery life, I got seven hours of continuous use from the Galaxy Note II. That was a combination of surfing the Web, watching a streaming movie on Netflix as well as a downloaded one, and playing a hard-core game for a few minutes. If you want to get the Galaxy Note II to use it as a tablet, at least you know you'll get enough juice for short- to medium-length flights.

As for software, the Galaxy Note II runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which is the second most recent version of the Google mobile operating system.

But the device only has 16 gigabytes of storage, which is a shame considering its $299 price tag with a two-year contract from Verizon, Sprint and AT&T. You can also get it from T-Mobile for $250, plus monthly payments of $20 a month for 20 months, under its Value plan that the company says will have lower rates because it isn't subsidizing the cost of the phone.

For $299, you can usually get a smartphone with 32 GB of storage. Fortunately, though, if you flip off its back cover, there's a microSD card slot, so it's no issue expanding the Galaxy Note II's storage.

All in all, if you don't mind holding a jumbo phone, the Galaxy Note II won't let you down.


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