This is a big one! Quite literally as it turns out as Samsung continues to push the limits of what we consider an acceptable size for a smartphone. The Note II or GT-N7100 polishes off most of the shortcomings of the Note N7000 along with a little flavour from the Galaxy S III and a sprinkle of Jelly Bean to top it all off. This phone or tablet or phablet, whatever u want to call it, actually looks a lot like a stretched out S III and for the most part, it is just that. Now, given the S III wasn’t all that popular when it came to aesthetics, was it wise for Samsung to model its new flagship around it? Let’s find out what new tricks the phablet has learnt over the course of a year.
Design and Build
While the Note II does resemble the S III in appearance, the feel and finish of the phone is completely different and miles ahead. Despite its plastic chassis and fake chrome trim, it really feels like a premium device and dare we say, is easily one of the best-built phones in the market today. The brushed metal-like finish around the screen and on the back is coated with some sort of lacquer, so despite a glossy finish, it won’t attract scratches. The chrome trim along the sides, however, looks like it would wear off in time. The front is completely dominated by the massive 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED slab that's also protected by Gorilla Glass 2.
Very well built
The sides feature the power/sleep button and the volume rocker while the microUSB ports is placed at the bottom followed by the 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. The S Pen stylus docks in around the back, besides the speaker grill. Lifting up the cover, we are greeted by the chunky 3100mAh battery along with the microSIM slot and the hot-swappable microSD card slot. At 183g, the Note II is heavier than its predecessor, but thanks to the wider screen, Samsung has managed to slim it down to 9.4mm in depth from 9.7mm.
The chrome trim may wear off after sometime
We were highly impressed with the build and finish of the Note II, which is much better than the S III and does not feel cheap or plasticky, so kudos to Samsung for rectifying this. It is, however, not the most comfortable phone to walk around with. While it may just about fit in your pants pocket, for tasks like trying to sit down, you’ll have no choice but to remove the phone before doing so. Perhaps, that’s why most Note users simply hold it in their hands and don’t bother slipping it in their pants.
We’ve heard horror stories about Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface and have even told some ourselves; however, we’d like to report that those are a thing of the past now. Samsung’s slightly tweaked Nature UX from the S III and Jelly Bean make a perfect couple as the experience is just as good as stock Jelly Bean, thanks to improvements from Samsung. The only time we probably noticed some lag (and that too very minor) was while scrolling through widgets. The gallery has gotten a slight upgrade as well and you can now view your photos in funky different ways, the coolest of which is a 3D spiralling view. All the features from the S III make a comeback like S Voice, Direct Call, etc. To read more about them, do check out our coverage of the Galaxy S III. Today, we’ll focus on some of the exclusive new features for the Note II, starting with the improved S Pen.
TouchWiz does not suck anymore
The S Pen works based on Wacom’s inductive technology so you never need batteries for it. It’s also gotten a lot more sensitive to finer inputs so you can draw with a lot more precision, similar to the Note 10.1. The software is also a lot better this time in recognising your handwriting even if you write badly. We tried deliberately writing lazily and it managed to decipher the word correctly about 95 percent of the time, which is very good. You can use this while typing out a message, chatting or simply taking down notes. Holding down the button on the pen puts the pen in crop mode. You then simply crop out portions of the screen, which gets saved to the clipboard so you can paste it in a message. Pulling out the pen automatically opens up a new S Note window. You’re also presented with a special homescreen with a widget that lets you directly open up different S Note templates. There’s a floating tab that sits along the edge of the screen (which can be repositioned to any of the four edges) and gives you access to apps that can work in split screen mode. Just like the Note 10.1, you can have two apps running simultaneously in portrait mode. This actually works a lot better than it did in the Note 10.1 and there’s absolutely no hint of lag when interacting with both the apps. We couldn’t find a way to manually add apps that we wanted to the list though. Apps optimised for the S Pen include S Note, S Planner and a cool app called Paper Artist, which makes for some really cool Instagram pics. One more cool feature of the S Pen is Air View. Once enabled, you get a little mouse pointer on the screen when you hover the pen over it. You can use this feature for scrolling through webpages, read tooltips over icons and links, etc.
S Pen features are pretty cool
Another reason why everything runs buttery smooth is because of the mighty quad-core Exynos SoC onboard. It’s the same one as in the S III, only now it runs at 1.6GHz instead of 1.4GHz. This gives it the extra oomph needed for the split screen functionality without even skipping a beat. This reflects very well in the benchmarks as well, as we got a high score of 64MFLOPS in single-threaded test of Linpack while the multi-thread test gave a score of 190MFLOPS. AnTuTu delivered similar performance, posting a score of 13440, the highest we’ve come across so far.