Samsung Galaxy Note II Review: Big, Powerful, Productive

by Reads (1,824)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Total Score:
      • 9.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Powerful processor, swift performance
    • S Pen great for navigating device
    • Excellent camera
    • Feature rich
  • Cons

    • Can be unwieldy, particularly for phone calls
    • S Note not so useful
    • Missing multi-window feature for US launch on some carriers

Quick Take

The Galaxy Note 2 is big and powerful, and a perfect match for power users. Heavy talkers and casual users might want to look elsewhere, however.


The original Samsung Galaxy Note was a quirky device, to say the least. With an enormous frame, outmoded technology, and a strange emphasis on reintroducing the stylus to today’s market, the Galaxy Note bucked many trends, albeit not always in the right way. Nevertheless, that phone has sold over 10 million units in the last two years, making it primed for an eventual, hopefully upgraded successor.

Well, that successor is here, and it’s called the Samsung Galaxy Note II. With an even bigger screen (up from 5.3-inches to 5.55), a beastly 1.6 GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos processor, improved S Pen compatibility, and Android OS 4.1 Jelly Bean, the Galaxy Note does indeed improve upon its predecessor in many ways.

That massive screen is particularly stunning if only because of its sheer hugeness — a fact which leads Brighthand to appropriately term the Note II a “phablet” due to its 5.95 x 3.17 x .37 build. And with only a thin bezel and three standard buttons occupying the same front side as the Super AMOLED display, the focus here is entirely on setting your eyes on the big device.

Similarly impressive is the Note II’s Exynos-powered processor, which quite simply makes this phone the single most powerful device Brighthand has tested to date. The Note II blew away all competitors on the Quadrant benchmark test, meaning that power users are in for a real treat if they find themselves interested in the phone. Even casual users will benefit from the quad-core chip, as Brighthand notes that “in real world usage, the Galaxy Note is very smooth, and apps open and close swiftly. Web browsing is also zippy, and it presented no issues.”

Of course, you can’t talk about any Samsung Note device — tablet, phone, or otherwise — without mentioning its signature S Pen stylus. Here, it supports 1024 points of pressure sensitivity (up from the original Note’s 256), a multiuse button that enables navigation and swipe gestures at once, and unique Wacom technology which allows users to hover the pen over the Note II’s screen to navigate apps and pages as well. Overall, Brighthand strongly approves of the S Pen, going so far as to declare that they would “default to it for all my smartphone usage. After sticking with it for a week, old-fashioned finger swiping just feels clumsy.”

As always, though, the Note II has some issues that Samsung would be wise to address in the future. Chief among these is the phone’s S Note note-taking feature, which shows promise but is not quite as accurate as it should be. For the many productivity users that the Note II aims to satisfy, this is disappointing. There’s also no HDMI port to be found on the Note II, its display can appear drab at points, its battery life is less-than-stellar, and its size will always make it polarizing in the eyes of more casual smartphone users.

But as Brighthand proclaims: “None of those are dealbreakers.” The bottom line is that the Note II is impressively constructed, mighty powerful, and really quite original in today’s smartphone market, all qualities which make it worthy of many users’ consideration.



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  1. prosise

    This thing is fast, and it’s a pleasure.
    Now I can put my trust (rusty) Palm TX out to pasture. Moment of silence, please; melancholy sound of Taps from stage left; pan to buyer with bewildered smile. The Note-II is a tablet that fits the hand and, yes, the pocket. The stylus is superb. Read books. Turn it to landscape, and see web pages. Use it as a phone when nobody’s looking. Beg the speaker to come out of hiding. (Or wince, hold the device backwards, and it’s good.) Put Pimlical and Tasker on it; put a 32G msd in it; ignore the coming years’ reviews, and you may be good to go for a tour of duty like the fading, fond TX.

  2. prosise

    [Fixed a typo. Sorry.]
    This thing is fast, and it’s a pleasure.
    Now I can put my trusty (rusty) Palm TX out to pasture. Moment of silence, please; melancholy sound of Taps from stage left; pan to buyer with bewildered smile. The Note-II is a tablet that fits the hand and, yes, the pocket. The stylus is superb. Read books. Turn it to landscape, and see web pages. Use it as a phone when nobody’s looking. Beg the speaker to come out of hiding. (Or wince, hold the device backwards, and it’s good.) Put Pimlical and Tasker on it; put a 32G msd in it; ignore the coming years’ reviews, and you may be good to go for a tour of duty like the fading, fond TX.