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November 17, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Note GT-N7000 Review

When Samsung first unveiled the Galaxy Note, I had mixed feelings with the device. It’s got the genes of an impressive smartphone but a form factor that’s inching towards the tablet category. After having over a week’s time with the Samsung Galaxy Note and I’d like to share my verdict. Check out the full review after the break.

The Galaxy Note sits in between Samsung’s highly popular Galaxy S2 smartphone and its first 7-inch tablet, the Galaxy Tab.

To give you a good idea on how huge a 5.3-inch smartphone is, we placed it side by side the 3.5″ iPhone 4 for size comparison. As you can see, the screen of the galaxy Note is even bigger than the entire body of the iPhone 4.

The power/lock button is found on the top right side of the device while the volume controls are on the left side. The 3.5mm audio jack is found on the top side while the micro-USB port is at the bottom along with the slot for the pen stylus.

At the back, the 8MP camera is found along with the LED flash in the upper middle corner. The entire back panel peels off to reveal the extra-large battery. The cover is so thin it feels like you’d crack or break it every time you take it off to access the battery compartment (where the microSD card slot and SIM card slot are also found).

There seems to be two microphones here — one at the bottom for making calls and another one at the top which is most probably for noise canceling. The speaker grills are a bit small and is found at the back panel.

At the front, the secondary camera and a couple of sensors are situated at the top corner while the large, rounded rectangular home button is at the bottom end. The home button is sandwiched between two backlit touch panels for Back and Menu.

The large Super AMOLED screen is gorgeous, as expected of any AMOLED displays from Samsung. The screen is bright and crisp, has very rich colors, very wide viewing angles, good brightness and high contrast. The capacitive display is very responsive although it feels closer to the responsiveness of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 rather than the S2 (probably because of the higher resolution). Samsung was able to maximize the screen real estate on the Note and made the bezel as thin as possible.

At 5.3″, it’s practically a gigantic smartphone. What Samsung did was take everything that is great with the Galaxy S2 and stretched it an inch wider.

We can look at this and call it a hybrid — a smartphone and tablet in one single device. Samsung wasn’t the first that introduced a device in this category. We already saw Dell pull out a 5-incher with the Dell Streak 5 from a year ago, though they failed to impress the market and finally retiring the device this year.

But what did Samsung do with the Galaxy Note to avoid the same lackluster performance the Dell Streak suffered? For one, Samsung packaged the Galaxy Note with the hardware configuration fit for a tablet, and not just a smartphone.

Second, Samsung banked on the success of the Galaxy S2 and patterned the design and form factor from it. And lastly, the Galaxy Note was ready for ICS and it’s got a screen resolution of a much bigger tablet.

In short, Samsung made the Galaxy Note better than the S2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 combined — a device worthy of being called a Android hybrid.

Samsung even bothered to include a dedicated stylus and though it’s generally un-necessary, it comes with a few tricks of its own (especially with Google Maps).

The S Memo is a pretty nifty feature. It is a such an integral feature of the Galaxy Note that Samsung placed it in center of the standard menu, beside the Phone, Contacts and Messaging icons. I loved the fact that you can fire up Google Maps, take a screenshot, draw over it and send it via email. As such, the built-in screen capture function works when you press down on the screen and push the little button on the stylus.

The TouchWiz UI is very familiar and similar to the ones we’ve seen in the previous Galaxy line-up. This is on top of the Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread that’s pre-installed on the device out of the box. Samsung also added a few more widgets to the device.

The Social Hub is still there for centralized messaging, SNS updates, contacts synchronization and calendar management. For the heavy readers, the Galaxy Note also has the Readers Hub which is like a library of News (powered by PressDisplay), Books (powered by Kobo) and Magazines (powered by Zinio).

Samsung also added a couple more apps and features on the Galaxy Note including a custom Calendar, Movie Editor, Photo Editor and Voice Talk.

The Video Maker is simple and easy to use and although the functions are limited, it is very usable. The maximum output is only limited to 720p even if your source is 1080p.

Voice Talk is also a nice function and, like most other voice command features like Vlingo, is restricted to a specific command format (at least you can program it to respond to “Hi Siri” to wake up the phone).

Here’s the complete specs of the device although the only variant that will be available in the Philippines is the one with the 16GB internal storage.

Samsung Galaxy Note GT-N7000 specs:
5.3-inch Super AMOLED display @ 1280×800 pixel resolution
Gorilla Glass display
1.4GHz dual-core processor Exynos chip
Mali-400MP GPU
1GB RAM
16GB & 32GB internal storage
up to 32GB via microSD (2GB included)
HSPA+ 21Mbps
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, WiFi Direct
Bluetooth 3.0
8MP rear camera
1080p full HD video recording
2MP front-facing camera
GPS w/ aGPS support
FM Radio tuner
Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread
Samsung TouchWiz UI 4.0
Li-Ion 2500mAh battery

The performance of the Galaxy Note trumps any other smartphone and tablet we’ve seen around. It scored a whopping 4154 in Quadrant (the Galaxy S2 we reviewed only had 2622 while the 1.2GHz variant reached the 3000 mark). That’s the highest Quadrant score we’ve seen on any smartphone fresh out of the box.

The fact that it can record 1080p videos and also play 1080p hi-def movies is already a testament on how powerful this device is (considering the much higher screen resolution). The HTC Sensation XE with its dual 1.5GHz processor only scored 2249 in the same benchmark. The fast internal flash storage certainly helped in here.

The camera on the Galaxy Note is impressive, as great as the one on the Galaxy S2. It’s got a fairly fast shutter speed, an accurate and fast focus that produces clear and crisp images with fairly saturated colors. It can even handle low-light environments pretty well, as shown on the sample photos below.

The Galaxy Note’s camera perform really well under low-light conditions. You will notice minimal amount of noise one some of the darker photos. That’s probably because in Auto Mode, the camera lowers the ISO settings as much as it can — the same reason why some shots look darker than they actually are.

You can view all the collection of photos taken using the Galaxy Note in this gallery.

The full HD 1080p video recording is equally impressive — it’s crisp, has good focus and really high frame rates.

Note: Dont’ forget to tick the 1080p video playback on YouTube to see the raw footages. Notice the stereo audio recording is also very sensitive and clear.

Making calls is a little odd because of the big form factor but if you have huge hands as well, it’s almost natural (not as crazy as holding the 7-inch Galaxy Tab over your ears). Composing text messages and general typical is so easy and comfortable with both hands (almost impossible with one hand) since the virtual keys are equally large.

Call quality is good to great and sound quality is decent but not that very impressive especially on movie playback.

Using the built-in stylus is not necessary except for when you want to do some sketching or photo editing and you can actually use it for general navigation (mind you, this is a capacitive display). There’s also a couple of gesture commands you can execute using the stylus with the pen button as the trigger.

There’s also the WiFi Direct feature but we could use it since there’s no other device to pair it with. It’s a bit curious that despite the integrated Bluetooth 3.0 we’re still recording 2.0 speeds when transferring files to my Macbook Air.

The Li-ion battery is rated at 2500mAh and is really good. I reckon close to two days on regular use with internet on. I was able to use this as a WiFi hotspot when we were in Jakarta earlier this week and it lasted about half a day with 3G and WiFi on (I think it lasted that long because the screen was off most of the time).

The device is targeted to people who are looking for a powerful smartphone and a tablet in one. It’s a bargain if you look at it that way but it might be too much if you’re just into an Android phone or just want to replace your tablet with a smaller one (remember, Samsung also has a much cheaper 5-inch Galaxy S WiFi at Php12k).

The Samsung Galaxy Note has a suggested retail price of Php35,990 (also exclusive with Smart under Plan 2000). It’s one of the most expensive smartphones to date, even more expensive than the tablets Samsung is also promoting (which are all under Php30k). If your coming from the Galaxy S2, this is definitely an upgrade. Whichever way you are coming from, the Galaxy Note is definitely drool-worthy.

Disclosure: Widget City provided us with this review unit. They also sell the Galaxy Note at their online store for only Php31,000. You can check them out here.

Samsung Galaxy Note hitting the Philippines on Nov. 15
Samsung Galaxy Note sale on Nov. 19 for Php35,990

156 Responses to “Samsung Galaxy Note GT-N7000 Review”

  1. jarmaine says:

    having read all the good review on galaxy note,, i was about to buy it yesterday but i “backed out” coz i didnt expect that it will be that “big” for a smart phone (samsung categorize it as smart phone) not a good idea to have a phone that big, especially dito sa tin pagatawanan ka lang anyway good luck sa mga bibili (nothing against samsung peace)

  2. leo says:

    I tried this one.. I don’t know if this is true. It doesn’t hurt to try.. http://goo.gl/bZvAw

  3. Pa3ck says:

    quite impressed with it my smart postpaid is due for an upgrade this april meaning i can go to higher plan. I was thinking of getting an iphone siri first. Then I saw the note and after reading the reviews made on it I wad convinced I will get the note.

  4. Pa3ck says:

    quite impressed with it my smart postpaid is due for an upgrade this april meaning i can go to higher plan. I was thinking of getting an iphone siri first. Then I saw the note and after reading the reviews made on it I was convinced I will get the note.

  5. jane says:

    i re sell mine coz madaling masira ang galaxy note and people are staring at me in a funny way especially when im trying to use it as a phone and i find it pang mahirap/masa na gadget ang samsung which is im not anyway bye squatter peole

  6. jane says:

    i re sell mine coz madaling masira ang galaxy note and people are staring at me in a funny way especially when im trying to use it as a phone and i find it pang mahirap/masa na gadget ang samsung which is im not, anyway bye squatter people

    • april says:

      hi!jane here in the uk Samsung Galaxy Note is one of the latest mobile phone model.. which is a very popular and expensive one. I don’t think people from squatter can afford to buy it. LOL… hahaha

  7. jdGONEMAD
    Twitter: jdGONEMAD
    says:

    just got one! wooohooo!

  8. jdGONEMAD
    Twitter: jdGONEMAD
    says:

    @jane: check mo muna grammar mo bago ka makapanlait ng squatter. tsk tsk tsk. and i believe “rich” and educated people don’t jeje-text.

  9. Cooksterrific
    Twitter: Cooksterrific
    says:

    Great review as always! :-)

    I came from a Motorola Defy (MB525), so I didn’t have a hard time using my Note during its first days (Android to Anroid, after all). :-)

    I’ve had my Ceramic White Galaxy Note for exactly 17 days now and so far, I’m very happy with it.

    I’m sure I’ll love it more when I get the Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade as soon as it is released. :-)

    Mabuhay, Samsung! You guys rock! \m/

    PS. I don’t really mind it when I’m in public and people stare at my gargantuan “phablet”. On the contrary, I am PROUD of my spectacular gizmo. ^__^

  10. Cooksterrific
    Twitter: Cooksterrific
    says:

    Whoops, sorry for the typos:

    *during its first days
    *Android to Android

    ^__^

  11. Sverige says:

    The complete phone-tablet device!!!
    Now there is no need to carry both an iPhone/Android phone AND iPad/Android tablet! This phone-tablet device has better resolution (and pixel density of course) than the iPad, and it’s a third of the size, so it’s much easier to carry and walk around with. AND it’s much more than just a 3G tablet, it’s also a phone for those times that you wish to send SMS,

  12. dos_sentimos says:

    Hahaha jane, madali talaga masira ang isang bagay pag di mo alam gamitin. Pang matalino kasi ang mga Android Devices eh. Balik ka na lang sa iPhone (Idiots Phone). Samsung ROCKS!!!

  13. ernie says:

    kapal ng Mukha mo jane! feeling ka sobra.. grammar mo pa lang halatang mas mahirap kapa sa daga at ikaw ay nag aambisyon lang.. Nokia 5110 ang bagay sayo ha? wag kana makisabat sa usapan ng may mga afford bumili ng Gadgets tulad nito. hahaha!

  14. parangano
    Twitter: parangano
    says:

    I have been contemplating getting this phone for the longest time. I mean, like more than 4 months already. I got the first gen Galaxy Tab and I am thinking it’s time to upgrade to something more portable. I only have hesitations on whether this will actually get ICS and when. Parang ang dami nang balita na 2012 or first quarter of 2012 magkakaron pero wala pa rin. oh well. I don’t have the phone yet, but I just want to make sure that it will get ICS since it’s still a big ticket item for me.

  15. Barnarbus Stinson says:

    Hi, are they selling the 32GB version of the Galaxy Note in the Philippines? If so, how much is it going for?

    Thanks!

  16. Girly says:

    I really want this phone or whatever they call this thing. Im so inlove in this gadget! Parang kape lng 3n1, and i dont know what to choose between galaxy note and the bold 9900., please help!

  17. ernie says:

    Got one yesterday! Grabe I’m so satisfied!..
    napaka powerful ng Device na ito, lahat na yata kayang gawin. walang sinabi si 4S…

  18. arnold says:

    this is the best phone samsung released!

    now im waiting for the galaxy note 10.1!

    bye bye apple for me

  19. Elán says:

    @jane
    Oh my goodness! Who is this lowlife? She bashes the best and one of the most expensive smartphones to date yet her grammar is atrocious! Please get your 3rd hand iPhone 2g you bought from greenhills with your life savings and get out of here quick! Come back to the dumpsite where you came from!

  20. Phil says:

    @jane:

    You say you’re not “mahirap,” but how come you sound so uneducated? You can’t even get your English right. You’re funny.

    On topic:

    At first, I couldn’t decide between the Galaxy Note and the new Sony Xperia S. The top-most feature I really wanted on the Xperia S was the 12MP cam, but now that I’ve seen sample photos from both devices, I’ve realized that there’s not that much of a difference in quality. In fact, the Note’s 8MP camera actually outperforms Sony’s 12MP cam in low-light conditions, from what I can see in the sample shots.

    I am still a bit torn, though. The Sony Xperia S has the Bravia Engine (HD Reality Display), while the Note has Super AMOLED (which I don’t like very much, because it tends to exaggerate the colors on the screen…which means that what you see on the Note’s screen aren’t exactly “true to life,” especially if we’re talking about photos and videos).

    I’ll be making my purchase next week. I think I’m going to go with the Galaxy Note. The functionality of a mini-tab, the S-pen and the large screen size (which is great for productivity) are too good to give up for a 12MP camera which isn’t even that good (again, from what I can see) and a display that I don’t really even care for that much. For the record, I still maintain that the display on the Xperia S is better compared to that of the Note’s, but I don’t think I will be looking at my future-phone’s screen that often “purely to appreciate the display,” because that would be silly.

  21. Joe says:

    I didn’t see it mentioned yet… I think the size of the Note is ideal for games. It is close to the size of PSP. I liked playing Dead Space and Blood and Glory on this size.

  22. Jay says:

    People, lay off the kid (jane).

    On topic:

    I just got my phone stolen so I’m thinking of replacing it with this one. :)

  23. Robbie says:

    This note is good for the business and for Jane eat your f**cking/mahirap/squatter (iPhone)

    :P

  24. rancel says:

    i got thia phone last april 7 from smart….well all i can say is this phone is worth having for….at first pinagiisipan ko if note o htc sensation kukunin ko sa smart…but when i saw this…read the reviews and everything…ive decded to get this one…until know it didnt fail me…in fact ayaw ko na syang bitawan…this sevice is great…kudos to samsung

    @ jane….well what can i say…..maybe you bought a china phone….( i have nothing against china phones) and they are ryt, android devices are for educated people….maybe ur from a squatters area thats why you sell your note…if ever y0u really have one…hahahaha

  25. Serenity says:

    Dear Sir,

    First, Thank you for the wonderful blog, helps a lot! I’m saving for this device , just one last question, is it good for reading an ebook? I like to read. please keep going po.

    Thank you!

    • Serenity says:

      May I follow up my question about this device is good in reading an ebook? Thank you for anyone respond to this question.
      Have a nice day!

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Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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