Samsung Galaxy Note II review

By on October 22, 2012
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The phablet gets evolved.

Good: Beautiful screen, excellent battery life and super fast
Bad: Camera not so great and too big for some
Price: AED 2499
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Samsung officially launched the Galaxy Note 2 at GITEX Computer Shopper 2012 in early October. Since the release of the original Galaxy Note almost a year back, many of us have come to know and love this rather large device as the phablet. The new model continues to push boundaries as far as size and performance is concerned and today we find out if the follow-up to the very successful Galaxy Note will be an even bigger blockbuster or not.

The Samsung Galaxy Note II is one of those devices that you either love or hate but I’ve found that most people who shy away from the phablet do so because they don’t really know what the device is capable of. The Galaxy Note is a device that offers you an all-in-one experience like no phone on the market- whether you are a student commuting on a daily basis and want to keep up to date with the latest movies and reading material or a business person always on the go who needs to be in touch with work related documents. I have personally been a part of both those worlds when I bought the original Note last year so that is experience talking. Truly, the Galaxy Note is a mobile office.


The Galaxy Note II is packaged as expected with Samsung devices- simple and straight to the point. The following is our unboxing video that shows you the contents present inside.

[youtube video=]

If you’re not interested in watching the above video, let me run you through what is included. The first thing you notice is the Galaxy Note II sitting comfortably on top of the package. Below that you’ll find some good quality OEM in-ear phones with an assortment of different sized buds to accommodate most ears. A micro USB charging/syncing cable is also included along with a slim power adapter. Other than that, you will also find a quick setup guide as well as the monstrous 3100 mAh battery.

Build Quality and Design

Samsung has always been known to build solid devices and the Galaxy Note II feels quite robust in your hands. Design wise the Note 2 obviously feels rather large with dimensions of 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm. However, I found using the device extremely easy and natural after a couple of weeks with it. After that, the only time I found the Galaxy Note II as a rather large sized device was when I tried comparing it with someone else’s smartphone.

The new Galaxy Note II has softer edges than the previous generation Note and the front face is flush to the bezel making it look more like the Galaxy S3. Compared to the older model the Note II is a little taller and thicker but less wider and that helps it sit better in your hand. The S Pen has changed from a cylinder to a triangular shape with a rubber tip that provides a much better feel- somewhat similar to writing on a surface rather than scratching at glass.

Specs & Comparison

The Samsung Galaxy Note II is powered by the new quad core Samsung Exynos 4412 processor running at 1.6GHz and is based on Cortex-A9. Along with that, you have 2GB of RAM and the Mali-400MP GPU which can put most Android based phones on the market to shame. The following table compares the Galaxy Note II to the Samsung Galaxy SIII as well as the HTC One X.

Samsung Galaxy Note II Samsung Galaxy SIII HTC One X
Dimensions 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm 134.4 x 69.9 x 8.9 mm
Weight 183 g 133 g 130 g
Screen Size Super AMOLED 5.5″
720 x 1280 res, 267ppi
Super AMOLED 4.8″
720 x 1280 res, 306ppi
Super IPS LCD2 4.7″
720 x 1280 res, 312ppi
Processors Exynos 4412 Quad, Mali-400MP Exynos 4412 Quad, Mali-400MP Nvidia Tegra 3 Quad, GeForce
Max Speed 1.6GHz 1.4GHz 1.5GHz
Storage 16/32/64GB + MicroSD 16/32/64GB + MicroSD 32GB
OS Android 4.1 Android 4.0 Android 4.0
Connectivity HSDPA 21 Mbps
HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
LTE Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
802.11a/b/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.0
HSDPA 21 Mbps
HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
802.11a/b/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.0
HSDPA 21 Mbps
HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
802.11a/b/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.0
Camera 8 MP
1080p @ 30fps
8 MP
1080p @ 30fps
8 MP
1080p @ 24fps
Battery Li-Ion 3100 mAh Li-Ion 2100 mAh Li-Po 1800 mAh
Price AED 2449 AED 1999 AED 1699


As you can see from the specs above the Galaxy Note 2 packs some serious punch capable of handling almost any task you throw at it. It completed the Sun Spider Benchmark in 1325ms which is faster than the Galaxy S II at 1450ms and the HTC One X at 1.650ms.

While not present in the version of software running on our unit, we have been told that an update rolling out by the end of the month will allow you run to two apps on screen at the same time. This is fantastic news as you will finally be able to truly multitask like no other smartphone on the market- think watching a video and tweeting about it without needing to switch in and out of applications.

Screen UI and Apps

With the Galaxy Note II, Samsung brings a brand new 5.5″ 720p Super AMOLED screen that finally gets rid of pentile display found in devices such as the Galaxy SIII. The following screenshot compares the screen of the Galaxy SIII to the Galaxy Note II with the Note II being on top:

The sharpness on the Note II is the best I have see to date, white’s are whiter and overall colors more vibrant. However, one area where Samsung has failed to put the new larger display to use is to allow more on screen “real estate” from applications. For example, even though you have a larger display than the Samsung SIII, you still see the same number of emails or tweets on the screen. Comparing that to the move from iPhone 4 to iPhone 5, the bigger screen on iPhone 5 allows you to see more information.

Where the big screen works is that when browsing- particularly forums, where you no longer need to zoom in and out to be able to read content. Landscape mode provides perfect text size enabling you to just scroll up and down pages.

Samsung includes new applications on the Galaxy Note II such as Paper Artist which is very similar to Instagram but with more creative options. S Note has also been updated with additional features inspiring your creative side. Other little touches found on the Galaxy S III with Touchwiz 4.0 also work well on the Note II such as tracking your eyes to keep the screen turned on or. Samsung has added some new functionality to Touchwiz as well such as turning the screen on when reaching for the phone for a quick look at notifications.


The 8 megapixel camera on the Galaxy Note II is pretty similar to the one found on the Galaxy SIII as far as picture quality is concerned meaning you will be able to get some decent shots out of it. Additional features like best faces, best photo, low light and share shot allow multiple shots to be taken and the user select their favorite one.

While the photos taken from the Galaxy Note II are impressive, the speed at which photos are taken are not the fastest. The Samsung Galaxy SIII as well as the aging Galaxy Nexus too pictures faster than the Galaxy Note II.


Day to day use of the Note 2 battery life is fantastic and the hefty battery easily allows you multi-day usage. The battery does get a bit on the warmer side when charging the device, however that is pretty much the norm with any phone and at no point did I feel the Note II was uncomfortably hot.

Call quality is top notch as well with both regular calls over the mobile network as well as using GTalk. I was highly impressed with the sound levels the Note II offered- we’ve all been in the situations where our music or videos aren’t loud enough. That is not the case with the Galaxy Note II and it is definitely the loudest phone that I have used to date. Another thing worth mentioning is that the Wi-Fi signal on the Note II is the best I have seen on any phone of late. Where the Galaxy SIII showed a single bar of Wi-Fi signal strength, I was getting three on the Note II. In fact, the Note II was picking up Wi-Fi access points I had never seen before in my neighborhood.


If your looking for a power house of a device that cuts no corners when it comes to connectivity and features look no further. The Galaxy Note II manages to work really well as a phone as well as a tablet and with the industry moving to bigger screens, the Note no longer sticks out like it did a year ago. Samsung should be properly credited for creating a Phablet market by creating a device like the Galaxy Note II. It’s a superb device in all regards that will surely attract competition.


Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

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  • Greg Zeng

    On my clone of the Samsung Note, I found the wifi antenna to be very directional (use a 3rd party app). Many Y-Tube videos make this same comparison mistake.
    Perhaps your antenna is placed differently in each model, rather than the simple assumption that you noticed.
    Retired Chief Information Officer (1984), Australian Capital Territory

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