Samsung Galaxy Note, the deep insight for choice

Is it a giant phone, or a tiny tablet? It’s a way to get the best, or perhaps worst, of both worlds. The idea is that the 4.3 inch screen on a standard smartphone is just that little bit too small for you to really use it effectively for several hours of work, whereas a full-sized 10″ tablet, or even a cut-down 7″ one, is too big to be easily portable. So, does the reality match the idea? We take a good look at the Galaxy Note, to help you decide.

The Galaxy Note runs Android, currently Gingerbread, though rumour has it that an Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade will follow next year. All the usual benefits to Android — customisability, and a wide variety of apps — can be found here, as can the flaws (a certain clunkiness and user-unfriendliness).

Most of the specs for the Galaxy Note are around what we’ve come to expect for high-end smartphones: it has 16 GB of memory with a micro-SD slot that lets you add another 32 GB, a dual-core 1.4 MHz ARM chip, and an 8 MP camera with 1080p video camera. Still, it makes very good use of what it has, running every app we could throw at it with blistering speed and no apparent flaws.

The significant thing is really the screen, particularly its size and the size that makes the phone. The screen itself is a thing of highly technical beauty, offering breathtaking colour reproduction and deep, solid blacks. It has an impressive 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, putting it well into laptop or even desktop computer range in terms of image clarity. This all means that it does make for an excellent TV viewer. You might feel you don’t want to watch movies on it, just because of the detail you’ll lose, but it that case you probably wouldn’t want to watch them on a larger tablet, either.

The Note moniker comes from the idea of this as a note-taking device, and to that end, the phone comes with a special stylus, the S Pen. Unlike regular styli, this one works rather like a pencil or artist’s pen. The screen senses the pressure of the S Pen, allowing you to make deep, thick lines, or thinner ones, so you really could use this not just for notes, but to jot down initial sketches for art or design projects too.

This all does come with a cost, and at 143mm by 83mm by 9.65mm, that cost is size. Still, that’s considerably smaller than a small paperback book (typically around 180mm by 110mm), so if you would usually consider carrying a book with you to entertain you on the train (or an e-Reader, for that matter) the Note is smaller and more portable, particularly if you would have to be carrying a phone as well. And yes, it does perform perfectly well as an e-Reader, too (try FBReader if you want a good free e-book software for Android).

The big drawback of the size comes when you actually want to use it as a phone. Either get used to some odd looks, make a virtue of its unusual size as a style point, or get a Bluetooth headset. Or you could just communicate by text all the time. That being said, the Galaxy Note is only slightly larger than the Galaxy Nexus — which itself is bordering on the rather large.

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