Hands-on With a Giant Smartphone - or Small Tablet - The Samsung Galaxy Note

Subject: Mobile | January 11, 2012 - 12:04 AM |
Tagged: tablet, Samsung, mobile phone, galaxy, CES

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One of the more unusual products debuted by a major manufacturer this CES has to be the Samsung Galaxy Note. It’s a 5.3” device that runs Android 2.3 with the Samsung TouchWiz interface.

The Note is unusual because of its size. The 5” to 7” range is a bit of a no man’s land in the world of mobile devices. Such products are considered too small to be a real tablet, but also too large to be a decent phone. Though there have been attempts to enter products in this range, they haven’t sold in huge numbers.

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Apparently, Samsung thinks the market is worth some serious effort. They’re making a big deal of this device – to my eye, it looked as if there were more of these available on the show floor than any product the company offers. And as if to drive the point home, the CES bus I took back from the convention center today – like most of the buses at CES – was wrapped in Samsung Galaxy Note advertisements.

So what’s it like? Well, it’s like a big phone. Or a small tablet. Since it runs Android 2.3 and uses TouchWiz, the interface is basically identical to the rest of Samsung’s massive line of Android phones. Plastic is the material of choice in the construction of the chassis, which doesn’t lend the product a premium feel. 

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It does make the Samsung Galaxy Note light, however. Official numbers put it at 178g (about .4 pounds) which is less than half the weight of your typical 7” tablet.  The thickness of 9.25mm (about .4 inches) doesn’t seem outstanding, but the curved rear cover helps reduce perceived thickness. 

Samsung is known for its mobile displays, and the Note doesn’t disappoint. It uses a Samsung AMOLED with a resolution of 1280x800. This allows the small Note to offer as many or more usable pixels then much larger tablets, and it also contributes to an extremely sharp image. Unfortunately there wasn’t streaming video available to view at the time I used the device, but games look excellent. Maximum display brightness was high, as well. 

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Like the ASUS MeMO, the Note includes a stylus. Useful? Not so far as I can tell. Sure, it does a fine job of accepting handwriting, but I have a hard time seeing this smaller device used as an electronic notepad. Is there really an audience for that outside of some enterprise environments? 

Inside there is a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor as well as 1GB of memory and 16 or 32 gigabytes of internal storage. In my use the device felt smooth, but no more so than most other high-end smartphones I looked at both during CES and before.

The Note is equipped for use with cellular networks including HSPA, 4G LTE and EDGE. North American availability will come via AT&T. Pricing is not announced - $199 is of course typical for high-end handsets, but Samsungs have gone for higher prices before. The $249 to $299 price range (with contract) seems more likely.

Will the Note be a success? Perhaps. Samsung has already sold over a million units in Europe, where the Note was introduced late last year. However, the Note so far is planned to ship in North America without Ice Cream Sandwich support built in (an upgrade will bring it, but there’s no release date). That could be a major knock against the Note. Availability will be in spring, so we’ll soon find out the Note’s fate.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

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Source: Samsung