Size does matter: comparing the Galaxy Note II to Apple's iPhone
Size does matter: comparing the Galaxy Note II to Apple's iPhone
The Note II is bigger even than its predecessor, its 5.5-inch screen edging out the original Notes 5.3-inch screen.
The Note II is bigger even than its predecessor, its 5.5-inch screen edging out the original Notes 5.3-inch screen.

Cape Town There was a time when the major selling point for any new cellphone was that it was smaller than its predecessors. Today the opposite is true.

Instead of razor-thin phones that can slip into the pocket of the skinniest jeans, cellphone makers are releasing a range of phones that are too big to be labelled phones and yet too small to be called a tablet. Call then “phablets” for want of a better term but they are the latest trend.

And when it comes to trend-setting the Samsung Galaxy Note II is, literally, a giant. The newest Note phone from the Korean phone maker is huge. It makes phones such as the HTC One X and the Samsung SIII looks decidedly puny and it towers over the likes of Apple’s iPhone, all of them.

The Note II is bigger even than its predecessor, its 5.5-inch screen edging out the original Note’s 5.3-inch screen. It does have a slightly different shape to its predecessor, however: slightly taller but not as wide. That’s a good thing because when you have a phone that is all of 151mm long and 80mm wide you’re pushing the limits of one-handed dexterity and even then, one-handed operation is not always easy.

Some may see the size of the Note II as a negative but there are many positives that more than make up for it. Its size makes the Note II an excellent multimedia device, a more than handy portable games console or even, at a push, a decent reading device. The screen is perfect for catching up on the latest episode of your favourite series without too much eye strain as well as answering emails with an on-screen keyboard that doesn’t obliterate the entire composing window.

And naturally it is easily big enough for flinging about some angry birds or cutting some rope, or any other game you have a preference for.

Take note

The best things about the Note II aren’t limited to its size, however. One of the better features of the Note is the stylus, or S Pen as Samsung likes to call it. The stylus is the same one used on the larger Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet and is more useful than most would immediately imagine. The S Pen fits neatly into the back of the case and the Note II registers when the pen is removed and switches over to a selection of pen-enabled applications.

One of the better features of the S Pen is the ability to “hover” over the screen. Hold the pen close to the screen without touching and a pointer appears on the screen, just like a regular mouse. One of the obvious benefits is that with this is is possible to activate dropdown menus on websites without needing to click on anything.

Better still, the S Pen has a small button on it. It’s a bit fiddly to get used to but once you do it adds a range of functionality to the phone. For example, clicking the button and pressing the stylus to the screen takes a screenshot. The stylus can then be used to draw notes on the screenshot which can then be shared with friends and colleagues. This is particularly handy for marking up Google Maps, for example.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Note II is the battery, and by that I mean it doesn’t die within minutes of leaving home. A phone this size with this many features by all rights ought to require a rucksack-mounted battery pack but it manages excellently with its 3100 mAh battery. After using this phone for a couple of weeks, doing a fair bit of syncing, video watching, loads of email and web browsing, it’s clear that the Note II can put in a full day’s work without needing to be near a power point. And, depending on how an intense a user you are, chances are you could get a couple of days use out of a single charge.

Under the skin

Under the outer casing of the Note II is where the magic happens. Samsung can’t be accused of skimping on this front. The quad-core processor, running at 1.6GHz, is teamed with 2MB RAM and 16, 32 or 64MB of internal storage. The included microSD card slot adds as much as 64GB to that. The memory combined with the quad-core processor make the phone fast. Switching screens is fluid and rapid and the Note II never seems to fumble when switching apps.

On the camera front the Note II includes an 8 megapixel camera for primary use as well as a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera. Video recording is naturally HD filming at 1080p and allowing simultaneous video and image capture, finger-touch focus and image stabilisation. The quality of pictures taken on the Note II were generally excellent and video recording was easy, although the auto-focus on a number of times appeared to have a mind of its own, and not in a good way.

There’s a lot to like about the Note II. If there has to be criticism then it’s probably fair to say that the casing for the phone feels a little bit poor. It may look like brushed aluminium but it’s really just plastic. But if you consider what’s inside the casing then it becomes easier to overlook.

Not everyone will love the Note II. For many, Samsung’s SIII will be more than enough and the extra size offered by the Note II won’t really appeal. But for others the extra size will be highly prized.


- Huge screen

- Speedy performance

- S-Pen


- Slightly cheap build

The Samsung Galaxy Note II sells for around R7,999. - IOL