Review: Galaxy Note II for big-screen enthusiasts

November 2, 2012 by Jim Rossman

Every time I think I'm completely happy with my iPhone, I see another Android model that has a newer, bigger, faster feature that I covet.

Now I'm reviewing Samsung's new Galaxy Note II, the second-generation Note that brings all of its features together under what has to be one of the biggest screens on a phone.

It's no secret that if you're in the market for a Note II, you're screen-size obsessed.

I don't blame you.

I love the iPhone 5's larger screen, and as a person who has rather large pockets, I'd say bigger is better.

The Note II boasts a 5.5-inch HD Super screen with a resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels. To give you a size comparison, my 's entire body fits entirely inside the screen area of the Note II.

Other specs include a 1.6 GHz quad-core processor running Android 4.1 (). The Note II is 5.95 inches by 3.17 inches and 0.37 inches thick. It has 2 gigabytes of RAM, and storage starts at 16 GB, with a to add up to 64 GB more.

The front-facing camera is 1.9 megapixels and the rear camera is 8 with LED flash. through the rear camera is HD. Built-in sensors include , digital compass, proximity, gyro and . GPS is there, too.

You'd think the Note II would be too big for one-handed use, but Samsung has thoughtfully included a special one-handed mode. If you need to type with one thumb, the size of the keyboard or phone keypad can be reduced slightly and anchored to the right or left edge.

S PEN: If you've never used a Samsung Note, you'll be either pleasantly surprised or horrified that the phone has a built-in stylus. The Note II pen's features are much improved from the previous model.

The S Pen lets you draw on the screen in almost any application. Draw a map in an email, enter calendar events by hand, and even highlight days on your calendar with the color of your choice. You can even draw a box on the screen and immediately capture that screen data, copy it and paste it somewhere else.

When you hold the stylus about a centimeter above the screen, you'll see a small circle appear that moves with the stylus. This hovering is called Airview and can bring up temporary previews of things like photos and emails so you can select them more accurately. The tiny circle works just like a mouse in the browser to do things like activate popup menus.

S NOTE: Samsung knows Note II users are big note-takers. S Note is a combination note-taking/document creation app that's kind of like Apple's Pages app but with the ability to use pen input as well.

When you launch S Note, you're presented with templates for creating your own documents or you can start with a blank screen. You can fully customize the pen's tip, color and size and choose from other pen types, such as paintbrush or markers.

Entering text or drawings on the screen is easy with the stylus, and you can switch to typed input with the onscreen keyboard instantly. Inserting photos, graphics or audio into your notes is simple as well. Notes can be shared with other Note users via S Beam or with everyone else by converting the notes to JPG or PDF files.

TECTILES: The Note II and a slew of other Samsung phones have near field communication, a technology that enables the phone to read and react to chips in other devices.

Samsung describes its TecTiles stickers as "an introduction to the user-friendly capabilities of NFC beyond mobile payments."

TecTiles are small NFC chips that can be programmed to perform actions on the phone such as turning features on or off, launching apps and setting up preloaded phone profiles. Set up what you'd like the TecTile to do and program the chip. Anytime you touch the phone to the TecTile, that action will occur.

You might have a TecTile on the door of the office conference room that turns off your phone's ringer and sets notifications to vibrate.

A TecTile in your car could be set to enable Bluetooth and connect to a Bluetooth receiver in your car, launch a navigation app and adjust the volume for turn-by-turn directions.

You can create private tags that only the owner's phone responds to and unlock previously locked TecTiles for reuse and relocking.

TecTiles are $14.99 for a pack of five and are available where Samsung phones are sold.

The Note II has more features, including a $39.99 protective flip cover that replaces the phone's battery cover.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Easy Mode, which makes the phone friendlier for users who don't want to geek out to every feature on the phone.

If you're a stylus fan and love scribbling notes, the Note II is your dream phone.

I enjoyed my time with it and could see using the Note II, as it has all of the features I'm interested in and a bigger screen than my . It doesn't disappear into my jeans pocket, but it doesn't stick out either.

The Note II launched in October and will be available on all major U.S. carriers starting around $299 with a new two-year agreement.



-Pros: Huge screen, pen input.

-Cons: Huge screen, pen input.

-Bottom line: A huge screen and stylus could be a pro or a con, depending on your needs.

-Price: $299 with two-year contract

-On the Web:; major carriers' websites

Explore further: Review: Samsung Galaxy Note a too-big phone, too-small tablet

Related Stories

Samsung reveals new Galaxy Note II

August 29, 2012

Fresh off a legal battle with Apple, Samsung is announcing a new version of the Galaxy Note, an offbeat, oversized smartphone that's become a surprise hit.

Samsung bringing super-size smartphone to US

January 10, 2012

South Korean electronics giant Samsung announced plans Monday to bring its super-size smartphone, the Galaxy Note, which also features a stylus for taking notes, to the United States.

Review: Samsung tablet takes aim at iPad with pen

August 15, 2012

The tablet-computer market is like guerrilla warfare. One huge army — Apple — dominates the land, while a ragtag group of insurgents keeps raiding and probing, hoping to find some opening it can exploit.

Samsung launches its new super-size Galaxy Note

August 7, 2012

South Korea's Samsung Electronics said it had launched a super-size version of its Galaxy Note smartphone, the latest salvo in its battle with Apple for the multi-billion-dollar handheld market.

Samsung rolls out NFC phone sticker innovation (w/ Video)

June 14, 2012

( -- Samsung has announced its introduction of stickers with embedded NFC chips, to be sold by major carriers in packs, so that NFC-enabled Samsung smartphones, with a tap against the sticker, can carry out tasks. ...

Recommended for you

Google Assistant adds more languages in global push

February 23, 2018

Google said Friday its digital assistant software would be available in more than 30 languages by the end of the years as it steps up its artificial intelligence efforts against Amazon and others.

Researchers find tweeting in cities lower than expected

February 20, 2018

Studying data from Twitter, University of Illinois researchers found that less people tweet per capita from larger cities than in smaller ones, indicating an unexpected trend that has implications in understanding urban pace ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Nov 02, 2012
Here's an idea, Samsung. Allow the user to personalize his/her Note with his/her thumbprint in the lower right or left corner (settings) of the screen, a dynamic and transparent feature. That would be the most secure way to ensure that no-one else, without permission, is allowed, or able, to use that device.
not rated yet Nov 05, 2012
Here's an idea, Samsung. Allow the user to personalize his/her Note with his/her thumbprint in the lower right or left corner (settings) of the screen, a dynamic and transparent feature. That would be the most secure way to ensure that no-one else, without permission, is allowed, or able, to use that device.

How would the phone read your fingerprint to begin with?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.