1280 x 800 pixels in a smartphone display is quite a feat, and it's just as impressive to behold as it sounds. The Note's 5.3-inch Super AMOLED screen is incredibly bright, vibrant and detailed, thanks to its 285ppi resolution. It doesn't have the highest pixel density in the world (the smaller Galaxy Nexus
trumps it slightly, as does Apple's Retina panel in the iPhone 4
), but it's enough to make graphics amazingly smooth -- you'll have a hard time seeing individual pixels with the naked eye. Viewing photos and graphics, web pages and even newspaper articles in PressReader is quite the treat when you have this much visual real estate to work with.
Colors on the Note pop just as they do on the GS II, that eye-pleasing contrast and saturation we've come to love from Samsung's AMOLED displays, and little vibrancy is lost when viewed from the side. However, color accuracy does start to wander a bit. This is indeed a PenTile display, just like
the upcoming Galaxy Nexus, and so there are more green sub-pixels than any other color. This gives everything an ever-so slightly sickly tinge, especially when viewed off-angle. Still, you'll have no problem watching videos or reviewing your sketches with a group of friends -- assuming none of them are hue purists.
If you fall within the camp of smartphone users that absolutely swears off onscreen keyboards, the Note's display may just win you over. A larger display means larger keys, which are easier to see and simpler to tap accurately -- if you can reach them. You can also use the S Pen to replace the keyboard entirely, letting you write in individual letters or entire words. Character and handwriting recognition isn't perfect, but it is quite good. When we scribbled "hello" as you can see in the picture below it was recognized perfectly, though less common words (particularly web addresses) were a little less reliable.
Loudspeaker / earpiece
The Note's speaker sure is loud, though Samsung hasn't pulled any magic tricks out of the hat here when it comes to audio quality. Do you like listening to music or watching movies through tinny desktop speakers? Well, then you might not mind the Note. There's nothing exceptional about the little tweeter inside here besides its volume, so you'll want to take advantage of that 3.5mm headphone jack whenever possible. The only accessory Samsung included with our review sample was a UK power cord, so we can't speak to the pack-in headphones the company will provide, but unsurprisingly our own pair worked just fine.
There's an FM radio app, just in case you run out of stored tunes or want to leave the playlist generation up to a professional. You'll need to plug in a set of earphones to use as an antenna and our generic buds naturally seemed to do the trick -- though we could only pull in a half dozen stations while standing next to a window in Central London, and the ones that we did get were mostly static.
If you do plan on making phone calls with the Note, you can expect average performance. We placed a few test calls -- some local and some across the Atlantic -- and things sounded just fine on both ends, though not overly crisp. Callers on the other end of the line were barely able to distinguish between calls made using the earpiece and those placed with the speakerphone, even when speaking a foot or two away from the handset. The Note's strengths clearly lie in what you can do with that generous display and S Pen, though it's a perfectly functional phone just the same.
It's safe to say that the device offered more than acceptable performance. That's to be expected, as it appears to be using the same sensor and camera getup we've loved in the other Galaxy S II iterations
thus far. During our indoor shoot, the camera was able to balance color and exposure properly with most subjects in still mode. The autofocus worked well most of the time and the built-in flash popped with the correct amount of power -- our subjects were not blown out. We needed to stay a few inches away from subjects in order to get the camera to focus, even in macro mode -- so don't expect to be able to snap extreme close-ups. Also, noise was an issue in darker scenes and the camera was unable to compensate for low light in some areas.