Samsung Galaxy Note review

How does the Android Ice Cream Sandwich update fare?

Samsung Galaxy Note review
Our definitive Samsung Galaxy Note

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The Samsung Galaxy Note is definitely a device worth considering if you're a media and internet fiend.

Three announced a few months back that its users do more browsing than calling on phones these days and, if you're one of those types, this could be a perfect choice.

It's fast, it's intuitive and in very few places does it compromise.

And, if you're looking for a high-tier smartphone, you'll do far worse than this (especially as the price cascades thanks to the arrival of the newer Galaxy Note 2).

Android Ice Cream Sandwich is a big plus compared to the original Gingerbread - though in a lot of places, we didn't see much existence of it thanks to the Touch Wiz overlay. And Jelly Bean is already out now for certain devices, rendering it slightly old hat.

We liked

The screen on the Note cannot be beaten. It is both clear and vibrant but also nice and big, and we've always been fans of Samsung's TouchWiz skin which is one of the good guys in the world of Android customisations.

The rest of the 'wins' in the Samsung smartphone range are here too, ranging from the clever contacts integration with social networking to intuitive widgets to a speedy internet browser.

We disliked

The S-Pen seems a bit 'Marmite', and there is no doubt that the Note is big, which will put off a majority of general smartphone enthusiasts. It's also still a relatively expensive device, so you're paying for that larger screen - yet there's the Nexus 7 that offers a larger screen, faster processor and it's half the cost.

The design is a little mundane as well in today's market - and the upgraded S-Pen for the Note 10.1 and Note 2 shows that the option here isn't as good as it could be, and the older Note also lacks the whizz-bang speed of the new model.

It doesn't have the same TouchWiz overlay as seen on the S3 either, which is a bit of a shame despite the upgrade.

Update: If you've got the 4.0.4 update to the Galaxy Note, then the TouchWiz overlay has been upgraded to match the S3 - so that's a lovely reason to like the handset more.

Final verdict

There aren't many things we can complain about with the Galaxy Note. Samsung has taken what is already a good handset and built on it to make an even better one.

The only question you have to ask is, "Is it too big for me?"

When it launched, it was a bit of a mystery. Was the world ready for a device that was set half way between Tabletland and Phoneville? The answer is, it clearly was, and you just have to look at the interest in the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

The great thing is that the Note is still an decent device (the Note 2 will merely build on that) and has difficulty being beaten, even though it's a year old.

And it's not too pricey when you consider it's £200/AU$400/US$380 cheaper than it was a few months ago.

We'd heartily recommend it if you can cope with the size and a few niggles in terms of performance and last-gen technology. It's still expensive when compared to other smartphones with a screen less than an inch smaller, (only £80 more for the One X+? Yes please).

Scoring this phone/tablet is hard, as it depends entirely on the user. Love the screen size? Add half a star, as you're an internet browsing, video watching fiend who spends very little time calling or generally messaging folk.

Think the S3 is already pushing it in screen size? Have slightly smaller pockets? That's the majority of users in our eyes, and as such the extra display inches will annoy you so much the sheen will be knocked off an otherwise excellent device.