Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

The Note is back, bigger and better

Hands on with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Hands on with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2

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Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

This being an Android handset, you cannot fault the amount of messaging options in the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

Firstly, there's Mail, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 comes with two flavours built in.

One is the standard, excellent Gmail app found on all Android handsets.

The second is Samsung's own Mail app, which accommodates Gmail as well as virtually every other POP3/IMAP and Exchange option you care to chuck in its direction.

The Gmail app is brilliant.

It was overhauled for Android Ice Cream Sandwich, so if you have the original Samsung Galaxy Note (and you haven't updated from Gingerbread), you'll very quickly notice the difference.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

It looks better, it acts better and it gives you a widget too.

The search facility on this app is great as well, and could pick out the smallest detail from more than 10,000 emails in our inbox.

The only thing it lets us down on is the reformatting of HTML emails to fit the screen.

You can now zoom out to get a whole page view - which was an Achilles' heel on the app since the very beginning - but it's hidden away in the Settings menu by default, so many won't know it is there.

The Samsung Mail app is excellent, and gives you the option to tweak various aspects, from the font size to the colour of the inbox display.

Turn the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 on its side and you'll get a split view, which is a nice touch. A Mail widget gives you one-touch access to all the messages in there.

And you can - sort of - achieve a full page view of HTML emails in this app, although sometimes it wasn't quite 100% and more 75%.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

On top of that, you can always add your own messaging solutions too. There are the obvious ones such as Facebook and Twitter (plus third-party versions) and then the other excellent additions such as Viber, Tango, WhatsApp, Windows Live Messenger and Skype.

The beauty of Android is that once these apps are installed, they all show up as options within the contact card when you call up a person's name.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

We can't say we're distraught to see the back of Samsung's Social Hub app - this was an aggregator first seen back in the Samsung Galaxy S2 that brought all of your emails, tweets, Facebook messages and so on together.

On the face of it, it sounds helpful. But frankly, when you're as popular (and modest) as we are, it just all gets a bit too much.

For tapping out messages, you're really spoiled for choice. Samsung's included keyboard is OK, but not the best.

Keys are just a little too small for us, though it does include some functionality similar to Swype, which makes for a faster experience.

Google's voice dictation is also brilliant, and you can use that in place of a keyboard.

Don't confuse what we said before about parts of Google Now being a faff, because that still stands. But when dictating messages on Google Voice Typing, it's really quite good.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

The beauty is that the words appear as you speak, which gives you a little more confidence to dictate longer messages.

There is a problem in that punctuation can be a bit of a headbanger. Saying 'period' (US English) instead of 'full stop' (British English) is fine - we got used to that easily enough.

But saying 'comma' can lead to anything from 'mama', 'kama' or 'korma' appearing when you're just trying to punctuate a damn sentence.

And if you hit delete, the entire message goes and you have to start from scratch, whereas if you tap the screen to make a manual correction, nine times out of 10, the standard keyboard appears and you have to faff about going back to the voice one.

It's enough to make you want to head out of this world sooner rather than later.

So, again, it's horse for courses. Those looking for a direct comparison to Siri will find the quality of the service (ie the actual voice recognition) much more accurate on Apple's product. But by no means unbearable on the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

And don't forget the S-Pen, which enables you to tap out words by just scribbling them on a virtual pad at the bottom of the screen.

This is scarily accurate, and relies on actual handwriting rather than weird shortcuts like the older days of Palm graffiti.

It even manages to decipher cursive writing. Really.

In fact, our only criticism of the experience is that you have to have the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 flat on a desk. That's because when you're holding it in your left hand, and the pen in your right, there's a tendency to tilt the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 a bit.

And as your hand goes across the screen, there's nowhere to rest it at the end of a line, which means you end up clutching the S-Pen in a weird way.

Remember, you're typing in a small area at the bottom. Still, it's easy enough to get used to.