The smartphone ecosystem has over the years become quite congested with devices that vary vastly in features and size. There was a time when innovation was simply stretching an existing smartphone onto a tablet-sized device. However now it’s becoming increasingly difficult for manufactures to come up with something new and different to spark the customer’s interest. The tablet space is stuffed with devices ranging from 7 inch to 10 inch. Move over to smartphones and the situation is alarmingly similar.
However in the midst of such similar looking gadgets, Samsung has come up with something that will try to tap into a niche that very few manufacturers have tried before. The device in question is Galaxy Note. At first look it reminds you of a PDA that have been long extinct. But on closer inspection you’ll realize it does a lot more than just be your personal digital assistant. The tablet/smartphone offers full GSM support which means it’s capable of handling calls as well as HSDPA 21Mbps support. On the design front the Note borrows heavily from Galaxy S2. A massive 5.3’’ screen dominates the front. On paper it might look like it’s made for two hand use but the decision to make the bezel as thin as possible results in a device that’s only 147mm in length and 83mm in width. That coupled with Samsung’s decision to make it all plastic and keeping thickness to 9mm makes the Galaxy Note perfect for one hand use and just about as close to a physical smartphone experience while retaining a tablet like screen size.
Speaking of screen, the Galaxy Note utilizes the brand new Super AMOLED HD technology from Samsung. That’s an effective resolution of 1280×800. To put thing’s in perspective, this is the same resolution used in 13-15’’ laptops that come in a 16:10 aspect ratio. Needless to say the viewing experience is second to none. SAMOLED technology makes sure viewing angles are unlimited and colors pop out resulting in a wonderful movie experience. All isn’t perfect though. To cram so many pixels on such a small screen Samsung had to resort to a Pentile Matrix display, which they abandoned with the advent of SAMOLED Plus technology in Galaxy S2. Without going into too much technical details, Pentile Matrix results in a slightly more pixelated or grainy display than what you’d expect from a near HD screen. However that would be nitpicking an otherwise fantastic display.
On the software front Samsung uses the TouchWiz 4.0 launcher on top of Gingerbread 2.3.5. It’s largely the same UI as on Galaxy S2 except that Samsung has made use of the extra real estate and increased pixel count to bump the app drawer from 4×4 grid to 5×5 and launcher shortcuts to 5 from 4. I have to commend Samsung for this move because on far too many occasions manufacturers simply port their propriety launchers from low-res devices to high-res tablets without making any use of the increased pixel count. The UI as a whole is almost lag free thanks largely to the 1.4Ghz dual-core Exynos chipset and 1GB of available RAM.
What really sets this device apart from your run of the mill Tablets/smartphones is the inclusion of a stylus dubbed S Pen. The main idea behind is similar to what HTC tried with Flyer. Samsung has included a few applications designed for stylus use like S Memo and S Planner. They’re functionally the same apps we’ve seen on Galaxy S2, only this time the ability to scribble notes is present. For example S Memo allows you to draw using the Stylus, which can come in handy when you want to scribble down notes quickly. You can use the stylus for handwriting recognition when creating messages or emails as well.
The Galaxy Note is certainly an interesting device. The line between tablet and smartphone had already shrunk thanks to the advent of smartphones bearing screens up to 4.5’’. The Galaxy Note stands right over that line. It offers a full smartphone experience while retaining a tablet like screen size and pocketable dimensions. The S Pen is a unique idea but it needs more application support. Samsung needs to take a queue out of HTC’s book and release a S Pen SDK so that developers can create their own apps. The 5.3’’ form factor is new in this day and age and I’m not sure if everyone is sold on it. It’s success or adoption rate will depend solely on how well Samsung plans on supporting it and how it will be priced.