Browser, Camera, Battery Life, Conclusion
The Samsung Galaxy Note uses Samsung's custom browser that first appeared on the Galaxy S II smartphone. Pages load fairly quickly and the Note's large display and dense resolution lets you see much of a website without having to pan or zoom. Unfortunately, the Note's tendency to lag rears its head in the browser when you are panning, zooming, or switching between tabs. This lack of responsiveness is in stark contrast to the fluid browsing experience we saw on the Galaxy S II and really takes away from what could be a great browsing experience.
The camera on the Samsung Galaxy Note is the same 8 megapixel unit with 1080p video capture as found on the Galaxy S II and that's certainly not a bad thing at all. Autofocus is rapid and there are plenty of controls easily accessible to tune your photos. The Note's massive screen offers what is likely the largest viewfinder on any digital camera this side of a true tablet, but the phone's big size can make it hard to hold steady for sharp images in less-than-stellar lighting. I also found that the fingers on my left hand would often block the lens or the flash when I had a solid grip on the Note to frame my shot.
Still, images captured by the Note look great and it's really hard to take a bad picture with it as long as the lighting is mildly decent. Video capture was equally impressive, though I wish the lens were a tad bit wider to capture more of the scene. The 2 megapixel front camera offers sharp and bright images for video calls as well. Unfortunately, the Note's persistent lag rears its head in the gallery app, as pinch-zooming on captured images is quite stuttery.
Keeping in line with the Galaxy Note's theme of bigger is better, Samsung has equipped it with a generous 2,500mAh battery. The company would not give an exact time for how long the battery is expected to last, but it is confident in saying that it will go for a full day before needing to be recharged -- even when connected to AT&T's LTE network. In my experience, that seemed about right, as the Note lasted 14 to 15 hours between charges with push services and moderate use throughout the day. Light users will likely stretch it further, but heavy users will want to invest in a second battery or not stray too far from a power outlet.
The Samsung Galaxy Note is tough device to recommend. It hits a lot of high marks with its gorgeous display, great camera, and speedy data services. But it fails to meet some necessary requirements to work as a phone for me -- namely it's impossible to use with one hand.
When I am running to catch a subway train and need to bang out a quick message on my phone, the Note is the last phone that I want to be in my hand. On the other end, even with its unique S Pen input features, it doesn't really offer that much more than other smartphones on the market in terms of software experience, so it doesn't replace your tablet either.
Add in the persistent user interface lag that I experienced again and again, and I have to say that the Galaxy Note is a pass at least until Ice Cream Sandwich arrives to fix those nagging issues.
Pros: Gorgeous display, great camera, fast data.
Cons: Too big for its own good, laggy performance.