Samsung SGH-i717 GALAXY Note 16GB 4G LTE (Carbon Blue) Android Phone Review @
By: Michael Phrakaysone

There was a Canadian commercial I had seen that I found interesting.  It rapidly went through the cell phone from its infancy to what it is today, essentially visiting the progression of the cell phone.  First cell phones were huge as bricks, then finally got smaller as candy phones became fashionable, and at the present it seems we're back with the bigger is better frame of mind.  It was funny to see how it had turned full circle.

Today when one discusses about a phone, they're in reality chatting about the Smartphone, or an all-in-one device as we have today.  Back in the day we had devices such as the BlackBerry, Palm, and Windows CE based Smartphone's, but they weren't quite popular with the mainstream customers.  The Blackberry was the most popular years ago and it was one of the first ones to successfully combine phone and Internet email functionality in one package.  There was a time Blackberry seemed  invincible.

Today's Smartphone can do everything in one device. They can act as a GPS, digital camera, video camcorder, portable music player, Internet browser and much more.  It's insane to think of all the innovation that is within a Smartphone and what you can accomplish. 

Just as Sony did with the Walkman and Apple did with the iPod for portable music, a booming industry for the Smartphone was created when the iPhone launched.  Just as everyone wanted an iPod, it seemed now that everyone wanted an iPhone.  After this point, Smartphone popularity and interest seemed to sky rocket for the mainstream crowd, and so did sales.  It doesn't seem to be slowing down one bit even to this day.

For a time being everyone was caught off guard by the Apple iPhone because there was nothing really like it to compete with, plus Apple's marketing was stellar for their product.  It was a huge success and companies started to make Smartphone's that were similar to the iPhone and what it offered.  Some were blatant copies, but eventually everything started to mature and there were several new players in town.  There was now an alternative operating system for the mobile platform that could rival Apple iOS.  Blackberry tried but ultimately failed.  It was Google who picked up the Android operating system and was up to the challenge in giving customers a new alternative and creating much needed competition in the Smartphone landscape.

Recent reports reveal that the Smartphone market is dominated by really two companies.  First is Apple, and second is Samsung.  The third and forth are HTC and RIM respectively, however, their percentages are far less than the two market leaders. 

I was given a golden by opportunity by Samsung to review their newest GALAXY Note Smartphone.  Not only is the GALAXY Note a phone, Samsung has decided to infuse some tablet innovation within this device creating a hybrid of sorts.  It's certainly an interesting proposition.  Read on to see what this Android based Smartphone is capable of.

Samsung GALAXY Note Product Overview

Imagine replacing all your mobile devices—including even your pen-and-paper notepad—with the ultimate on-the-go device. Introducing the GALAXY Note™, the do-it-all Smartphone that gives you the freedom to capture, create and share like never before. Combining the large rich display of a tablet and the portability of a Smartphone, the GALAXY Note lets you freely capture and create ideas with the S Pen™, the world’s most advanced pen input technology. The GALAXY Note—an all-in-one Smartphone with the power of a tablet that lets you do more than you ever thought possible!

Full-touch & pen input: The GALAXY Note lets you freely capture and create ideas anywhere anytime with both full-touch and pen input. Fast responsive full-touch input lets you touch, press and drag what you’re looking for effortlessly. Or use the innovative S Pen to write notes and emails in freeform handwriting or sketch drawings easily and accurately on the go.

Largest screen available: The GALAXY Note features the world’s first 5.3" HD Super AMOLED display, the largest screen size with Smartphone portability. The large display lets you see more in one glance with minimal scrolling and screen transitions. The exclusive Super AMOLED HD (TruColour™) screen also lets you enjoy an immersive movie theatre-like viewing experience with deep rich colour and clarity.

Lightning-fast 4G LTE speed: With the 4G LTE network, the GALAXY Note gives you lightning-fast web access and download speeds.

Long-lasting 2500 mAh battery: Whether you’re using your GALAXY Note on the go, at home or at work, the strong detachable 2500 mAh battery prolongs your GALAXY Note experience and ensures you’re up and running wherever you are.

Balance work & life with S-Planner: Manage complicated schedules easier than ever before! The GALAXY Note’s S Planner gives you a smart and intuitive way to view, schedule and arrange all your business meetings and personal activities. You can even add appointments to your calendar simply by jotting them on the screen with your S Pen.

Tablet power—1.5 GHz Dual Core Processor: Real-time video streaming, premium mobile gaming, no delays—you’ll think you’re enjoying your favorite entertainment on a tablet. The GALAXY Note’s powerful 1.5 GHz Dual Core Processor gives you unrivalled access and speed to let you enjoy movies, games, browsing, apps and more as soon as you want them.

Advanced 8 MP camera & photo / video editing:  The GALAXY Note’s powerful 8 MP camera lets you capture life’s every moment in deep crisp detail and then share great photos with friends on the large display. Revolutionary photo/video editing tools give you the freedom to accurately edit videos and easily personalize photos with precise pen input and cool templates.

Business documents on the go: The GALAXY note gives professionals the ability to create, review, edit and share business documents no matter where they are. Edit a report, make notes or even draw a diagram on the go. The S Pen functions are deeply integrated into the GALAXY Note’s basic applications to give you a richer business experience.

Convenient single-handed portability: Its slim body (9.65 mm) and super light design (178 g) makes it easy and convenient to do and see more on the go. Enjoy comfortable single-handed portability and operation wherever you go.

Samsung GALAXY Note Product Features

  • 4G LTE network with 1.5 gigahertz dual core processor
  • Android Gingerbread platform
  • S Memo and S Pen apps provide free-flowing input techniques
  • Touch screen provides quick response to a variety of in-phone menus and options including applications and seven home screens
  • Ready access to the Internet
  • Built-in Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi a/b/n technology
  • Brilliant 5.3” wide-screen SAMOLED™ HD display
  • 8 Megapixel camera and 1080p camcorder with LED flash
  • HSDPA 21 mbps high speed download capability
  • microSD card compatibility with up to 32GB expandable memory slot
  • Sync and update social network applications

Samsung GALAXY Note Product Specifications

Android™ 2.3 Operating System
Android Browser

Standby Time: Up to 600 h
Talk Time: Up to 9 h
High Capacity 2500mAh Li-on Battery

WMV and DIVX Video Player Format Support
1920 x 1080 p HD Video Recording Available

SMS and MMS Available
Email Available

180g Weight
146.85 x 82.95 x 9.65mm Device Size

User Interface
Touch Input

Music & Sound
MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, WAV, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, MIDI and OGG Music Player Format Support
Polyphonic Ringtones Available
MP3 Ringtones Available

Bluetooth® 2.0 Supported
MicroUSB Supported

Super AMOLED Display
800 x 1280 Resolution
5.29" Display

8.0 MP Camera Resolution
Digital / Optical Zoom Available
Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent Photo Quality Settings Available

16GB MoviNAND User Memory Available
32GB MicroSD External Memory Available

LTE 100Mbps
HSDPA 21Mbps
HSUPA 5.76Mbps
EDGE/GPRS Class 10

Full Technical Specifications found on GSMArena website:

First Impressions

There are some products that's packaging are made with little concern in mind and apparently the Samsung GALAXY Note does not fall as one of these.  It's beautifully made and executed well in many ways.  The compact box is sculpted to fit the GALAXY Note like a glove meaning it has the environment in mind.  The handsome white box has seals on the sides to ensure product integrity and the design showcases an image of the Smartphone in front of the box with a product image of the S Pen as Samsung calls it (it's a stylus), which is capable of providing the precision needed in order to use the GALAXY Note as a tablet. 

The back of the box covers important features and information of the phone mentioning points such as the Android Gingerbread operating system, a super large 5.3" widescreen WXGA HD Super AMOLED display, dual core 1.5GHz processor, 8MP autofocus rear camera, 2MP front camera, Smart Art by S Pen (S Memo, S Planner, S Choice), Advanced positioning GPS, WIFI, DIVX HD, Bluetooth 3.0, full HD 1080p video recording & playback, and a high-capacity 2500mAh battery.

The Samsung GALAXY Note utilizes a Qualcomm MSM8660 Snapdragon SoC (System on a Chip) that is capable of 4G LTE speeds as revealed by the Qualcomm sticker on the device.  A dual-core 1.5GHz Scorpion processor and Adreno 220 GPU rounds out the important aspects of the GALAXY Note while the system features 1GB of system memory making this a very powerful computer that fits in palm of your hands.

The 5.3" Super AMOLED display is one that Samsung owns exclusively for their devices and provides superior viewing resolution, viewing angles, color rendition, and response time compared to competitors while operating at a lower voltage extending battery life.  I've talked about AMOLED technology on previous Samsung camera reviews and you have to see it believe it.  The Super AMOLED display outputs at 800 x 1280 resolution and is razor sharp.

The feeling of anticipation is given when you cut open the seals and open the box by removing the top cover. The emotion is such as opening something delicate, luxurious and extraordinary.  Going into this review, I had no clue of what to expect from the GALAXY Note because I wasn't really following too closely the Smartphone race.  I believe this allowed me to enter this review with an open and unbiased perspective. 

All I have to compare is an older generation Apple iPod touch and no previous live Android experience.  I do recognize that the Android operating system is in the mature stages in its development and is constantly improving.  The newest Android operating system version is 4.0 and is dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich.  However, the Samsung GALAXY Note is running an older version 2.3.6 dubbed Gingerbread.  Apparently other phone manufactures are still running Gingerbread as it's proven to be an established and proven operating system.  Recent statistics reveal that Gingerbread is the most distributed version of the Android operating system thus far.  There have been rumors that an update to the latest Ice Cream Sandwich OS will come later on this year for the GALAXY Note and that it can be downloaded from the telephone carrier's website, in this case Rogers Communication in Canada.

Found within the Samsung GALAXY Note's box is following items...

  • Samsung GALAXY Note Smartphone
  • High-Capacity 2500mAh Li-ion Battery
  • Proprietary USB data/charge cable
  • Samsung noise isolating in-ear-canal phone/headset with silicone ear tips
  • USB Wall Charger
  • Replacement back plate
  • Warranty and product information cards

Samsung GALAXY Note

Visual Overview

I noticed a number of things when I had the GALAXY Note in person.  The first was that it was very large and much lighter in weight than I could have possibly imagined.  I thought surely the GALAXY Note would be heavy to hold because of the screen size, but that was not the case.  Weighing in at 180g without the battery is very impressive.  The device measures 146.85 x 82.95 x 9.65mm and while it is indeed large, it's very slim 180g makes it manageable.  People ask me when they see the GALAXY Note where I keep it, and I mention that I keep it my pant pocket!  In reality the GALAXY Note can fit in regular pant pockets and breast pockets without hassle.

The 5.3" Super AMOLED display (Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) is glossy in finish and when touched for the first time, it was difficult to notice my fingerprint.  It was as if the screen was immune to showing the oils on my fingers.  I found out that the GALAXY Note was sporting Gorilla Glass.  This is a special type of glass that is made by Corning to be very thin, tough, lightweight (providing greater touch sensitivity), have outstanding optically clarity and it's resistant to many damage related qualities such as bumps, drops and scratches.  There must be another coating that repels oil as well because fingerprints and smudges are less obvious and the screen is very smooth and easy to clean.  If Samsung didn't take the time and energy to have the best screen possible, the experience suffers.  This was not even remotely the case with the GALAXY Note SGH-i717. 

There's no denying the elegance and stunning design that is the GALAXY Note because it's drop dead gorgeous in every aspect.  The glossy finish, the rounded curvy edges, super thin glossy bezel, minimalistic icon buttons at the bottom, textured plastic back plate, camera lens and LED flash all gives the Smartphone visual flair like no other.  


Starting from the bottom is the Menu key, Home key, Back key, and Search key.  These are your main iconic buttons that you will frequently use aside from the touch screen interface.  Above is the superb 5.3" Super AMOLED display exclusive from Samsung and added Gorilla Glass technology.  At the top is the earpiece, light sensor (for automatic brightness adjustments), proximity sensor and front 2-Megapixel camera lens. 

The sides contain the rounded glossy curves and the volume rocker on the left side and the single button that acts as the power/reset/lock key on the opposite end.

The back of the Samsung GALAXY Note features the speaker slot, S Pen slot at the bottom, GALAXY Note logo, rear camera lens, and LED flash.  The back plate is made from plastic and manages to have a textured look for more flair.  Just a note that the S Pen is an active digitizer stylus and not a capacitive model as some inferior products use.  This means that the GALAXY Note's stylus and screen employ a Wacom digitizer system to coordinate what happens on screen.  Yes you read that correctly, Wacom.


The cool part is that when you're using the S Pen, you can make use of it like a ball-point pen, meaning accurate pressure-sensitive input is possible.  Press lightly and the strokes are thin, increase the pressure and the strokes of the pen are larger, just like what would happen on real paper. 

For the most part, aside from the Gorilla Glass, the GALAXY Note is comprised of mostly hard plastic. The back plate is the only thin and flimsy part of unit.  There's no aluminum, no metal anywhere on the exterior of the device, so some may look at it as a disadvantage while others say otherwise.  The only thing I can say is that compromises needed to be made.  The GALAXY Note seems well built and it doesn't look like it can break in half from a fall.  It's best to purchase a strong case for the Smartphone. 

The only downside I felt that the GALAXY Note had was that the device is far too smooth and lacks any form of real grip.  The first time I held it, I found it somewhat difficult to handle because having no rubber grips, there was nothing really to prevent the phone from escaping your hands.   The rounded out plastic bezel edges actually hinders your grip of the phone because if your hands are oily, the grip becomes worse, and phone starts to slip a little bit and move around in your hands.  The plastic back plate with the textured facing is your only form of real grip on the phone.  I feel Samsung needed to add some sort of rubber strip on the edges and on the back plate.  In addition once seated on a table, the phone moves far too easily and can possibly fall. 

I initially found the GALAXY Note difficult to handle because I kept on hitting either the power button or volume button with my fingers.  This was frustrating if trying to take a photo.  I kept on unintentionally zooming or turning the phone off during the process.  Needless to say it took some adjustments to prevent this from happening.  There should be some sort of key to lock the power button, I haven't found one.   

The second is about the large size of the device.  If your hands are small like mine, your thumb cannot reach all of the buttons at the bottom of the device, nor can it reach the whole real estate of the screen.  There's just too much real estate and effectively you are regulated to using two hands to fully operate the GALAXY Note.  In the end you need to make the necessary adjustments to adapt to the GALAXY Note.  But once that is done, the experience is well worth it.  I would have liked the GALAXY Note to have an eyelet for a wrist strap, that would be the most secure way (maybe silly looking) in preventing any possible drops of the phone. 

The Super AMOLED HD display is the star of the show.  The GALAXY Note outputs around 285ppi pixel density and at a resolution of 800x1280.  What this means is that the Super AMOLED display is super bright, super sharp, super colorful, and super amazing.  Once I tested the GALAXY Note and was accustomed to its Super AMOLED display, and went back to use my iPod Touch, the experience and display felt disappointing in so many ways.  I could see every pixel when looking at the iPod Touch' screen, the exact opposite of what I can say about the screen on the GALAXY Note.  Once you've experienced a Super AMOLED HD screen, you never want to go back and use something inferior.  The viewing angles are ridiculous because I can tilt and view at any angles and the color, brightness and image stays true every time. 

If you've read my HDTV reviews, you will know that LCD is a technology that has a light source behind the LCD screen, where it then blocks light to create an image.  Well with AMOLED its different.  AMOLED is a technology that actually emits light rather than blocking it to create an image. 

The result of AMOLED technology, according to Samsung, is increased contrast ratio, incredibly clear images, better color rendition, 3000 times faster response rate than compared to LCD, brighter, less power consumption, thinner and the ability to be viewed from any angle without color fade, and being able to viewed even in bright sunlight.  I have to say from my experiences with the GALAXY Note, everything is true and the best part from this AMOLED screen from any other LCD screen out there is the ability to be used in sun.  It's not perfect in the sun but its substantially better in the sun than anything I've used before.   You can see all the fine details with the 5.3" Super AMOLED HD display.     

Android Gingerbread - How does it work?  Is it any good?

This was my first in-depth experience with the Android operating system and I would have to say that the experience was pleasurable.  Although I would suggest there be a first time tutorial of how to use the Android interface when starting the GALAXY Note for the first time, I have to say that it was surprisingly easy to pick up and work through.  If you are interested in knowing more about the Android operating system, I would suggest visiting  Even though the site features the new Ice Cream Sandwich, all the features and points are almost the same.  Android is a Linux based operating system for mobile devices and one of the major differences is that the source code is open source and open to the public for the most part.  It's not a closed source code as Microsoft or Apple mobile operating systems.  The Android name is now owned by Google.

Samsung GALAXY

With the Samsung GALAXY Note, the Android Gingerbread OS is paired with Samsung's own TouchWiz touch interface that brings along new features such as panning and tilt, and motion zoom making use of the accelerometer and gyroscope in the Smartphone to detect motion.  Support for the S Pen stylus is also included with the TouchWiz interface. 

There are basically 7 different desktops that you can navigate across that contain various widgets, icons, and tickers.  All of these screens are customizable and can be tweaked to your personal preference.  You can move icons to which screen you desire by pressing and holding the icon and moving it where you want it.  At the bottom are five main icons that pertain to the Phone (keypad, logs, contacts, favorites, groups), S Planner, Email, Internet and Applications.

The Samsung GALAXY Note is a very powerful computer and its easily shown in how fast and smooth  navigating and shifting through the menus are, and watching how all the animations such as fade and motion tilt are executed without hesitation.  Everything is snappy and programs load within a second or two.  It's quite amazing at how quick the Samsung GALAXY Note is.  It's more powerful than Netbooks that were on the market.


Starting up the GALAXY Note until it's at the locked touch screen takes about 30 seconds and takes equally long shutting down, though most of us will never turn off their phone, but rather put it to sleep.
The thing I like about the Android operating system is that it's not fully locked out as opposed to other mobile platforms.  You are still able to download and use a Linux based terminal tool in order to navigate around the directories, get Super User root access, connect to a secure server and perform other commands. 

During my time with the Samsung GALAXY Note, which was about a month's time, it had performed with excellent performance without much incident.  The only weird incident I had one time was that the Camera application did not want to start and kept failing.  To rectify the issue a system reboot was needed. 

Browsing & Multimedia

The Samsung Galaxy Note is capable of connecting with wireless interfaces from A, B,G and wireless N standards so whatever the wireless router you have, the GALAXY Note will have no issues connecting to it.  The antenna seems to have great strength being able to pick up signals from distances quite far.  If you have a data plan with your network carrier, you are able to utilize up to 4G LTE speeds for quick downloads.

As for the signal strength of the antenna that connects to the cell phone carriers network, compared the old basic Nokia candy phone I was using, the GALAXY Note's was average to good.  My old Nokia would consistently obtain 4-5 bars just about anywhere and within most buildings, while the GALAXY Note would get usually 3 bars and dip down in certain conditions and areas.  Outside, the signal strength was excellent.  But the Nokia didn't have a touch screen and multiple antennas for various things like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS.  It was a basic device serving one purpose.  The GALAXY Note is a more complex device having multiple antennas and circuits on at the same time and all confined within a small area that it's easy for crosstalk and signals to be clashing with each other internally. There's just too many variables with the GALAXY Note.   Call quality is good, and the call volume can be hazardously high for your ears, while the speakerphone is equally loud.  You'd want to lower the volume.

Internet browsing on the GALAXY Note is superb.   The built-in Android Browser is compatible with most website pages and renders them without any issues on the 5.3" Super AMOLED HD display.  The color is beautiful, fonts are razor sharp when zoomed all the way, and it's possible to view them zoomed out.  The text is sharp like a laser printer even down to small tiny font.  YouTube and such websites that require Adobe Flash will work on the GALAXY Note without any updates and run silky smooth like a desktop machine.  You can even watch YouTube videos on the full desktop site without any issues, there's no need to view them on the mobile site.  This shows how powerful the GALAXY Note is with its browsing capabilities.

About the only issue I have had with playing back YouTube videos on the Samsung GALAXY Note is that when playing a video, the video seems to slow down and lag a tiny bit when you increase/decrease the volume.  It's as if the GUI indicator causes a slowdown in the YouTube video.  It's a issue but doesn't really take away from the experience.   Again the Super AMOLED HD display makes everything look great.

Browsing along websites, you can copy, cut and paste text and images like you can do on your desktop machine, but with an added twist, you can use the Samsung S Pen to crop pictures intricately and save them for later viewing.  Insert them in emails to be sent to a friend with any messages or notes you may want beside or on top of the image.  There's just so many possibilities with the GALAXY Note and the S Pen tablet like addition that there seems to be nothing you can't do on this Smartphone.  There doesn't seem to be any glaring limitations to the web browsing, email and imaging experience when you combine Smartphone and tablet capabilities to a device such as the GALAXY Note.

The Apple App Store is by far the largest app store but how many apps do you really need?  I use the same argument for television channels.  You don't need cable or satellite.  Over-the-air is free and in HD.  How many television channels do you need?  How many can you watch at one time?  The same can be said for apps, in this case now called Google Play on the Android platform. 

Android apps can be found on Google Play and the number of apps that is able to be downloaded via your Google account is more than you will be able to handle.  Some if not most of the apps that have become popular are now cross platform and will work on Android devices.  Programs and games such as Instagram, Angry Birds, Grand Theft Auto III, VLC and Torque Pro are available to download as well as a host of apps from Google. 

Google Play is not only about applications but also about books and movies.  It combines everything as one.  You can buy eBooks and read them on the GALAXY Note like a real novel flipping through the pages electronically with folds through the pages, and you can also rent and watch recent and older  movies on your device.

You can also use the Samsung GALAXY Note as your movie playing device and it works rather well.  It can support just about any file formats you throw at it no matter the size, resolution or how they are encoded.  And because of the Super AMOLED HD display, they look excellent.  I've had no issues with AVI, MKV, MP4, WMV, XVID, H.264 and using subtitles.  Surprisingly you can watch anything on the stock media player. 

About the only negative if I'm being nitpicky is that when I watch a dark scene I can notice some blotchy and shimmering artifacts in the dark areas such as shadows.  I believe this has more to do with the way the Android operating system and or the media player is compressing down the videos during playback, more so than the actual Samsung GALAXY Note Smartphone.  For some people this may not be a big issue, but for others it may be a bother.

Voice Recording

There is an app that comes preinstalled on the GALAXY Note and is named Voice Recorder.  This is useful if you would like to save a conversation or lecture for later use.  It's a very simple app that has an image of a microphone and the record/stop button right below.  Head into the settings menu and you're able to choose the level of recording quality but not able to know the bit-rate that you're recording at. 

Recordings are saved in 3GA file format and file size is very small telling me that the recording is obviously compressed during playback.  Quality is still quite good but not as vibrant as it could be.  I suppose this is a good compromise between file size and sound quality.  Thankfully there are voice recording apps on Google Play that allows you to record with greater flexibility and more format choices such as PCM and MP3.

Take DSLR-like photos with the 8-Megapixel camera -- Not even kidding!

The Samsung Galaxy Note contains two cameras, a 2-Megapixel variation in the front and 8-Megapixel autofocus camera in the rear.  The front facing camera is for situations such as video chats through Google Talk and Skype.  Speaking about the quality of the front facing camera, think of it as a webcam because that's what it basically is.  Check out the samples below, there's one picture that's clearly different, and that is from the front facing camera.  It has no autofocus and is fixed focus meaning you have to be at the right distance to have a clear picture.  The picture quality is nothing to write home about. 

But on the other hand, let's talk about that rear facing 8-Megapixel autofocus camera, because that one is worth writing about.  This camera, like the Samsung WB750, sports a BSI CMOS sensor (back-illuminated sensor) that presents more efficiency and in theory better low-light performance.  Whatever the case, people only care if it can produce beautiful images.  And that is indeed the case.

Let me make a statement about those who made this camera on the GALAXY Note.  If the same engineers and designers implemented what they did with the GALAXY Note's 8-Megapixel rear facing camera into the rest of Samsung's digital camera lineup, it would completely change their position and bring them generations ahead of where they currently are in terms of image quality. 

Some of you may remember the Samsung digital cameras I've previously reviewed.  I've said that while they are good, the improvements are only incremental and still behind the big guns such as Canon and Nikon.  Well with the GALAXY Note, the improvements are not incremental but stunning generational leaps.

The image quality from the 8-Megapixel autofocus rear facing camera is spectacular.   I kid you not when I say that you can achieve DSLR-like photographs out of this camera.  I was surprised at the image quality and general performance of the camera.  The picture quality is truly wonderful from such a small device.  Forget the traditional point and shoots, because this one trumps them all.  Out of the box without any tinkering the camera picks up the fine wonderful details, the autofocus is pretty quick, the color rendition pops, the picture is razor sharp from end to end with zero distortion, and the image quality is just impeccable.  You don't really have situations where you will get a blurry shot with the GALAXY Note. 

I was truly astonished because it truly flattens any point and shoot digital camera I've ever used to this point.  I think the quality rivals and in some cases betters some DSLRs as well, which says a ton.  Whoever contributed to creating the camera within this GALAXY Note, I salute your efforts.

Operation is simple enough.  You head into the applications menu and run the Camera app.  Camera options are located at the top, image review bank on the lower left, autofocus/shutter button in the lower middle of the screen, and a switch that allows you to move between photo and video recording.

There are two ways that you can take a photo with the GALAXY Note.  In your screen there is a small square that acts as the focus point.  You can either hold the shutter button as the focus point turns green (signaling that its focused on the subject) and letting go to take the photo.  Or simply touch anywhere on the screen to choose the focus point, the camera automatically focuses (green square) and simply touch the shutter button once to take the photo.

With the rear facing camera, you are given a good amount of options to your disposal.  You can control the flash, shooting modes (single, smile shot, beauty, panorama, share shot), scene modes (portrait, landscape, night, sports), exposure compensation, focus mode (auto, macro, face detection), timer, effects (negative, greyscale, sepia), resolution (8M 3264x2448, 6.5M, 3.2M, 2.4M, 0.4M), white balance (auto, daylight, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent), ISO (auto, 100, 200, 400, 800), metering (center-weighted, spot, matrix), anti-shake, auto contrast, blink detection, guidelines, image quality (superfine, fine, normal), GPS tag, and shutter sound.  The amount of options rivals that of those digital cameras and DSLRs. 

For your photos you can also edit and modify within the Smartphone and without uploading them to your computer.  You can rotate, adjust brightness, contrast, saturation and much more. 

Some of options that I'd like to point out is the GPS tag, flash, panorama, and ISO.  As the name entails you can use the GPS abilities of the GALAXY Note to tag where the photos were taken.  Some call it geo-tagging but I just found it to be useful because you can view details about the location, latitude and longitude of the photo for reference.

The GALAXY Note contains an LED flash beside the camera lens. It acts as the camera's flash and I'm happy to report that it works very well because it's surprisingly bright and the reflector used allows it to flood the surrounding area meaning the photos come out looking smooth and not harsh like some camera flashes.  You can also download an app in Google Play that allows you to also use it as a flashlight.

ISO ranges from 100 to 800 and I have to that Samsung has done a great job at keeping the noise in the photos to a minimum.  It's definitely an improvement from what I remember from older Samsung digital camera reviews.  Even at ISO 800, its definitely manageable and details are still good.

The panorama function is very simple to use because instructions are given at the top of the screen.  Simply press the shutter button once and start slowly moving from end to end while using the green outline as a guide of keeping the camera level.  The camera automatically stitches the photos together creating a panorama.

The 8-Megapixel rear facing autofocus camera also acts as a video recorder, in this case it's possible to record in full HD 1080p resolution.  You can also record in 720p and smaller sizes if you like.  The anti-shake option is not available when in video recording mode and that's a disappointment because videos are a bit shaky depending on how steady your hand is. 

Another oddity is that when in 1080p mode, the focal length is much closer to the subject than in 720p recording mode, meaning you have to move back physically in order to capture more on the screen.  In some cases this is not possible in tight spots so better to record in 720p mode in this scenario.  A second oddity is that while in 1080p recording mode, you are not able to utilize your digital zoom function (even though you shouldn't be using it in the first place), but while in 720p mode you are able to do so.  There is no pause and continue recording option on the GALAXY Note like there is with the Samsung WB750 digital camera.

Playing back the videos on the Super AMOLED HD display makes everything look great but I attribute that to the small screen size more than anything else.  But in reality when I'm playing the videos back on my computer and HDTV, it also looks good.  Aside from the shake, the GALAXY Note captures good video and it's got good colors and very good sharpness.  Compared to the Samsung WB750 I reviewed not too long ago, the video is comparable but it's definitely sharper.  The only disadvantage is that it lacks the 18x optical zoom the WB750 had to its disposal.   Audio quality within video recording seems surprisingly clear than the Voice Recording app that is included with the operating system.  This is because while recording in 720p or 1080p, it's recording at a much higher bit-rate than any 3GA file format can manage.  Wind suppression isn't the best as gusts of wind will create the usual whoosh distortion in the audio.

Test Images - Full 8-Megapixel, original samples

6 - Front Camera 2MP

Battery Life

This is a very important area for most customers because they don't want to be charging their phones all day long.  And with the high-capacity 2500mAh Li-ion battery that is included with the Samsung GALAXY Note, they won't have to fear about battery life being poor and not having enough juice to last through the day.  During my mixed usage with the Samsung GALAXY Note, I had the brightness set to dynamic, WIFI on, GPS on and I could consistently achieve 10-13 hours of battery life.  This was while watching movies, listening to music, browsing the internet and making phone calls.  If I did not touch the GALAXY Note, the battery lasted more than a week. 

S Pen -- How does it work and is it any good?  What can you do with S Pen?

The Samsung GALAXY Note's biggest selling feature is obviously the tablet abilities of the device.  While you don't have much real estate on screen compared to the GALAXY Tab or Apple iPad (10+ inch screen), surprisingly you can still do a lot of useful things with the S Pen.  Having Wacom on board is surely a positive because those guys are the experts at this type of function. 

Samsung has apps dedicated to the S Pen such as the S Memo, S Art, S Planner, S Choice where you're able to create drawings or just write notes with the pen.  You can use the S Pen as a navigation tool if you like.  As I stated earlier, the cool part is that when you're using the S Pen, you can use it like a ball-point pen meaning accurate pressure-sensitive input is possible.  Samsung says there are 128-levels are pressure sensitivity.  Press lightly and the strokes are thin, increase the pressure and the strokes of the pen are larger, just like what happens on real paper.  You can select different pen colors, different brush strokes, variations such as brush, pen, pencil or highlighter giving you lots of flexibility. 

You can draw, write, or doodle over images anywhere you like.  If you're researching through a document you can use the highlighter to highlight important lines.  To capture the screen simply tap and hold on the screen with what looks to be a rubber grip on the pen.  It's not a rubber grip but a button that registers the gestures and commands.  It saves a screenshot as an image and then you can do what you like with the S Pen. 

Or you can go to the gallery, double click on the screen with the button pressed and you can create a quick memo.  You can draw on it and share it from anywhere with the pen.  The possibilities are endless and the learning curve of what is possible will keep you busy.  There is some lag when writing but you will get used to it since its only minimal.


The Samsung GALAXY Note is a very interesting device because of the threat it poses to other dedicated devices.  The Note combines all that you can do on netbook, notebook and desktop and adds functions of a tablet into a device that compromises between size.  The GALAXY Note manages to do everything you ask of it without much fuss because it's a very powerful computer in the palm of your hands.  Just think about it, the dual-core 1.5GHz processor and Adreno 220 GPU excels the GALAXY Note.  It can play a host of video files, music files, act as a GPS positioning device, tablet capabilities, record 1080p video and capture beautiful images with the 8-MP rear facing autofocus camera.

I believe the biggest issue some potential customers may have would be the size factor.  When it's compared to competing devices like the iPhone, it makes them look like a toy.  Handling it for the first time is a surprise.  Small hands may struggle with the size but will soon adapt.  Once you get past these little setbacks, and absorb the experience, you will fall in love with the Samsung GALAXY Note just like I have.  I can easily reward it with our Editor's Choice Award.

Editors Choice


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