Monday, October 28, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

Although it's successor has been out for a couple of weeks, the Galaxy Note 2 is still a more than capable device. After more than a year of using the GN2 as my primary device, read on to find out why the it was one of the best smartphones that I have ever owned.

First off let me correct myself, the GN2 really isn't a smartphone. It's a MID (mobile internet device) with cellular connectivity. Popularly known as a Phablet. It's the most capable mobile device to serve as a true smartphone/tablet/laptop replacement on the go. Yes even a laptop. With the GN2, you don't have to lug around a smartphone and tablet, or a smartphone and laptop, or even a smartphone, tablet and laptop.All you need is the GN2.And that's really awesome.


* Google Drive/Quick Office/Polaris Office - Office productivity is better than expected. The large screen real estate and multitasking features really makes the experience much more enjoyable. Combine the GN2 with a bluetooth keyboard and you'll be rocking.

* Multitasking - Whether it's multi-screen or floating windows, the GN2 is a multitasking powerhouse.

* The Display - A screen this large makes consuming content an experience reserved for tablets. And only until now, that experience has become truly mobile. as you can get. Samsung's Super AMOLED displays do not disappoint.

* Removable Battery - A feature that a lot of smartphone manufacturers leave out. A removable battery gives you a lot of options which is important for "tech road warriors".

* S Pen - The S Pen is a nifty tool for the creative individual. Despite its large learning curve, once you master it the rewards are unique.

* Stock Keyboard - The extra row of numbers at the top of the keyboard is an awesome plus. I like the keyboard so much, I think it's the best one around. Even better than Google's own stock Android keyboard.

* Battery Life - A large enough battery that will satisfy most tech heads who are online 24/7.


Yes it's big. Yes you can use it as a phone. And no it doesn't feel weird. To be honest talking on a smartphone this sizefeels the same way a 4.7smartphone. It just looks funny to some people. It feels like a phone, just bigger. I mean, talking on a cordless phone is even bigger but that doesn't feel weird.

But despite it's large body, the Note 2 feels a lot better to hold compared to the original Note thanks to a more narrower design. It's plastic, but the device feels solid and not too light like the Galaxy S3. I have to mention that after making the Note 2 my primary phone, every other smartphone seemed really small. Especially the iPhone. It felt really small like an asian.

No doubt about it, you really can't handle the phone with one hand (unless you're LeBron James). If you're not using it to make phone calls, you'll be using it with two hands.However I do have to warn you, the GN2 is so large that it does take some time getting use to. And only after a week or two of owning the device, I dropped it while trying to show it off to all of my friends while at lunch. That cost me money. The lesson here is, get a case!


Performance wise, the GN2 at the time of it's release was the most powerful Android in the mobile kingdom. Now that the Galaxy Note 3is out, this clearly isn't the case. Despite being a year behind spec wise, the GN2 performs every task the way you would want it. With no hiccups. The GN2 does everything you need it to when you need it to. Browsing the web, playing games, streaming movies/music, switching between apps, and multi-tasking through split window were all buttery smooth. You'll have no problems in the performance dept.


* 5.516M-color Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen of HD (720 x 1280 pixel) resolution

* 1.6 GHz quad-core Cortex-A9 CPU, Mali-400MP GPU, 2GB of RAM, Exynos 4412 Quad chipset

* S Pen active stylus

* 8 MP wide-angle lens autofocus camera with LED flash, face, smile and blink detection

* 1080p HD video recording at 30fps - 1.9MP secondary video-call camera

* 16/32GB internal storage, microSD slot

* LTE connectivity (carrier dependent) - Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n support - GPS with A-GPS connectivity; GLONASS support, Digital compass - NFC support - Stereo Bluetooth v4.0

* MicroUSB port with USB host and TV-out (1080p) support, MHL, charging - Standard 3.5 mm audio jack

* 3100 mAh battery


720p HD display might not sound good but with a 5.5Super AMOLED screen it won't matter. Throw out the technical stuff, and the display on the GN2 won't disappoint you. The display is everything you'd want to view media on. The GN2 is the right size to watch movies on without feeling like you're watching it on a tiny smartphone which can be straining at times. The display is large enough where you can either do the "video pop out" feature or use multi-window to split the screen so that you can do some real multi-tasking. HD videos played smoothly and looked fantastic. Even in split screen with another app running, HD videos played flawlessly.

Streaming movies and music on the GN2 is nothing short but awesome. As long as you're not in the boonies, the Gn2 feels like having a smart top box in your pocket. No matter where you are, you'll have one of the best mobile entertainment devices in your pocket. The GN2 also makes for the perfect mobile car entertainment system. A large screen coupled with apps like Netflix, Pandora and Google Maps, you won't need a separate car radio installed. All you need is the right mobile car dock and you're good to go.

The Video Player is simple and effective in what it does. It played just about every video I could throw at it. A nice little feature that kind of goes unnoticed is "Chapter Preview". It automatically breaks up videos saved on your device in chapters to make it easier to continue where you left off or go to a certain point of the movie. The video gallery still amazes me every time i see it in action. Seeing "live previews" of the videos stored locally on the device is very impressive.

The battery on the GN2 is hands down one of the best stock batteries you can have with an Android device. Especially with a display this large. Yes, the Motorola DROID RAZR MAXXHD has a larger battery, but who's paying attention to Motorola right now? No one. The 3100 mAh battery on the Gn2 is a beast. It rarely needs a charge. I use it heavily throughout the day. With brightness at max levels, syncing countless times a day, browsing the web on WiFi/LTE (more than you should on a mobile device), streaming music, taking photos of my kids, and occasionally use Google Maps/Navigation are just some of my activities everyday and it still doesn't need a charge until I rest my eyes. That's what we should expect with our mobile devices. It needs to be on and ready when we're on and ready. Anything less than a 3100 mAh just won't cut it anymore.

The GN2 s stock virtual keyboard has to be the best in the business. The large display makes typing easy and with swiftkey preinstalled, it makes it even easier. And since the display is so large, you get an extra row at the top for the numbers just like a keyboard.A feature that is two too awesome not to mention.

The camera is what it is.It's really good, but you feel it could be better. The GN2 gives you a good enough camera for times you are without a real one. The camera does have some has cool filters to play with. You can pick out certain colors and grey out the rest of the picture. Not to mention Burst Shot, Best Face for group photos, HDR capabilities, Panorama, Share Shot to share photos via Wifi Direct, and Smile Shot which automatically takes a photo when someone smiles. I would be geeked if it had a Xenon flash, but it seems the only people who know the value of a Xenon flash is Nokia. The front facing camera works pretty well for pics or if you need a mirror. The large screen makes the Note 2 a really good mirror actually.

Recording videos is just as good as any high end smartphone. It's nice that it automatically has the flash set to on when you start to record to help in low light conditions. The option to record in fast or slow motion comes in handy when your friends or family plan to do something stupid! Recording with the front camera works rather well and makes recording short videos of your self clean and easy. I found myself recording more and more with the front camera because I wanted to be in the video with my kids.

The S Pen can be really useful if you always use it. But if you don't use it, you really forget you have a stylus. Which is sad because that's the whole reason it's called the Galaxy Note. One of the best features of the S Pen is cutting out pictures whether it's a website or a photo. Not to mention the quick commands you can set up and customize to what you want. The GN2 also makes it great for artists who need to draw all the time and for those moments when you have a (in the voice of Gru) "LIGHTBULB" idea. The S Pen gives you a lot of control when you need to jot down notes or draw. Marking up photos with the S Pen was pretty cool too. Using the S Pen with Google drive kind of sucked. Matter of fact, using the S Pen with any other NON STOCK GN2 app kind of sucked.It never felt fluid enough for you to use it all the time. However, using the S Pen with the S Note app worked really well, the problem isS Note kind of sucks. The main reason why it sucks is that you can't open or edit what you create in S Note on a PC. I would've loved the option to save what you create as an editable document across all OS'es.If Samsung made it possible to save it as any of the Microsoft Office applications, S Note could have been more useful to a lot of more people.


* Keep auto rotate off - The display is so large that when you try and navigate with one hand the GN2 doesn't know how to orientate itself because you're constantly trying to balance the phone with one hand. Auto rotate was far too sensitive. I ended up disabling auto rotate and only used it when watching videos.

* You need two hands - You'll always be using two hands when handling the GN2. That can be kind of annoying after a while.

* Wish it had a physical shutter button.

* S Note app is pretty much useless to 90% of the people that buy the GN2. The problem with S Note is that it has a very steep learning curve. I've been told if you invest the time to learn how to use S Note, the app becomes really powerful. But from my experience with it, I never felt motivated enough to learn how to use S Note. Which made the app pretty much useless to me.


The GN2 is more tablet than smartphone. The device ergonomics and S Note specific apps confirm that. It's a tablet that can make phone calls. It's a smartphone that you can create something with. It's a mini tablet that's only limited by the user's imagination. Most of the time you feel like you don't need a laptop. to do some work.But there are some rare times you do feel like you need a desktop or laptop. Kind of the same feeling you get with a tablet. It's all about productivity. With the GN2 I just feel like you can do more with it. And it's because you can.

As smartphones become the standard for everyone else, the Phablet has become the standard for tech road warriors, business power users, and web entrepreneurs. With the rise of online users every day around the world, the Phablet will eventually become the new standard for everyone else. In a few years, every mobile manufacturer will have a Phablet flagship model. Even Apple.


It's for the tech professional who needs a mobile device that'll give you a tablet experience in a smartphone package.

And it's for "tek heads" across the world. It's something we've been looking for all our lives. The balance between productivity and mobility in a mobile internet device that can make phone callsis something us "tek heads" would call the holy grail. Which is why the Galaxy Note series continue to be a hit. You can do a lot with a Phablet. Especially if you know what you're doing.


In the end, I can honestly say that the GN2 was one of the best devices I've ever owned. Samsung had the balls to release a smartphone in a package no one would've thought of being successful. And for that, I thank Samsung for properly releasing a mobile internet device. Something Nokia couldn't do with their N810 and N900.

And even though the Galaxy Note 3 has taken over the Phablet kingdom, the GN2 is still a more than capable device that you can get at a decent price.
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