In recent years, we've seen the smartphone shrink and grow, and along with it, display sizes have been progressively creeping up in size.  First came 3.7-inch displays, which were followed by 4-inch displays, then by the 4.3-inch display on the HTC EVO 4G.  Shortly thereafter, we saw 4.52-inches, followed by 4.7-inches.  If you thought that was too much, brace yourself: Samsung is breaking the barrier with the Samsung Galaxy Note, a phone/tablet with a massive 5.3-inch display.

The smartphone (or tablet, depending on your view) offers a 1.4 GHz dual-core Exynos processor, 5.3-inch Super AMOLED HD display, 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video recording, and a big 2,500 mAh battery.  A US-themed 4G LTE version is on its way to AT&T later in the year, but if you just can't wait, you can purchase it unlocked through select online retailers.

I've spent the day with the phone, rocking it in my pocket, hands, and against my ear.  Here are my thoughts so far:

  • The phone itself resembles the Galaxy S II line, so you'll find the volume rocker, power button, and ports in similar places. The exception would be the S Pen, which is located on the bottom right of the device.  On the front, you'll notice that the usual four capacitive buttons have been replaced with the international configuration: two capacitive buttons (menu, back) and a physical home button.  The battery cover is texturized, which makes the phone easier to hold in the hand.

  • The 5.3-inch Super AMOLED HD display may be too large for a lot of people, but it's absolutely beautiful.  Colors look great and media content looks fantastic.  Watching HD videos on the Galaxy Note has been a real treat so far.
  • Galaxy Note comes with Android 2.3.6 with TouchWiz 4.0.  Combined with the fast dual-core Exynos processor, I've been really pleased with performance.  TouchWiz 4.0 has been refined over past versions and works very well with the hardware.
  • The S Pen comes inside of the unit, and is a nifty little accessory given the large display.  In addition to the usual gestures, there are some custom things you can do with the S Pen, like swipe back to a homescreen and capture screenshots.  So far, I haven't had a moment where I've really thought "man, I should use the S Pen," though it's fun to have around when the desire to doodle gets the best of me.

  • Like the Galaxy S II series, the Galaxy Note's 8-megapixel camera performs well, as does the 1080p HD camcorder.  Image quality was great in both well-lit and low-lit areas.
  • Galaxy Note comes with a rather large 2,500 mAh battery, and while that may sound more than sufficient, I suspect the added capacity will be offset by the large display and the S Pen (because users will want to draw on the device, keeping the screen on longer than usual).  I'll have full battery numbers in the review, but so far, I've been reasonably impressed - in a day of moderate use, I've seen the indicator drop roughly 30 percent.

There's a size limit that even the biggest die-hard phone person hits, and for me, the Galaxy Note is just too big.  If you're looking for a second phone to act as a tablet (and perhaps a mobile gaming machine), the Galaxy Note is an excellent companion.  For most consumers, however, I think the Galaxy Note will be too large to carry as their daily driver.  But choice is always good!

Check out the unboxing video, and stay tuned for the full review!

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