The Samsung Galaxy Note II could be the phone of the year for me

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: September 19, 2012

In January when I was glumly leaving CES, out of the thousands of nifty gadgets and flashy new prototypes at the show, there was a single device that I just could not wait to get my hands on. Earlier in 2011, I had called this particular device absurd and wondered why anyone would want such an enormous device. After all, a phone is meant to tuck away nicely in your pocket, right?

In case you haven't already guessed it (as if the title wasn't a dead giveaway), that device that left a lasting impression on me at CES was the U.S. variant of the Samsung Galaxy Note.

Unfortunately, at the time, I was not an AT&T customer. Instead, I was using T-Mobile and we could only assume AT&T had an exclusivity deal with Samsung on their first phablet. It was also believed that the AT&T Galaxy Note was not compatible with T-Mobile 3G/4G(the international version definitely wasn't). Unlocking it and popping a SIM card in would only yield 2G speeds. Ew. However, a tinkerer in a development forum for the Note discovered that you could flash T-Mobile modem software from a similar Samsung device (Galaxy S II, I believe) and start picking up 3G and HSPA+.

Upon reading this news, I shot a text message to my friend and had him trade my Galaxy Nexus for a Note. I took some time to get all the right software in place and made the Galaxy Note my T-Mobile device. Despite the speeds being horrible (both because the software hack wasn't very refined and because I had moved and T-Mobile data coverage in the area was pretty poor), I loved every minute with the Note.

After a month or so of it, though, I was ready to pull my teeth out. I would get a 4G emblem next to the signal meter in the notification bar but only get 2Mbps down and .12Mbps on the uplink. And then I started noticing all the little quirks about the Note. Its display was fuzzy next to other devices (both because the density is lower and the HD Super AMOLED panel uses a PenTile Martix subpixel layout). And the Snapdragon S3 just wasn't enough horsepower in light of the snappier S4.

In short, the original Note was a device released at the wrong time – in the middle of a significant specification jump. So I somewhat reluctantly switched it out for something a little newer, something better equipped for a power user. Once you go with such a large smartphone, it's difficult to switch back down to something, say, the size of the HTC One X.

But I knew there would be a successor. And considering the original Note was a success for Samsung, I knew others would eventually want a piece of the phablet pie. So I waited ...

Back in August, Samsung announced the successor to the Galaxy Note, the Galaxy Note II. It's bigger, more trim, has a larger battery life, a refined S Pen and better specifications all around. It also looks as if it might not fall victim to an exclusivity this time around.

When the Note II was announced, sure, I was excited. But there was one little factor that had me slightly upset. I swore off HD Super AMOLED displays back in May. Samsung has their own reasons for using the PenTile panels, but that doesn't justify how terrible it looked, especially on the Note. Text was extremely fuzzy, whites looked gray and if you turned the display below 50% brightness, whites looked like parchment.

It was disheartening to learn the Note II would also feature the HD Super AMOLED display.

However, a follower of mine on Twitter (@mdmxchristian) pointed out on Monday a very important detail that somehow flew under my radar. GSMArena.com discovered that the Galaxy Note II, despite touting an HD Super AMOLED display, does not use a PenTile Matrix subpixel layout. It has a rather strange layout instead, but the result is a noticeably sharper display despite a slight drop in density (because the Note II display is larger, remember?).

For your viewing pleasure, here is a comparison of the original Galaxy Note display and the Galaxy Note II display, courtesy of GSMArena.com. It is visibly clearer and brighter thanks to the obscure subpixel layout.

Don't get me wrong, I'm super excited for other devices. I have a pre-ordered iPhone 5 that should be here by the end of the week. The DROID RAZR MAXX HD is lustrous simply for the gargantuan battery inside. The Nokia Lumia 920 is also one sexy device I can't wait to get my hands on. There's also an HTC-made phablet on the way. But, above all, the Note II is already shaping up to be my favorite device of 2012. I loved the original Note, and now it seems Samsung has ironed out all the kinks with the second-gen phablet.

Does news that the Galaxy Note II isn't PenTile instill a little more interest in you? Or are your sights still set on another device? What do you think will be your favorite mobile device of 2012?