Samsung Galaxy Note II Snapshot Review

Aaron Baker
member from Dallas, TX
Published: February 4, 2013

It's time for a PhoneDog Snapshot Review, where we take our typical two-part review and condense it down into a tiny little video that's loaded with information!  Today, the Samsung Galaxy Note II.

Is the new model better than the last?

The Samsung Galaxy Note II is the successor to the Galaxy Note, which launched on AT&T - and much later, T-Mobile - in the United States.  The Galaxy Note II brings the Galaxy S III design cues to the Note line, and expands the availability to five carriers: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular - an instant win from an overall awareness standpoint.  Despite the carrier-agnostic approach, a phone won't sell without a perfect formula of marketing, retail awareness, and consumer interest.  The exceptional improvements in all of those departments contribute to making the Note II substantially better than the original device.

What changes were made?

While Note II is in the same product line as the original Note, it's best to think of this smartphone as an entirely new iteration.  Note brought the notion of "hybrid smartphone" into the marketplace, but Note II is better in every way possible.  Among the improvements:

  • The specifications list is improved in every way to make the Note II a flagship smartphone.  The 1.6 GHz quad-core Exynos CPU, 2 GB of RAM, and 5.5-inch Super AMOLED HD display are all top-notch features that give this device a leg ahead of some of its competitors.
  • The size and feel in the hand.  The display is larger than the original Note, but the phone is longer and narrower this time around, making it easier to hold in the hand.
  • The S Pen is improved and is far more integrated into the software, making for a more pleasant experience.
  • Note II brings some great software perks to the table - S Beam, camera features, and a myriad of personalization options and other goodies that users are sure to enjoy.

Outside of all of that, half of the battle revolves around the product cycle and overall timing, and the Note II premiered at a near-perfect time.

How's the hardware?

The size of the smartphone places Galaxy Note II into a category of its own.  And make no doubt about it - it's a big device.  For comparison purposes, the Apple iPhone 5 fits into the screen of the phablet (that's "phone" and "tablet" merged, in case you were wondering).  The overall look and feel resembles the Galaxy S III, and offers a similar level of plastic.

How's the software experience?

As far as I'm concerned, Samsung's TouchWiz Nature UX is the best implementation of a user interface on top of Android.  TouchWiz is fluid, fast, and works incredibly well with Android 4.1.  It's far less jumpy and flashy than HTC's Sense UI, and in the few times it does exhibit flash, the animations are smooth and rarely result in a wait.  Samsung has done an exceptional job of including a wealth of software goodies on top of the typical Android experience, and they're perks I see mainstream consumers enjoying.

What was great about the Note II?

In many ways, this is the HTC EVO 4G of late 2012 through early 2013.  It's an Android pioneer that leads in multiple categories.  Battery life is absolutely fantastic, the S Pen functionality is great for signing contracts and editing documents on the go, the quad-core Exynos processor combined with 2 GB of RAM makes for a fast experience across the board, and TouchWiz is exceptionally fluid and works well with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.  Samsung did a surprisingly good job of nailing almost every category, giving this phone serious appeal to a number of demographics.

What should be changed?

There's little I would change about the Galaxy Note II; most of my issues come from software outside of the device itself.  Samsung's Kies software - which is what you'll use if you need to backup your smartphone to your computer - is in desperate need of an overhaul.  I'd also like to see Samsung tighten up its ecosystem when it comes to Media Hub, Music Hub, and ChatON.

What's the real verdict?

Note II is one of the largest smartphones on the market right now, and that's going to be a deal-breaker for some.  But looking past the size, there's a ton to like on this smartphone, and I have a feeling that consumers will continue to be drawn to individual features it offers.  Note II leads in battery life, speed (thanks to the quad-core processor and 2 GB of RAM), network connectivity, availability, and content creation due to the S Pen and large HD display. 

Products mentioned