Samsung Galaxy Note 2

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

Samsung's Galaxy Note remains in a class of its own. With its 5.3-inch display and S Pen stylus, the "phablet" blurred the line between phone and tablet and made for a completely new user experience. Yes, it was big (maybe too big for some), but it brought new functionality to the cell phone world.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

Today in Berlin at IFA, Samsung unveiled the successor device, the Galaxy Note 2. Larger and more powerful, the Note 2 is a stunner in many ways, but it still involves a big (no pun intended) adjustment for users.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)
Recently, Samsung gave me a sneak peek at its new Galaxy Note 2 in action. Of course the device I saw demonstrated, and briefly handled myself, was a top-secret engineering sample and not the full production model. Even so, I was struck by the power and capabilities of this ambitious gadget.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)
Before I get any further let me explain that my hands-on time with the Galaxy Note 2 was brief. Also, the cadre of intense Samsung product managers and marketing folks surrounding me insisted I not play with the apps too much since the phone had software that was not final. Additionally, I was forbidden from snapping photos or shooting video during my meeting and Samsung didn't announce pricing information. Luckily CNET's Stephen Shankland was able to grab pictures direct from IFA in Berlin.
When the Samsung marketing executive sitting to my left slowly produced the Galaxy Note 2 by carefully unwrapping a felt cloth, I pursed my lips and whistled. Wow, I said to myself, I really thought the first Galaxy Note was massive, but now there's this monster. If the Incredible Hulk or The Thing perhaps needed a proportionally sized handset, here it is.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)
That's not to say the Galaxy Note 2 is bigger exactly, but more specifically longer. The device's 5.55-inch AMOLED screen (1,280x720 pixels) is diagonally wider than the Galaxy Note at 5.3 inches. That translates into a display with a wide-screen 16:9 aspect ratio, which is, as Samsung puts it, "optimized for today's visually oriented apps."
Indeed the vast screen is as lovely as ever, with deep blacks and vibrant colors viewable from very wide angles. Some people may question the need for this capability, but I wholeheartedly disagree as someone who views Netflix content daily while blowing through household chores. Washing dishes and screening "Deep Space Nine" is a perfect combination.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)
During my briefing, Samsung didn't provide details about the Galaxy Note 2's dimensions. Still, the device looked just as thin as the original Galaxy Note and Galaxy S III (S3). I was also shown models in two colors, white and gray, similar to Samsung's Galaxy S3 devices. A large home button sits below each device's screen, flanked by two capacitive buttons on either side.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)
A better S Pen
Just like the Galaxy Note 10.1, the Galaxy Note 2 serves up a host of new S Pen tricks. Samsung made it clear to me that the styluslike input device now enables a higher level of mobile multitasking. For instance, I was shown how the S Pen will create a virtual pointer/cursor on the Galaxy Note 2's screen. This happens without the stylus touching the screen and functions almost as a physical laser pointer would.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)
Hovering over items such as photos and videos will open windows to see more details or even begin playback. Samsung also demonstrated the Note 2 playing video while viewing Web pages or other documents at the same time, giving the device an almost PC-level of functionality.
I saw other tricks, too, like "flipping over" photos to their virtual back sides. From there the S Pen was used to scribble handwritten notes for personal reminders. It's an interesting capability, but since it only works with the Galaxy Note 2 and other Note devices, I doubt it'll take the world by storm.
One feature that may appeal to bloggers and other technophiles, though, is Screen Record. Essentially this function will record everything that happens on the screen, including stereo audio and pen markings, then save it as a video file. Just think of all the custom Android ROM installation demos you could do!
Samsung Galaxy Note 2(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)
Harnessing the full power of a 1.6GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos processor, a large 2GB helping of RAM, and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the Galaxy Note 2 was certainly fast when operated by its Samsung handlers. The product also felt nimble and lithe in my hands, and pushed its apps and menus around with agility.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)
It's powered by a 3,100mAh battery, but I hope battery life can keep up with the Galaxy Note 2's fire-breathing list of components. Of course the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 device I saw was the global unit that lacked LTE 4G data hardware. Most likely a U.S. model will feature a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, which plays nicer with LTE modems. Though the S4 isn't bursting with cores, it is plenty fast, very efficient, and a power miser.
The Galaxy Note 2 comes with an 8MP main camera and 2MP front-facing image sensor. It's not as high-res as other sensors on competing products but if it's as good as the shooter on the Galaxy S3 then I doubt many will complain.
I see the future of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 really hinging on how many people would like to ditch either their tablet or their phone in favor of one device serving both purposes. Actually, big-screened Android phones such as Samsung's own Galaxy S3 and HTC One X already do this.
Samsung also reiterated that it sold more than 10 million first-gen Galaxy Notes globally. I wonder how much of that consists of U.S. sales. The real question, however, is if users can find value in a high-tech notepad. Until devices like this emulate the feel of real pen and paper, it's a hard bargain. Perhaps this new Note can convince us. Be sure to check back soon for our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and judge for yourself.

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