Do I need a Samsung Galaxy Note II?

Some of the more eagle eyed amongst you may be aware that I’m one of those people who swear by the original Samsung Galaxy Note. I’ve had it for about six or seven months now but I’ve started to become envious of the new Galaxy Note II.

I’ve been avoiding looking at prices etc, as I know I’ll just end up buying one and selling the old one. If only I could just try one out for a few weeks. Well what a stroke of luck, the nice people from Vodafone sent me one.

So what am I going to do with it? We’ve already reviewed it here. So I’m basically just going to use it for a week or so and decide which I prefer. I’m going to outline some areas where the new higher spec Galaxy Note II is superior and also any areas where I feel the original is better.

Why on earth should I bother? Well quite a few people out there like the idea of the Samsung Galaxy Note and they just can’t afford to get the latest Note II. These are the sorts of people who would be interested in how the original Note performs comparatively.

When I opened up the Note II I was quite surprised, the screen was different to the original, it’s a slightly different ratio compared to the original. It is slightly narrower and a bit taller.

The Samsung Galaxy Note II is a great looking phone, albeit a bit plastic looking. As long as you think a great looking phone is meant to be huge of course. As I already own the original Note I was prepared for it.

Certain devices when you get them out of the box, you’re astounded. Recently, when I got my HTC 8X, I was really impressed. When I opened up the Note II I was similarly impressed. In the hand the Note II feels really good, being slightly narrower has made it easier to hold in one hand.  Although both are hard to use one handed, you have to develop a two handed method to use them in real life.

One other noticeable difference is the frame for the screen. On the original the screen was raised from the rest of the phone by a white surround, on the Note II the screen is flush to the edges of the phone. It makes it nuch nicer phone to operate.

Once I had booted up the Note II I was presented with the Nature UI and all of the bundled Samsung apps. I always feel a little deflated scrolling through the built in apps on Samsung devices. I wish such a device like the Note II was available in the Nexus program. With or without stylus I’d be happy.

With my original Note I was initially excited to use the S Pen. At first I would take photos and annotate them and send them to people, that sort of behaviour dwindled once I realised it had to be calibrated each and every time I wanted to use the S Pen (I’m left handed, it defaults to right and resets after every reboot). Without calibration the S Pen would be about 3MM out making writing difficult. With the advent of “Draw Something” I found a new use for the S Pen as my wife was sending me detailed drawings using her HTC Flyer with Scribe pen.

Another use for the S Pen seemed to be the ease at which you could cut and paste text. Whilst the Note had Gingerbread this was unusable and after the Ice Cream Sandwich update it was much improved. Using a long press of the finger was much easier and more intuitive than calibrating the S Pen and then re-opening the text you wanted to select.

The new S Pen on the Note II is redesigned and the software built in is also new. When you pull the pen out now it wakes the device up and triggers a new panel with options to start a few apps and activities. This once again is all done in Samsung vision of how you should using the S Pen, although note taking, gallery and a few other bit are on there. You can turn off this forced automation though which is a nice touch though. Oh and if your wondering, the new pen works perfectly in either the left or the right hand. Selecting text with the S Pen is still a fiddle though.

Putting all of the Samsung apps aside the Galaxy Note II makes for a great device to carry around. I find that everything I try and do is always easier on a bigger screen. As to how big is a personal thing, most people see anything over 5” as crossing a boundary of sensibleness. Yes at times you will look odd holding it to your head or texting someone in a busy area. But sat on a train or sat in a pub you can revel in the fact that your web browsing, video watching, game playing, social networking, heaven forbid actually doing work or taking photos will be so much easier on a bigger screen.

The fact both of the Notes have MicroSD slots really lends itself to being a great holiday companion as well. I load mine up with music, films, games and a load of tourist information apps. My Note is an invaluable companion on holiday, having large offline maps stored on my phone is really handy when getting lost abroad.

One thing I did notice whilst using the Note II is how much faster it feels than the original Note. The Note II is one of the fastest devices on the planet so I can imagine my findings are accurate. Although the original Note is no slouch, it still handles a whole host of things I throw at most days without a problem and even plays no end of games without a slightest complaint.

The camera on the Note II is vastly improved, with shots being taking it what seems like a split second. Focusing and shooting are done within a blink of an eye. The built in options of the Samsung camera are a great bonus as well. The original Note had a great camera but it always took a little while to focus and shoot. Often missing or blurring vital shots.

One thing that cannot be missed about the Note II is the battery. I am a heavy user and I go through a couple of batteries a day with my original Note. This is mainly down to the buggy ICS build for the original Note but also down to my almost constant use. The Note II battery gets me through the whole day. No swapping batteries round, no charging, it really is a great battery. A more normal user would easily get a day or two out of it depending on how much they used it.

In conclusion the Galaxy Note II is an amazing device. Yes it is rather large, but as most people who buy one soon find out everything is so much easier on a big screen. It takes the ease of use of a 7” tablet like the Nexus 7 and shrinks a bit. You get the pocketability of a phone and the functionality of a phone.

To me this form factor is here to stay and manufacturers like HTC, LG and ZTE can all see this kind of device as having potential. I just wish this size of phone would transfer to other OS’s. During my time with iOS and Windows Phone I always felt like a 5” ish device would be great. The iPhone 5 and the HTC 8X both just seem like they could do with being just a little bit bigger (read about an inch). I also wish there was a qwerty model as well.

So if your wondering which phone to get next I would try and get to a shop that has stock of either a Note or a Note II and try one out, I imagine unless you have tiny hands like Jamie Ryan that you will find the Note surprisingly manageable.

As a parting note I should say thankyou to Vodafone for lending me the Note II. They have a range of tariffs available available here. During my week using the Note II I was impressed by the speed and reliability in my area (Nottingham) whilst using it. Putting T-Mobile and Giff Gaff to shame.

One other parting note is whether or not I’m going to get a Note II. I am really torn now. The original Note is plenty fast enough for normal use and is certainly cheaper. It’s just long term things like LTE and the quad core CPU will help out. I think I’m going to wait a bit for the price to drop SIM free and then go for it.