The original Samsung Galaxy Note was never the likeliest candidate for a multi-million-selling Android device. Few expected it to succeed, and its inflated size and stylus input made it an easy target for ridicule. We were cautiously optimistic in our November 2011 review, but also skeptical as to its mass market potential. Yet somehow, in the ten months following its debut in late 2011, Samsung managed to turn this quirky technological showcase into something with real mass appeal. And so here we are, one year and 10 million units later, with its successor, the Galaxy Note 2.
Samsung likes to talk about having created a new category of mobile device with the Galaxy Note, and the Note certainly stretches the boundaries of what can reasonably be called a smartphone. It’s even inspired a few imitators, including LG’s Optimus Vu and Intuition. But users of the original Note will concede that while the device was groundbreaking, it certainly wasn’t perfect. Samsung’s TouchWiz 4 software was hardly ideal for a phone of that size, and many usability hiccups remained in Android, particularly where the “S Pen” stylus was concerned.
In 2012, the Galaxy Note 2 presents Samsung with the chance to refine the Note formula, and possibly dominate this niche for another year. So have they succeeded? Read on to find out.
The Galaxy Note 2 delivers thoughtful hardware and software improvements over the first Note, with solid build quality and surprisingly competent ergonomics. The screen is gorgeous, the camera matches the high-end competition, and the device’s performance and responsiveness are nothing short of buttery-smooth.
The S Pen, though still not a required in everyday use, has become more useful — and usable — in the Note 2. And then there’s the latest version of Android, as well as the wealth of extra features offered by TouchWiz.
The sheer size of the Galaxy Note 2 will be a turn-off for some consumers. TouchWiz remains visually and structurally chaotic, with some minor annoyances.
Due to a software mix-up, multi-window functionality is unavailable on the Note 2 at launch.
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