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Issue 10.3 ('Hashes')
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Samsung Galaxy Note

Issue: 10.3 (March/April 2012)
Author: Tam Hanna
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 6,177
Starting Page Number: 13
Article Number: 10302
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Full text of article...

When talking about mobile technology, one usually expects the sands of time to sweep manufacturers forward mercilessly. Sadly, technological sand floods—just like their real-life brethren—often cover up valuable things: looking at recent mobile devices, styli and QWERTY keyboards come to mind.

What you get

After buying the Galaxy Note, you quickly get acquainted to the much-hated "ad in the box." Unlike most other manufacturers, Samsung does not give you an usable screen protector—it is printed full of useless advertising collateral.

Other than that, the package is pretty generous. Samsung includes a headset, a 700mA-capable USB-out wall wart and a 2.5 foot (75cm) long data cable which can dock with either the wall wart or your PC workstation.

Physical feelings

If there was one thing to dislike about the Galaxy SII, then it is most definitely its low weight. Don't ask me why, but the box just feels like a gimmick rather than an expensive phone. Even though the Note is still made of synthetics rather than metals, the device feels valuable due to its physical bulk.

From a manufacturing standpoint, one cannot say anything bad about the machine. The keys feel well made (albeit with a very soft pressure point), and the stylus silo reminds me of ancient Palm handhelds. In short, there is nothing to dislike here except maybe for the lack of a hardware camera button.


The Galaxy Note forces you to pick between rain and cold showers: you can either get the dual-core CPU and the PenTile screen _or_ a single core CPU and a proper LCD. Either way, the resolution of 1280x800 is insanely high.

My device had the lower quality PenTile screen—while still annoying, the very high pixel pitch of 285ppi made the experience more bearable than the one had on the Galaxy S or some of Nokia's latest horror abominations.

Of course, a display like the one on the Galaxy SII feels better... but once you get used to the Note, the differences blur if you don't keep reminding yourself about them.

The Stylus

As we have covered the SGS II in the last issue, let us look at the main new feature found in the Note: the S Pen. Samsung's S Pen is a special stylus which has nothing in common with either resistive or capacitive styli: it does not work on the SGS II, and resistive styli don't work on the Note's screen.

Compensating that, however, is a button on the stylus. If you press it and hold the stylus on the screen for a few seconds, a screenshot of the screen content is made (see Figure 1).

This is really, really useful if you ever have to implement something from a datasheet or similar list of items. Just make yourself a screenshot, and check the items one by one as you implement them—no more double implementations and/or "where was I" searching.

An application called S Memo can be considered the core of the Note's ambitions at taking a stab at your paper notepad. Offering folder management and thumbnails, it adds some level of hierarchy to the notes you create with the S Pen component which is also available in an SDK for third parties. Figure 2 shows a folder called "Rest" and a few drawings provided by the manufacturer.

Sadly, these stroke-of-genius features suffer from impractical implementation. For example, the device forces you to accept a stylus offset "for ergonomical reasons"—in addition to that, the pressure needed for writing on the screen sometimes is higher than it was on the temperamental Palm IIIc.

Removing the screen protector (and keeping the stylus at exactly the same angle as you would keep a pen) helped alleviate the issue a small bit. However, being the old Palm-head that I am, I still kept asking myself where the "Digitizer control panel" is on the darn thing.


If you find yourself on the prowl for a new phone, the Galaxy Note is an unlikely contender: it is large, heavy, expensive, and attractive to thieves. Its smaller cousin, the Galaxy SII can do almost all the Note can do—while costing less, weighing less, and having a proper screen.

On the other hand, the Note is the first smartphone which comes somewhat close to being able to replace those pesky paper notepads. Its screen is large enough to allow for the (effortful) drawing of small flowcharts. In addition to that, its unique screenshot feature can be used in combination with the camera; allowing the Note to act as a "second screen" while coding on the run. If you often find yourself longing for the styli of lore, give the Note a try.

Of course, the Android-specific weaknesses such as a sometimes complex GUI and the total lack of proper out-of-the-box sync with Outlook remain (mentioned in the last issue).

End of article.