Samsung Galaxy Note preview: First look

GSMArena team, 30 September 2011.
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Browser is a near tablet-like experience

The two key determining factors for browsing are screen size and resolution and the Samsung Galaxy Note excels at both - with a screen like that, it will put in a lot of hours of web browsing.

The UI follows the minimalist ethos of the vanilla Android browser but it has been slightly tweaked to make better use of the screen.

The URL bar at the top of the screen is flanked by the Back/Forward buttons on one side and the Tab and Bookmarks buttons on the other. Inside the URL bar itself are the RSS and Refresh buttons.

It sounds like it's going to get cramped with all these buttons, but they're all big and easy to hit. The Menu key reveals more options and also makes the URL bar visible (it auto-hides once you start panning around the page).

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Web browser stretches its legs Whole pages fit easily in landscape mode

The Samsung Galaxy Note browser renders pages problem-free and it's very fast - panning, scrolling, zooming are very smooth.

In landscape mode, most pages fit the screen at 100%. 1280 pixels wide is about the size most web designs aim for. Of course, that makes text rather small, but you can always rely on text reflow, which reformats paragraphs of text to fit the screen better.

One option we particularly liked is the dedicated screen brightness setting to use in the browser. That's independent from from the main setting but lets you toggle automatic brightness too. For example, you can keep the general brightness low to save battery but have the browser brightness at high for comfortable viewing.

We also tried out Flash and it was smooth sailing all the way. 1080p YouTube videos played smoothly, but you'd probably be using 720p most of the time since it fits pixel per pixel on the screen (with a black bar above and below since the Galaxy Note's screen is taller than 720p). Games also ran fine, so touch-optimized Flash games give you an alternative to games from the Market.

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1080p video playing in the browser Touch-optimized Flash games run smoothly

First impressions

We have to say our first impressions of the Samsung Galaxy Note are very positive. If you can get over the hurdle of figuring out how to carry the device comfortably, you're in for excellent performance, screen and camera.

We imagine both business types and power geeks will be interested in the Note and it has something to offer both groups. The easy note taking will appeal more to the suit and tie crowd. The blazing fast Exynos chipset will let power users enjoy every Android app, game and Flash site under the sun.

The hardware is pretty great too, provided the screen brightness isn't an issue in the retail units (and we think it wont be). We would have enjoyed some metal on the body, but we're not sure we want to lose the feeling of lightness either.

All this is really great and we have more stuff to look at in the review, but there's one thing that might make the Note a fairly rare device in the wild - price. It's not on sale yet, but the early prices being quoted don't look too good. By the sound of it, the Note is well in the vicinity of 7"-10" Android tablets (and even iPads).

As powerful as the Samsung Galaxy Note is, and as good a screen it has, it can't compete with the screen real estate of a big tablet. And it's not that much more pocketable than a 7" tablet either. It's still the kind of gadget that captures people's imagination. It's worth keeping an eye on. Perhaps not a device you think you'll need. But one you're going to want.

This test unit was kindly provided by CT MIAMI, a Samsung distributor for Latin America. The Galaxy Note will be available at CT MIAMI for wholesale customers on October 24 for $699.

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