The Samsung Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Note II use virtually the same design and same hyperglazed plastic exterior.
They do differ in size as we've already mentioned - the Galaxy S III measures 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm, while the Note II is bigger in every direction at 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm. Thickness is a non-issue (unless it's bragging rights you're after, in which case you lose to plenty of other phones), though the height does raise questions about the pocketability of the Note II.
However, the biggest issue is width - at 80.5mm, the Note II is the widest phone (well, okay, phablet), save for the LG Optimus Vu. This limits the comfort of one hand operation, compared to the S III. Still, it's 2.5mm narrower than the original Note, despite the bigger screen (that's thanks to the switch from a 16:10 to a 16:9 aspect ratio).
The weight is also a consideration. The Galaxy S III weighs the norm for its generation of flagships at 133g (the HTC One X is 130g and the LG Optimus 4X HD is 133g). The Galaxy Note II weighs 183g, which sounds like a lot (and it is) but it's well distributed (it's not top heavy or anything) and you have to remember that the Nokia Lumia 920 phone weighs 185g.
Another difference, is the Galaxy S III has a wider selection of colors, though we fully expect the Note II to catch up in time.
Moving on, both devices have a removable back cover and a user-replaceable battery. The Galaxy S III has a respectable 2100mAh Li-Ion battery, while the bigger Note II has a 3100mAh unit. After we examine the screen, we'll talk about battery life in a separate chapter.
Despite their size, both devices use microSIMs only though on the upside they both have microSD card slots to expand the built-in memory (both are available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions).
There are minor differences, like the hardware Home button on the front and the loudspeaker on the back, though we don't think any of the devices is at a disadvantage.
Everything else - button and port positioning - is the same with the exception of the added S Pen slot on the Galaxy Note II.
We have two Super AMOLED screens of 720p resolution facing off, one 4.8" big and the other 5.5". In terms of surface area, the Samsung Galaxy Note II has a 30% bigger screen than the Galaxy S III.
They both use Gorilla Glass 2 for protection, but the matrices below are different for the two devices.
The one on the Galaxy S III is PenTile with two sub-pixels per pixel, while the one of the Galaxy Note II has a full set of sub-pixels in every pixel in an unusual arrangement.†
So, while the pixel density of the S III is 306ppi over the 267ppi density of the Note II, the less dense screen actually appears sharper. Not that the S III display isn't sharp - the high pixel density does a good job of hiding the cross-hatch look typical of PenTile screens.†
The Note II's screen has a further advantage - it's brighter. At maximum it puts out 402 nits, a significant increase over the 330 nits of the Galaxy S III. Both screens have perfectly deep blacks and theoretically infinite contrast.
|Display test||50% brightness||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
|Samsung Galaxy Note II||0||215||∞||0||402||∞|
|Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III||0||174||∞||0||330||∞|
|HTC One X||0.15||200||1375||0.39||550||1410|
|Samsung Galaxy Note||0||287||∞||0||429||∞|
|Samsung Galaxy Nexus||0||112||∞||0||247||∞|
|Apple iPhone 5||0.13||200||1490||0.48||640||1320|
In real life conditions, however, the Samsung Galaxy S III holds its own - its sunlight legibility is among the best we've seen, while that of the Note II is average. We guess that extra layer for the Wacom digitizer is to blame here.
Viewing angles on AMOLED displays are typically excellent and both Galaxy phones are no exception. Still, there's a slight color shift visible on the S III (a blue/green tint) while the effect is less prominent on the Note II.