The Samsung Galaxy Note II draws inspiration from both the original Note and the Galaxy S III. It feels like an upscaled S III, but it's not much bigger than the original Note even though the screen size went up by 0.2".
What did change (and you can feel it) is the screen's aspect ratio - Samsung went from 16:10 to 16:9, so the Note II is now narrower and that makes it slightly more comfortable to hold. Other than that, it's still a PenTile Super AMOLED screen as we're used to from the original Note and the Galaxy S III.
Kudos to Samsung for keeping the weight in check (it's virtually the same) and the thickness (the Note II is actually a hair thinner, but it's not something you'd easily feel). The battery capacity has increased to 3,100mAh, which is good news too.
The biggest changes in the Samsung Galaxy Note II relate to the S Pen - more things revolve around it now as it has learned some really cool new tricks.
When you pull out the stylus, the Note II brings up a dedicated interface, which offers quick shortcuts to various S Pen features. Better still, the device keeps track of you and the stylus and if you walk away while the stylus is out, it will alert you. It does this by detecting your movements with the accelerometer, but we didn't have the time to check if the Note II can get confused if you walk and write with the S Pen.
Anyway, the new S Pen is slightly thicker than the previous one and has a rubberized tip, which improves the feel as you draw (it's no longer plastic sliding over plastic). The digitizer is also more accurate, sensing four times as many pressure levels as the original Note did.
It also supports the hover feature like we saw on the big Galaxy Note 10.1. A cursor follows the S Pen and can activate things - e.g. in the gallery where folders are displayed as stacks of photos, if you hover over them, they fan out to give you a better look at what's in the folder.
Similar to the Note 10.1, the Note 2 screen would also discard the touch of your palm resting on the screen while you draw with the stylus.
We took the Samsung Galaxy Note II for a quick spin, check out the video below to see how the updated hardware and software handle: