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Bigger and better: Samsung’s Galaxy Note II 4G reviewed

By Leigh D. Stark | 3:22 pm 16/11/2012

Another nifty thing Samsung has thrown in is called “one hand operation” and practically highlights that yes, Samsung is aware that the Note is a big phone.

They’re so aware that you can actually force the phone to make specific elements smaller and shifted to one side, such as the phone’s dial-pad, making it possible to call it up and enter a phone number with just your left or right thumb.

Something else we didn’t expect is the accessory specific homescreens. A feature Samsung has thrown in, these are homescreens that appear when you plug accessories in, or in the case of the Note S-Pen, take them out.

For instance, if you take the S-Pen out to use on the Note, the phone picks up that the pen has been detached and switches you to a special homescreen showing you what you can do with the pen. You can change this screen, but by default, it shows you all the neat things the S-Pen works with, while also changing the shortcut icons on the bottom to match the accessory better.

Likewise, when you plug your headphones in, a special headphone homescreen pops up, showing music and video, while once again changing the shortcuts to match the accessory you’ve plugged in. The headphone screen won’t appear with Bluetooth headphones, however.

Let’s stick with the S-Pen for the moment, as it’s one of the features Samsung is really pushing. Before in the first Note, it was little more than a stylus that let you draw on the big phone.

Now in its second generation, it’s a far more interactive and connected accessory.

Made for the customer that still loves to write and draw, this makes the Note more like a smartphone with a built-in notepad, letting you take notes as you chat on the phone, draw things, and store more information that you would normally take on scraps of paper.

For example, as you hover it above the Note, you get a little reticle showing you where it’s being pointed. You can use the S-Pen like your fingers to swipe between screens, but then you can also write notes in handwriting and have them translated by the Note’s optical character recognition (OCR) into actual text.

Drawing is possible, and Samsung has its own pencils and pens in the S-Note app, or you can download other pieces of software, such as Autodesk’s Sketchbook.

And then there’s the way Samsung has integrated the S-Pen into making calls.

Let’s say you’re chatting to a friend and they ask you to take down a phone number. Obviously, you need a scrap of paper, but wait, you have the S-Pen. Take it out while you’re on the phone and S-Note will activate on top of the phone screen, allowing you to scribble down the phone number for use later on. Awesome.

Some of the features launched with the Galaxy S3 are here too, including Smart Stay – which keeps the screen on when you’re reading things – and Pop-Up Play’s way of keeping videos on screen while you’re doing something else. We’re not sure how many people will use this, but hey, they’re available if you need them.

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Price (RRP)

$899; Available on plans from Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Strong performance in the operating system; Fantastically fast 4G connection; Just over a day's battery life on 4G, more if you use your phone less; One handed operation mode makes it possible to use the phone's core functions with one hand; Split-screen multitasking works a treat; Homescreens that activate based on what you're doing are very clever;

Product Cons

Screen resolution isn't as high as last Note; Not every app can go to split-screen; Android exhibits the same bugs in the 4G S3, so you can't switch out your dock shortcuts;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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