Preview: Samsung Galaxy Note II

Preview: Samsung Galaxy Note II

Samsung has announced the Galaxy Note II, a successor to the original Galaxy Note.

Samsung has announced the Galaxy Note II, a successor to the original Galaxy Note.

The Samsung Galaxy Note II doesn't really break any new ground, so it's best described as a slight upgrade over its predecessor.

Its key feature is a larger, 5.5in screen. It uses the same super AMOLED technology as the original Galaxy Note but has a slightly lower resolution of 1280x720 compared to 1280x800. The lower resolution gives the Galaxy Note II a slightly less pixel density rating of 267ppi compared to its predecessor's 285ppi. This isn't a significant downgrade, however, and we suspect 99 per cent of users won't be able to tell the difference if the phones are side-by-side.

A more positive aspect is the design of the Galaxy Note II. You'd automatically assume a larger screen size means a larger phone overall, but that isn't exactly the case. Samsung has made the Galaxy Note II thinner and slightly smaller in width than the original Galaxy Note, so the company certainly deserves plenty of credit. The Note II is 9.4mm thick compared to 9.7mm and is 80.5mm wide compared to 83mm. Granted, it's 2g heavier than its predecessor and around 4mm taller, but these increases are so small that we suspect most people will barely notice.

Physically, the Samsung Galaxy Note II borrows much of its design inspiration from the company's flagship Galaxy S III smartphone. In fact, it's not hard to describe this phone as a larger Galaxy S III with a stylus (OK, S Pen). It has the same glossy plastic finish and an almost identical bezel surrounding the screen and the same silver edging on the sides. It's available in "mountain white" and "titanium grey" colours, too, which look remarkably similar to the "pearl white" and "pebble blue models" of the Galaxy S III.

Samsung's TouchWIZ software on the Galaxy Note II also looks virtually identical to the Galaxy S III, though there are a number of new and enhanced features. Air View allows users to hover the S Pen over the screen to preview e-mail, S Planner, image gallery, or video content without having to open it. Quick Command allows users to open frequently used apps by pre-registering marks with the S Pen, while Screen Recorder can record a sequence of actions on the screen and allow it to be shared. We're not exactly sure of the benefit of the latter, except for demonstrating how to use certain functions for a friend of family member, perhaps.

Samsung has made significant changes to the S Pen, too. It's longer and now has a rubberised tip, which was apparently designed to make it feel more like a regular pen. It now has 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, just like the S Pen on the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. This is an upgrade over the original Galaxy Note S Pen, which only had 256 levels of pressure sensitivity.

In addition to hardware upgrades, there's also a couple of new software features incorporating the S Pen. The highlight appears to be Popup Note, which will automatically open an S Note pop up on the screen when you pull out the S Pen during a phone call. Conveniently, if you forget to put the S Pen back into the Galaxy Note II and walk away, the phone will display an alert letting you know that it's missing the stylus.

The Samsung Galaxy Note II has an 8-megapixel camera with single-LED flash, will be available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models, has 2GB of RAM and is powered by Samsung's Exynos quad-core 1.6GHz processor. A microSD card slot allows memory expansion. The Galaxy Note II runs the latest version of Google's Android software, 4.1 Jelly Bean and also comes with NFC connectivity.

One other significant upgrade is the Galaxy Note II's battery. Samsung has equipped the phone with a 3100mAh battery an increase over the original Galaxy Note's 2500mAh battery. We found battery life on the original Galaxy Note excellent considering the large screen size, so we expect this to improve on the Note II.

There's no word yet on an Australian release of the Galaxy Note II, with Samsung saying "a decision has not yet been made whether this product will be made available in Australia." The Galaxy Note II will be available in Europe, Asia and the Middle East by October, and will be released in the US by the end of 2012, though no pricing has been announced.

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