The Samsung Galaxy Note is a bit of a gamble, squeezing into the gap between smartphone and tablet.
Upon unboxing the device, the first thing you'll notice is just how large it is, with a 5.3-inch touchscreen dominating the handset.
And that touchscreen is beautiful, with a 1280 by 800 resolution making your media stand out. It's your standard Samsung display wizardry really, with deep blacks and vivid colours making for a great viewing experience.
The large screen was also very welcome for note-taking and web-browsing, being a good compromise between tablet and phone. The screen is perfect for photos too, as the rear-facing camera shows.
The 8-megapixel camera is one of the better smartphone shooters I've used, with sharp imagery, beautiful colour and little noise. Check the Flickr stream for a few sample shots I took.
The handset also takes full 1080p videos, letting users output the clips to HDTVs with an optional accessory.
Hardware and stylus
Moving onto the design itself, the Galaxy Note is largely made of plastic, with a metallic/plastic ring around the edge of the handset. But the one annoyance was with the back-cover, which felt incredibly thin and flimsy. But in practice, the cover snapped on and off without any problem.
The handset does look great though, with two capacitive buttons and a physical button on the front. On the left-hand side is a volume rocker/zoom button, while the right-hand side plays host to the power/lock button. The top of the handset has an audio jack while the bottom has a mini-USB port and S-pen stylus.
The S-pen has been billed as a major selling point, letting users write memos, edit photos and more. In practice, it works well enough, with input being slightly delayed, but not bad enough to detract from the experience at all. Writing a memo is a cinch, although the handwriting-to-text feature really depends on... well... your handwriting. In other words, I found it to be legible half the time.
The S-pen is also a great tool for creative types, letting users edit screenshots and photos. Whether you're an architect, fashion designer or web developer, you'll definitely find a use for it. For instance, I took a screenshot of our website, then drew up some changes for it (more tech, obviously).
Samsung has also added a few more S-pen apps to their app market. Catch, for example, is a stylish note-taking app in the vein of Evernote. Another neat app is Makeup, which lets you snap a photo of someone and apply make-up.
Specs and software
Under the hood, the Galaxy Note is equipped with a 1.4Ghz dual-core processor, making for some pretty snappy performance. Homescreens display little lag when switching between them, applications launch quickly and general transitions were pretty smooth. While there were one or two cases of initially unresponsive taps, these were few and far between.
With a giant screen and powerful dual-core processor, you'd think that the battery life suffers as a result. But the Note's got a gigantic 2500mAh battery, giving you a respectable two days of moderate usage.
The Note is of course, equipped with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface. So if you've used any of Samsung's previous Android handsets, you'll be right at home. Speaking of Android, the Note makes use of Android 2.3.5, with an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich mooted as well.
The biggest concern is how the Galaxy Note would feel in one's pocket though, and it doesn't fare too badly. Depending on the jeans I was wearing, the Galaxy Note would either fit comfortably or just peek out of the pocket. The handset will fit just fine in your jacket pocket though.
While I had my doubts about the large form factor, the Galaxy Note grew on me pretty quickly. The device is thin enough that I barely noticed having it with me at times. After using it for a few days, I found my own Samsung Omnia 7 to be pretty tiny, funnily enough.
That's not to say that the large form factor is a complete success though, especially when in general use. For instance, operating the phone with one hand can be a clumsy affair if you need to hit an icon in a corner. So, you'll often find yourself adjusting your whole hand just to reach different areas. Taking a photo with one hand is also another clumsy affair.
Nevertheless, the Samsung Galaxy Note is a fantastic device, delivering a huge screen, precise stylus and slick performance. While the form factor will certainly be an obstacle at times, it still manages to be a great compromise between a phone and a tablet.
If you can't decide between a tablet or a smartphone, the Galaxy Note is worth a purchase. However, at a prepaid price of over R7999, you could buy a tablet and smartphone. But with some great contract deals to be had, this device is worth a look.
Score: 8.5 out of 10