Mobile

Samsung’s Galaxy Note II: A surprisingly comfortable 5.5-inch giant (hands-on gallery)

Coming off of Samsung’s troubled Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, I wasn’t too eager to dive into yet another stylus-equipped Samsung device. But the Galaxy Note II still managed to intrigue me by squeezing a bigger 5.5-inch screen and tons of power into a device that weighs the same as the original Galaxy Note.

To be clear, the Galaxy Note II won’t do much to change your mind if you thought the original model was obscenely large. But since I found a lot to like with the first Galaxy Note (even though it was incredibly dorky), I’m impressed that Samsung managed to make the phone even more interesting this time around.

In a small New York City press gathering last week, Samsung let me fondle the international variant of the Galaxy Note II. Even though it sports a 5.5-inch screen, compared to the original Note’s 5.3-inch display,  I was shocked to find that it weighed pretty much the same, around 6.3 ounces. The Note II also isn’t much bigger than the original; it’s slightly taller but also less wide. Samsung also removed much of the top and bottom front bezel, which makes the massive screen even more of a centerpiece.

Given its rounder shape and smoother case, the Note II actually felt more comfortable in my hands than the original Note. (If you have tiny hands though, stay far away.)

Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note II two weeks ago at the IFA conference in Berlin. In addition to its gorgeous 5.5-inch screen, it also features a quad-core 1.6 gigahertz Exynos processor (which is even faster than the Galaxy Note 10.1’s CPU), 2GB RAM, and a huge 3,100 mAh battery (25 percent larger than the original Note’s). It’s also shipping with Jelly Bean, the latest version of Android.

Unfortunately, Samsung had nothing to say about the Galaxy Note II’s U.S. availability, but we’re hearing details will be announced soon.

Not surprisingly, Samsung is still pushing all of the media sharing functionality that debuted with the Galaxy S III on the Note II. The phone also brings over many of the S Pen improvements from the Note 10.1 — it’s far more pressure sensitive, and the stylus can also hover over the screen, which unlocks some useful functionality. For example, you can hover over a video stored on your Note II to see a short preview.

Perhaps what’s most striking this time around is how commonplace the Galaxy Note II seems. Its huge display isn’t exactly that far off from the Galaxy S III’s 4.8-inch screen. Samsung is clearly reaching the limits of how big it can make its phone lines — the Galaxy S series can’t get too much bigger without reaching Note territory, and future Note’s can’t get too close 7-inch tablets either.

For Samsung, bigger is better. But that can’t last for too long.

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