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As smartphones grow ever larger and tablets shrink, they’ll inevitably meet at some kind of hybrid, halfway point, neither entirely tablet nor entirely phone, but a bit of both.

The Samsung Galaxy Note is that midpoint, and it’s coming soon to the U.S., the company announced yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show.

With a 5.3-inch display, it’s a gigantic phone — but also a pretty small tablet. Unusually for a modern tablet, it comes with a stylus, though it works with your naked fingers, too.

To my surprise, it works pretty well. I spent some quality time with the Galaxy Note at CES 2012 today and came away impressed with its flexibility and responsiveness. The stylus was unexpectedly useful, particularly when enclosed in the larger shell that makes it into a full-sized pen. The Note ships with its own note-taking app, called S-Memo, and can even do handwriting recognition on your scribbles. The handwriting recognition was relatively accurate, in our limited testing, although it’s slow.

To emphasize its usefulness for writing notes and drawing, Samsung has hired cartoonists to draw caricatures with Galaxy Notes, and the caricatures are strewn all over the company’s display here in Las Vegas.

Samsung released the Galaxy Note in Europe in late 2011, eventually selling over a million of the hybrid phone-tablets. But it was cagey about when the Note would arrive in the U.S. Yesterday, the company revealed that it will be coming to AT&T Wireless in the U.S. early this year.

The Note sports a WXGA (1280 x 768 pixel) screen, has a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and has an 8 megapixel camera on the back and a 2-megapixel camera on the front. The rear camera can record 1080p video. The Note supports Wi-Fi a, b, g, and n, as well as Wi-Fi Direct. On AT&T, it will use the fast Long-Term Evolution (LTE) 4G network.

See below for more up-close photos of the Galaxy Note.


Photos: Dylan Tweney/VentureBeat. Video: Christopher Peri/VentureBeat.

For more gadget news, be sure to check out VentureBeat’s live coverage from CES 2012.

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