Hands on review: Is the Galaxy Note a replacement for a tablet ?

Gaalxy Note - unboxkingGaalxy Note - unboxking

After attending the prestigious Samsung launch party for the Galaxy Note ( Serious style & class – everything found in the Samsung Galaxy Note ), I am once again fortunate enough to get my hands on a brand new Samsung Galaxy Note to use.

Clearly excited at the possibility of only needing to carry one device verses a phone, a tablet, and netbook – I was ready to give this a serious test. If it works like it is advertised, this could be the answer we have been searching for.

My test criteria had to be strict. This is not a gaming device, nor a facility to watch movies nor an iPod replacement although it can do all of these things easily. The Galaxy note is a replacement for my Tablet AND my phone so it has to be able to do real-world serious work stuff. No compromise are acceptable. It can not do some tasks well and others not so well. It needs to do it all.

With this in mind I hesitatingly removed the SIM card from my current Blackberry phone and locked away my Galaxy Tab. I booted up the Note and I was ready to rock.

sync to Gmail and outlook

First task: get my contacts and calendar onto my Note. This was easily achievable as the Note runs Android, I simply synchronised it to my Gmail account which in turns synchronises to my work computer. If you don’t work this way, you use the USB cable and the Kies software and synchronise your info that way.

side note: here is how to sync outlook with Gmail

customised screens

Second task: setting up the Note to do what I need it to do. Again, this was a simple task as I raided the Android Market and downloaded every conceivable app. My personal choices include: Twitter, WordPress (blogging), Facebook, Mailchimp (mass mailer), Evernote (share info from pc to phone to tablet), LinkedIN, WhatsApp and OpenSignal (nice app to find out info and strength of the cell network). No need to photo editing software as the Note has that taken care of.

Third Task: Set up the workspace. With android’s multiple screen this was a case of holding down the icon of the app (long hold) and then moving it to the screen I want it to stay on and letting go. Simple. After a bit of back and forward, I have a screen for tools, a screen for social media & internet, a screen for Calendar and of course the must-have Angry Birds and other game screen.

integrated note using the s-pen

Over the next couple of days, I used the Galaxy Note exclusively. My daily usage included lots of mails, attachments with large documents, photos, making notes using the s-pen, browsing the web, YouTube, music, gaming, e-reading of a book, Tweeting, Blogging and even making a video of my child at school play.

I even covered the Garage48 conference all using just the Galaxy Note.

All of the tasks the Galaxy Note could handle with ease and at no stage did I have the “I wish I have my Tablet” feeling.

I am not a touchscreen person when it comes to typing. The first thing I did was look for a Bluetooth Keyboard. Thankfully, I did not find one. The Touchscreen typing on this phone is superb. Its fast, accurate and learns not only the frequently used words I use, but the frequently used sentences too.

As they say, “you cant please all the people all of the time” so here are my personal “downsides” :

Making a call: this one might be a deal-breaker for me. In order to make a call you got to do the following steps:

making a call

  1. press the Phone button
  2. press on Contacts
  3. press on the Search Contacts
  4. type in the person you are looking for
  5. click on the person’s name
  6. click on the phone icon


  1. press the Phone button
  2. press on Keypad
  3. type in the person you are looking for
  4. click on the phone icon

Either way – not easy to do in general on a touchscreen phone (especially whilst “stopped on the side of a road and NOT driving at the time”)

Email Messages: when you get an email you can see the a message preview with the first two lines of the email. However, when you click on it and the email contains images, it says “Loading messages…” – I am presuming it is fetching the images and html file from the server to make it look pretty.

I can’t seem to find any setting that allows me to have plain text emails only or only Emails of certain size or headers only. surely I am missing something here ?

email lsit    loading message


battery monitor

Battery: I am within my first week of charge-discharge cycle so with that in mind, the battery last me from 6:30am until about 5:00pm. I am conscious of battery life so I am always switching Bluetooth on/ off and Wi-Fi on/off. I even have GPS turned off all the time and set mails to only download every 15 minutes. The screen seems to be the biggest guzzler of the battery and always it the top consumer of battery life.

Safety first: its virtually impossible to type whilst driving. So don’t do it.

Screen in the sun: The screen in direct sunlight takes a bit of strain. You notice the finger smudge marks much more clearly and its hard to read the screen.

So in conclusion, I ask myself the question: would I pay the R8500 for the unit and does it do what its meant to do & replace other devices ?

Surprisingly and I say that strongly, the answer is yes. Yes, the phone is big and always gets the same puzzling look when I pull it out. But when I give it to people to hold its always followed by “actually it is not so bad”.

I strongly believe that the Mobile Phone has gone from the ear to the eye. We used to brag about having the smallest phone as its main function was making calls. Now, its about the screen and keyboard. We stare at the phone more  than holding it up to the ear.

I will leave you with this thought: if you have a choice between having a phone that has a broken screen but you can hear and talk fine verses having a phone that has a perfect screen but the speaker is broken so you cant make calls – which one would you choose ?  I believe people are willing to compromise on the calling functions and will choose the phone that has a perfect screen as you can still SMS, Email, WhatsApp, BBM, ChatON, Facebook, Twitter, Photos & Calendar….

With the Galaxy Note there is no need to compromise. It does all the above AND you can make calls.


  1. I am an Australian coal miner and work 12.5 hours a day. Cannot get a newspaper.
    Is it any good for buying subscriptions and having them down loaded for reading. And weekly magazines etc. Sort of down load all the article and save it for crib breaks. want it more as a tablet until the tegra3 or MS win 8’s hit the market

    1. Hi there,
      yes – that should work well. Before you do anything go to the android market place from a computer and see which newspapers and magazines are available and most importantly make sure they are not WEB PAGES that require you to be connected to the internet. You want the ones that fetch information and download it so you can read it anytime and anywhere with no internet connection.
      The size of the Note is big enough to read comfortably but small enough so its very portable in confined spaces. I would also defiantly get a protective case.

  2. In your original post on the Galaxy Note you expressed some concern about it being difficult to take notes during a meeting (using the S-Pen). You said that in portrait view, there wasn’t enough room, and that in landscape view, there was a lag (meaning you’d miss details because the Note couldn’t keep up with your note-taking). In this (latest) review, you didn’t actually give an update on that issue, you just mentioned that you were able to use the Note for note-taking. Can you please clarify whether you have found that, with time, you learned how to take notes more efficiently with the S-pen? Does it still make a difference whether you take those notes in landscape vs portrait?

    Also, on another note (sorry :), you mentioned above an issue with email. I think I read somewhere else that if you read your emails in landscape view, it will give you just the headings on the left and allow you to see the email in more detail on the right. I don’t know if this really works, or would address your issue or not. Another possibility (?) might be to install some Mobile anti-virus etc software which pauses the playing of any videos (which seems to be what slowed down your mail checking?); I’ve heard of something called Bullguard for mobiles (http://mobile-security-software-review.toptenreviews.com/?a_aid=aff1070), but have not tried it myself to see if it can do this. If that works, then you might be able to simply give ‘permission’ to your anti-virus software to play the streaming only when you want it to, so it doesn’t have to always automatically try to load the video content. Not sure if this helps, but thought I’d suggest it.

    I don’t have the Note yet, but am considering buying it when it comes out in my country.

    1. Thanks for the comment and questions.
      Regarding the s-pen: after using it for a while its not practicle to take notes in meetings. Its great for posting cool pictures that you edit and for diagrams etc. I use for quick notes like someone’s phone number i need to use once or directions.

      Re the email: its not the anti virus but rather the way I fetch mail. Unlike other phones, I can’t work out if there is a way to change the settings to download images or not or only plain text email etc.

      The Note is great if you use a lot of email or texting etc. Where you need a keyboard answer a screen. If you make a lot of calls its pretty cumbersome.

  3. Hey… Thank u for the awsum review…
    Could u tel me which phone is better? The galaxy s2 or galaxy note.
    I mostly use the phone for txtin and social networking and games.

  4. is there a search function on Samsung Galaxy Note that allows me to search all files for text I need….
    I often load info to the notes field in Address book…. how to search and find???

    1. There is a search facility built on – from the Home screen click on the button on the bottom left (the one that looks like a ladder – for the life of me can not recall what it is officially called now). It bring up the option to SEARCH. You can change the search setting to tell it waht to search. I dont see a Document option but there is ability to search contacts

  5. After I initially commented I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a means you are able to remove me from that service? Appreciate it!

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