Samsung Galaxy Note II review

Price when reviewed

Samsung’s original Galaxy Note was the subject of much derision from tech fans: after all, who’d buy a smartphone with a huge 5.3in screen, and a stylus, in 2012? Despite all the scoffing, customers flocked – and now Samsung has unleashed the sequel – with an even bigger 5.5in display.

The first Galaxy Note followed in the footsteps of the Galaxy S II with its black chassis, so it’s only fitting the Note II looks like a Galaxy S III on steroids. It’s available in the same marble white or pebble blue finish, has the same rim of chrome around the edges, and the Samsung logo and row of sensors even occupy the same positions above screen. The home button looks a little different, the corners aren’t quite as curved, and its 9.4mm frame is a few millimetres thicker. But it shares its plasticky build with the S III, with that flexible, flimsy rear panel and the odd creak in the chassis.

Samsung Galaxy Note II

This is a very different beast, though, and you’ll realise that as soon as you fire it up for the first time. Although the Note II has a capacitive touchscreen that works like any other, this device is all about the S Pen stylus, which can be stowed away in a slot in the bottom-right corner, and the screen’s Wacom-licensed digitiser technology. To get you started, there’s a bevy of creatively geared list and note templates, but the S Pen makes its influence felt throughout the rest of the heavily tweaked version of Android 4.1.1 (aka Jelly Bean).

Hovering the tip of the pen over a gallery folder, for example, opens up a thumbnail preview, while waving it over a contact flashes up their details. Removing the S Pen during a call launches a small notepad app, and the phone even sounds an alert if you begin to walk away without the S Pen stashed in its slot.

Samsung Galaxy Note II

A button on the stylus unlocks more options. Hold it down and flick up on the home screen, and you’ll unlock Quick Command, which enables fast note-taking. It supports gestures, too: by default you can write an “@” symbol to draft a quick email, “?” to open the search box and “!” to load Google Maps. You can also define your own gestures for opening apps or performing other functions: we told the Note II to open the Amazon app every time we scrawled “a”, and it worked flawlessly.

Other software features don’t need the S Pen to work successfully. A tab on the left-hand side of the screen opens up a menu of common apps, and Samsung acknowledges the screen’s potential awkwardness by including options to move the dialler, keyboard and calculator keypads to the left or right sides of the screen. And many of the features we loved on the S III appear on the Note II. Smart Stay monitors your usage to turn the screen off, the processor can be reined in and haptic feedback disabled to save power, and S Voice also returns.


Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £31.00
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider


Dimensions 80 x 151 x 9.4mm (WDH)
Weight 183g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 2.00GB
Camera megapixel rating 8.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes


Screen size 5.5in
Resolution 720 x 1280
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes


OS family Android

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