It’s almost a year since Samsung Galaxy Note II
has been launched and according to several rumors
, its successor Galaxy Note III
will be unveiled on September 4
. But, today we’re talking about Galaxy Note II for the simple reason that it’s still one of the best smartphones to purchase in 2013 thanks to its superb configuration and useful software features.
And, what if I tell you that you can get the phablet at a bargain price? Refurbished products is a fairly nascent market in India, but a very popular concept in the west. What it essentially means is that the product is returned back to the manufacturing company for various reasons. The company then checks the product for defects and repair them and verified to function properly. The smartphone becomes as good as new, only difference is that it’s cheaper and you still get manufacturer warranty (although for lesser period of time). We recently got our hands on refurbished Galaxy Note II from Gobol.in
and here’s our thoughts about it: (Since it’s not a regular review, expect some changes in the format)
One thing I must mention that the product arrived an excellent packaging. Not just one or two layered protection, it had 3 layers of protection between carton, thermocol and plastic apart from the Note II’s box. It took me good 10 minutes to get my hands on the device. It had original box with usual contents-
1) Galaxy Note II (Marble White color)
3) Travel Adapter
4) USB cum charging cable
All of these things were packed in nicely in the box wrapped in plastic.
The contents of the box were shining and there were no marks or blemishes on them. The same can be said about the device itself with no scratch marks and clean shining white look from all sides. Samsung Note II has a familiar design with its brethren from Galaxy family. The front is covered mainly by its humongous 5.5″ screen. Above the screen, there’s earpiece, proximity sensor and secondary camera, whilst below it is Samsung’s standard button layout with two capacitive buttons for Options and Back surrounding physical Home key button. Right side has power key and volume rocker is available at the left side, the buttons are a bit lowered down for easier access with one hand. The back of the device has a rear camera with LED flash, Samsung branding and speaker grille at the bottom left. The back is removable for inserting battery, microSD card and microSIM. Highlight of the Note series- S Pen
(stylus) is hidden at the back.
I was very excited to start the device and immediately popped in the battery inside and a microSIM. The smartphone opened with its usual boot animations and was welcomed with TouchWiz interface. TouchWiz interface tweaks the notification menu, home screen, lock screen and little bit of app drawer. The large screen gave a huge real estate to app menu and home screen and helped in showing more rows of apps. The display is beautiful and offers good viewing angles. It has adequate brightness settings making it viewable even under direct sunlight.
Samsung has also pre-installed numerous apps like Dropbox
, etc. apart from its own apps such as S Voice
, S Planner
, Samsung Link
The device was loaded with Android 4.1.1 and I was able to upgrade it to 4.1.2 readily.
Before going further with the review, let’s check the specifications of the phablet-
||151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm
||1280 x 720 pixels (267 ppi)
||1.6 GHz quad-core
||16 GB (10.36 GB user-accessible)
||up to 64 GB via microSD card
||Android 4.1.1 (upgradable to Android 4.3)
||Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC
||Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity, Compass
||Removable Li-ion 3100 mAh
The quad-core processor and 2 GB RAM powers the device to offer smooth navigation and absolutely zero lag. During my test, the device performed like a charm and I was able to quickly browse through menus and use any apps. Multitasking was also very easy with absolutely no problem in switching between multiple tasks.
Gaming was fun too and the with the large screen the experience was even more enjoyable. There was no slowdowns while playing casual games like Angry Birds
, Cut The Rope
or even processor intensive games like Temple Run
While the hardware of most of the Android devices can be same, real differential comes from software and that’s why Samsung is trying to push the limits with its TouchWiz customization baked over Android. And, mind you the customization is not limited to interface changes only, it brings tons of useful features and apps. Let’s see some of these features-
Home Screen Mode-
At first look, the TouchWiz interface could be overwhelming (and maybe confusing) and hence Samsung offers the option of enabling Easy Mode
instead of Basic Mode
. Easy Mode shows the icons in large size so that users can open the apps from home screen itself.
Page Buddy is contextual feature which understands whenever stylus is detached from the device or earphones are attached to it and so on. Whenever Galaxy Note II detects them, it adds a new page to the home screen to showcase S Notes (in case of S Pen) and Music Player (in case of earphones) as well as relevant apps in the notification menu.
One Hand Operation-
Samsung knows the fact very well that the phablet’s large screen would be difficult for one hand usage. So, it has given an option of one handed operation which makes it easier to use phone dialer, keypad or calculator with left or right hand easily.
Making full use of sensors, the device allows any one to hover hands over the sensors and then the display offers quick information about missed calls, unread messages and battery status. The phablet also has some other useful features based on motion such Direct Call, Turn over to mute/ pause, and more.
With the help of front camera, it detects whether user is watching the screen or is busy elsewhere to automatically turn off the screen. This feature is really interesting and useful against automatic time out of screen because usually while reading any document or watching movies, the screen turns off if there’s no action which is very annoying, but in Note II this is not the case.
This is akin to Do Not Disturb feature by allowing users to set a particular time when the device will block any calls, message, etc. If users want to get notifications from particular numbers only, then they can add them in the settings.
Pop up Player-
Samsung has added Pop up video player and pop up browser allowing one to visit any website or watch any video while doing some other task in the whole screen. The pop up player can be resized or dragged anywhere on the screen.
Apart from these features, TouchWiz provides several minor yet useful changes in the device such as Multitasking interface shows useful buttons of exiting all tasks together or opening task manager or accessing Google Now.
As mentioned earlier, unique proposition of the Galaxy Note II is the S Pen which allows anyone to unleash their creativity with S Notes, write faster or simply enjoy better precision with it. Whenever one removed S Pen from the device, it detects the same and opens a as discussed in Page Buddy feature. S Pen is thick enough to be felt like a pen and offers good grip. It has a button which . Samsung has added Air View
functionality which gives a glance to messages, emails, pictures, videos, etc. whenever S Pen is hovered over them. S Pen also support Quick Command
to search internet (?), email to someone (@) or even navigating the screen (<,^, etc.) by drawing gestures on the screen. Apart from default screenshot technique in Android, S Pen also allows to take screen grab with a shortcut and the best part is that one can immediately annotate it.
Using S Pen was so much joy that more often than not I ended up using it for trivial tasks like typing or even playing games like Angry Birds. The S Notes app is very useful for drawing with the help of S Pen, and the Play Store is filled with plethora of apps such as FlipaClip
, Sketch Em
, etc. to make the most of it. There are some games in the Play Store like Scribble Racer
which makes use of its functionality.
Galaxy Note II flaunts an 8 MP camera at its back with LED flash and auto-focus. The camera UI is customized by Samsung providing access to several effects and features for both image and video. The image quality is really impressive and is greatly complemented with tons of features from Samsung such as geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, image stabilization. For video, it’s capable of recording of Full HD videos at 30 fps. It even allows simultaneous recording of HD video and image.
At the front, it has a 2 MP camera which serves the video-chatting purposes. In my usage with Skype and Viber, it worked as expected.
Today devices are majorly used for multimedia consumption and Galaxy Note II offers more reasons for doing the same. It’s big screen is absolutely a delight to watch movies so much so that I ended up watching up whole movie on it. The music player can play most of the song formats and has an interesting feature of Music Squares
which can play the song based on one’s mood.
The video player is also capable of playing most of the formats, however for getting support for all kind of video playback, I would suggest to download MX Player or something similar from Play Store. The device was able to play Full HD movies without any lags.
Galaxy Note II also has FM Radio with RDS.
The speakers produce decent audio and are audible in most of the situations. The earphone is also one of the nicety of this device as they give granular control over volume as well as call pick/ reject or pause/ resume during playback.
I must say that till now I’ve always heard the wonderful battery of Note II and after my usage, it has left me impressed. The massive 3000 mAh helps it to give awesome battery life even during extensive usage. I was able to get battery life of almost 1.5 days while watching video for 3-4 hours, listening to podcasts for around 1 hour and using internet over Wi-Fi apart from moderate messages and calls.
Galaxy Note II is a great device with powerful hardware, good display, decent camera and useful S Pen. The lower price of this refurbished device makes it even more sweeter deal. Further, Samsung will still provide updates for the Note II and since it added some functionalities from Galaxy S4 to Galaxy SIII, you can be assured that after Note III is launched this device will not be obsolete.