T-Mobile Galaxy Note

The timing for the Samsung Galaxy Note on T-Mobile may seem a little odd, but that doesn't necessarily detract from the oversized Android smartphone.

Reviewing a phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note for the third time is a difficult task. All the good points have been pointed out, and the not-so-good points have been argued to death, and no matter what you think, you know something bigger, stronger, and faster is coming shortly. OK, maybe not bigger in this case, but the fact remains that no matter what we think of it, the next new shiny is right around the corner. Welcome to the world of Android, and an AC editor's nightmare.

The Galaxy Note is a little easier though. It's simply not the average Android smartphone. The size (what a big, gorgeous display), seems to polarize users, with some thinking it's ridiculous, and others ready to throw money until one is in their hands. This not only gives bloggers something to talk about, but a unique experience that's refreshing to review -- even almost a year after it was first introduced. 

What do I, an admitted fan of smaller phones, think of the T-Mobile Galaxy Note? Read on.


The Good

It's BIG. The 5.3-inch screen gives you more space to watch videos and play games, or to zip through your calendar. It's also pretty fast, and runs Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box. The S Pen is an excellent addition and provides a level of functionality you'll find nowhere else.

The Bad

It's BIG. The same 5.3-inch screen that looks so beautiful while watching video, and makes things like reading your calendar easy, also makes this thing huge to carry around. Too big is personal preference, but we can't ignore the size of the beast. It's also about a year old, and a newer/faster/better model should come soon.

Conclusion

Can you handle a 5.3-inch phone against your ear, or in your pocket? If the answer is yes, the Galaxy Note deserves a close look. The size and S Pen make it more than just an Android smartphone, and the extra productivity you get makes a big difference. It's not the phone for everyone, but for a few million users the Note has exactly what it takes.

Inside this review

More info

 

 

The video walkthrough

If you get the impression that I'm not hating the Note and it's 5.3-inch display, you're right. The performance is great, even with "old" hardware, and it turns out that it's big display makes for an experience you haven't had unless you've used one.

The hardware

T-Mobile Galaxy Note

Guess what? This thing's big as hell. It's 5.3 inches on the diagonal, 3.27-inches wide, and 5.78-inches tall. You can not use the Note with one hand, not even if you're our own 6-foot-8 Simon Sage. The controls are all too far away from each other to hit with the same thumb, the buttons are impossible to tap when using the Note with one hand, and there's no way you'll ever be able to reach the notification bar. Once you get past all that, you start to enjoy just what the Note is -- an amazing 5-inch-plus handheld computer. 

Web browsing like a boss

Get to grips with the size, and you'll realize that the Note is another Samsung Galaxy S II. It's solid, it's fast, it's full of features and does everything the little models do. The display is impressive, with it's 800x1280 resolution and vibrant color. And anything that's black looks like real black -- not dark grey -- because of the AMOLED construction. Above that screen you have sensors, a 2-megapixel camera for chatting, preening, and MySpace shots and the earpiece. Below you have the standard four capacitive buttons that all phones from 2011 have. 

buttons FFC

Grab the phone and look at it from the front, and you've got the power button on the top right, placed where the hand you're holding it with (in my case the left) can tap it with a finger. On the opposite side you'll find the volume control rocker, and it too is placed high where my thumb expects it to be. The rest of the space on the sides of the phone have nothing there. What looks like a lot of wasted space makes sense when you realize that the ball of your thumb and palm of your hand would be constantly hitting buttons had they been placed there. Little things mean a lot in design. 

volume Power

On the very top you'll find the headset port -- a standard 3.5mm jack-- and the noise-canceling mic. Down on the bottom is the USB port (of the micro variety as it should be), the main mic, and the S Pen slot. Whoever though of building the stylus holder inside the body deserves a raise, as it's easy to get to, and easy to put back when you're finished using it so it doesn't get lost. S Pen replacements aren't cheap.

USB Headphone jack

 

S Pen in S Pen out

Around back is the 8MP camera and LED flash assembly, and the external speaker. It's a giant plastic battery door, which is pretty flimsy when removed (not that that matters much), but easy enough to take on and off that you'll probably not break it. Under the hatch is the 2500mAh battery, SIM card slot, microSD card slot, and NFC hardware. Everything is easy to get to, with no funky tools needed to remove or insert any of it. Funky tools end up in the same place as lost S Pens or "spare" socks (and my One X SIM card removal tool), so not needing any is always a good thing.

Rear camera NFC antenna

Under the hood Battery

How big is it?

T-Mobile Galaxy showdown

Pictures are worth a thousand words. Next to the T-Mobile Galaxy S2, you see that the Note is a pretty sizable step up. I refuse to call it too big, because it's a different kind of device. The screen real estate and S Pen allows you to do things you can't do on a tiny phone, and things like web browsing, reading, or working are even better than on a 4.X-incher like the SGS2. The age of tiny smartphones is gone, but the Note isn't just a great big phone. Anyhoo, this gives you an idea of the size of this one. For grins I dug out the wife's Palm Pixie. The Note probably feeds on phones of this size, and I'm afraid to leave them beside each other on the table or in a drawer.

lulz

How well does it work?

video

I just finished telling you that the Note isn't really a great big phone, but the guts are pretty similar. If you've used a Galaxy S2, you know exactly what to expect. Samsung has pretty decent GSM radios, and calls and data were more than acceptable. Data speeds on T-Mobile's HSPA+ 4G Network vary wildly from area to area, but in a high-speed (HSPA+42) "zone" the device just flies -- exactly like the Galaxy S 2 on T-Mo does. Bluetooth, Android Beam, and Wifi direct work as intended between the Note and the SGS2. The Wifi radio isn't the strongest we've ever used, but it worked fine -- even with my janky setup at the house. GPS is spot on in our testing, with quick locks and fast tracking. I think it's official -- we can stop worrying about every Samsung phone and the GPS radios now and assume the Galaxy S series was a one-off engineering issue.

Wireless stuff

Battery life was fair, and the big screen appreciates the big battery. Syncing what I usually sync (three Gmail accounts Twitter, Google+, Reader, Currents, Chrome, and Google Voice) got me through the day with no issues, but I couldn't get away without charging every night. Of course, games, video and marathon web browsing sessions can murder the battery just as with any other device. The removable battery means it's easy enough to keep things charged if you're like me and love the games and multimedia. Netflix or HBO Go in bed when you should be sleeping are friggin' awesome on the Note.

Markers! S Memo

The S Pen is absolutely amazing. Forget what you've heard or think you know about using a stylus -- the S Pen is great for both productivity and fooling around. Samsung has a winner here, and we look forward to seeing more devices using this technology. Galaxy Note 10.1? Yes, please. 

T-Mobile Galaxy Note specs

AboutStorage

If you're a spec junkie, look away. The T-Mobile Galaxy Note is year-old hardware. It still runs Android like a beast, and it's still better hardware than most phones out there, and the end result -- a very functional device that runs exceptionally well -- is what really matters. If you are a fan of benchmarks and numbers, go buy a different phone, as the Note's just not for you. Here's all the details.

  • 1.4GHz dual-core Processor
  • Display: 5.3” WXGA (1280x800, 285ppi) HD Super AMOLED
  • Android 4.0.4
  • Camera Main(Rear) : 8 MP with LED Flash Front : 2 MP
  • Action Shot, Beauty, Panorama Shot, Smile Shot, Share Shot
  • Video : MPEG4, H.264, H.263, WMV, DivX, Xvid, VC-1Recording 1080p@24~30fps, Playing 1080p@30fps
  • Codec : MP3, AAC, AMR, WMA, WAV, FLAC, OGG
  • Music Player with SoundAlive
  • 3.5mm Ear Jack, Stereo FM Radio with RDS
  • Samsung Apps
  • Samsung Kies 2.0/ Samsung Kies air
  • Samsung TouchWiz/ Samsung L!ve Panel UX

The software

No place like home

At its core you have the Ice Cream Sandwich version of TouchWiz as presented on the Galaxy S 2 series. It's not the latest version with tricks like pop-up videos and eyeball tracking as seen on the Galaxy S 3, but it's not bad. Is it different from stock Android 4.0.4? Yes, but different doesn't mean bad. I would prefer stock Android on a lesser phone without the almighty S Pen, but the addition of software to use with Sammy's fancy stylus embedded deep into the OS means it just works better. We'll get to the S Pen specific stuff here in a bit.

We got apps

T-Mobile and Samsung have had their way with the app drawer, and that should come as no surprise to anyone who has had a carrier-branded phone before. T-Mobile has included their network-specific tools and apps like T-Mobile Mall, Name ID, T-Mobile TV, Visual Voicemail, and a branded hotspot app, and Samsung has their own version of just about everything thrown in. A couple highlights are Kies air, which allows you to copy files and more without using the USB cable, and Crayon Physics -- which is a puzzle game that uses the S Pen. Not so high-light worthy are the Samsung Apps and T-Mobile Mall, but hey -- this thing runs ICS so you can just disable them. I did.

Crayon Physics

bloatmore bloat

TouchWiz is TouchWiz. There's a lot of social networking built in, the core apps are all colorful and super-functional, and you'll be able to communicate with anyone around the world without ever visiting the Google Play store if you choose. You'll love it, you'll hate it, but in the end you'll probably use it and realize that it works just fine. We still would like Samsung to tone things down a bit, but millions of sales prove that TouchWiz works for many people out there -- probably including you.

Don't call it a stylus

The whole reason to keep the stock Samsung software around is the S Pen specific stuff. It's had a nice little update for Ice Cream Sandwich, have a look at a quick video of it in action.

S Memo was designed to be a productive tool for creating quick and easy memos. It probably does that just fine, but I'm still in the "let's have fun and draw dirty pictures on a shopping list and text it to my wife" phase -- which it's also beautiful for. It's fun and functional, and really shows off how special the Note really is. I've mentioned that it's not just a big phone several times, and I'm about to do it again. The big screen and S Pen functions put the note is a class of it's own.

Productivity Play

Productivity is allowed to be fun. In fact, if it's fun some of us will be more productive. The Note and it's S Pen does both.

The T-Mobile Galaxy Note cameras

Camera

The Note has an 8MP rear shooter and a 2MP front facing camera, and while it may not have all the fancy new parts we see in newer phones, it's pretty damn good for what it is. My first thought was "why the hell did Samsung not put a camera button on the empty 5.5-inches of space on the side of the phone?!?", but that was before I realized that i would bump it a million time a day with my palm, so I'm over it and can't find anything else to complain about -- so I won't.

Smile

The front facing camera is a bit grainy, as all front facing cameras tend to be. It's more than adequate for video chat or Google+ Hangouts (Hi Cory!), or fixing your hair, or adjusting your make-up. You just won't be winning any awards with it, and shouldn't expect to be. Use it for video chatting and enjoy it for what it is. 

The rear camera is another story. you need to try to get crappy pictures from it. Leave the flash off, point it at something and tap the button, and chances are you'll get a good picture. If you get too close and use the flash (first image below) or try to zoom in on something across the room (second picture below), they won't look like much. Don't do that. Point, shoot, and enjoy.

The video camera works just as well, and you'll get some great memories from it. The 5.3-inch screen makes for an excellent viewfinder, and the focus and light/color correction is fairly quick and more than adequate. 

The wrap-up

The reason "nobody" would like a Galaxy Note is precisely the reason why people love it -- the 5.3-inch screen. Yes, we know it's not new hardware, and we'll likely see a version 2 model come out by Christmas. The fact remains that the Note works pretty damn well. A 4.8-inch phone is a big-ass-phone. Most people can't use it with one hand, but we all still try because it's a big-ass-phone. The Note doesn't pretend to be that same thing. I like to think of it as a pocket computer that can make calls. The S Pen and special sauce in the software make it more of a tool than a phone, and entertainment is always better on a bigger screen.

I went into this knowing that the Note would be too damn big to carry around for my daily phone, and it is. But I can't stop using it at home, and if I needed the tools and productivity that it offers while out and about I'd learn to deal with it. It's a unique device that didn't deserve all the hate (including some from yours truly) it got when it's big self showed up late last year.

Allow me to stick out my neck and tell it like I see it. Should you get one? That depends. Can you deal with the size in your own way, and will you use the S Pen tools is the real question. If the answer to both is yes, then grab one. Ignore the Internet when it tells you it's old and to wait for something newer, because it's likely that anything newer won't hit T-Mobile for a good while. If you don't want or need the size while away from home, or think the S Pen is a gimmick, save some cash and get a Nexus 7. 

 

Reader comments

T-Mobile Galaxy Note review

38 Comments

i played with the AT&T version in the store. i agree it's just too big to comfortably carry around in the jeans/pants/shorts/suit pocket for most people. G-Nex is about as big as i think i can go.

you may be surprised.

I bet it was attached to one of those cords, but the phone itself is super slim.

It will fit in the pocket of tight jeans with no problem at all.

If you have skin tight Jeans, then it will be just as hard to fit any phone in the pocket.

Everyone's first impression is "omg that wont fit in my pocket" and then everyone tests it out and forgets that its in their pocket.

Ive used note for 6 months, ive never once had a problem fitting it into any pocket.

Amazing Phone
ExNavyNuc , July 20, 2012Overall Rating 5 out of 5 Would you recommend this product to a friend? Yes
Pros: Built-in speakers, Bright display, Realistic color
Cons: Not high def
"For those of you who don't mind "Big", this phone is amazing! From the beautiful images popping off the screen to the speed of the applications it runs, the Note is by far the best around. I'm in charge of the mobile phone department at my company, so I get to play with all of the new phones. I can personally say that even up against the new S3, when the Note was upgraded to 4.04 ICS it outperformed the S3 in almost anything I tried."
Location:League City, TX

I agree. Previously I hacked two AT&T notes for folks who couldn't wait for Tmobile. Can't wait for note2, I'll sell this one and move up again. My son Brian is Nukie too!

Qualcomm S3 chip. No thank you. People worry about how long their brand new phone with top of the line hardware will be relevant. With the T-Mobile Note, you don't need to worry, because you already know you have last-gen hardware and a junk chip that wasn't even good enough for my HTC Sensation, running ICS AOKP, a much smaller display, and OC'd to 1.5 GHz.

yea the Eynos is for the int'l note and just cause it has the S3 doesnt hurt it in anyway. This phone is fast and capable!!! I love it and I'll be getting its successors forever!

The review is nice but I don't see any reason to buy this old, carrier bloated version when there is the GT-N7000 available AND the GT-N7100 Note II on the way very soon (indications are that it will be showed in approximately two weeks from now).

People interested in the Note should avoid carrier versions altogether, go for the unlocked international edition and also wait for the successor. Putting the new Note II on Straight Talk or RedPocket Mobile is a better deal than paying $249 PLUS approximately $2400 for the "fun" of being sitting with a bloated device with slow update and a lack of developer support.

I have been there and done that, never again that I will buy any device that a US carrier has put their dirty fingers on by altering the hardware, altering the design, putting bloatware, locking bootloaders and requiring 24 months of jail.

The only buyers of this old, over-warmed version of the inferior i717 is people that don't know better, not to mention those that thinks that a carrier bloated and branded device is "cheaper" than an unlocked standard version. I.e. $249 + $2400 is less than $599 + $1080 with the result that they "can't afford buying off contract" but they can afford paying multum for a contract.

Good points, but try and use your inside voice. This is not Obama care, no one is forcing you to buy anything. Otherwise, you win the point counter point debate. Have fun with technology.

"Funky Tools", you are awesome Jerry
Great review, as you said : The Size is it biggest issue wether you love it or hate it :) , I used to think the RAZR is wide, but the I was wrong
I don't remember reading it exact measuring until you said it, its almost 6" tall, thats as big as my Timberland boots ... damn

I've been helping a co-worker set up and tweak the AT&T Note for the past two months, and I want this device so bad. But I need a one handed phone as a daily driver, and as much as I love everything about the Note, it's not going to cut it for that one reason (I have no problems putting it in my pants pockets).

id like to say that you point out the only issue with the notes size.

its not too big for any pocket, even if you are a hipster or a girl wearing tight jeans.

any pocket that will fit a regular 4 inch phone, will fit the note with no problem.

BUT:... if you do drive everyday, it is just too big to use comfortably while driving. Its impossible to hold it and text with ease, sure you can do it, but its just far too difficult to rely on 100% 1 handed use.

Like i say: the note isnt for you if:

A. You spend hours on the phone each day and will not buy a bluetooth ear piece
B. If you drive for work

for anyone else, the note is the best.

The Galaxy Note is a very conflicting device for me.

I held one at a Radio Shack and really liked the phone. I also didn't find awkward to hold it to my head for calls, but then again I use Bluetooth most of the time so that was a moot issue anyway. I've also said that if I had to ditch the physical keyboard, it would be with a phone having a screen large enough to navigate and type easily.

On the other hand, I decided not to buy the Note because it isn't too practical to carry around. It's difficult to fit in pants' pockets and unless I carry a briefcase with me, I'd have a hard time moving around with this thing.

I'm on the fence since I don't Have a contract with Tmobile,I may wait to see if there is a Note 2 and if it will be available on att , I may drop my prepaid and pick up a contract with them,if I find the new note to be lacking then this maybe a viable option

If I didn't have a tablet already, I'd strongly consider the Note as a hybrid phone/tablet and live with the lack of one-handed use. But my Transformer Prime makes the tablet part moot.

I would seriously consider the S Pen in a 4.8" form factor. It's nothing like using a crappy, generic stylus. The Wacom digitizer in the Note screen is the real deal.

The note would be good for someone who does not already have a tablet and wants to upgrade their phone.

Otherwise, it's not worth considering since the Tab 2 will be out in a few months, hopefully!

Issue is... if you buy this phone unlocked, will it work on other networks, considering that TMo's network is Proprietary?!

You can buy an Unlocked ATT phone and it'll work internationally esp. for 3G service but can you do that with a TMo phone?

I've bought Unlocked phones internationally from Europe and from Asia and can NOT use it on TMo due to its proprietary network but can use it on ATT's network for 3G service.

Gotta love the Galaxy Note it's an exceptional device and if your on Tmobile be happy to have it. Samsung made the mistake of only having an agreement with an exclusive At&t model. They cut off it's own profits cause if every carrier had a shot at this device sales would've been much better her in the USA. Since our Samsung Galaxy S3 launch on all carriers just this past summer it's clear Samsung has gotten real smart now and I think the Galaxy Note 2 will launch on all carriers and that will mean we will enjoy this next Galaxy Note 2. Meanwhile on Tmobile if you don't have the Galaxy S3 on Tmobile as I do then you should be lining up for this bad boy unless your holdings the Htc One S or waiting till September 26th for the Htc One X plus. Tmobile has some great handsets coming this fall/winter.

Hey I have to agree with you there Richard, I think Samsung has realized that exclusive deals hurt them I the long run more than any payment from att can amount to. I have the gs3, but as I always say i'm a phone junkie, and I may very well have this also! I'm adding a fifth line and I'm very much considering the Note for my choice. It would fill a void that none of my other devices do, and that is a HUGE media powerhouse, and the s3 processor doesn't make it any less in that department! It would also be great for those days when I have tons of emails to respond to & it could be much easier for light document editing then my gs3 or my Gnex, just because of the sheer size?

No reason in hell not to wait for the Note 2, which is inevitably around the corner. HD Super Amoled + and possibly Exynos 5 series = sex.

Come on, Jerry, you're a big boy, I'm sure you could handle it! I hope the Note 2 launches on all networks, that way we Verizon customers can take advantage of this wonderful phone!

The Note just doesn't fit in my shirt pocket. I can handle using it, and I don't care how I look with a 5.3-inch phone against my head, but I always carry my phone in the breast pocket. 

If I had reason to use the S Pen for work, I'd find a way to deal. Other than the fact that it doesn't carry the way I like to carry it, it's a damn great device. So glad I forced myself to use one for a while.

Hey Jerry, I don't comment here often & I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how much I appreciate your work on the Site, and Watching you weekly on the podcast! I'm a fan, and I think you've done a phenomenal review on the Note as I'm sure it was somewhat difficult to decide what approach to take being there has already been so much coverage on it in the past. As far as the Note goes, I'm having a difficult time not buying one since I think I'll be adding a fifth line w/ Tmo in the near future & I've always admired the device. Even with the hardware being somewhat dated, the Note wouldn't be my daily driver, but more of a device I would carry occasionally. I'm a phone junkie & I really like to switch it up a lot,you know . I definitely wouldn't spend the money to buy it off contract this late in its life, or I'd just wait for the note 2. But I think it could still offer alot of functionality that & fill a void that none of my current phones can?

No argument here...I think Jerry gives the best, most thorough reviews; but then, he's got the greatest job in the world!

Bought my G-Note on AT&T July 6th.. I could care less about "The Vaporware G-Note 2".. Smaller than my 1st Gen with a bigger screen? will there be anything to hold on to besides screen? I came from a 4.3" Samsung phone.. Maybe I am a Man with Man sized hands and most are not but there is NO TROUBLE holding and using the G-Note with one hand Not to mention carrying the phone with case in my pockets.. but most of the time its on a belt clip and its light as hell you don't even know its there.. And with Flappjaxx's ICS Bloatfree Rom Running the Cores at 1,720 mhz its sweeter than an S3.. And our developers already have 4.1 JellyBean Roms in the works as we speak.. The G-Note 1 is a great phone for those that are not so Geeked Out as to panic because their friends might come down on them for not having the "Latest Processor" We don't know what issues the Vaporware G-Note 2 will bring.. its nowhere near ready for release.. I live in the here and now (Not in Quarter 4 of 2012 ) and I ENJOY using my Galaxy Note as we speak.. Can't enjoy vaporware.. Way To Go T-MO! ( But your price is too high! Got my Note for $198.00 ) And the funny part is, Rooted/Romed Galaxy Note 1 Owners will have already been running 4.1 JellyBean for 5 months before its officially released on the G-Note 2.. How SWEET it is.

Every review on the Note bangs hard on the size of the device. Yes, it is a bit large and awkward to place against the side of your head to make calls. But here's a an idea...just get a good Bluetooth earpiece and you won't have that problem. Besides freeing up you hand and not looking like you have a book against your face it's just plain safer anyway. I agree with the previous post about not buying one on contract. A subsidized device is full of useless junk.

Amazing Phone
ExNavyNuc , July 20, 2012Overall Rating 5 out of 5 Would you recommend this product to a friend? Yes
Pros: Built-in speakers, Bright display, Realistic color
Cons: Not high def
"For those of you who don't mind "Big", this phone is amazing! From the beautiful images popping off the screen to the speed of the applications it runs, the Note is by far the best around. I'm in charge of the mobile phone department at my company, so I get to play with all of the new phones. I can personally say that even up against the new S3, when the Note was upgraded to 4.04 ICS it outperformed the S3 in almost anything I tried."
Location:League City, TX

I'm sorry but releasing a phone almost a full year after the unveiling is something I would expect from Boost...the Note 2 is right around the corner.

Ha !

What does it look like?

What Carrier will have it ?

How much will it cost ?

What is the Release Date ?

What are the Specs ????

You can't answer ONE of these questions.. Ya Know Why..? BECAUSE ITS VAPORWARE!