Samsung’s new flagship, the Galaxy S III, is a big phone. However, screen sizes bigger than 4-inches have become quite normal for high-end smartphones recently, with devices like HTC’s One X being fitted with a 4.7-inch display that is only slightly smaller than that on the S III.
However, there is one current handset that still stands out from the pack in terms of size, a handset that manages to appear startlingly huge even in this climate of super-sized smartphones. That device is the Samsung Galaxy Note.
The recent addition to Samsung’s Galaxy range bridges the gap between phone and tablet with its 5.3-inch screen. The Korean manufacturer chose to market the Note as a phone which dwarfs anything else in that market, creating a unique selling point that gives the device a distinctive edge at a time when the specification of most high-end handsets are virtually identical.
We put the S III and Galaxy Note up against each other to see if one of these two phones out-performs the other. The three key areas focussed on are:
- Design and display
- Processor and performance
- User interface and multimedia
Is the Note’s size enough to give it the edge, or does the high-spec features of the S III see it emerge victorious over its stablemate? Read on to find out more…
Design and Display
Despite the sheer size of the Note’s 146.9x83mm chassis, its screen is only half an inch bigger than the one featured on the Galaxy S III. This is especially surprising considering the S III’s body is considerably smaller at 136.6×70.6mm.
Samsung has clearly created a design which makes much more economical use of space, something that becomes even more evident when turning the two handsets over and placing them next to each other. While the S III is certainly big, the Note is even bigger, and is also quite cumbersome considering how little difference there is in screen size between two handsets.
The Korean manufacturer has also made improvements with screen technology itself. Although there isn’t a great deal of difference in terms of brightness, the S III’s super AMOLED HD display performs better than the Note’s super AMOLED effort, and graphics appear clearer upon it.
That performance is down to the resolution of the screen and the number of pixels that appear on it. Although the Note has a higher resolution of 800×1280 pixels, these are stretched out over a larger surface giving the display a ppi of only 285. In contrast, the slightly lower, 720×1280 resolution of the S III’s display is crammed into a smaller space, giving a higher ppi of 306. While both phones are fitted with high-quality Super AMOLED displays, the increased ppi of the S III is another example of Samsung making efficient use of space and the screen on the new handset is a fantastic looking addition.
Processor and Performance
While both of these handsets have 1.4 GHz Exynos processors, the S III has a very modern quad-core set-up compared to the dual-core of the Note. A quad-core chip is an impressive component to have inside a device and its inclusion places it ahead of most handsets on the market in terms of specification. This advantage is hammered home upon using the S III – the speed at which it operates is incredible. Video-streaming is fast and fluid, websites load quickly and the phone’s functions are smooth and responsive.
However, the speed at which the Note accomplishes tasks is also worth a mention, especially considering it has a supposedly ‘lesser’ processor. Since it runs an older version of Google’s OS, Android Gingerbread, there is less of a strain on the phone’s resources and the older device works at an impressive pace as a result, sometimes out-performing the S III when it comes to simple tasks such as opening apps and taking photos.
User Interface and Multimedia
Samsung released the Galaxy Note in the days when Gingerbread was still the latest version of Android (an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich is now available). At that time, the handset was deemed a high-spec device and the way in which it efficiently runs Android Gingerbread is commendable, with the older operating system having been superseded but not yet eclipsed by more recent versions.
However, the Note comes with an older version of Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface which does now look a little dated. While the interface is certainly functional and easy to navigate, the UI’s graphics do look a little flat and blocky, with icons on the app tray at the bottom of the homescreen being particularly unimpressive.
In contrast, Samsung’s latest handset comes with Android 4.0 and the new TouchWiz Nature UX user interface. The new UI is an impressive piece of work, featuring some subtle but effective animations which give it a very modern, sophisticated feel – a marked improvement on the older version seen on the Note. In particular, unlocking the phone by sliding your finger across the screen creates a rippling effect which animates brilliantly, evidence that Samsung has really put some thought into the user experience offered up by its flagship.
Aside from the visual elements of the user interface, Samsung has included several extra features which are not present in the Note. In fact, the features that the S III can boast are not present in many other devices at all.
S-Voice, Samsung’s rival to Apple’s Siri, is a voice-activated digital assistant that works in a very similar way to its iOS equivalent but with increased search functionality and better navigation capabilities. Smart Stay is a handy feature that tracks a users eyes and keeps the screen from entering sleep mode if it is still being viewed, and Direct Call, a useful function that uses motion sensors and places a call to the person who’s contact details are displayed on screen when the device is lifted to an ear.
Standard 8 megapixel cameras feature in both devices but Samsung has obviously developed its camera technology in the time between the Note’s release and that of the S III, as the newer handset includes a raft of extra functionality.
Whilst the Galaxy Note includes a standard camera app with basic functions relating to flash and exposure, the S III can boast extra capabilities in terms of image enhancement, clarity and brightness. The bolder colours and sharper contrast of the S III’s screen are also better for displaying pictures, although images do look impressive on the Note’s large display.
Despite coming from the same range of phones, the S III and Note are very different offerings. The Note has a unique selling point in that it is a hybrid device which bridges the gap between phone and tablet whereas the S III is a high-end handset designed to push the boundaries of mobile technology.
Which device you would choose depends on what purpose you have in mind for it. The Note may appeal to a particular customer who wants a handset that can be used like a tablet but is more portable than an iPad, and the S III is designed to have a broader, more all-round appeal. That choice comes down to the consumer themselves but as much as the S III has the impressive, high-end specs boxed-off, the older Note certainly still has something to offer.