'Phablet' a giant of a phone
If you thought Samsung's Galaxy S3 smart phone - with its 4.8-inch screen - was big (and it is), then you're going to be knocked for six when you see the size of Samsung's Note II phablet.
I call it a phablet because it's part phone, part tablet: phablet.
With its 5.5-inch screen, the Note II is huge. It's monstrous, in fact. It's almost too big for my front jeans pocket. It fits but it's noticeable. But you know what? I like it. A lot. It's a smart phone that has a lot going for it.
Running Android's Jellybean OS and sporting a 1.6Ghz quad core CPU (slightly faster than the S3), the Note II is fast and zippy, and comfortable, despite the considerably larger size compared with the S3.
The screen, offering a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels, is a delight to use, too: it's bright, vivid and responsive, and importantly, easy to use in daylight, something that the S3 struggles with sometimes.
The part-tablet side comes in when you pull out the S-Pen stylus - which is nicely tucked away in the back of the unit. When you pull it out, the Note II activates its S-Pen specific software which makes the most of the handset's capacitive touch screen. There's a slight delay when you pull out the stylus and the software kicks in, but it's only just noticeable.
With its large screen, the Note gives you plenty of real estate for two-thumbed messaging and writing emails and I thought it was a nice touch that you can change input settings to accommodate one-handed use (the keyboard is shrunk and orientated to the left or right of the screen), meaning you can hold it in one hand and use the thumb on the same hand to write an SMS. It works but it's a bit of a stretch and I wouldn't like to do it too often.
You can also use the stylus to write messages, rather than typing, with the Note's software converting your scribbles to legible text. It worked well, most of the time but I suspect it'll have trouble with illegible scribbling.
The Note II comes packing 2Gb of memory and the review unit had 16Gb of storage, which can be upgraded to 64Gb using a microSD card. With a camera sporting an 8MP sensor and lens - the same set-up used by the Galaxy S3 - the Note II takes great photos, with vivid and accurate colour in most lighting conditions.
There's no doubt the Note II is a big phone - a huge phone, in fact - and that will be a negative for many people, but for me, I actually like the size: It grew on me, the more I used it, despite my initial reservations about its dimensions.
It might grow on you, too.
Samsung Note 2 $1199 (handset only)