Tag Archives: samsung

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2: How big is too big?

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Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro ™ 12.2 (Wi-Fi), White 32GB
http://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/galaxy-tab/SM-T9000ZWAXAR

Recently, I’ve had a hankering to do some inking. Using a stylus and tablet to write has a wonderfully organic feel that I’d enjoyed when using digital ink on Galaxy Note Phones and an early generation Note tablet 10.1. So, I downloaded some handwriting apps onto my iPad Mini and Kindle HDX 8.9, got out a stylus and got started. l quickly remembered why I’d always preferred Samsung Note devices and S pen — they make inking super easy… no skips or stutters.

So I visited my friendly neighborhood Best Buy. l considered the Note 10.1 2014 edition but quickly became most interested in the elusive and mystical 12.2″ Note Pro, which wasn’t on display. When I asked about it, I learned an employee had one of her own and she’d be working the following day. As promised, she was there the next day, Note Pro 12.2 in hand. She let me try it out and although I’d expected to be appalled and deterred by its size, I found it to be not only pleasant but fun to use.

What did I like?
– The screen is bright and sharp
– The ability to view up to 4 apps simultaneously is very handy
– The S pen makes the inking experience super smooth
– Samsung’s S pen handwriting recognition software works very well, even with my nearly illegible scrawl
– The Samsung Note Pro’s digital ink apps are fun and useful, and especially show off the S pens’s capabilities

Although I haven’t had it long, l’ve been surprised and delighted by the Note Pro 12.2. I got a free keyboard case with it (part of limited Samsung promotion) but haven’t used it because the S pen experience is so good.

Moral of the story? As newer, larger tablets are released, don’t knock ’em til you try’ em.

Samsung Galaxy Note (N7000): My review

Once upon a time not so long ago, there was a phone called the HTC EVO 4G. When photos and reviews began appearing on the web, I scoffed at how impossibly huge the EVO seemed with its 4.3 inch screen. I went to see it at a Sprint store. I left, satisfied that I’d seen what I’d come to see. The next day though, I kept thinking about the EVO and how much I’d enjoyed using it at the store. I returned that day to buy it, and became a delighted, long-time EVO 4G user.

In 2011, Samsung released the Galaxy Note (international version) with its 5.3 inch screen. I didn’t become interested in the Galaxy Note until AT&T released the Note in February 2012, giving me an opportunity to see and handle it. I was surprised that it didn’t seem outrageously large when I handled it, and realized it might fit the sweet spot between the portability of a phone and the easy-on-the-eyes screen of a tablet.

I bought the white AT&T Galaxy Note (model I717) — I loved it for the beautiful, easy to read screen and S-pen (stylus). I realized, however, that the AT&T model had some features that I found to be impediments:

  • The LTE data capability would have been wonderful if I had LTE network coverage in my area. I don’t though, and was disappointed that I couldn’t find a way to turn LTE off! My battery life suffered, and I didn’t even get super fast data speeds to compensate 😉
  • I missed being able to wake up the phone easily by pressing on a physical home button. Instead, I needed to reach up, locate, and press the power key to wake the phone. Possible, yes. Convenient, not so much.

So I decided to return the AT&T Note, and bought the international version (model N7000) instead. It solved the two AT&T Note issues I’d experienced since it didn’t have an LTE radio but did have an easy to locate/press physical Home button.

Now that I’ve had the Note for about 6 weeks, is it right for me? Read on:

  • Screen: I still love the big, bright, easy to read screen. I haven’t normally been one to browse the web on my phone but the Note makes it such a pleasant experience that I’m doing more browsing on the go.
  • S-pen (stylus): My handwriting makes chicken scratches look good, it’s that bad! But the Note’s handwriting recognition software is good enough that I can use the S-Pen to take notes on my Note and accurately convert it to text. The S-Pen is fabulous for making annotations. And it’s also quite handy for playing “Draw Something.” 😉
  • Samsung TouchWiz interface: I actually like TouchWiz. It’s fairly customizable, and I love how it allows me to do two things not easily done on all Android phones:
  1. Take screen shots
  2. Change the system font
  • Battery life (on the International model): I’ve found battery life to be quite good. I tend to leave GPS & Mobile Data enabled all the time, although I do use WiFi for data at home.
  • Phone Audio & Voice quality: I’ve found Audio & Voice quality to be good. However, I should mention I normally use a bluetooth headset with mobile phones (including the Note).
  • Camera (Still & Video): Photo and Video quality is very good.
  • Easy to update firmware: Especially with the international model, it’s super easy to update the firmware using Odin PC software and firmware available on xda-developers.com. No rooting required!

I’ve found some excellent accessories which others may find useful as well:

  • Skque Clear TPU Gel Case: A no frills clear case that protects my Galaxy Note, but lets the lovely white Note finish shine through. (The white Galaxy Note does not provide a textured back, and it can be slippery without a case!)
  • Generic Horizontal Belt Clip Case: Nothing fancy, just a way to clip the Note to my slacks. Although no longer sold on Amazon, probably available on ebay and from other outlets selling Galaxy Note accessories.
  • Desktop Dock for Samsung Galaxy Note: Gorgeous charger dock that can be used in either portrait or landscape orientations. Expensive but worth it.

So, there you have it… my Galaxy Note review along with buying considerations if you’re trying to decide between the AT&T and International models. Questions? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

The best case I never expected to like: Rearth Ringke case for SGS2

Ringke sgs2 case

Full disclosure: I was contacted by Rearth and asked if I’d like to review their Ringke Case for Samsung Galaxy S II. I was hesitant at first, then thought…. why not? Despite receiving this case for free, what you’ll read below is my candid, unvarnished view. Read on…

Thin and light, but any downside?
I love the idea of skin cases but in practice find them hideous… they are usually lint magnets and with a long-haired cat at my house, well, you get the picture. So, when the Rearth rep asked me if I’d like to review a case I thought would share this issue, what did I think? Well, my very first thought was, “Ugh!” Then, I realized I had nothing to lose, so why not?

Thankfully, I was very wrong about this case. When I received it, I first noticed its unique feel. Thin, close-fitting with a slightly grippy feel. And I was delighted to find the surface didn’t have that lint-magnet “feature” of so many other thin, light cases! Despite leaving the case on surfaces my cat likes to walk across, the case consistently looked brand new and lint-free. Another bonus: The surface never showed fingerprints. Nice!

I even asked a friend what she thought. Her reaction? “I like the texture.”

Which brings me to… fit
I was delighted to find that the case fit the SGS2 like a glove and the cut-outs are properly sized. Volume up/down buttons are covered but still easy to find and manipulate.

Another interesting find: Despite being a tight fit within my HTC EVO 4G messenger side case, the case didn’t stretch out.

Cosmetics
The case is available in several colors, some quite bright and other more subtle tones. I received a black case and it’s very professional looking — it’s suitable for a conservative office environment.

Bottom line?
I like this case alot. I expected to use it for a few days and then take it off, but found that I didn’t want to remove it! It retains the thin form factor of the SGS2 and provides a slightly grippy texture to make dropping the phone less likely. It looks good, feels good, and I couldn’t find any downside. Highly recommended. (More photos, below)

Case and box

 

Inside

 

Back

 

The mythical, wonderful Samsung Galaxy S II (SGS2)

This spring, I decided to move over to AT&T from Verizon after learning my Verizon phone was hopelessly buggy 6 weeks into my contract, with no remedy offered by my Verizon store. Combine that issue with pockets of poor Verizon network coverage areas in my neighborhood, and I decided it was time to move my wireless service.

When I opened my AT&T account, I picked up an Infuse 4G. I’d never been fond of Samsung phones until the Infuse, and it was love at first sight: The gorgeous screen, the minimalist controls, its thin/light form factor. I was sufficiently impressed to write an Infuse 4G review.

But I kept reading about a mythical phone, the Samsung Galaxy S II. The more I read, the more curious I became… what was this wonderful phone? Could it be there was an unlocked Samsung phone similar to the Infuse but even faster and more responsive?! And thus my unicorn hunt began…

I’d had an AT&T account lucy_n73for several years, and for much of that time used unlocked Nokia phones. I realize it’s fashionable to bash Nokia lately, but I loved Nokia camera hardware and the fantastic shots Nokia phones enabled.

But I digress…
Since my Infuse was still new, I tried to distract myself but the Samsung Galaxy S II (SGS2) continued to beckon. I read reviews, I visited phone import stores online, I pondered. I liked the Infuse. The problem? I thought I’d like the SGS2 even more. Finally, I decided to pick one up despite the high ticket price that goes with buying an unlocked phone.

I’ve had my SGS2 for about a month. And you know what? The SGS2 is the best cell phone I’ve ever used. Based on user reviews on CNET, I’m not alone:

  • Very responsive. No lag, no waiting.
  • Great camera and photo quality
  • Excellent voice and audio quality
  • Gorgeous, vivid screen
  • Re-sizable (!) stock widgets that are both informative and attractively minimalist
  • Thin, light, and beautiful

sgs2With most phones, there’s a certain amount of waiting… waiting for an app to open, waiting for the phone to connect to the network, waiting, waiting, waiting…

That changed with the SGS2. I never realized how speedy a phone could be. View SGS2 specs here.

There are other advantages to the SGS2:

  • I stumbled across this thread on xda-developers.com, where you can find updated SGS2 firmware along with instructions for flashing – the post originator is very sharp and generous in helping other users with questions. NOTE: Flashing these firmware doesn’t require rooting, and at the rate Samsung has been releasing regional updates to the SGS firmware, SGS2 users can always be running the latest, greatest firmware. I’m currently running the XXKF2 firmware on my SGS2 (Android 2.3.3); this firmware’s build date is 6/10/2011 (fabulous battery life with KF2 firmware, by the way!).vent-case
  • A very cool official Samsung “vent” case – a lightweight but very functional case for your SGS2. I love that its rubberized finish makes the phone grippier while its design preserves the phone’s thin, light form factor. I picked up this case on ebay.uk from ebayer bluejamgem – they put the case in the mail very quickly – I received it in about 5 business days (from the UK).
  • If you want a more substantial case, Case-Mate offers 2 SGS2 cases. I picked up a Barely There case and it offers a bit more protection than the vent case.
  • Looking for a Samsung desk dock for the SGS2? I found that the SGS2(with the vent case on) will fit into the official Samsung Infuse 4G desk dock.
  • I went with a Zagg SGS2 Invisishield screen protector bought via zagg.com since none were available locally. Because I don’t have much luck applying screen protectors, I took my shiny new phone and Zagg Invisishield to Best Buy and the nice folks there applied it for me for a small fee (well worth it, btw!!).

I only have one concern about the SGS2: I wonder what will happen when U.S. wireless carriers decide to “customize” the Galaxy S II experience. Will it become a laggy beast, like so many other smartphones? We’ll see, and I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen. I’d love for folks buying a carrier-branded SGS2 to have the same fast, responsive SGS2 experience I’m enjoying.

Bottom line: I love the SGS2 and highly recommend it unlocked. If you have questions about the SGS2, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to respond.

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook has arrived!

Last year, I applied to participate in Google‘s Chrome OS beta project. About a week later, I was amazed and delighted to find a free CR-48 on my front porch. I used the CR-48 as my main computer for 6 months, and enjoyed it. It was fun seeing Chrome OS evolve over time and I enjoyed the experience. (For more on the CR-48, see my previous posts here, here, here, and here.)

Fast forward to last week, when a Google email arrived offering the Arctic White Samsung Series 5 3G Chromebook for $499 via Gilt.com. While I thought $499 was a bit pricey for what’s essentially a netbook, I went for it. It arrived today!

My initial reaction to Samsung Series 5 Chromebook:

  • Gorgeous, solid hardware
  • Lovely white lid, adorned by Chrome logo
  • Responsive, easy to use “island” type keyboard
  • Love the matte screen
  • As with the CR-48, the cap-lock key is replaced by a search key
  • Long battery life (10+ hours)
  • 100MB Verizon 3G data per month free for 2 years (with opportunity to buy add-on data on a month-by-month basis)

 

I can see taking the Chromebook with me when traveling or when I want to work at a café – no worries about losing precious personal data if it’s lost or stolen. It’s small, light, and very portable. I enjoy the full screen view and find it fun to use.

Would I recommend Chromebook to friends? Sure, it’s easy to use, low maintenance, and super portable. Because Google is aggressively improving Chrome OS, using it becomes even more enjoyable over time. I expect the price will drop after it’s been on the market for a few months, and come Christmas may be priced to make the perfect holiday gift.

AT&T’s Samsung Infuse 4G… A First

AT&T and Samsung recently released the Samsung Infuse 4G. samsung_infuse_4gIt’s a first in several ways:

  • 1st Smartphone with a 4.5” screen
  • 1st AT&T Android phone that allows users to easily install apps from sources other than the Android Market (finally!)
  • 1st AT&T Android phone that I’ve found appealing enough to buy

I had read pre-release articles about the Infuse, and knew it had a large screen and very thin profile. Yet I was still wowed I saw the Infuse on its Sunday release.

Initial impressions:

  • Huge, beautiful screen (4.5” measured diagonally)
  • Unbelievably thin

Now that I’ve had the phone for several days, more observations:

  • Love the big screen. Makes checking news, email, twitter a delight. Like the HTC EVO released a year ago, the Infuse form factor is trendsetting.
  • Still amazed by its thinness
  • Single core yet very responsive
  • Surprisingly good battery life. After a few charge cycles, I’m finding it could last two days without charging
  • Comfortable, easy to use even for folks with small hands (like me)
  • Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface is okay – easy to use. I love that users can easily change phone font!
  • AT&T’s network, while reviled by many, has both excellent and poor coverage areas, with good coverage at my home and at work.
    • I’ve had good voice quality, no dropped calls.
    • Connects to data network quickly
    • Data speeds are fast (although not technically 4G): Fastest I’ve seen has been 6MG down, 1.5MG up. Folks in better network coverage areas would likely see faster speeds.

I haven’t been wowed by other Android phones offered by AT&T and was downright turned off by AT&T locking down phones so that apps could only be installed from Android Market.

That all changed with the Infuse! It offers the functionality I want along with a form factor that feels like the future of smartphones.

iPad vs. Galaxy Tab: Which tablet is right for you?

Recently, a new tablet was released that finally seems a worthy competitor to the iPad: The Samsung Galaxy Tab. Up until now, the iPad was the tablet to get — partly due to its inherent quality and great user experience but also due to lack of competition.

So, choosing a tablet has become more difficult… which is right for you: Apple’s  iPad (size: 9.56” x 7.47” x .5”; weight: 1.5 pounds) or the Samsung Galaxy Tab (size: 7.48” x 4.74” x .47”; weight: .08 pounds)?

Let’s walk through questions you’ll want to consider:

Do you have a mobile OS preference: Android (Galaxy Tab) or iOS ( iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch)?

  • iOS (iPad)ipad_image
    • Apple is legendary for product ease of use, and the iPad continues that tradition.
    • If you (or the person you’re buying for) currently use an iPhone or iPod Touch, they’ll immediately feel right at home with the iPad.
    • Even if the prospective tablet user hasn’t used iOs previously, they should be able to pick up the iPad and quickly feel comfortable.
  • Android (Galaxy Tab)samsung-galaxy-tab
    • OS doesn’t require a degree in rocket science but is more complex than iOS.
    • I have non-techie friends who’ve bought Android phones and then felt overwhelmed, confused.
    • If you consider yourself (or the person you’re buying for) a geek who likes to try new things, you’ll feel comfortable mounting the Android OS learning curve.

How important is a large catalogue of apps available for download?

  • iPad is the clear winner if
    • You’ve owned other iOS devices and invested a lot of money on iOS apps
    • You want the largest possible catalogue of apps available to download to your iPad. See my post listing favorite iPad apps here.
  • Galaxy Tab is worth considering if
    • You like the ability to obtain apps from the official Android Market as well as downloading apps directly from web sites. NOTE: AT&T Galaxy Tab doesn’t currently support installing apps from non-Market sources; all other carrier Galaxy Tabs allow you to install apps from a variety of sources as long as you go to Settings > Applications and select the option for “Unknown Sources”.
    • You prefer to download free apps. Not sure why, while many apps I’ve installed for iOS were paid apps, it seems many more (although not all) Android apps are free. See my posting listing favorite Android / Galaxy apps (so far) here.

How do you plan to use your tablet?

Caveat: The best way to determine which is best for you (or the person you’re buying for) is to go to a local store. No amount of reading can replace checking out a device hands on.

  • Viewing movies: Supported by both devices
    • iPad users can buy and download movies from iTunes
    • Galaxy Tab users can download movies from the Samsung Media Hub app, or load the movie onto their SD card.
  • Watching Hulu / Hulu Plus: iPad is clear winner as Android does not yet have a Hulu Plus app, and you cannot successfully view Hulu / Hulu Plus video content via Android browser.
  • Watching Netflix: Again, iPad is clear winner as Android does not yet have an app supporting Netflix streaming video.
  • Watching TV shows on web sites using Flash: Galaxy Tab is the clear winner here as iPad does not support Flash in the iPad Safari browser.
  • Reading eBooks: Both the iPad and Galaxy Tab offer ebook software (e.g., apps for Kindle, Barnes & Noble nook) but where do you plan to read?
    • At a desk with tablet in stand: Both the iPad and Galaxy Tab work well in this scenario.
    • Lounging on the sofa: I’ve found the Galaxy Tab to be more comfortable to use in this scenario since it’s the size of a Trade paperback book.  The iPad is simply a bit big and heavy, and I wind up feeling distracted by having to hold / balance it.
  • Browsing / web surfing: See eBook reading scenarios, above.
  • Information at a glance: While the iPad offers many more apps, Android (Galaxy Tab) offers the ability to add widgets to your home screens. I find the ability to get information “at a glance” to be extremely handy, especially when I have limited time.
  • Games: Both devices are great for game play and have a variety of good games available.
    • Flash games: If you like to play flash games on the web, Galaxy Tab is the clear choice (Flash not supported by iPad).
  • Mobile use:
    • Tablet as laptop replacement / netbook: iPad
    • Tablet as mobile device to slip into your handbag: Galaxy Tab
      • As they say with cameras, the best mobile device is the one you have with you. I found that I left the iPad at home frequently just because it didn’t fit in my handbag.

Do you want to avoid wireless carrier charges?

  • iPad: You can buy either a WIFI-only iPad or an iPad that offers both WIFI + 3G connectivity (3G data provided by AT&T, with multiple price tiers). If you buy the WIFI only iPad, you will not need wireless carrier data access (and thus will not incur any related charges).
  • Galaxy Tab: Currently in the U.S., the Galaxy Tab is tied to wireless carriers and can be purchased at a discount with wireless contract, or at a higher price without contract. It’s a little confusing to describe, and I recommend reviewing PCWorld’s pricing comparison here. Note: A WIFI only Tab is set to become available via Best Buy but its release has been delayed – my guess is Samsung will release it after the holidays, to ensure the WIFI only version doesn’t cannibalize wireless carrier sales.

There you have it… questions I suggest considering before making your tablet purchase. Did I miss a usage scenario that you’d like to see covered? Leave a comment to let me know.