Galaxy Note II vs Note: should you upgrade?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Galaxy Note II vs Note: should you upgrade?
Hey guys, did you hear? The Galaxy Note II is here! Well, not literally, that is, but at least we know it'll be released in October, and we can imagine that quite a few people out there are already eying the device as their next smartphone purchase. We are also sure that many of those people considering getting the Note II are current Galaxy Note users, who are enjoying their device and are wondering if it's worth it to upgrade to the new one.

In case you've read our article "Samsung Galaxy Note II and its S Pen magic: a summary of the new features", you'd already know that Samsung has improved quite a bit in the Galaxy Note II - from the hardware under the hood, to the screen and the capabilities of the S Pen. Still, if someone comes and tells you that you just need to have these new features, they'll most probably be wrong. Not that most of them aren't cool or useless, but it's debatable if the new stuff is game-changing enough to warrant a new purchase. Let's take a closed look at the more important new features, compare them to what we already have in the original Note, and see just how much of an improvement a user is going to get with the new model!

Bigger, 5.5" Super AMOLED screen

As you've probably heard, Samsung has increased the screen size a bit, going from 5.3" all the way to... 5.5". What's good about this is that it isn't at the expense of the device's dimensions, as those have been preserved almost the same. So there isn't a big difference here, but what about the technology used? Both phones use HD Super AMOLED, although the Note II uses a slightly better pixel arrangement, so it should appear a bit crisper, although we're not sure if the difference will be visible in real-world conditions.

Now, is it worth it to get the Note II because of this 0.2" difference in screen size and possibly slightly better image quality? We'd say no, it's not really substantial enough. The original Note's 5.3" display is still big enough, and it's also quite crisp, so it's still perfectly good in today's realities.

Faster, 1.6GHz quad-core Exynos processor

The quad-core Exynos silicon powering the Note II is another tempting feature. At first sight, the performance between the Note II and original Note probably won't be very different, however, the Note II is practically future-proof at this point, ready to run all the demanding applications that may soon become available in the Play Store.

But should you worry about this now, when your dual-core Exynos 4210 still packs quite a punch and allows you to run everything? Well, not necessarily. You can just stick to your Note for now and make the switch whenever you feel that your mobile lifestyle could use a bit more power.

More RAM (2GB)

The amount of RAM memory that your mobile device has also has a direct effect on performance. Like in every other area, Samsung has put more here, doubling the RAM from 1GB to 2GB. This will be appreciated by users do a lot of multitasking on their Notes. Every hardcore Android user knows that you can use almost a full 1GB of RAM when you're multitasking a number of heavier applications.

On the other hand, people who don't tend to do a number of things at the same time won't really notice a big performance boost. With a bit of smart memory management, you can actually enjoy a seamless user experience with the Note, so it will ultimately be your usage pattern that will decide if you could make a good use of the 2 gigabytes in the new Note.

8MP Camera

Like the previous Note, the Note II comes with an 8MP camera. Not only are the specs almost identical, but Samsung also didn't have anything specific to say about the camera during the announcement keynote, so we guess that we shouldn't expect any significant improvement in this area.

Faster data connection

The Samsung Galaxy Note II will come with faster HSPA+ connection. It will go up to 42.2 Mbit/s on the downlink, compared to the original Note's 21.1 Mbit/s. Please keep in mind that this doesn't mean that you'll get two times faster download speeds with the Note II. There will probably be an improvement, but it won't be that big. All of this applies to the international version only. In the U.S., AT&T's Note has LTE, and T-Mobile's Note supports HSPA+ 42.2 Mbit/s down, so in case Samsung doesn't announce something even better with the U.S. variants of the Note II, there may as well not be any difference in data speeds between the two devices.

Improved, more accurate S Pen

The S Pen is probably the area where Samsung has innovated the most. With many new software features designed to improve the "natural" note-taking experience, among which pressure sensitivity, the Note II undoubtedly shapes up as a much better device for note-taking. If you've been using the Note mainly for this kind of stuff, then the new handset will surely be a smart investment.

Here's a summary of all the new features in the Note II's S Pen:

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS

The original Note has finally received Android 4.0 ICS, and while Samsung hasn't specifically announced an update to Jelly Bean, the device was indeed present on a presentation slide showing the company's devices set for a JB update. When this would happen, however, is not yet known. On the other hand, the Note II is coming with Jelly Bean out of the box, which is good, but not necessarily a game-changer if you're stuck with ICS. However, releasing the Note II with Jelly Bean now, means that Samsung will most probably update the device next year when the next Android version comes out, and we can't be so certain that this will also be true for the original Note.

Looked as a whole, the Samsung Galaxy Note II is a nice improvement compared to the first Note, because Samsung has reworked almost all elements of the device. In case you aren't taking hand-written notes like there's no tomorrow, though, we think that you should be perfectly good with your trusty Note for the time being. It will be next year when the need for a more powerful device will become prevalent, and that would be a much better time to purchase a then price-cut Galaxy Note II (or maybe even a Note III, depending on the timing).

Related phones

  • Display 5.5" 720 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.9 MP front
  • Processor Samsung Exynos 4 Quad, Quad-core, 1600 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3100 mAh(16h 3G talk time)
  • Display 5.3" 800 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 2 MP front
  • Processor Samsung Exynos 4, Dual-core, 1400 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDHC
  • Battery 2500 mAh(13.50h 3G talk time)



1. thebest

Posts: 231; Member since: Jul 08, 2012

its not that necessary but there are enough reasons to upgrade........

25. taz89

Posts: 2014; Member since: May 03, 2011

couldnt agree more,if you have a 2011 high end phone,you already have things such as dual core,1gb ram etc etc so no 2012 phone is necessary at the moment but there are plenty of reasons too upgrade

29. redmd

Posts: 1943; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

the reason for me to upgrade to this is the quad CPU and bigger battery. hopefully the screen issues of the note 1 has been addressed.

32. TheLibertine

Posts: 484; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

It's the same as iPhone 4/4S. Just a spec bump with some new toys. I will not upgrade, as I actually never got to like that screen size.

43. cristhiansaid

Posts: 30; Member since: Jun 25, 2010

is not the same as iphone 4/4s. galaxy note II has many changes not only a better iphones... it has a different display, size, etc....

45. TheLibertine

Posts: 484; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

The display is barely changed and the screen has the same resolution, just not that crappy Note I matrix. Better pen versus Siri and a bit changed screen measurements versus more MP. I do not say there are no significant changes. Just not much more than on the iPhone 4S.

48. cristhiansaid

Posts: 30; Member since: Jun 25, 2010

OHHH COME ON!!! 2 gb of RAM a different SIZE AND better looking DESIGN, a improvement of features likes S-PEN, A QUAD CORE CPU....NEW SOFTWARE...... WHAT DO U WANT A RESOLUTION 2000X2000? a camera of 24 mpx.?? ""I do not say there are no significant changes. Just not much more than on the iPhone 4S."" the iphone 4s has not change at all, just better cpu and camera wooo!!!...soo... dont compare with that crap of iphone 4/4s that has minimal (nothing) change.. ""Better pen versus Siri and a bit changed screen measurements versus more MP."" its only depend of operating system, actualy the iphone 4 can use siri. Google voice vs Siri. COMPARE.

49. TheLibertine

Posts: 484; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

That's exactly what I am talking about... *Sigh*

54. McLTE

Posts: 922; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

The other thing is that the Note 2 isn't CATCHING UP WITH THE REST OF THE INDUSTRY and calling it revolutionary! There really is no comparison here between the 4/4s and note1/2. If this were merely a 4/4s type upgrade, the announcement would have included: Same size screen Same size battery Same S-Pen Same Native Apps New Processor New version of the OS While this may not be the massive redesign that people were hoping for, I believe that Sammy went far beyond what Apple did for the 4/4s.

63. gallitoking

Posts: 4721; Member since: May 17, 2011

so you will pony up the dough and upgrade I presume?.. remember this note come to the State less than a year ago. if you bought the Note will you upgrade to the note 2... I think not.. so all the examples you just gave just become obsolute..

61. lubba

Posts: 1313; Member since: Jan 17, 2011

I wouldn't compare the G-note to the iPhone. G-note is bigger and probably better for entertainment And productivity. In a different league. The iPhone is best for nothing more than games, for I've seen it mostly used for such. Siri is nothing more than a gimmick to make the iPhone look good. Never ever seen anyone use it. Oh well, fools will always be fooled.

64. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

why would the i4 be better for playing games? its smaller, weaker, and everything else. it has a few games that android doesnt, but big woop. Id much rather play on a 5.5 touch than a 3.5 touch by far!

71. farhit

Posts: 4; Member since: Jan 20, 2012

good answer.

60. lubba

Posts: 1313; Member since: Jan 17, 2011

You saying you're sporting a Galaxy Note?

65. ph00ny

Posts: 2055; Member since: May 26, 2011

Not even remotely close. I own the original note and the ip4s

70. farhit

Posts: 4; Member since: Jan 20, 2012

You dont like the big screen then please let other like it and dont make iphone a standard of measuring every cell phone. Ever company and product has its own class and people like diffrent things. For my work, hands and writing love galaxy note 1 and 2 are ideal sizes because i cant carry a 7' tablet in my pocket. Please enjoy ur iphone and let us enjoy the note 2

33. neutralguy

Posts: 1152; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

If I ever get this one, my main reason would be future proofing. 2GB ram. And a quadcore processor. How i wish smartphones are just like PCs that you could upgrade your ram just by adding some more.ohwell.


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

Me2, i wish.... A green from me.


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

thebest true said.... ile be selling my Note and will be buying this Sim-Fre, can't wait! Really nice article Ray S.

36. sid07desai

Posts: 290; Member since: May 03, 2012

I think it would be a wise to sell the Note (if you have one) and buy the Note II. That way, it becomes affordable too.

2. Anymal

Posts: 13; Member since: Feb 22, 2009

wellcome back, Ray S. ... any video of comparison soon?

3. aris77

Posts: 4; Member since: Aug 30, 2012

the original Note IS getting Jelly Bean. It was officially announced yesterday... "The original Note has finally received Android 4.0 ICS, but it isn't clear yet if Samsung is going to update it any further than this" what are you talking about ??????

5. Ray.S

Posts: 459; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

Thanks for the correction, I'll fix the article right now.

4. MeoCao unregistered

why not, if money is not an issue?

6. Ray.S

Posts: 459; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

Yeah, that's right. But these days chances are that money will be (at least a small) issue for more people.

11. Ray.S

Posts: 459; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

*most people.

41. MeoCao unregistered

Well, for most people buying a Note is a question, not upgrading it. But theoretically a Note is very expensive so upgrading it after just 1 year is very difficult for most people.

21. SlimSoulja86

Posts: 660; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

I could swear you dont want people to buy Galaxy note II. In case you aren't taking hand-written notes like there's no tomorrow, though, we think that you should be perfectly good with your trusty Note for the time being". You should not review any Android device at all. I didnt hear anything good from your article. I think I'm allowed to express myself, right. Don't ban me!

24. protozeloz

Posts: 5396; Member since: Sep 16, 2010

I would buy an S-pen and an app that has some of these features, but honestly the note 2 is not for everyone..... I was hoping for a 7" well built note as the 10" is not worth it

42. Bluesky02

Posts: 1439; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

Well yeah for people like me who have to buy everything unlocked it is a very big issue. Since i'm not rich buying something like that in cash requires 3-4months of saving

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.