Samsung Galaxy Note II vs Galaxy S III

Introduction and Design

The Galaxy Note single-member phone family just expanded with its second member, the Note II, bringing many improvements over its predecessor. These include a larger and brighter screen in a more compact body, much more ergonomic S Pen stylus, which has learned new tricks, and a beefy quad-core processor plus 2GB of RAM.

Is the Note II a strong enough package, however, to warrant your attention, if you are eyeing a regular high-end smartphone with “just” 4.8” screen, like the Galaxy S III? Read on our comparison to try and answer this question...


There is some truth to the notion that the Note II is simply an oversized Galaxy S III in terms of its design heritage. It uses the same polycarbonate plastic, and especially the white versions seem very much alike, save for the size. There are subtle differences, though, with the Note II being much less rounded at the corners, and its bezel underneath the display being much thinner than what we see in the Galaxy S III, making way for the huge 5.5” screen.

We’d take the slim and rounded S III chassis before the more rectangular faux-metal rim body of the Note II, though, and still it is much better than the dorky body we have with the original Note.

The Note II weighs about two ounces more, naturally, but nothing deal-breaking in that respect, since the Galaxy S III is already pretty light for a 4.8-incher. Both handsets follow the new Samsung mantra for narrower and taller bodies, easing one-handed operation, but the Galaxy S III is much more comfortable to handle in your palm, of course.


The 5.5” 16:9 HD Super AMOLED screen on the Galaxy Note II is better than the 4.8-incher on the S III in every category imaginable but pixel density. Considering we have three subpixels per pixel now with the Note II, 30% more than we have with PenTile on the Galaxy S III, even that paper advantage is dubious when you look at the screens

The Note II’s screen is much brighter than what could easily be the dimmest AMOLED screen of Samsung on the Galaxy s III, making it much better for use outside under direct sunlight. Moreover, the typical coldness of Super AMOLED colors is almost gone now, and the blueish tint when displaying white is down to a minimum, whereas it is very visible on the Galaxy S III.

In all honesty, the Note II has the best screen Samsung has produced to date, considering AMOLED’s other virtues, like very high contrast and wide viewing angles, and the larger size compared to the Galaxy S III makes it that much more appealing for media consumptions and web browsing on the go.

Interface and functionality:

Both the Note II and the Galaxy S III sport the newest Nature UX of Samsung with its Smart Stay, Pop Up Play and AllShare Cast streaming features, which we discussed in our Galaxy S III review, but the Note II also comes with Jelly Bean out of the box - an advantage it will hold until the S III gets updated, too.

The notable differences now are the presence of the Google Now personal butler on the Note II, the smooth 60fps interface in Jelly Bean, the stellar natural language recognition of Google Voice, and a few extras like two homescreen modes, new Settings app, rearranged notification bar, and a resizable Pop Up Play video windows.

These are all coming to the Galaxy S III very soon, too, so the main difference in software will remain the S Pen apps, like S Note and S Planner, which put the stylus to good use.

S Pen apps:

The stylus in the Note II is much improved in comparison with the original - it has a more ergonomic grip now, and the new technology inside allows you to leave faster and smoother ink trace. Moreover, the S Pen has learned new tricks now, too, with the most intriguing one being Air View, which brings up previews of emails, image galleries and button labels when you hover over them. For a full rundown of the S Pen features, peak into our Note II review.

Processor and memory:

The Galaxy Note II sports a 1.6 GHz quad-core Exynos 4412 processor, compared to the same one in the international S III, but clocked slightly lower at 1.4 GHz, explaining the higher benchmark performance of the Note II.

The US versions of the Galaxy S III, however, sport a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processors with LTE radio, but performance and benchmarks in reality are comparable to the Exynos processor.

We have 2GB of RAM memory in both, and the same starting 16GB amount of internal memory - about 10GB are user-available in the Note II, whereas we have about 11GB on the Galaxy S III.

When we couple the more powerful processor with Android Jelly Bean’s interface optimizations, the Note II comes superior in UI fluidity and app performance, which will hold at least until the GS III gets updated, too.

Internet and Connectivity:

The Nature UX browser is very optimized, and powered by a tad beefier processor on the Note II, but the difference in performance is not noticeable - both browsers behave very zippy. However, with mobile Chrome in Jelly Bean we are losing Adobe Flash support, and there are quite a few websites that can’t be enjoyed fully, or at all, without Adobe’s piece of software, which the ICS browser on the Galaxy S III supports.

The Galaxy Note II has the advantage to offer its quad-core chip coupled with an LTE radio, unlike on the US versions of the Galaxy S III, where we have Snapdragon S4 processors for that package. Thus, you get the quad-core 4412 paired to a 100Mbits LTE radio now with the Note II for the first time. These speeds are, of course, theoretical, and depend on your carrier network, but we are glad that processor fragmentation ends with the Note II.

Both handsets sport a variety of radios, like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, DLNA, and NFC, using the versatile MHL port for wired connectivity.


There’s an 8MP camera module with LED flash on both handsets and the performance of the cameras is almost instantaneous. We get similar shot modes, like HDR or Panorama, and a number of effects to apply on your pictures and video, as both handsets sport the Nature UX Android camera interface. The Best Photo mode replaces the Burst Shot mode on the S III, taking less pictures at once in rapid succession, and suggesting which one to keep afterwards - much handier.

The new Best Faces mode on the Note II keeps the best pose and look of your photo subjects, and also a brand new Low Light mode is present on the Note II for those dimly-lit scenes.

The pictures themselves are quite comparable, with a very good level of detail and quite sharp-looking, with a slight advantage going to those from the Note II. The contrast on the Galaxy S III seems boosted slightly higher, though, whereas the Note II stayed truer to the actual scene. The phones struggled a bit to expose properly in high dynamic range scenarios.

Video capture goes up to 1920x1080 with 30 fps on both handsets, and the footage is very fluid and with plenty of detail on both. The Galaxy S III again seems to up the contrast slightly in comparison with the Note II. Sound capture while recording video, though, is of subpar quality on both handsets.

Samsung Galaxy Note II Sample Video:

Samsung Galaxy S III Sample Video:

Samsung Galaxy Note II Indoor Sample Video:

Samsung Galaxy S III Indoor Sample Video:


The music players are the same, having tune categorization tabs and equalizer presets, as well as the Music Square mood matrix of your tunes.

When it comes to loudspeaker performance in playing music, the Note II wins hands down, with one of the most powerful speakers we’ve heard on a smartphone, which on top of that doesn’t sound flat, and outputs pretty clean sound, even at the highest volume.

Both video players support high-def video playback regardless of the format, and we have the Pop Up Play function, where you can simply detach the video currently played, and keep doing something else, while it plays in a moveable pop-up windows brought at the front at all times. In the Note II, that popup windows is resizable, too.

In the default folder view the Gallery on the Galaxy Note II gets the screen split, with the categories on the left, and their content on the right, taking good better advantage of the large screen real estate, and the same goes for the YouTube app.

We also get a 3D Timeline view of the pictures and video in chronological order, or a spiral 3D view, rumored to be borrowed from Samsung’s Tizen OS.

Call quality:

Both handsets sport a pretty good call quality, with the scales tipping slightly in favor of the Note II, on account of its powerful earpiece with clean sound. On the other end the Galaxy S III and the Note II behave very well too, relaying our voices in a crisp and loud manner, without much audible distortions.


Needless to say, the larger 3,100mAh battery on the Note II, should make a difference compared to the 2,100mAh unit on the S III, regardless of the screen size.

There are no official talk times yet from Samsung, but we made one very unscientific test to check how the Note II stacks up against the Note and the Galaxy S III during the HD Super AMOLED’s most frugal consumption - video playback. We charged all three phones to 100%, put them in airplane mode, pumped up the brightness to the max, and ran the same HD video for an hour and change. At the end the Note showed 83%, the Galaxy S III showed 87%, while the Note II’s monster battery discharged only 8%, bringing it down to 92%.

If we extrapolate from those results, the Note II might very well reach the RAZR MAXX 14-hour territories when it comes to video endurance, considering that the Galaxy S III lasts about 10 hours video playback on a charge at half brightness..


The Note II is still a big hunk of a phone, but the Galaxy S III design is so recognizable now, that making the second edition Note look similar immediately earns it some street cred, as it just looks like you are holding a larger S III to your ear. That “larger S III”, however, finally ends the Samsung processor fragmentation in the US, as it pairs the LTE radio with quad-core Exynos, rather than with a dual-core Snapdragon S4, like the Galaxy S III US versions do.

Granted, the second member of the Note family is not for everybody, but for those who dare to consider it, it has some evident extras before the Galaxy S III - extra screen with extra brightness and extra subpixels, extra processing power, extra input methods, and very importantly - extra battery life.

All of these come without much extra price, but again, juggle both phones in your pockets and in your hands first, as hauling around a Note II might only be warranted if you are not that much the talking type on your smartphone, but rather a media consumption and web browsing buff who’d also make good use of a stylus to jot down quick notes, tasks and remarks. And if you are the skinny jeans type - forget it, the Galaxy S III is already enough of a stretch for you.

Samsung Galaxy Note II vs Galaxy S III:

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