The good: The Samsung Galaxy Note's 5.3-inch HD screen is ideal for showcasing multimedia. It has 4G LTE, a great 8-megapixel camera, and a souped-up S Pen stylus that brings new ways to interact with your phone.
The bad: The Galaxy Note's S Pen is small, has a delayed response, and requires a little training to use. The phone will be awkwardly large for some, and it doesn't fit easily into pockets.
The bottom line: With its huge screen and throwback stylus, the Samsung Galaxy Note is a polarizing smartphone that winks at tablet territory. Those who like their screens XL will find a top-notch device that lets multimedia shine. The S Pen adds some artistic potential, but for some, the phone will just simply be too big.
If you ask me, Samsung began marketing its Samsung Galaxy Note for AT&T on the wrong foot. It was a smart move anticipating reactions to its oversize 5.3-inch screen when the unlocked version first launched in Europe, but the problem with claiming that the Galaxy Note is a phone-and-tablet hybrid (a "phablet," if you will) is setting the expectation that it will be able to reduce your tablet dependence, or obviate the need for one in the first place. While that might be the case for casual tablet users, or for the tablet-curious, the Galaxy Note is firmly and unquestionably a Galaxy smartphone first. In the meantime, "phablet" has become a (fun, if meaningless) catchphrase for a product for which the manufacturers can't seem to decide which spin will net the most sales.
And where does that kooky-cool throwback S Pen stylus come in? The Galaxy Note's wand can take screenshots, jot your notes, and respond to pen pressure--all good stuff. Yet, if you never release the S Pen from its snug plastic tunnel, you won't miss out on the Note's essential smartphone features.
So forget worrying about the Galaxy Note as a tablet and think of it as the phone that it is. A good phone, too. If you like the idea of an LTE-ready Galaxy S II device with a high-quality 8-megapixel camera and a huge honking screen for watching movies, reading e-books, or doing other things you might do on a smartphone or a tablet, then this is a great device. If you enjoy the artistic promise of digital sketching, you might likewise keep it in the running. However, if 5.3 inches seems too ungainly for your hands, or if you balk at the thought of spending $299.99 on a smartphone, then leave this one be and seek out its smaller AT&T cousins, the still large Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and the Galaxy S II.
Which Samsung engineer accidentally spilled Miracle-Gro on a Galaxy S II Skyrocket? That's what the Galaxy Note looks like, in the nicest possible way. At 5.8 inches tall by 3.3 inches wide by only 0.37 inch thick, it resembles a shingle with rounded edges, only one that comes in "carbon blue" (which looks black to my eyes) or "ceramic white." I reviewed it in blue.