Samsung Galaxy Note vs Samsung Galaxy S2 – Whatphone’s in depth comparison

Samsung Galaxy Note vs Samsung Galaxy S2 – Introduction

They look like copies of each other, one just larger than the other.

But the Galaxy S2 has been stunning the market for over a year now, far longer than the Note. It was last year’s hero Android handset.

Samsung Galaxy Note vs Samsung Galaxy S2

The Note is the Galaxy family’s far larger form factor mobile phone.

They’re both great Smartphones but, aside from the obvious size difference, what are the major factors that would influence a Whatphone visitor this way or that in deciding what phone is right for them ?

Samsung Galaxy Note vs Samsung Galaxy S2 – Overview

Whatphone has taken a look at the key features and specifications.

Probably more importantly, I have made it my business to spend more than a week with each of these as the devices.

I used them for everything so I could pass on how it feels to be in the real world using these products.

Let’s open the kimono and take a look at two of Samsung’s best in a head to head comparison.

Samsung Galaxy Note vs Samsung Galaxy S2  – What’s different

To begin with, the first thing I notice putting them side by side is that the Note feels heavier and slightly higher quality compared to the reasonably ‘plastic’ feel of the Samsung Galaxy S2.

  • Screen :
    The screen is the major difference between the two units.The Galaxy Note has a 5.3 inch, 800 x 1280 HD Super AMOLED screen. That’s the same resolution as you get in some tablets ! It’s a stunner of a screen. So big and beautiful that I honestly, can’t stop looking at it. Browsing is impressive – there’s so much on the screen it doesn’t feel like you’re using a smartphone. Pixel density on the Note is an impressive 285 ppi. The screen on the Galaxy S2 is good by today’s standards but not as jaw dropping as the Note. The S2 has a 4.3 inch ( that was the biggest in market until recently ) 480 x 800 pixel screen – Super AMOLED Plus. That gives it a pixel density of 200 or so. To the trained observer, there is a small amount of pixilation seen sometimes on the S2’s screen. Side by side, there’s a real noticeable difference between the quality of what you’re looking at with the Note coming out on top. However, both are great. The Samsung screen’s bring colors to life. They’re bright, vivid, clear and fantastic.

Samsung Galaxy Note vs Sansung Galaxy S2 Side Crop

  • Size :
    To accommodate the different screen, the size of the Note had to be substantially increased. The Note is a full 2 cm taller than the S2 and more than 1.5 cm wider ( than the Nexus ). As I’ve said elsewhere, the Note doesn’t actually feel that big when it’s being used as a primary device. The size barrier is more an imagined one. However, next to the S2, the difference in physical dimensions really leaps out. The bigger screen provides more real estate for typing on the Note and the keyboard is very usable. I prefer the Samsung keyboard to the HTC default install so the Galaxy S2 is fine but with keys so large, it’s kind of hard to mistype anything on the Note.

Samsung Galaxy Note vs Samsung Galaxy S2 Back Crop

  • Weight :
    The Note is more than 50% heavier than the S2. The Galaxy S2 is among the lightest of all the Smartphones in market right now, weighing only 116 grams – the same as the mid tier HTC 1S. The Note is the heaviest of the Whatphone top 7 ( we only show the top 7 devices, those that more than 90% of people buy. )  It weighs in at 178 grams. I’ve always said that the Note is easy to carry and forget about but compared to the featherweight S2 which you forget about when it’s tucked away in your pocket, the Note is definitely heavier. The weight difference can’t be ignored in proximity to such a light opponent.
  • Battery :
    There is an enormous battery in the Note and it helps extend the life of the product. The S2’s battery is fine but the Note’s is better. I found on one occasion when I didn’t plug the Note in overnight, I got to half way through my next day before I had to charge it again which is far more than I’d expect from any Smartphone – let alone one with a screen this big.


Samsung Galaxy Note vs Samsung Galaxy S2.

What’s the same ?

Everything else is around the same.

  • Both have Dual core processors:
    They’re super fast. The S2 has Dual core 1.2 GHz processors. The Note has Dual 1.4 GHz processors. The S2 never hesitates, even under the extra load of the Samsung Touchwiz User Interface. Against it, the Note does seem to take longer, to be less agile when I’m whizzing around the menu items. The lower resolution of the Galaxy S2 seems to mean there’s less for the device think about.
  • Memory :
    Both come with 16 GB installed. That’s about the minimum if you ask me, even for a low end user. However, both have one of my favorite characteristics of the Galaxy family and allow the addition of additional memory if you want to get yourself down Dick Smith and buy a couple of SD cards. This flexibility puts the power in the hands of the user and all Smartphones should allow this.
  • Both have 8 MP cameras and they both take good enough shots with them. The camera is identical in both phones. Both take High definition video at 1080 / 30 FPS ( Frames Per Second. ) The Galaxy S2 that I have at Whatphone is running Gingerbread ( Android 2.3 ) but I am told the newer ones with Ice Cream Sandwich have more camera features. I can’t endorse that combination of device / OS myself – I’ve never experienced it.

Samsung Galaxy Note vs Samsung Galaxy S2 – other influences

  • Both products run the Android Operating System.
    Both have the Samsung TouchWiz User Interface layer sitting on top of it. Later releases of the Galaxy S2, the ones you’d get if you bought a new S2 now, include the Android ICS – Ice Cream Sandwich ( with those camera software improvements I mentioned ) which will appeal to users who want the latest and the greatest. The most common capabilities that I use every day were available on the Note’s Android 2.3 Gingerbread so I don’t think that should sway your choice. We’re told ICS will be made available for the Note at some point.
  • Stylus :
    The note comes shipped with a stylus which neatly fits up in to the body. It’s a lovely piece of kit and you’ll enjoy playing with it. But not for long. That’s all it is really, playing with it. The stylus seemed to me a bit of a gimmick and not precise enough to be of practical use beyond messing around with it.

Samsung Galaxy Note vs Samsung Galaxy S2 – summing up

Comparing the Samsung Galaxy Note vs Samsung Galaxy S2 is chalk and cheese.

They’re in the same Galaxy family but they’re designed for very different users.

They’re also available on very different price points.

The Note is probably the better device. The screen is breathtaking. But, if I was asked to pick a favorite, I’d choose the Galaxy S2. It’s an amazing product, even now, well after it’s launch. It’s affordable, versatile, super light, fast and a great all rounder. It even runs Android 4.0 now !

And if you have either of these 2 products and think I’ve missed the point or misrepresented something you think is really important, then drop me a line through the Whatphone ‘get in touch’ section.

Sept ’12

Written by:
Kurt Hands

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.