So, what about that stylus? Is it a godsend or a gimmick?
Samsung calls it the S Pen, and it tucks discreetly into the lower right corner of the phone's chassis. When inserted all the way, the stylus is completely flush with the edge of the phone, and there seems to be no way it could slide or get pulled out by accident. You will, however, need a serviceable fingernail for extraction. Pianists and overly stressed individuals may take issue with that requirement, but everyone else should be happy.
The S Pen is just over four inches long and very thin, so maneuvering it requires some dexterity. The slickness of the touchscreen's glass surface doesn't help matters at all. Neither does the fact that you can't steady your hand by resting it on the screen, because the phone will register that as input. Then there's the issue of input lag, which is very much noticeable when you're trying to write or sketch something quickly.
At the very least, using the S Pen requires practice and dedication. At worst, it may feel frustrating and pointless.
Frankly, I don't see much of an upside. Samsung's included S Memo app lets you jot down notes and doodle, but it doesn't translate handwriting into text. A handwriting recognition button does appear next to the space bar on the on-screen keyboard, but the handwriting input pane that comes up only recognizes one word at a time. Also, whether writing in cursive or print, I found the handwriting recognition to be very much hit or miss. Unless you lack a pair of functional thumbs, typing is going to be considerably quicker.
As for doodling, well, that's always enjoyable, but I found the aforementioned input lag and display slickness ruined the fun somewhat. You just don't have the accuracy that you do when sketching on paper.
Battery life and other knick knacks
Considering the phone's large display, fast processor, size, and weight, I didn't have particularly high expectations about the Galaxy Note's battery life. The device didn't surprise me.
When left almost completely untouched, with Wi-Fi and 4G enabled but Bluetooth turned off, the Note ran out of juice in about a day and a half. When I made use of it more often—mostly browsing the web, downloading and trying out apps, watching YouTube videos, and the like—battery life got down to less than 24 hours.
This is one of those phones you're pretty much going to want to charge every night. Users who make a lot of voice calls, play a lot of games, or need to use the phone as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot will probably want to keep the charger cord handy and maybe buy a spare battery, as well. Thankfully, unlike Apple with its iDevices, Samsung gives users unfettered access to the Galaxy Note's lithium-ion battery compartment. Swapping batteries in the middle of the work day shouldn't be a big deal.
Before we render our verdict, let's talk briefly about the accessories Samsung throws in the box. You've got a USB-to-Micro USB charging cord, a USB-to-AC adapter (which can pair up with the aforementioned cable when there's no powered USB port nearby), and some in-ear headphones with spare earbud tips. The headphones have a remote with a little built-in microphone, volume control, and mute/call-answer buttons, just as one might expect.
The earbuds offer passable audio quality with music—there's just enough bass, but mids and highs sound a little compressed. There's next to no bleeding, though, so you can crank up the volume without having to worry about bothering the people around you. Of course, as with any phone sporting a standard 3.5-mm jack, you're free to use your own earbuds.