The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 must have been the result of years of work from Samsung's everything-and-the-kitchen-sink division. This all singing, all dancing phone-tablet-phablet-thing is a monster: its sprawling 5.5-inch HD display makes two handed use mandatory, while a quad-core 1.6GHz processor does overtime powering the latest version of Google's super fast Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean".
That extra large shell also houses an eight megapixel camera and a stylus once again for digital doodling on the go; there's also a 4G version coming to EE on 15 October, though for this review we got to grips with the 3G flavour.
Last year's Samsung Galaxy Note was something of a surprising hit: it sold tens of millions, proving that many people really do want a smartphone on steroids.
The 2012 sequel is as scorchingly fast as the Samsung Galaxy S3, with the same, dazzling, sharp Super AMOLED screen technology, and a crisp, speedy camera only surpassed by the iPhone 5’s, and an enormous 3,100mAh battery that got us through more than a day and a half of constant use. That display makes it a stunning media player for carrying on the go, and you can even pipe out video to a TV if you pick up a separate MHL adapter - they’re not much these days.
This year's edition is even bigger, but it's a good thing. You just have to get used to it. You have two ways to use the 9.4mm thick Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and if you don't like them, there's not much you can do - Samsung's "one-hand mode" options in the settings do very little. You can type and surf with two hands - you can't reach the whole screen otherwise - or you can hold it it one hand and use a stylus with the other, notepad style.
This is where the Galaxy Note 2 really comes into its own: the stylus is a sensation. It’s comfortable to hold, responsive, comes with a button to help you take screenshots of any size or area, and even sets off an alarm if you walk away from it with your phone so you don’t lose it.
It’s been beautifully integrated into Android, too. Pop it out, and you can start drawing using Samsung’s app. The screen can even sense the stylus a few millimetres above the screen, letting you preview events and messages in Samsung’s calendar and email apps. It’s pressure sensitive too, which can be handy when you’re sketching away.
Most of all though, it serves as a super fast way to navigate Android: the OCR text recognition makes writing quick search terms on the screen much faster than typing them out with two hands. If you’re happy to use device that makes calls this way, you’ll soon fall in love with it.
Aside from the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, which could technically make calls, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is the biggest touchscreen mobile phone in history. It's absolutely massive, and while many techies will love the extra space, it does make it a somewhat niche device.
For every person spellbound by its video skills on the 8.04 from Welwyn Garden City, there'll be nine who'll be embarrassed just to answer calls on the thing: it's as large as your face, after all.
If you prefer being able to use your phone with just one hand - as you can an iPhone 5, say - or just like to hold long conversations with friends, stay away. The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a phone to be used as a phone in worst case scenarios only.
Android 4.1 has also made a couple of Samsung's exclusive tricks that first debuted on the Galaxy S3 a little bit redundant. Samsung's S-Voice app, a voice assistant much like Siri for iPhone, seems a bit pointless now that you can use Google Now to ask many of the same things - and get better results. But it's hard to complain when you don't need to use the app if you don't want to.
The bottom line
Yes, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is absurdly large, and yes, using it may make you look like a walking Dom Joly sketch. But if you use your phone as a computer more than a means to make calls these days, boy, are you going to love this beast.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is fast, it's powerful, it's super fast, with software as smart as all the technology crammed inside. It's not for everyone, but for the gadget fiend slash commuter, it's the best Christmas present money can buy.