The screen is a generous 5.5-inches, which is 0.2-inches larger than the first generation device. It has a 1280-by-720 pixel resolution and streaming YouTube videos looked great on the display.
The phone is powered by a quad-core 1.6GHz processor and runs Android 4.1. There was no problem switching between applications and the device seemed very responsive in the few minutes I had time to use it.
With an improved processor and screen, Samsung also upgraded the battery from 2500 to 3100 mAh. Whether or not it actually extends the battery life of the device remains to be seen.
One of the biggest criticisms when the Galaxy Note came out last year was the addition of a stylus. Many likened it to Palm Pilots, which had their heyday in the '90s, but I found the stylus, called the S Pen, surprisingly useful. It's now thicker than its predecessor and stows in the bottom corner of the device. It had a good heft to it and was more than a piece of flimsy plastic. As soon as you pop it out, the device registers it and certain stylus-driven functions are enabled. When you hover the S Pen a few millimeters from the screen, you can preview emails, calendar entries or videos.
There's a single button on the S Pen, which can be used to cut out images, text, or just about anything in any application and save it to your gallery or text it to a friend.
If you leave the stylus behind, the Galaxy Note II will start to vibrate, reminding you to retrieve the pen.
Of course, you don't always need to use the S Pen, as the Note II can be touch-driven as well.
The Galaxy Note II will start shipping in October, beginning with Europe and Asia.