I took a look at the Samsung Galaxy Note over the last couple weeks and fell in love with the device. I ordered the AT&T model, that was the one I reviewed, but cancelled it before it arrived and went with the GSM international model instead. My buddy Kevin Tofel from GigaOM is debating which model to buy and I think there may be many in the mobile community who are trying to make the decision about which is best so I though I would offer my take on the two models and show how they compare.
International GSM Galaxy Note, GT-N7000
The international GSM Galaxy Note went on sale starting in October in Germany and can be purchased through importers such as Amazon for $575+. This actually isn't a bad price for an unlocked large screen device that comes with no contract obligation. It doesn't support T-Mobile USA's 3G data so it really is only useful on AT&T or via a WiFi connection. Since I don't have AT&T, I went ahead and purchased a Straight Talk SIM and a month of service that gives me unlimited talk, text, and data for $45. I can confirm that this SIM works fine with HSPA+ on AT&T and so far I am seeing download speeds of about 4 Mbps.
Pros of the GT-N7000
Dual-core 1.4Ghz Exynos processor (Samsung's own processor)
No AT&T bloatware
Central physical home button, serves to unlock device too
No contract price is lower than AT&T no contract price
Cons of the GT-N7000
No support for LTE in the USA
No support for T-Mobile 3G data
No NFC radio
AT&T Galaxy Note, SGH-I717
The AT&T Galaxy Note can be purchased in Carbon Blue or Ceramic White for just $250 on Amazon Wireless, which is a great deal if you don't mind paying the $80+ a month for the next two years on AT&T.
Pros of the SGH-I717
Subsidized price on Amazon of $249 for new customers
Support in the US, if ever needed
NFC and T-Mobile HSPA+ can fairly easily be enabled
Accessories on the Samsung site are for this model
LTE support, if you have AT&T coverage
Cons of the SGH-I717
No physical hardware button
Non-subsidized price is higher than international version ($649 to 749)
Lots of AT&T bloatware is preinstalled
1.5 GHz Snapdragon dual-core (tested to be slower than Exynos processor)
FM radio removed
Limited access to Samsung apps
Why I went with the international version and one caution for you
One of the reasons I purchased my own Galaxy Note was the amazing updated S-Pen features included in the upcoming Premium Suite update that also includes ICS. I figure the international one will get the update much faster than the AT&T one. I also LOVE the physical hardware button since it makes unlocking it much easier than using he power button on the upper right. I also did not want a contract and found this one a bit cheaper. My only real reasons for hesitating is the lack of NFC support and the fact I can't hack it to get T-Mobile 3G working.
One thing to keep in mind if you purchase a Galaxy Note is that the back panel of the Note is different between each of these two models and thus the Samsung Flip Cover must be purchased for your specific model. I bought an orange one from Amazon, but it doesn't fit the international model so I had to send it back and find another one on ebay. The clip size and openings are different between the two models.