Battery life testing is usually the single most time-consuming part of smartphone reviews at the moment. As noted in the iPhone 5 review, we’ve changed up our battery life test completely based on what we learned from both previous versions and to help get some aspects under control where OEMs were doing aggressive caching even when they weren’t supposed to. The result is this new test which we feel is pretty balanced but still challenging enough to be relevant for a while.

The basic overview is the same as the previous test — we load webpages at a fixed interval until the handset dies, with display set at exactly 200 nits as always. The test is performed over both cellular data and WiFi. The new test has decreased pause time between web page loads and a number of JavaScript-heavy pages. I sat down with some UMTS RRC (Radio Resource Control) emulator tools and also made sure we had a good balance of all the RRC states (DCH, PCH if possible, FACH, IDLE) so we weren’t heavily biased towards one mode or the other. There’s a lot that went into this, but again the pretense is the same.

Since I have the T-Mobile version of the Galaxy Note 2 I couldn’t test LTE battery life. However, T-Mobile runs DC-HSPA+ which is two 5 MHz wide WCDMA carriers aggregated together, so the result is a receive path that looks vaguely similar to 10 MHz FDD-LTE with the same wide LNAs lit up. Of course on the transmit side DC-HSPA+ is still just a single WCDMA carrier for uplink. At the same time as we’ve shown in previous testing the LTE battery life with this new generation of handsets is often better than the equivalent on 3G since the handset can get back into an idle radio resource state quicker for the same workload.

Galaxy Note 2 also has a positively gargantuan battery, at 11.8 watt-hours. This is the largest I’ve seen yet in a smartphone. For comparison the previous Galaxy Note shipped a 9.25 watt-hour battery, and Galaxy S 3 went with around an 8 watt-hour battery. Powering all that display definitely requires the biggest electron tank the design and form factor can possibly afford.

I should also mention that I’m running the previous generation Galaxy Note through the new test, but it isn’t complete in time for the review. I’ll add that data in at a later date as soon as it is complete. The same applies to the call test, which is starting to become an unwieldy test at around 12 hours for most new phones. Update: I've added in WiFi and 3G battery life testing results for the AT&T Galaxy Note. 

Let’s start with WiFi however, where we let the client decide on either 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz depending on its own priority.

AT Smartphone Bench 2013: Web Browsing Battery Life (WiFi)

Galaxy Note 2 does pretty well here considering everything it has to deal with, huge battery and the combination of latest WiFi combo chip silicon (still BCM4334) helps the Note 2 last nearly 8.5 hours. This is longer than even the SGS3 in the same test.

AT Smartphone Bench 2013: Web Browsing Battery Life (3G/4G LTE)

On T-Mobile DC-HSPA+ the Note 2 also does pretty well, it’s in the upper third of our results, still above the SGS3, and among other phones I subjectively consider to have great battery life on cellular like the One X (8960). I suspect if I had been able able to get the Note 2 on AT&T LTE (more on that later) we’d see even better run time thanks again to the race to idle advantage that you get with the faster air interface.

My call test isn’t done, but from the data I have already, I would extrapolate out a 15 hour call run time for the Note 2. Coincidentally this is exactly the specced call time. I’m not making a graph based on extrapolated data though, that’ll have to wait for at least one fully completed run without interruption.

Overall the Note 2 has battery life which isn’t compromised by the presence of fast air interfaces or huge AMOLED display, even at 200 nits which is usually a challenge. In my time with the Galaxy Note 2 out and about I wasn’t want for a charger or top up once, even with Dropbox set to auto upload photos as I captured them which usually nukes devices even with the most impressive of stamina. Again I fully expect that the handset on other carriers with LTE will last even longer than the numbers I managed to get out of the Note 2 on T-Mobile DC-HSPA+.

The Platform and Performance - Exynos 4412 S Pen and Samsung's Take on Android 4.1
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  • barry spock - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    The longer I spend think about my own subjective limitations, the more I realise that the products from anyone but apple aren't getting a fair go.
    And this one's an interesting product to attempt to not pigeonhole. I'd think of it more as a media device than a phone. And so does the rest of south korea, as I watch them using these things on the subway -- they watch tv on them. They make calls using earbuds -- not holding a thing this size to their heads. And they rarely put it in their pockets -- it goes in a handbag (or a manbag)
    The bit about it not fitting in the F-150's "big Gulp" plastic cup holder speaks volumes about the culture it was written in.

    Different cultures will use these devices differently. I imagine Samsung won't fret if this isn't taken up in droves in the US, because after all, there's always china.

    Also, Anand, et al. *please* give us the ability to mod-down thoughtless comments such as the first one attached to this article.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    Please give us the power to wipe out the idiots who are stupid enough to double post, as if their comments are better than others comments, and as if we need to see them. Reply
  • Paulman - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    "One of the biggest factors young tech reviewers like myself forget is that visual acuity does diminish with age as the crystalline lens loses its ability to flex and accommodate, thus reducing how close one can focus."

    Ha ha, this is an optical engineer's way of explaining that old(er) people need reading glasses :P I had to wikipedia this, but apparently the medical term is "Presbyopia" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presbyopia

    Can't wait for the next episode of the Anandtech Podcast, Brian!
    Reply
  • galaxynotetoo - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Every feature that Galaxy Note 2 has, can be found in bigger screen tablets expect for the ability to make calls. The other big screens cost fraction of what Galaxy Note 2 costs. eg : 199 for Google Nexus, 329 for iPad mini. Why pay $700 for this crap Galaxy note 2 ? Reply
  • Visual - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Firstly, the obvious thing - to make calls. Duh.

    Secondly, no, it's not every feature. Pressure sensitive active pen digitizer is not found on any other current ARM tablet, and is a serious plus for some applications, i.e. drawing or even just handwriting. There's a reason it is called Note.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    You really created an account here just to say that? :|

    Miniaturisation doesn't come cheap. Fact is, though, they're probably taking decent margins on this too. We can thank Apple for setting up that pricing expectation and capitalism for making sure every other company follows suit.
    Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Been the first phone I've been excited about hitting sprint since the Palm Pre.

    Soon as it's available it will be replacing the launch Pre I'm still using.
    Reply
  • liffey - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    "Switching back and forth between the stylus and fingers for using the basic Android interactions is annoying"

    Um you do know that you can invoke the menu and back command with the S Pen, right? Hold the button and swipe left for "back", and swipe up for "menu" (while holding the button, of course).
    Reply
  • 996GT2 - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    iPhone 5 screen resolution is 1136 x 640, not 1136 x 960 as listed in the table. Reply
  • cokata - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    the razr i has been mentioned and benched here and in the ip5 review and at least on the cpu side of things it looks like the only good competition to the A6 Reply

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