Using the Note 2 for a week has forever warped my sense of smartphone size. There’s just something incredibly unnerving about picking up a Galaxy S 3 or One X and mentally thinking, ‘wow, this feels really small all of a sudden,’ but such is what the Note 2 has done to me. There’s that ever-present adage about it not always being entirely about size, but in the smartphone space lately it seems as though that conventional wisdom just doesn’t apply, as displays across every OEM’s lineup are getting larger and larger. My friends (whose wits are more keenly sharpened than mine) have been kidding me about the size of the Note 2 since I started using it, making jokes that would probably get me in trouble if recounted here, and Anand usually lets us all get away with quite a bit. I earlier said that the Note 2 is almost like a novelty check of a phone, and just like I’ve always wondered whether people really can cash those novelty checks, I wondered how useable the Note 2 would be as a daily driver. Turns out the answer is that it’s very usable. The TSA didn’t even make me put the Note 2 in a separate bin through the X-Ray when passing through security.


Galaxy Note 2 alongside its predecessor

All jesting aside, the Note 2 is, again, something of a realistic upper bound for device size. This is the extra large that needs to come after large, this is the super big gulp to the big gulp, the stretch limo to just limo. It seems as though wherever you look, large begets at least one more gradation above and beyond, and the Note 2 is that proverbial step in this space. Samsung innovated and took a risk with the original Galaxy Note, and the result was an overwhelming success and huge following. Nailing down the why and how is really something of a market study. 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. In that case, there’s a subconscious (or perhaps very conscious) desire for a phone with the largest display possible simply for the legibility when held at a comfortable distance. That’s my own personal speculation for the trend to larger and larger phones. The other is simply as a status symbol or fashion statement, and that needs no explanation.

From another angle the Note 2 represents basically a mid-cycle refresh of the Galaxy S 3 for customers in the USA. Samsung’s own Exynos 4412 quad core SoC is finally here, something that has been out of grasp unless you imported your own international Galaxy S 3 unlocked and went with HSPA+ 21.1 instead of LTE. That brings me to the second part — greater SoC choice as a result of Qualcomm’s MDM9x15 now being available, as a result of it being natively voice enabled with support for basically every radio access technology deployed right now. Battery life also doesn’t take as big of a hit with either of those big steps thanks to 32nm HKMG and 28nm process nodes respectively.

Finally, for T-Mobile this is a notable step. It isn’t proudly proclaimed on the box or the spec page on T-Mobile’s site but their Note 2 includes LTE support on AWS which makes it relatively future proof when that rolls around. T-Mobile’s pricing for the Note 2 is really quite steep though, at $369 with a two year contract as of this writing, though T-Mobile also priced their Galaxy S 3 higher than other carriers initially, and other carriers are proposing $299 with two year contract for the Note 2. It is clear however that the Note 2 is going to be positioned in its own pricing tier.

When I was using the original Note, it was one of the few Android devices I’ve ever used which solicited many questions and discussions in public. With the Note 2, the form factor is still fresh and different, and as a result I strongly suspect it will likely get the same kind of curious attention that will help move units. S Pen also makes the Note 2 different from the rest, and the improvements Samsung has made to the active digitizer and input with S Note have elevated my impression of the Note platform from a notetaking perspective considerably.

I’ve enjoyed using the Note 2 considerably. Who knows, I very well might move my personal T-Mobile SIM from one of the smallest smartphones on the market right now, to the largest.

Speakerphone and Noise Suppression
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  • djpavcy - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Brian, as others have pointed out there must be something wrong with your battery tests. All the other reviews on the net show much better performance than what you see which makes sense - this phone has a quite large battery. Maybe you have a defective unit? Reply
  • Vinas - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    There's a reason ford put a rubber tray on the dash - it's for your GN2! At least that's where I put mine while I drive (until I buy a dash mount for it). The GN2 is a bad ass phone, and maybe the novelty of the device has not worn off yet (got it yesterday at release) but I mean, there is something to be said for having the world's most powerful smartphone in your hands! haha eat it suckers Reply
  • khanikun - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    I was probably one of the few thousands of ppl who bought the Dell 5" Streak when they first came out and gigantic phones....not all that great. I got away from them, only for a bajillion other phones to get big. Reply
  • fate_accompli - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    Well, thanks for that, Dr. Freud.

    In my own case, I'm getting the Note 2 because IT TAKES NOTES!!
    Imagine that !? One of the things it was designed for! The big screen
    also makes it easier to stab icons with my bigass finger. Also, movies
    look cooler with bigger screens- it's why people buy bigger screens for
    their home theaters...same principle.

    Nothing subconscious about it. Otherwise, a very nice review.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    Exactly, it fits the small package, big guns, PC insanity clack, which of course every idiot spews incessantly, ignoring the other reality that actually is a fact that the big gun in the big bad ghetto everywhere is toted by the big black packaged...

    So much for the small minded retards parading around as the cultural elite minded peak of our society.
    Reply
  • jwhyrock - Saturday, October 27, 2012 - link

    I know I'm going to enjoy using the Note 2 more than a smaller device which is the primary concern for me. I currently have the Samsung Vibrant (Galaxy S1) so I'm going to see a huge performance increase just having current technology.

    I'm not g33k enough to fully wrap my head around each test that was run. I did see a pattern of the iphone 5 and Droid beating out other phones in the testing. I intensely dislike Apple as a company and find the iphone on the whole to be uninspiring.

    Winning on some of the benchmarks isn't going to persuade me to ditch the Note 2.

    I wonder if the author or anyone else can put in perspective the overall performance between Note 2 and higher performing devices. Is it a noticeable or just a benchmark number?
    Reply
  • Anon - Sunday, October 28, 2012 - link

    Why oh why it's always missing the audio chip report? I need to know whether the US version will retain the Wolfson chip . Reply
  • hemanthj - Monday, October 29, 2012 - link

    If I would buy the USA version of Note 2. Will I be able to use the LTE outside US in Asia and Europe. Or I need to buy the Note 2 International version for that. Reply
  • bellasys - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    While T-Mobile is not generally considered primo, I had the opportunity to understand just how fine their network was while supporting network services for AT&T during the Cingular merger. At that time, our company had a division which provided similar services for T-Mobile, and I got the inside track from my buddies.

    So, I really respect the author giving credit where it's due, and writing about a feature such as DC-HSPA+ which techs like me might care about. It reminds me of T-1 modem bonding before Y2K. Big kudos on this point.

    Although I can't say this one feature would be enough to make me switch- no single carrier can do it all.

    Great and informative article. Thanks :)
    Reply
  • garrun - Friday, November 02, 2012 - link

    I have a Samsung GS3 and have been pretty unhappy with it for one, annoying reason. When I use it in my car (Infiniti G37, but I've heard the same problem exists in others, including Ford Sync) I have two problems. First, if bluetooth is enabled, it takes preference for audio input, such that I can't use S-Voice (S3's SIri equivalent) to send text, plays songs, use maps... anything). My car doesn't support music over bluetooth, so I plug in to the headphone jack when listening to books or music. When THAT happens, the line out trumps the bluetooth for audio priority, and I can't even use bluetooth for phone calls. The net effect is that I can't use voice commands while driving at all, unless I unplug the line out and disable BT. The other effect is that if I am listening to music or books, and I get a call, I have to reach over and yank out the audio cable in order to take the call. I had to buy off contract, so I paid about $600 for this thing, and these are not problems I've had with my previous Android phones or with iPhones, and I don't understand why I didn't see them mentioned in any reviews.

    This all brings me to my point here - I'm thinking of selling my GS3 and getting a Note 2 or maybe an HTC 8X - can anyone here or at Anand confirm if these problems exist in those devices? Does anyone else share my pain with the GS3? Why is this not a bigger deal in the tech media?
    Reply

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