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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  • 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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