Cellular

I talked earlier about the Note 2 being the first Samsung handset I know of to include MDM9x15. In the case of the T-Mobile Note 2 I was sampled, the device includes MDM9215 which is capable of category 3 LTE FDD and TDD, Release 9 DC-HSPA+, GSM/EDGE, and TD-SCDMA along with onboard gpsOneGen 8A GNSS. I’ve confirmed that MDM9215 is present without having to disassemble or otherwise tamper with the T-Mobile Galaxy Note 2.

One of the most interesting things about the Galaxy Note 2 on T-Mobile is that it literally is the same hardware as the AT&T Note 2 with LTE. Sure, the model number is different, but the T-Mobile Note 2 includes support for LTE bands 17 (which AT&T uses) and 4 (AWS, which AT&T has specced devices out for and T-Mobile has confirmed it will deploy LTE on). This is to my knowledge the first T-Mobile handset with overt LTE support, and thus a solid future-proof purchase if you’re determined to have a T-Mobile handset that will work with the carrier’s upcoming LTE on AWS plans.

In addition, if you unlock the handset there’s no reason it shouldn’t work on AT&T’s LTE network that I can see. I managed to unlock the T-Mobile Galaxy Note 2 but not before leaving the AT&T LTE market in Dallas. It does however work as expected on WCDMA 1900 in my own market on AT&T after unlocking.

 
ServiceMode showing DC_HSPA+=1 (left), One of my fastest T-Mobile Tests (right)

As usual Samsung’s awesome ServiceMode is on the device and confirms that T-Mobile DC-HSPA+ is working. If you haven’t read discussion of DC-HSPA+ before, this is WCDMA carrier aggregation that combines two 5 MHz WCDMA downlink carriers, statistically multiplexes across them, and effectively doubles throughput on the downlink. That gets you from the theoretical maximum of 21.1 Mbps on 64QAM WCDMA up to 42 Mbps on dual carrier at the moment, which T-Mobile does run in its “4G” markets at present. I’m actually a huge fan of T-Mobile’s commitment to continually rolling out the latest physical layer upgrades for WCDMA and DC-HSPA+ keeps things feeling very speedy when you’re in good coverage and still helps at cell edge. Upstream is still limited to a single WCDMA uplink carrier, but most mobile traffic is so asymmetric to begin with it isn’t a huge deal.

Galaxy Note 2 T-Mobile - Network Support
GSM/EDGE Support 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
UMTS/WCDMA Support 850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 MHz
HSDPA/HSUPA Speeds 42.2 Mbps (DC-HSPA+ Rel9) / 5.76 Mbps
LTE Support Band 17 (700 Lower B+C), 4 (AWS), UE Cat 3 FDD-LTE (Up to 100 Mbps DL)
Baseband Hardware Qualcomm MDM9215 (confirmed) + RTR8600 (?)

Interestingly enough ServiceMode has some hints about there being possibly even more bands, but these are probably for other Galaxy Note 2 variants based on MDM9215 that will pop up or have popped up for other locales.

Running speedtests and outputting the results on the Galaxy Note 2 is more of just a sanity check than something very interesting since we’ve seen dual carrier HSPA+ before. I had to test partially in Dallas, Texas during the Big Android BBQ and partially at home. For whatever reason the conference venue definitely had some T-Mobile propagation issues or loading from all the attendees, but the averages are still decent. I’ve seen speeds around 25 Mbps down on T-Mobile dual carrier HSPA+ which is pretty impressive honestly.

 

Stats Download Throughput (Mbps)
Avg: 8.65, Max: 26.53, Min: 0.10, StDev: 5.60
 
Stats Upload Throughput (Mbps)
Avg: 1.49, Max: 3.56, Min: 0.01, StDev: 0.71
 
Stats Latency (ms)
Avg: 416.30, Max: 2394.00, Min: 57.00, StDev: 563.20

We see a weird double distribution of latency as well since there’s some additional setup and negotiation. I suspect getting out of PCH and into DCH results in some of this T-Mobile behavior when using speedtest.net, because tests without letting the radio go into IDLE have very low follow-up latency.

WiFi

The Note 2 uses BCM4334 for WiFi and is enabled for both 2.4 and 5 GHz. Just like the Galaxy S 3 that means 40 MHz channels on 5 GHz for a maximum physical layer speed of 150 Mbps. I did have some weird issues here, no matter what I did I couldn’t get the Note 2 to go on the 5 GHz AP, or get up to 150 Mbps.

Curiously enough there isn’t any 2.4 or 5 GHz priority toggle under the advanced tab in WiFi settings, yet the Galaxy S 3 models have this toggle and the same WiFi hardware stack. I suspect there’s some software or configuration issue here.

WiFi Performance - iPerf

As a result we see iPerf performance out of the Galaxy Note 2 along the lines of what you’d expect for just 2.4 GHz operation. I’m puzzled as to why this is the case quite honestly.

GNSS

There’s not really too much to say about GNSS on the Galaxy Note 2 other than that like other MDM9x15 based handsets, it leverages Qualcomm’s on-baseband GpsOneGen 8A for both GPS and Russian GLONASS based positioning. Gen 8A includes better LTE coexistence and lower power consumption compared to 8. I tested GNSS and found that locks are speedy and accurate, as expected. I suspect that the days of Samsung phones shipping with flakey GPS are now well behind us.

Display - A new Subpixel Geometry 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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