So I have a confession to make. What seems like an eternity ago, I received a Galaxy Note review unit for AT&T, but never quite finished my review. While the reasons for that were no fault of the device and rather the result of some other personal failings, I spent a lot of time with the original Note really trying to size up the experience of using the world’s first smartphone that crossed over into tablet territory — a so-called “phablet.” If anything, the original Galaxy Note drove home for me just how dangerous it can be to make conclusions about a handset or mobile device before you’ve held it in your hands. 

There’s this constant tug of war in the tech space between making a quick conclusion based on what evidence and data is laid out before you, and waiting a week, a few weeks, or even a month and then writing in hindsight looking back how the whole experience turned out. In the smartphone space, the pace is even more rapid with week long review cycles or shorter, and thus we see many trying to draw conclusions based on form factor, display size, and lots of speculation. For me, the original Galaxy Note roughly defined an upper bound for mobile devices that are still ultimately pocketable, and I was surprised just how easy it was to grow accustomed to. The original S Pen showed up right around the height of the draw something app craze, and the result was a ton of attention to a device that many initially criticized for its size and inclusion of stylus.

The story today however is about the Galaxy Note 2, which I’ve been using for one solid week now. Subtract out the time spent battery life testing, and it’s really only a few days, but my experiences and thoughts about the Note 2 really mirror those that solidified with the original Note and the Note 2’s smaller sibling, the Galaxy S 3. It’s an upper bound for smartphone size, but ultimately the right one, if your pockets can handle it.

I like to start reviews with aesthetics since first impressions are critical, and here the Galaxy Note 2 unsurprisingly shares industrial design language very closely with the Samsung Galaxy S 3. Compared to the original Note, the Note 2 has even larger radii rounded edges, and the same water droplet slash polished river stone shape of the Galaxy S 3.

Like the Galaxy S 3, Samsung has managed to get the hardware home button and three-button layout in general on US devices. I was sampled a T-Mobile Galaxy Note 2, but this appears to be the case across the board for the Note 2. On the front it’s easy to see the similarities between those two devices — they share the same front facing camera, ambient light sensor, and notification LED positions, and at the bottom the same three-button organization with a physical home button. Display size has also increased from 5.3-inches diagonal to 5.5 inches diagonal with the Note 2, and resolution is now 1280x720, more on that in a moment in the display section however.


Galaxy Note 2 (left), Galaxy Note (right)

The outer lip of the Galaxy Note 2 is the only real departure from the industrial design set by the Galaxy S 3, as this isn’t the somewhat faux-brushed looking plastic material with a varnish layer on top, but instead a scratchy chrome. I know there are big cultural differences associated with the appeal of this chrome ring, but I really wish the Note 2 had done away with it or at least made it less tacky like the Galaxy S 3 managed.

Samsung continues locating the microUSB port at the bottom, and to the right of that is the larger improved S-Pen which we’ll talk about in a moment. The rest of the buttons I don’t really even need to talk about, they’re standard Samsung fare in both placement and feel, which is great.

Side by side with the original Note not too much has changed at a high level, except the Note 2 is slightly taller, narrower, and thinner. The original Note felt very square to me, the Note 2 feels much more like a blown up Galaxy S 3.

Samsung continues to be one of the last remaining OEMs stalwart about including a removable battery door which covers the battery, microSIM, and microSD card. The microSD support goes to SDXC standard, which means up to 64 GB cards are accepted in the Note 2. Battery also gets a significant boost, with both cell chemistry going from 3.7 to 3.8V, and overall capacity in mAh from 2500 to 3100 mAh. The result is an effective capacity boost from 9.25 watt-hours to 11.78 watt-hours, almost 30 percent larger.

The Note 2 likewise comes with a lineup of flip covers that replace the battery door completely and have a soft lint-free felt material that cleans and protects the display, and a pleather top side. I grew accustomed to using Galaxy S 3 this way, and seeing it continue to the Note 2 is definitely welcome. Samsung gets the value of having a consolidated accessory lineup, and the Note 2 continues that by making the flip covers compatible with all the Note 2s the same way the flip covers were interchangeable between international and USA variants of the Galaxy S 3.


Galaxy Note 2 with flip cover open (left), Galaxy Note (right)

There are a total of seven flip cover colors to choose from this time around. In addition Samsung also has started making a first party protective cover with rubber around the edge that is designed to protect against impacts and drops. I wasn’t sampled one but did get a chance to play with one, and it looked decently beefy.

The Galaxy Note 2 I was sampled was the Marble White variant, though there’s also a Titanium Gray model. In addition Samsung is banking on users to buy flip covers to change the primary exterior color of their device if they so choose.

Using a 'Phablet'
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  • HanakoIkezawa - Friday, November 16, 2012 - link

    I haven't had this problem with my note or with my sister's iphone4s with the Kia soul. have you tried going to the store to see i it defective or tried to see if it fails to work with other cars?

    I do agree that some kind of Bluetooth testing would be nice to see with future reviews
    Reply
  • abhi.12 - Friday, November 09, 2012 - link

    what is the response of galaxy note 2 with other languages like hindi. I am searching for a device in which i can take notes in hindi. Is it responsive enough to write. Reply
  • Random Guy99 - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    That the iPhone 5 is more powerful and has better battery life than the note 2 despite it having a battery 3 times larger and a quad core chip. The A6 must have far superior architecture and you can see how far optimisation goes and googles lack of it. I guess that's the problem that is bound to happen when one company doesn't make both hardware and software. Reply
  • MichaelEvans - Monday, December 24, 2012 - link

    Just got a new Samsung Galaxy Note 2! Am thrilled!! I have a graphics design salon in New York and use it to doodle ideas while on the go. Then because I'm on AT&T's 4GLTE I send the doodles to myself at home and it’s very cool. Reply
  • anhminh1232002 - Tuesday, January 01, 2013 - link

    Hello everyone

    The G-sensor doesn't seem to work when the screen is off.
    I am using Note 2 Galaxy Samsung.
    I tried Justflip to flip to turn on the screen. The screen wasn't on at all.
    Please tell me if the is a fix for this bug.

    Thank you.
    Reply
  • mgrant - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    S-Note is pretty nice looking, and as you say OneNote is feature rich and you've got lots of content in it which you can get at if you install the OneNote Mobile app on your phone.

    But what about creating notes using the pen in S-Note? Is there some way to say store those notes in a Dropbox and get at them on the laptop? What would you edit them in? So far, about the only thing I've found is that you can export an image (pdf or jpeg) of the S-note note into dropbox and view the static image on your desktop. That's not so useful.

    Is there anything out there that lets one have notes across platforms, that can use the pen, and preferably stores stuff in my existing dropbox account rather than making me pay yet another cloud storage service?

    There's Evernote, but it doesn't work directly with S-Note. You can export a static image into Evernote as a sort of final resting place for the note, but this is unfulfilling at best.
    Reply
  • Amit kumar - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    Yeah its amazing device. It is taller, leaner, lighter with shinier packs. I got all statistics about this phone this site as well. www.gadtecho.com Reply
  • Hanna - Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - link

    How much does it cost? Reply
  • Hanna - Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - link

    I mean the Galaxy note 2 or 3 Reply
  • Hanna - Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - link

    My mum does not want to buy 700 euros. So ...
    What should I do? How can I persuade my mum to it? HELP??!! PLEASE REPLY
    Reply

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