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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  • royalcrown - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    ...says the person with the ugliest avatar... Reply
  • leo jacsion - Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - link

    Preservance a professional <a href=" http://preservancetech.com/our-services/web-design... Designing</a> company based in the capital city of India that offers various services for website designing from a static website to CMS driven website to any open source website development to complete e-commerce site to travel portal. Reply
  • dyc4ha - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the great article, I am currently considering an upgrade but didnt include the phablets among my choices because of their size. Now I am willing to go put it back on the table. Reply
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Likewise, thanks for the great review, Brian. This phone has been on my upgrade short list and I can't wait to take it for a spin in a store soon. I've tried the Note and the SIII but I definitely need to see how the two meld together, as it were. :-)

    I wish the numbers for cellular browsing were a little higher, since that's my primary use for a phone and I want to know I can get a full day out of a phone without compromise. I don't know if my Atrix 4G just has really crummy battery life, or if I have unreasonable expectations for smartphones...

    I'm also really curious now that you've mentioned the HDR stills...I do enjoy the convenience of taking pictures with a device I always have on me, and just last weekend I really wished I had something with more dynamic range. If the HDR feature works well, that would be another strong mark in it's favor.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I've been using a Note 2 in the UK for a couple of weeks now - it routinely lasts for 2 days with all radios and GPS left enabled, a couple of hours worth of browsing, a little gameplay (World of Goo, nothing too stressful), some voice use and a lot of texting. It's currently at 66% after coming off charge at 8am, time now is 10pm. I'm writing this on it now.

    Point is, it lasts very well! I'm a little surprised by the unexceptional battery life readings in the charts here, but I suspect it's disproportionately affected by the relatively dim screen compared with contemporary phones. 200nits is near maximum on this thing, whereas I rarely go above 50% brightness. Not a flaw with the test so much as an advisory that the battery life will probably get hammered in bright ambient lighting. Similarly, mobile reception in the UK tends to be better. I reckon a full day's heavy use is hardly a stretch though!
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I've been using a Note 2 in the UK for a couple of weeks now - it routinely lasts for 2 days with all radios and GPS left enabled, a couple of hours worth of browsing, a little gameplay (World of Goo, nothing too stressful), some voice use and a lot of texting. It's currently at 66% after coming off charge at 8am, time now is 10pm. I'm writing this on it now.

    Point is, it lasts very well! I'm a little surprised by the unexceptional battery life readings in the charts here, but I suspect it's disproportionately affected by the relatively dim screen compared with contemporary phones. 200nits is near maximum on this thing, whereas I rarely go above 50% brightness. Not a flaw with the test so much as an advisory that the battery life will probably get hammered in bright ambient light :)
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Well, that wasn't supposed to end up there. How odd. Reply
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Heh, that's all right. Thanks for the reassurance. :-) I'm pretty sure my Atrix 4G is jacked up; it hardly ever gets to 100% charge and is often at 30% or less by the time I leave work (and it's not like I spend all day dicking around on it).

    There's a lot that I want to like about this phone and I'm hoping I can snag it at something a bit less than $299 subsidized. I'll have to see what happens when it's finally released. And I'll probably have to wait to check out the Lumia 920, which is smaller(?), claims to have an awesome camera(+?), but has a sealed battery(-!)...
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Yeah, that price is rather extortionate! Again, UK pricing, but I paid £60 up-front plus £36 a month for 24 months. It's the most I've ever paid for a phone and probably ever would pay again, but my old Motorola Defy was having similar troubles to your Atrix so I threw caution to the wind.

    That Lumia 920 definitely looks worth a shot too - interesting times for mobile phones right now...
    Reply
  • RealNinja - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    The Note 2 seems like it takes a...phone just a little too big. The "cup holder" fit criteria puts that into perspective fairly well.

    What is most interesting (IMO) about this prioduct is finally getting an Exynos product.
    Reply

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