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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  • 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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