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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  • StormyParis - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    It's really a matter of taste, and your own size. I'm 6" with large hands, and frankly, adjusting from a 4.3" HD2 to a GNote1 took me half a day.

    I got the same snide remarks I got about my HD2, so I'm sure the fashion police will be able to eat their words with the same gusto in a year or two when that size becomes standard and accepted. I'm using a headset all the time anyway, so I don't get the "shovel stuck to ear" look too often.

    The Gnote fits in my shirt and front pants pockets (I'm too afraid of sitting on it if I put it in the back), I can handle it one-handed (barely). My asian friends can't say the same though ^^
    Reply
  • cserwin - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Not sure if by 6" you meant 6', or you are not talking about height...

    ಠ_ಠ.
    Reply
  • Denithor - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Hahahahaha!!

    Excellent...
    Reply
  • SilthDraeth - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    LOL Reply
  • GTRagnarok - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    So I should consider the size of my package when deciding if I want a Samsung Note. Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    It's all about what you're comfortable with having in your hand... Reply
  • Arbie - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    +10 Reply
  • junglist724 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Hmmm, I'm asian, 5'10" but I have really long fingers(Great for those mandatory music lessons every asian american has to take). I have no problem using a screen that size in one hand for most tasks. Can't wait to pick up the gnote 2 on AT&T. Reply
  • lilmoe - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    It's not only about the size of your hands. Actually, my wife (yes, with very small hands) was eyeing the Note 2 ever since it was announced. Her love for it grew each time she saw a video review or one of those Samsung promotional ads.

    I've tried to convince her otherwise countless times, since I thought it would be unpractical and very hard to manage, especially since her previous Galaxy S2 would slip from her hand and drop on regular basis.

    She has one now, for almost a week. She describes the device in 5 words; "best phone she ever owned". She loves the screen, battery life, functionality, S-Pen, and call quality/reception. She doesn't want a tablet anymore, I guess that says something.

    There's something about the Galaxy Note series that makes you either love it or hate it, and for those who love it, they do with a passion. I personally think it's a great phone, but it would have to be the ONLY phone on my carrier for me to consider one.... Oh well, at least the device have taken a good chunk of her "free time" that otherwise would have me in focus, lol.
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    As a 44yr old, I'm getting my phones purely on screen size (and still zooming in quite a bit...). It's nice to see a reviewer able to put himself in others' shoes for once ^^ Screen legibility in bright light *and* at night, for which AMOLED is very good, are also important. LCDs glow in the dark in the worst way.

    I have a Note1, and I'm so happy with it I think I'll skip the 2, especially since the 3 should come around ext summer. Review such as this one make me hitch, though.
    Reply

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