Using the Note 2 for a week has forever warped my sense of smartphone size. There’s just something incredibly unnerving about picking up a Galaxy S 3 or One X and mentally thinking, ‘wow, this feels really small all of a sudden,’ but such is what the Note 2 has done to me. There’s that ever-present adage about it not always being entirely about size, but in the smartphone space lately it seems as though that conventional wisdom just doesn’t apply, as displays across every OEM’s lineup are getting larger and larger. My friends (whose wits are more keenly sharpened than mine) have been kidding me about the size of the Note 2 since I started using it, making jokes that would probably get me in trouble if recounted here, and Anand usually lets us all get away with quite a bit. I earlier said that the Note 2 is almost like a novelty check of a phone, and just like I’ve always wondered whether people really can cash those novelty checks, I wondered how useable the Note 2 would be as a daily driver. Turns out the answer is that it’s very usable. The TSA didn’t even make me put the Note 2 in a separate bin through the X-Ray when passing through security.


Galaxy Note 2 alongside its predecessor

All jesting aside, the Note 2 is, again, something of a realistic upper bound for device size. This is the extra large that needs to come after large, this is the super big gulp to the big gulp, the stretch limo to just limo. It seems as though wherever you look, large begets at least one more gradation above and beyond, and the Note 2 is that proverbial step in this space. Samsung innovated and took a risk with the original Galaxy Note, and the result was an overwhelming success and huge following. Nailing down the why and how is really something of a market study. One of the biggest factors young tech reviewers like myself forget is that visual acuity does diminish with age as the crystalline lens loses its ability to flex and accommodate, thus reducing how close one can focus. In that case, there’s a subconscious (or perhaps very conscious) desire for a phone with the largest display possible simply for the legibility when held at a comfortable distance. That’s my own personal speculation for the trend to larger and larger phones. The other is simply as a status symbol or fashion statement, and that needs no explanation.

From another angle the Note 2 represents basically a mid-cycle refresh of the Galaxy S 3 for customers in the USA. Samsung’s own Exynos 4412 quad core SoC is finally here, something that has been out of grasp unless you imported your own international Galaxy S 3 unlocked and went with HSPA+ 21.1 instead of LTE. That brings me to the second part — greater SoC choice as a result of Qualcomm’s MDM9x15 now being available, as a result of it being natively voice enabled with support for basically every radio access technology deployed right now. Battery life also doesn’t take as big of a hit with either of those big steps thanks to 32nm HKMG and 28nm process nodes respectively.

Finally, for T-Mobile this is a notable step. It isn’t proudly proclaimed on the box or the spec page on T-Mobile’s site but their Note 2 includes LTE support on AWS which makes it relatively future proof when that rolls around. T-Mobile’s pricing for the Note 2 is really quite steep though, at $369 with a two year contract as of this writing, though T-Mobile also priced their Galaxy S 3 higher than other carriers initially, and other carriers are proposing $299 with two year contract for the Note 2. It is clear however that the Note 2 is going to be positioned in its own pricing tier.

When I was using the original Note, it was one of the few Android devices I’ve ever used which solicited many questions and discussions in public. With the Note 2, the form factor is still fresh and different, and as a result I strongly suspect it will likely get the same kind of curious attention that will help move units. S Pen also makes the Note 2 different from the rest, and the improvements Samsung has made to the active digitizer and input with S Note have elevated my impression of the Note platform from a notetaking perspective considerably.

I’ve enjoyed using the Note 2 considerably. Who knows, I very well might move my personal T-Mobile SIM from one of the smallest smartphones on the market right now, to the largest.

Speakerphone and Noise Suppression
POST A COMMENT

131 Comments

View All Comments

  • The0ne - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Don't worry, I'm 40 years old myself and screen specs are very important for me due to my aging eyes. I've since replaced all my LCDs with 30" IPS ones, e-readers and tablets have at least x800 and now this phone if I decide to buy one (if pricing is right).

    I was glad to read that statement in the review as well. It definitely put a smile onto my face to actually read it and have someone share the perspective. Mind you my eyes aren't too bad being .75 off but it does make a huge difference having a good screen to look at.
    Reply
  • jjj - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Not a fan of the S3 but for some reason i kinda like this one.
    The weight seems rather high,after all most of the time the phone sits in a pocket,hope they get rid of some layers of glass in future models.Maybe by then we also see Corning's Willow Glass and the flexible Atmel touch sensor (not controller) for a thinner bezel.
    It does feel a bit outdated already with quad Krait devices announced and dual core A15 arriving soon hopefully (Gigaom had some numbers for the A15 based Chromebook and they look impressive)
    Reply
  • enezneb - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    That 11 million contrast ratio is just amazing; a true testament to the potential of AMOLED.

    I could forsee Samsung improving their color calibration standards for the next generation of flagships seeing how they're under considerable pressure from the likes of SLCD2 and Apple's retina display. Paired with this new pentile matrix ultra-high ppi displays in the range of 400 may be possible as well (a la SLCD3)

    Looks like next year will be another exciting year for mobile display technology once again.
    Reply
  • schmitty338 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    You can change the colour calibration to be more 'natural' in the TouchWiz software ont eh Note II.

    Also, personally I don't see the need for 'more accurate' colours on a phone. Maybe if you are a pro photog who reviews pics on their phone, but otherwise, I love the colourful pop of AMOLED displays. Even the low res pentile AMOLED of my old galaxy S (original...getting the Note 2 soon) looks great for media. Text, not so much, due to the low res and pentile.
    Reply
  • slysly - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Why would colour accuracy ever not be important? I thought the point of a big phone is to make it easier to consume all sorts of media, from websites to photos to movies. Wouldn't more accurate colours be better for all of these activities? To me, it's a bit like saying, I don't see the need to eat delicious food during lunch, or I don't need to be with a beautiful woman on the weekdays. Why settle for something markedly inferior? Reply
  • Calista - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Is your screen properly colour calibrated? Are your walls painted in a neutral colour to avoid a colour cast? Are your lamps casting a specified type of light and shielded to avoid glare? Do you use high-quality blinds to prevent sunlight?

    This is only a few of the things to consider when dealing with calibration. And a cellphone is unable to deal with any of them unless it stays in the lab.

    So for a cellphone the criteria is:
    Is it bright enough?
    Does it look pleasing to the eye, overly saturated or not?
    Reply
  • PeteH - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Eh, depends what you do with it. I can understand wanting an accurate representation of a photo you're taking.

    And given the option between an accurate display and a less accurate display (all other things being equal) I think most people would opt for the more accurate option. Note that I'm not saying they would choose it as better visually (people seem to be suckers for over saturated displays).
    Reply
  • Zink - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Great review. Just the right amount of detail and I really like your perspective on day to day use. Reply
  • Mbonus - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Battery Life Question: I have noticed that since I have started using audio streaming apps my battery has taken quite a hit. I wonder if that could be added to your battery life benchmarks?

    It might not matter for devices like this where you have a large storage upgrade ability, but some other devices are forcing us to the cloud where streaming matters.

    Great and thorough review as always!
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    So with streaming apps and such, even though the bitrate is low, if they're not very bursty (eg download and fill a big buffer, then wait 30 seconds or minutes, then repeat) they can hold the phone in CELL_DCH on UMTS or the appropriate equivalent on other air interface types, and that's what really burns power. It's time spent in that connected state that really destroys things.

    This is actually why I do the tethering test as well (which has a streaming audio component), but I'm beholden to whether or not the review unit that I'm sampled is provisioned for tethering or not, which is the real problem.

    -Brian
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now