So we’ve talked about the high level appearance and industrial design of the Galaxy Note 2, but I think the question on everyone’s minds is what it’s really like to use such a large, nearly novelty-sized phone. As I noted in the introduction, I have no problem pocketing the Note 2, in fact, I have no problem getting the Note 2, a Note 1, and an iPhone 5 all in the same pocket in my jeans or favorite pair of shorts. Of course, whether this is something a given individual can pull off is a function of clothing and comfort. 

I did mention in the introduction however that I think the Note 2 is something of an upper bound for overall smartphone size. This is really because any larger and it could start to become unwieldy. At present I can palm the Note 2 and hold it securely in one hand, but it really is best used two-handed. The slight change in width and thickness between the Note and Note 2 make it slightly easier to handle, but not dramatically so. The biggest friction point between the Note 2 and other phones is honestly that going back to them warps your sense of reality — the Galaxy S 3 now feels small (never thought I’d write that in a sentence) and the iPhone 5 smaller still. I guess size is all relative and after a week of adaption to the Note 2, switching back to a smaller device and display for one of my other lines feels downright surreal.

The other reason I believe the Note 2 is an upper bound for size is something a bit more American. I usually place my smartphone in the main cupholder of my F–150 while driving, and I can’t think of a more fitting unit of measure than the width of that cupholder. It sounds a bit odd, but the Note 2 is too large to fit inside, it kind of just flops around. If my cupholder can accommodate a 64 fl-oz (1.89 L) double gulp diet coke, but not the Note 2, I think that’s saying something profound.

At the same time I’ve never felt like I was going to snap the Note 2 in half when bending over with it in my pocket. Like the Galaxy S 3, exterior material choice by Samsung would leave you thinking that there’s cheap plastic which abounds, but the Note 2 (like Galaxy S 3) actually has minimal flex or play when stressed and torqued around. In addition the design emphasis on lowering mass again makes it even less likely to pop when dropped (less gravitational potential energy U=mgh, less energetic transfer into the case).


iPhone 5 looks miniscule next to Galaxy Note 2

Jokes about size aside, the Note 2 is indeed quite large, but not unmanageably so. The original Note proved that there’s at least one middle point between a 7 inch tablet and 4 inch smartphone form factor that does resonate with people. I fully expect the Note 2 to gain a vocal following the same way the original Note did. There’s something about this larger form factor that draws out both vocal approval and condemnation from everyone, but to me that’s just an indication that there is still much space for innovation in the smartphone space, and things haven’t totally settled down yet.

Introduction and Physical Impressions The Platform and Performance - Exynos 4412
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  • 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

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