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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  • Zoomer - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Google play music actually seems to do burst caching. Reply
  • Peanutsrevenge - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Agreed.
    I listen to the cricket on tunein radio when it's on and that's a constant stream I believe and it annihilates my battery, despite the low bitrate.

    Would be nice if somewhere along the line radios could go into a low power mode where it's only running close to the minimum required speed with the power taking a relative drop.
    Reply
  • tommo123 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    and haven't got the thing below 30% in battery life yet, even after using bluetooth audio for a few hours and tracking my location with endomondo, watching movies via 3G (didn't go for the LTE ver here - no point) and so on.

    got my USB OTG adapter today and am seeing how long i can play movies off of it for. max brightness and playing off an SD card connected externally.

    the screen on this thing is amazing and now my SGS2 is tiny, like a kids toy.
    Reply
  • tommo123 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    well video playback laster 8 hours 19 mins with screen on max brightness, with wifi on and powering a usb OTG cable, a sd card/usb adapter and the SD card itself. now on 5%

    not too shabby.

    in airplane mode etc and an internal mSD card i think it could hit the 10 hours mark - especially with brightness lowered a tad
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Pretty much fits my experience! Fairly sure there are even gains to be had from rooting, tweaking etc. Reply
  • tommo123 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    oh i rooted mine on the 2nd day and flashed a rom on the 3rd :) Reply
  • PeteH - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    So maybe not the best example of a "typical" user's experience ;) Reply
  • tommo123 - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    nope :)

    i did my own test yest though

    i let 720p vids play non stop yest on this in airplane mode, max brightness (like i was on a plane) and was impressed! played for 11 hours 38 mins before it hit 5%. so say 12 hours video playback.

    nice.no need for a laptop to play vids on a flight anymore. just this and a spare battery for when i get off the plane :)

    plus 1 for removable batteries! :D
    Reply
  • Peanutsrevenge - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    No point in LTE?
    You may regret that soon, 4G's rolling out as we speak.
    Was in T-mo store the other day helping mate choose a phone (got S3 i9305, could convince him to get note II) and sales advisor reckons 6 months for Bournemouth.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    This one does vary a lot by where you live. Their definition of "coverage" might be interesting too, given how their standard network holds up. Reply

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