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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  • tommo123 - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    i'm in liverpool and we're getting it amongst the 1st.

    1 - the prices are stupid.
    2 - afaik the radio uses more power
    3 - youtube - only buffering probs i have are on their end
    4 - streaming in general - 3G i get is more than sufficient
    Reply
  • tommo123 - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    put a LTE note 2 next to a 3G note 2 and watch youtube/stream netflix and odds are there won't be a difference in anything other than downloading. And that is not going to happen due to EEs anaemic allowance Reply
  • agent2099 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    That is a steep price at 299 Subsidized. Any idea what the unsubsidized price will be? Reply
  • warisz00r - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Where I live, the at-launch price is the same as the OG Note. Reply
  • phemark - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Good review, waiting for Padfone 2 review now:) Reply
  • antef - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    IMO the menu-home-back button layout is a dealbreaker (as opposed to back-home-recent apps on Nexus/HTC/Motorola devices). It means you have to long-press to access recent apps and you have to remember to look down there to press the menu key even though every other action is on the action bar up top, totally disjointed. Not to mention the menu key is always present and lit up even in apps where it doesn't do anything, like the camera app and Google Reader. Try explaining that to a new user, no wonder so many people choose iPhone, it makes Android seem more confusing than it has to. This combined with the awful look and bloated, overlapping feature set of TouchWiz makes it apparent Samsung has zero handle on UI design or usability. I will gladly buy a Nexus device that they manufacture, but not any of their branded devices. Reply
  • schmitty338 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    iOS can be even more convoluted. Case in point, my mom, whom has an old HTC android phone that she uses just fine) called me the other day asking how to do basic things on her new iPad.

    Neither is perfect and both have their pros and cons.

    Also, have you use the new Note 2? EVery single video/written review I have seen praises the software. Yes, some features are probably never going to be used, but that doesn't harm the experience which, everybody agrees, is for the most part, outstanding.
    Reply
  • Bubbacub - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    padfone 2 review would be great.

    i dont know about others - but i spend a lot of time copying data (HD films) from my laptop to my phone and my tablet. would be nice to get rid of that extra step (which is huge for me because i use linux which has utterly retarded MTP support)
    Reply
  • Jumpman23 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    In a lot of android phones whenever I try to use a stylus and draw a diagonal line in some drawing app, the diagonal line would never be perfectly straight as I'd like. It is always wavy. Try drawing a slow diagonal line in any drawing app and you'd know what I mean. So I wonder if the Note 2 has improved upon this. Reply
  • schmitty338 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    That is because they use inaccurate capacitive touch for drawing. This is an active stylus built on Wacom tech, just like full-sized windows tablet PCs and drawing tablets...it won't have that issue. Reply

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