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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  • 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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