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
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  • MaziarKia - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Great review but the battery life results are kinda odd.
    In all GN2 reviews that I've read around the web,it performed better than any other phone(with the exception of Razr MAXX)
    Reply
  • geniekid - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Where are these other reviews? Were they as rigorous with their testing as AT is?

    Not trying to call you out. I'm genuinely curious.
    Reply
  • MaziarKia - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    gsmarena,phonedog etc. Reply
  • sherlockwing - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    It is completely possible for AnandTech's Battery test to be very unfair toward AMOLED display phones. Reply
  • jamyryals - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Brian and Anand have talked about this on their podcast recently. Specifically, the choices you make when creating a benchmark. They try to remove the bottlenecks, via benchmark design, that would unduly stress a certain aspect of the device (ie baseband). Their goal was to get as much of a mix in stressing components as possible. Sounds like a hard task given the very different hardware in these devices. Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Since the original, I've been waiting for the update and now that it's finally here I think it's time to upgrade my basic 8525 phone to the next generation "smartphone" and pay the fine..fees that comes along with it. I plan to make the most out of this phone for personal and business.

    1. Reading
    2. Planning
    3. Office apps
    4. Music
    5. Movies
    6. Map/Travel

    Having a larger screen just makes it much more appealing for all the stuff I want to do, especially reading. Just a personal taste mind you.
    Reply
  • PeteH - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    I notice your task list doesn't include phone calls. Maybe you should get a tablet instead. Reply
  • ascian5 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Great review per usual Brian.

    Please get out the Lumia 920 ASAP! Heh. Until I can play with these phones in person, and likely even then, I'm really on the fence as to what phone to go with. This doesn't happen often with me and tech, but I'm really on the fence between these 2 devices.
    Reply
  • OCN's_3930k - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I spy razr i results... is it getting a review? Reply
  • wicktron - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    There's a severe lack of trolls on the comments section of this review. It's appalling. I miss the trolls that enter the Apple reviews and talk smack about Apple products being toys and the inability for them to be used for any real work. What happened here, guys? Where art thou, troll!?

    :(
    Reply

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