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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  • 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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