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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  • name99 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Of course you could consider this an empirical display of the difference between Apple supporters and Apple haters. The Apple supporters don't seem to feel a compulsive need to wander into a non-Apple thread and tell everyone how much Android, Samsung, Google, AMOLED, S-Pen and TouchWiz all suck.

    Either way, yes, a thread that does't feel like a wanna-be gang fight between two groups of 8-year-olds is a pleasant experience!
    Reply
  • Peanutsrevenge - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    If it helps:

    Droid fanatic
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7huae767Rxg&fea...

    Apple Fanatic
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFhjDX-DUew&fea...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTTSsB92L_s&fea...

    Came across these yesterday on Phandroid :D
    Reply
  • Mugur - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    As owner of a 5" Dell Streak, I'm looking to replace it with another large phone and Note 2 seems just perfect. One question though: can I use another launcher (I don't like TouchWiz) without losing the S-Pen features? Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I use Apex launcher, S-Pen stuff all works fine. :) Reply
  • Mugur - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Thank you. Reply
  • Aenean144 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    "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."

    What's the pause time?

    In such a test, the system that is fastest to idle will typically result in a lower or lowest power draw through time. One can only interpret the performance of a device relative to other devices when doing the specific test, maybe. No one should be assuming that they'll get 10 hours of wifi/cellular browsing though, whatever time your device of choice gets.

    Do humans really do what the battery life test does? I don't know if we're at the point where we are input saturated on how fast we can web browse, but I don't think we're at the saturation point just yet. So, if a phone downloads and renders web pages faster, I think we would just browse more pages in the same given time frame. The devices that burn more power during download and render times may end up with shorter battery life performance simply because a user is browsing more and faster.

    You guys are definitely promoting the idea of wider "dynamic range" on battery performance. The battery life test is perhaps a light use case based on my gut feel. Minimally, I think, at least for web browsing, the minimum battery life performance should at be established for devices.

    Lighter and lighter browsing workloads would tail off towards standby time. You may want to establish or guess at what the max work rate for humans is while browsing the web, like using an average reading speed or maybe somewhere in the 80th percentile of reading speed.

    Obviously, it's a more than one parameter problem with games, GPS, etc, but maybe that can be tackled later.
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Of all the smart phones I know about, this is the one I'm most interested in. However, I'm a Windows kind of guy, tried Android briefly and I certainly see why people would choose it over iOS, but in my opinion it's not great. Just my personal view, of course. I'm Windows trained and Windows is the most "intuitive" for me, largely because of that I'm sure.

    So, in case anyone from Microsoft is reading - can we get Nokia to make something like this with Win 8 as the OS?

    On Verizon? (I have to say though, Verizon's methodology for keeping their phones up-to-date doesn't thrill me. Of course, cell phones, particularly smart phones, are about as private as a house made entirely of screen doors anyway, so I'm not sure that's all that important as things exist today.)

    ;)
    Reply
  • shortylickens - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Got one this afternoon (not because of the article).

    My local store had them for 200 and also a 50 dollar mail in rebate. I dont think thats nationwide though.

    I like it, made an informal review in the forums.
    Reply
  • zilexa - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Really, you have a Note 2 without split screen functionality? So you cannot see and work with 2 apps at the same time??
    Thats weird! Here in Holland I cannot walk the street without seeing billboards showing off this feature.. those Apple fans don't know what hit them.. firstly iOS 6 wich feels like 2010 version of Android for Android users, now this Note 2 can even show 2 apps at the same time, side by side!

    Really weird the US versions don't have this firmware yet. But like you said in other reviews, US market is totally different. Here we see Samsung phones, in the shops, there you see AT&T or T-mobile or Verizon phones. Although here in NL almost always sold with subscription, and with the name of your provider on it, at least its an actual Samsung phone and not a T-Mobile phone..
    Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    What? They're all still Samsung/HTC/etc branded in the US... What are you going on about? The carriers do meddle with updates and the firmware, but the thing isn't sold as an AT&T Galaxy S or something, it still says Samsung and it's advertised by Samsung (for better or worse, their anti-Apple commercials are almost as bad as Apple's old anti-PC commercials)...

    Hell my Sprint HTC EVO 4G LTE doesn't even have Sprint silkscreened anywhere on the front (amazing show of restraint on their part). AT&T's often the worse about branding, they've put the name AND logo on some Moto phones (centered no less).
    Reply

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