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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  • 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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