Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Multimedia
The large screen of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 makes this giant phone an obvious choice as a personal video player, and it excels at the task. It can play most video types, with support for Xvid, Divx and MKV. The only files it failed to play were our high bit-rate 1080p MKVs, which it spat out before even hitting the first frame.
Files like these can be played-back using a third-party media player like MX Player, although performance will depend on which one you use and whether it offers hardware support for the Note 2's chipset. Even the quad-core 1.6GHz Exynos 4412 struggles with 42Mbps 1080p MKVs using software rendering.
Get your video library in order, though, and both movies and TV episodes look fantastic. In the normal colour saturation mode, skin tones and bright clothing look thoroughly over-egged, but switch to the Natural or Movie mode within the main Settings menu and it's hard to beat as a movie buddy that fits in your pocket.
Like the Samsung Galaxy S3, the Galaxy Note 2 also features video multitasking. From within the video player app, you simply need to press a button within the transport bar to make the video pop-up as a resizeable overlay on top of your home screen. It'll stay there no matter what you're doing, and can be zapped with just a couple of taps, much like an app window in Windows.
Music support is much better than average too. If you're a bit of a music fiend and have OGG and FLAC files in your library rather than just standard AAC and MP3 jobbies, you'll have no problems with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
The music player app is clean, clear and effective, avoiding any 3D nonsense to slow navigation down. You do get a fairly comprehensive selection of equalisation and sound tweaking options, though.
The Music Player app offers a simple 7-band EQ, and extra controls for more involved bass and clarity modulators, plus reverb and 3D options (which we wouldn't recommend touching with any brand of pole.) Samsung calls this the SoundAlive engine, and it comes with a dozen presets as well as a custom mode.
There's also a strange secondary function in the app, called Music Squares. This analyses your tracks, rating them on whether they sound passionate, calm, exciting, joyful or something a bit in-between - based on things like tempo and changes in volume. Controlling a bit like a Korg Kaosspad, you can track a "mood trajectory" for a playlist to take by dragging your finger along these Music Squares. It's a bit silly, but it normally works reasonably well. Ish.
Much more importantly, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 outputs clear, clean audio at a decent volume, so you won't have to max out the volume as soon as you start listening anywhere other than a quiet room.
The bundled headphones aren't much to write about, but we rarely expect much of such things. They use an IEM-style design with not-all-that comfortable silicone tips, and have a fibrous-sounding treble that's prone to tripping over into harshness. However, bass response isn't too bad, and we imagine that if you're willing to spend £500 on a phone there's a good chance you'll already have your own pair of earphones or headphones anyway.