Review Price £549.99
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Screen
The leading feature for any phone this size has to be the screen. The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 display is a giant 5.5in across, up from the 5.3in of its predecessor.
Some aspects of the screen are a little surprising. Although larger, it's actually lower in resolution than the first Galaxy Note - 720 x 1,280 pixels rather than 800 x 1,280 pixels. That's the very same resolution as the Samsung Galaxy S3.
The subpixel structure has been changed, though, with some positive effects on image quality. The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 uses a Super AMOLED Plus screen. Almost all earlier OLED-type smartphone screens used a Pentile subpixel arrangement, a red-green-blue-green array, but not here. This made screens look significantly less sharp and well-defined than an RGB screen of the same resolution.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 hasn't gone full RGB in its subpixel array, but there is a radical difference. Now, a thin blue subpixel and red/green subpixels form a little box. With no subpixel syncopation - so to speak - there are no real clarity problems. With 267dpi, you can just about discern pixel structure if you get your eyeball right up close to the Gorilla Glass, but in anything approaching normal use it's no problem.
Maximum brightness of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 isn't quite dazzling in normal lighting conditions, but compares well with the Galaxy S3. And, of course, it comes with all the benefits of the OLED tech running the show.
AMOLED screens do not use universal backlights, giving the tablet effectively infinity contrast as black areas stay completely black. Colours are slightly oversaturated, but take into a darkened room, the benefits of an OLED screen are obvious. With LCD-based screens like the iPhone 5's, black parts of an image always look a little grey in a darkened room, but not so here.
It may lose out on resolution to some of the top-end smartphones of today, but in uses where top-quality screens come into their own, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a complete star. A 5.5in screen offers a much more satisfying movie-watching experience than an iPhone 5's 4-incher, and the rich contrast of Super AMOLED Plus makes dark movie scenes in particular look fantastic.
Colours are a little less natural than those of something like the IPS screened HTC One X in the phone's standard setting, but delve through the Settings menu and you'll find some indispensable colour temperature/saturation settings. There are four, including two far less saturated than you'll see fresh out of the box.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Interface and Usability
With Android 4.1 Jelly Bean working at the heart of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, this giant smartphone is impressively up-to-date. It's also very quick.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 uses a powerful quad-core 1.6GHz Exynos 4412 processor that's a mite faster than the 1.4GHz CPU of the Samsung Galaxy S3, and has 2GB of RAM while the other big players made do with 1GB.
When this spec teams-up with the Project Butter initiative of Android Jelly Bean, what results is one seriously smooth phone. Project Butter's aim is to maker more intensive use of processor power during moments of strain, to make Android run at 60fps.
Aside from the occasional very, very slight slowdown, performance here is perfect. Without seeing a quad-core "vanilla" Google phone to compare the Galaxy Note 2 with, we can't confirm whether the TouchWiz UI laid on top of Jelly Bean has slowed things down, but there's honestly barely any lag here. In our opinion, 95 percent of momentary gaps between operations, such as skipping between the apps menu and the home screen, is deliberate.
Those who have owned a Samsung smartphone in the last few years will be familiar with the basic parts of TouchWiz here. The Samsung UI does not change the basic parts of Android Jelly Bean 4.1 - you have seven home screens and a largely vanilla apps 'n' widgets menu.
TouchWiz brings its own set of app icons, a few handy widgets including a nice-looking clock and weather combo, and a custom lock screen. These are all minor changes compared to the additional apps and stylus functionality Samsung has packed-in.
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