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Samsung Galaxy Note 2 - Screen and Interface

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



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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.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

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.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

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 9

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.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 12

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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Martin Daler

August 30, 2012, 9:53 pm

Curious that you list its size ("it's massive") under 'Cons'. Strictly speaking its size is neither a pro nor a con, it is simply a feature. Whether that feature translates in to a pro or a con depends on the benefit it brings, or the opposite.

Sounds picky, I know, but in this instance it is especially relevant - after all the size of the thing is considered to be its primary benefit by many, the very USP which sets it apart from the crowd and the reason why they buy it.


September 1, 2012, 12:49 am

Your banner statement says 'better than the original in every way'.

Well the screen of the note 2 has a lower resolution. I haven't seen the two phones together, so i don't know if this is noticeable.

Sure, there are improvements in many areas but I do not see enough of an change to warrant replacing a less than one year old note with the note 2 at a cost of around £500. I will be waiting for note 3.

Jon moonbeamsyndicate

September 26, 2012, 5:05 am

No NFC? Are you sure?

Jon moonbeamsyndicate

September 26, 2012, 5:13 am

No, you're definitely wrong about the Note 2 not having NFC- it DOES- the Note 10.1 does not... And Malcy? Isn't the Original Note a 1280x800 PenTile matrix? The Note2 has good old RGB stripe... that's going to look a whole lot better... and effectively be higher resolution since PenTile sort of cuts res in half...
Admittedly though, I was hoping for a 1080P screen on this... was disappointed they couldn't manage that and still get decent battery life...

Martin Daler

October 3, 2012, 2:36 am

why the yen for 1080p screen resolution? Accepting human vision resolution of about 1/60 degree, and assuming the screen width of about 2.7", you would need to hold the device no further than about 8.6" (about two palm widths) from your face to get the benefit.

Much further away and the benefit of all that resolution would be squandered. Whereas at 720 points across the 2.7" screen width you are faced with a viewing distance of just under 13" under the same assumptions.

I suppose both are do-able. I've just had a butchers at my phone and find that I tend to hold it at about a 1.5 foot. Eight inches seems oppressively close, for me.


October 3, 2012, 7:04 pm

Anyone wondering why these comments about NFC are here - they're from the preview article written a while back. If there are any more Qs about the Note 2, fire away.


October 3, 2012, 7:30 pm

Thanks for the excellent detailed review, been looking for something as in depth on this device for a while and consequently have now ordered mine to arrive next week....question is, I was led to believe these devices are not yet LTE compatible and will have to wait for the LTE batch to come out, is that right?

Nick G

October 4, 2012, 2:06 pm

I agree with Martin. "It's massive" is not a Con - it's the entire point of this device! If a user wanted a smaller one, they'd buy the SIII. This should be a "Pro" not a "Con". It's like reviewing an iPad and then complaining it's not as small as an iPod Touch...


October 4, 2012, 2:16 pm

Thanks THX1138, glad it was useful. We've checked with Samsung and the LTE devices are indeed separate. Sounds like they'll be coming to the UK within a week or two though.


October 4, 2012, 2:32 pm

I changed the con so it's a bit more... relevant when the full review came out. The previous con was there on the preview.

I agree the size in its most abstract sense isn't a con, but it is something every potential Note 2 owner needs to consider.


October 6, 2012, 7:34 pm

If you do a follow up worth showing the split screen mode rolled out in a firmware upgrade yesterday, its pretty nifty for multi tasking.


October 7, 2012, 12:54 pm

You state

Samsung includes a second rear with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, one that apes the Pebble Blue finish of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and has an integrated front flap screen protector.

But every un boxing video I have looked at ever is nothing included.


October 10, 2012, 11:40 am

It is mentioned in the article that the device is LTE/4G ready but when speaking with a Samsung sales assistant on the weekend, I was told that the version currently on sale does not support 4G


October 24, 2012, 11:05 am

I have bought the Note 2 and can confirm that you do need to buy the LTE version to get 4G. Saying that, considering the prices just announced for a 4G contract then the 3G version will suffice thank you very much. Unless you dont have a home broadband connection and will need to do much more than check email and the odd You Tube vid then 3G is all you need. As for the note 2, well what a great phone this is. Lets be clear, it is big and some may well not be able to cope with that but they will be the ones missing out. The device is blisteringly fast and takes to multi-tasking like a duck to water. There is no lag what so ever. The battery life is amazing. Normal usage will give you two days use with no effort at all. I have tried to run the battery down by hitting it with lots of calls, surfing, screen on full resolution, YouTube vids ect,ect but having taken it off charge at 05:30 it still had 7% battery left at 23:30. As said, normal use will get you two days, which is brilliant considering whats under the hood. The S-Pen is a gem and once you get familiar with all it can do it becomes indespensible. The OCR is the best i've ever seen but despite some advertising to the contrary it will not replace tapping out a quick text with your thumbs any time soon. My favourite use for the pen so far is the screen shot taking. Works like a dream. Before buying this i had a Sony tablet and a Sony phone. If you think you need, like I did, to have the best of both worlds and only have to carry about one device then the Note 2 is for you without question. I now don't even notice the size when using as a phone. That said, the fashion conscious will just discard it without thought i suspect and I don't expect to see any teenagers with one anytime soon. But for a 45 year old with diminishing eye sight and a demand for a phone with a very sensibly sized screen and a battery that actually is up to the job then this is the perfect phone bar none. Until the Note 3/4 comes out and 4G eventually becomes sensibly priced then the Note 2 is really all you could ever need from a mobile device.

Mike B

November 25, 2012, 9:43 pm

I have had a play with the this device in two stores and both times the user interface seemed to be very slow. The second time I played with it I decided to re-boot the unit and then everything came back to, what I would call, a normal operating speed.

Have owners noticed a need to re-boot these devices frequently? Is this just something Android users have to do all the time?


December 24, 2012, 11:18 am

can anybody tell me... how to deactivate automatic pen sensing for Samsung galaxy note 2....?


December 31, 2012, 7:50 pm

It is hard to believe but this business oriented device fails to implement the standard Android 4 spelling checker. So no red wavy line under incorrectly spelt words, only the corrections supplied by the predictive input. Also if you take a photo, and opt to share it via email, you don't get an iOS like option to choose what size image to send! I really don't get why Andriod is so liked as an OS, in its quest to provide customisation it seems to make many things more difficult.


January 17, 2013, 12:24 pm

Nop, coming from nexus S, this device is pure speed!!! It's like a flash, you press, it responds... nothing other device give me this joy of use! Simply passionate!


January 17, 2013, 12:26 pm

oh, and reboot is thing of past, nowadays you can open so many apps, and the note 2 keep the speed!! without any lag at all!!! but mine is 4g LTE, and from Portugal, i don't know if it counts...

Toni F

January 22, 2013, 4:17 pm

I have no lag, no rebooting my note 2 runs smooth evenIwith multiple windows open I haven't a hiccup with this phone and my battery last me up to 12hrs with heavy use. I only have to charge my phone once a day when I use it heavily and on light to med use the battery will last up to two days. I purchased a battery flip case and haven't had to use it yet. I didn't belive that the battery life on this phone was that great but after having it now I'm a believer.

Toni F

January 22, 2013, 4:22 pm

I think you go into settings then go to s pen there you should be able to durable that feature of that doesn't work search the Internet or go to one of the forums they should have the answer there

Toni F

January 22, 2013, 4:28 pm

My son just turned 19 and he and his friends just ditched their iphones for the note 2. I don't know where you're from but you'd be surprised to see how many younger people as well as older folks have or want the note 2. My daughter is 14 and she wants one for her 15th birthday. Grant it I agree it is a perfect phone for those whose vision is failing but I don't see a specific age category for this phone.

swaroop k

February 14, 2013, 8:07 am

"Corning's toughened glass has become the smartphone industry standard,
and the second generation makes it thinner, and even stronger." - the glass is too fragile that it broke when my note 2 fell from office table upside down


May 30, 2013, 9:46 am

i am using Samsung Galaxy Note 2 since last 3 months and trust me its awesome. ! Basic need of Huge battery back up is fulfilled here.! The S Pen stylus does a great job and you wont find any glitches even though you loading thousands of application on your phone.!! Tablet cum Phone. 5/5 Stars.


August 18, 2013, 10:54 pm

there are actually two versions of Note2, the N7100 - international version is NOT a Corning Gorilla Glass. Only the Korean Version is Gorilla Glass.

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