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Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

Andrew Williams

By

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Pros

  • S Pen stylus feels accurate and comfortable
  • Fast processor and loads of RAM
  • Great screen

Cons

  • Will be too large for some
  • A bit plasticky

Key Features

  • 5.5in HD amoled screen
  • 1.6GHz, quad-core processor
  • New S Pen stylus with 1024 pressure levels
  • 2GB RAM
  • 720 x 1,280 pixel resolution
  • Manufacturer: Samsung
  • Review Price: £549.99

Read the latest news on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Introduction

Think the iPhone 5 is a weakling of a mobile, and that even the Samsung Galaxy S3 could do with gaining a few curves? The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 may be what you're after. Thanks to its 5.5in screen, it's a phone so large that some people can't decide whether it's a phone or a tablet.

It does demand man-sized hands or a handbag to slot into your life easily. But the large screen and its great stylus make it one of the most desirable mobile devices around. At around £549.99, it's £50 more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy S3, but you can't complain too much given the extra features and screen inches you get here.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Video Review

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Design

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 looks and feels a lot like a larger Samsung Galaxy S3, with aesthetic trimmings closer to the smartphone flagship than the first Galaxy Note. A host of little design tweaks have been made to bring the Note series to bring in-line with Samsung's 2012 devices.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 23

Its soft key is a little sleeker, and while it its body is still palm-worryingly big, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a little longer and less wide than its predecessor. The result is a phone that looks a bit leaner and less stubby, and is a little comfier to hold.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 27

There's no sugar-coating the truth, though. If you have small hands or wear femur-hugging skinny jeans the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 will pose a logistical problem or two, and may have to be consigned to the handbag for transportation.

However, Samsung has made some seriously handy design improvements that minimise the size issues for most people. The buttons along its sides, which control volume and power, have been lowered a little. Those bearing at least mid-sized man-hands will be able to operate the basics without shifting grip. And we couldn't say that about the original Note.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 35

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is also a little slimmer and lighter than its forebear. It's 177g in weight and 9.4mm thick. That's a smidge thicker than the 8.6mm of the Samsung Galaxy S3, but this is presumably to enable the phone to pack-in a seriously impressive 3100mAh battery. Excuses for a tiny bit of back fat don't get much better than that.

The basic construction of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is typical Samsung. Its rear is covered with a thin plastic battery cover, and while the sides are metallic in finish, they are made of plastic.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 29

Just like the look, the feel in-hand is much like a Samsung Galaxy S3. It doesn't have the hard, cool touch of a metal-backed phone like the iPhone 5, and the back is made of familiar, ultra-thin plastic. The free flexing of the thing as it's removed doesn't exactly fill you with confidence about the phone's strength, but technically its physical credentials aren't too bad.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 33

The Note 2 battery cover - keeping it bendy

For one, you can replace the back cover should it get scuffed or scratched to matt oblivion, and the front is covered by a sheet of Corning Gorilla Glass 2. Corning's toughened glass has become the smartphone industry standard, and the second generation makes it thinner, and even stronger.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 32

Other benefits of using a removable battery cover include being able to remove the battery, and east-to-design custom covers-cum-cases. 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.

The cover also hides a microSD slot, letting you upgrade the 16/32/64GB of internal memory both easily and cheaply. You don't have to remove the battery to get access to the memory card slot, either.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a phone that looks less geeky than its predecessor, while keeping the design nods that techies will love. However, these days it doesn't need that many connectors to keep up its tech cred.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 34

There are just two here, a microUSB port on the bottom and a 3.5mm headphone jack up top. The bottom socket is used for charging, transferring files and to pipe video out using Samsung's MHL-compliant cable. Samsung does not include one in the box, though. What you do get are the USB cable, power adapter and a pair of basic IEM-style earphones with an integrated handsfree kit/remote.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 31

The most important accessory of all, though, is one that slots perfectly into the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 - the re-designed S Pen stylus. Unlike the original S Pen, it features a triangular stem design for improved ergonomics, has a select button on one of its sides and has a rubber tip. Its tech specs have been significantly improved too.

It lives in a little cubby hole at the bottom of the device, and the Note 2 even notifies you with a bleat if you leave without it. This is done using a clever combo of the Wacom digitiser that makes the stylus so clever, and the phone's accelerometer judging when you've walked away with the device. We'll cover the positive effects of the other S Pen changes later.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

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.

Malcy

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.

Andrew_TR

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.

THX1138

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...

Andrew_TR

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.

Andrew_TR

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.

b8camp

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.

Diehardest13

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.

fooey

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

v6tas

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?

shibu

December 24, 2012, 11:18 am

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

MikeX

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.

kauhn

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!

kauhn

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

krunal

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.

stjohnofthevatican

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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