When the world first saw the Galaxy Note, people had mixed reactions. Some said that the device was just too big to be a phone but too small to be a tablet. Other people, however, fell head over heels with the device.
The screen was large enough to make media viewing an absolute joy and the S Pen, the Galaxy Note’s stylus, brought a whole new level of fun to gaming. Fruit Ninja was even more fun when you held a sword-like apparatus in your hand; the S Pen also allowed people to move from their clumsy finger-drawn images in Draw Something to more complicated pieces. Creative folks and note-taking fiends also fell in love with the device, as it allowed them to slap down concept art on the go and to take handwritten notes during classes, meetings, and seminars.
The Galaxy Note is back and this time, it’s packed with more features, such as the ability to preview e-mails, events, videos, and images without even touching your stylus tip to the screen and the ability to rotate the phone’s screen depending on the orientation of your head.
In this review, we’re taking a closer look at the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 GT-N7100.
In a nutshell, here’s what we liked and disliked about Samsung’s newest phablet:
With physical dimensions of 151.1 mm x 80.5 mm x 9.4 mm and weighing 183 grams, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 stands slightly taller but less wide than the original Galaxy Note. The two nearly parallel each other in height, width, and thickness.
If you currently own an original Galaxy Note and are thinking of moving to the more powerful and newer Galaxy Note 2, the transition will be very smooth and seamless, especially if you’ve learned to get used to Samsung’s phablet form factor.
Stated differently, if you found the elder Note uncomfortable to use with one hand (probably because you have small hands or short fingers), you’ll experience the same discomfort with the younger Galaxy Note 2. Though, Samsung has a software solution for this, which we shall talk more about in the Software section.
In a similar vein, the phablet is actually of enough size to fit inside the average pocket, and it will not do so without peeping. It is not something you might want to place inside your pocket if you wear tight pants. But, it can get by inside the pocket of loose pants, although you can expect the corners to bulge outwards a bit. This phone is probably best carried in a bag or a pouch.
Consistent with Samsung’s plastic design philosophy, the Galaxy Note 2 is — you guessed it — predominantly plastic. And, it comes in two colors officially called Marble White and Titanium Gray. Surrounding the edges and the rounded corners is a shiny, silvery frame, which, incidentally and owing to the drop test that we did recently, seems to be made of — you guessed it — hard plastic with thin metal coating.
The Titanium Gray version projects elegance, class, sturdiness, and confidence. We actually like this color better than the Marble White version, which, although neat and clean, tends to be somewhat flamboyant and flashy. (That’s our polite way of saying we’re not die-hard fans of glossy white phones.) But, then again, color preference in a phone is a subjective phenomenon.
Both color versions have glossy coating or finish. And, it’s here where the white variant has an edge: the gray version tends to show more visible smudges and fingerprints than the white version does.
The location of the physical buttons and ports remain similar to the original Galaxy Note, except for the headphone jack, which has moved closer to the left corner. The volume rocker and the Power button, as in the original Galaxy Note, are positioned for easy access by the thumb (for Power) and the the index and middle fingers (for the volume).
The S Pen keeps its special place of honor at the bottom-right back side of the case, hidden from view when not in use, just like in the earlier Note.
The Galaxy Note 2 comes with Samsung’s next-generation HD Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen technology, affording fortunate device owners crisper, cleaner whites, thanks to Samsung’s favoring the RGB matrix variety this time around instead of the PenTile matrix. All that technical lighting stuff is covered and defended by Corning Gorilla Glass 2, ensuring that your touchscreen remains scratch-free, bump-free, dent-free, and bruise-free.
Especially because of powerful hardware and powerful software, the phone’s touchscreen exhibits smoothness and responsiveness that parallels the rich and vibrant colors of the display. We did not find any noticeable lag or jitter in our test unit’s screen. We only had to exert the tiniest bit of pressure upon the touchscreen to flip through homescreens.
The Galaxy Note 2 carries a slightly bigger 5.5-inch screen diagonal compared to the 5.3 inches of its predecessor. Somehow, Samsung has decided to shift from the original Note’s 16:10 aspect ratio to a 16:9 aspect ratio, which basically explains why the display resolution on the original Note is 800×1280 and the new one is 720×1280. Coupled with the RGBG subpixel matrix and the HD resolution, only visual pleasure can be extracted from this phablet when you watch HD movies or play HD games.
At default brightness, the display cannot be easily seen, but when you crank up the brightness, the screen becomes easier to see. Provided there is no glare, you should have no problem answering your messages and replying to emails in broad daylight.
You can choose from three different models according to internal storage capacity. You can get a modest 16 GB model, a moderately sized 32 GB model, or a 64 GB model if you need hardcore storage for all your HD games, music, videos, and images. If that isn’t enough for you, the Note 2 allows for microSD card expansion for up to 64 GB. So, the total maximum space that you can slap onto your phone is a whopping 128 GB.
The quad-core 1.6 GHz Samsung Exynos 4412 Cortex-A9 chipset and a Mali-400MP GPU power the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Throw 2 GB of RAM into the mix, and we have what we can fondly call a superphablet.
We ran some standard benchmarks on the Note 2 fresh from out of its box, and we got these amazing results:
The S Pen wrote success for the first Galaxy Note, and it’s back again with more powerful companions — hardware- and software-wise. It is the default highlight accessory of the Galaxy Note series. Without it, the Galaxy Note 2 will just be a bigger and slightly more powerful version of the Samsung Galaxy S3. Let’s take a look at the S Pen that makes the Galaxy Note 2 a definite headturner.
Feel along the lower right portion of the phone’s backplate and you’ll feel a small notch. Dig your fingernail into it and you can pull out the S Pen. The phone, by default, vibrates a little when you pull it out and informs you onscreen that you’ve detached the stylus. The S Pen fits into its cradle snugly, so you don’t have to worry about its falling out any time soon.
From the tubish and cylindrical shape of the elder Note’s S Pen, the new Note 2 has turned into a roundish stylus with a flat side. It is taller than the original S Pen, and a bit thicker, too.
The pen is also slightly textured, not completely glossy or smooth, which makes it easier to grasp with two or three fingers. It remains light, almost quill-like. All these design changes to the S Pen make it easier to hold, control, and write or draw with.
The new S Pen still has a button. Click-hold this button, tap on the screen — voila! instant screenshot. But, there’s more to that. While using the S Note app, click this very same button to easily swing from pen mode to eraser mode and back.
Who’s saying pens are only for scribbling? Samsung has turned it into a pointer of some sort for Samsung-specific apps, too. With the Air View feature enabled, for example, you can just point at (or hover the tip on) an event on your S Planner to see the event details without touching the screen at all. The Air View feature, unfortunately, works only with compatible apps, which, for now, are mostly Samsung apps.
As expected, the S Pen has several levels of pressure sensitivity. This is techspeak for the ability to create deeper and thicker lines if you push the pen harder, or thinner and lighter lines if you just press lightly. Such sensitivity greatly benefits users with artistic tendencies.
Samsung also attempted to simulate the natural paper-based writing environment by equipping the S Pen with a rubber tip, which prevents the stylus from skating too smoothly over the glass. However, the experience is hardly similar to the real thing, so don’t get easily flustered if you don’t get the pen-on-paper feeling.
Giving the Galaxy Note 2 its name, the S Pen and the phablet are married and inseparable. In fact, the phablet has a function that will keep you from forgetting the S Pen. You can have the phone tell you when you start walking with the device without the S Pen. It was certainly helpful when, in our hurry to snap a few photos outside, we had forgotten the pen. The phone buzzed in our hand and reminded us that the S Pen was still missing.
The Galaxy Note 2 comes with a removable and, therefore, replaceable 3,100-mAh Li-ion battery, which can pack quite the standby time and talk time power.
On 2G, the battery provides 980 hours on standby and 35 hours talk time. On 3G, it provides enough juice for 890 hours standby time and 16 hours talk time.
You can power up your Galaxy Note 2 using a standard Micro USB charger.
To use the Galaxy Note 2′s phone functions, you’ll need a micro-SIM. For people who have regular-sized SIMs (i.e., mini-SIM or 2FF SIM), you’ll need to have your SIM cut down to micro-SIM or 3FF size. The phone can connect to GSM 3G and HSPA+ networks.
You can exchange files and data with other people via Near Field Communication (NFC) and S Beam. But, unlike in the Samsung Galaxy S3, the Galaxy Note 2′s NFC chip is not embedded inside the battery. Instead, It is embedded in the handset’s back cover, so you can’t easily change the backcover of the Note 2, except if you can find a compatible one from a third-party source or if you get one straight from Samsung.
Other connectivity options provided by the Galaxy Note 2 are Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0 LE (Low-energy), TV output, and AllShare Cast.
The S Pen functionality isn’t all the Galaxy Note 2 is packing. This phablet also comes with an 8 MP back camera and an LED flash for when you need to take pictures in dim lighting or at night. The back camera also lets you enjoy Full HD 1080p video recording with 30 frames per second.
We took the camera out for a spin, snapping shots of Bugdroid in several locations around the office. We started with an indoors shot, near a window with morning light. Then, we took it into a dimly lit room and finally we took it outside, in broad daylight.
Both professional and amateur photographers alike will be pleased with the camera quality of the Note 2. Taking pictures indoors is great, being able to capture vivid colors and avoid the excessive graininess of low-light environments.
When we took the camera outside, colors also popped out gorgeously on screen. Bugdroid’s green, for example, really popped out against the white-washed background. Auto-focus worked well but we were quite impressed with the tap-to-zoom function.
Not only did the camera do well with pictures but with videos as well. You also get the same tap-to-zoom function and you can take pictures while recording your video. The green of the plants outside were extremely green on camera. Sound recording was also good.
For video calls and for vanity shots — or even for fixing your hair with the help of a Mirror app — the front facing camera that the Galaxy Note 2 sports is 1.9 MP.
Just like most high-end Android smartphones these days, the Galaxy Note 2 has noise cancellation features. Such anti-noise technology lets you drown out ambient noise while making calls so that the person on the other end can still hear your crisp and clear voice.
Playing music through the phone’s loudspeakers was quite good, even at full volume. In fact, the music remained quite crisp and avoided the distortion that happens when you turn a phone’s volume all the way up.
Audio quality on this phablet is as pleasurable as its display, especially when listening to audio through headphones. The bundled Music Player app comes with Samsung’s SoundAlive technology, and we have to admit, the sound does come alive. The technology automatically and intelligently optimizes the bass, tones, clarity, and other sound ingredients, resulting in crisp and clear sound.
The Galaxy Note 2′s video playback capability falls just a millimeter short of awesome. It played Full HD 1080p videos without choking or stuttering. No frame wasted at all. Colors, as expected, were rich and vibrant.
You can even lock the phone while playing video. One of our writer’s nephews joined us as we tested the Note 2′s video prowess, and he couldn’t keep his hands off the screen, so we locked the phone. The video continued playing onscreen, but the little boy’s touch wouldn’t make Angry Birds launch.
Multitasking applies even to video playback on the phone. All you need to do is play the video in a floating window, so you can run another app while watching the video. Taking screenshots of videos is easy, too. Just hold down both Power and Home buttons. That didn’t pause or slow down the video for us, and we got our lovely screenshots.
Out of the box, the Galaxy Note 2 sports Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean and Samsung TouchWiz UI. This goes without saying that, with Project Butter plus the phablet’s hardware superpowers, you can expect fluid and smooth software performance.
Strangely enough, however, the Samsung flagship Jelly Bean phone does not have the Multi-Window feature (similar to the Multiscreen feature of the Galaxy Note 10.1) that one of the promotional videos boasted. The first few batches of the phone had Jelly Bean build XXALIE as default operating system, but this build doesn’t have the Multi-Window feature yet. Updating to build XXALIH takes care of that, and, fortunately, the recent batches already come with XXALIH.
Challenging as it is to manipulate a phablet whose form factor lies between phone and tablet, you can set the Galaxy Note 2 to operate in one-handed mode. Tick the “One-handed Operation” option in Settings, and you should be able to get most input elements within easy reach of your left or right thumb. The keyboard and dial pad get resized and moved closer to either left or right of the screen. Even the pattern unlock matrix and the calculator can be resized and flushed to the side.
To prevent the phone from sleeping on you while you’re reading, enable Smart Stay, which uses the front camera to detect your face. Want more smarts? Enable Smart Rotation, too, to instruct the front camera to detect the orientation of your face so it can orient the display accordingly into either portrait or landscape mode.
Apart from those already mentioned, the Galaxy Note 2 brings with it several new and improved software features that make the overall experience truly noteworthy. Here are some of them:
Though the Galaxy Note 2 may strike some as too big to be a convenient phone, its larger screen promises more functions. Not only can you enjoy watching movies with it but also take notes for class and business meetings. When you frequently need to capture an idea before it escapes you, you won’t need to bring a separate notepad with you. The Galaxy Note 2 lets you enjoy both features of an Android tablet and smartphone into one portable and handy device.
The Galaxy Note 2 features bizarre specs that can revolutionize the smartphone industry. The handset, however powerful, is not a perfect device and still has some weak points. The Galaxy Note 2 is protected by a weak plastic covering that may suffer from dents or scratches. Some people, if not all, also find this handset too big to be used as a mobile device. But, if you don’t mind that weak build and you want the raw power and multitasking capabilities, then the Galaxy Note 2 is worth a try.
The final decision is still up to you on how you use your device. The Galaxy Note 2 is designed for individuals who are always on the go. This handset, however small, lets you enjoy the features of a mobile phone and, at the same time, the multitasking features of tablets and even desktop computers.
We know that people will either love or hate this handset. But, after our first-hand exposure to its amazing hardware and software features, we certainly fell in love with a non-human being — the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 GT-N7100.
Do you love this phablet? Or does it deserve your scorn? Let us know what you feel about the Galaxy Note 2 in the comments section and vote in the poll below.
(with contributions from Alvin Ybañez, Dan Evans, and Elmer Montejo)
Who loves the Samsung Galaxy Note 2?
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I think it’s a bit misleading to say that the Air View cursor is only useful with Samsung Apps. It’s great for browsing and finally allows users to use use the majority of full websites (instead of mobile views). Many websites these days have menus that expand upon mouseover, and the Note 2 stylus works flawlessly with those sites.
Just a bit of advice for anyone using a stylus on any tablet or smartphone, if you want the feel of writing on paper get the matte finish type screen protectors.
They may also be called anti-glare. I’ve noticed on my Nexus 7 it improved the feel and natural curvatures of my own writing much better than the glass screen or any of the “shiny” screen protectors. It “almost” feels like writing on real paper. It does however dull the screen as you’d expect so movies and games will look a bit washed out.
isn’t this what samsung were talking about when they said they changed the tip on the note 2 stylus because people felt the original was too slippery. Would that give you the effect you are looking for?
Would this cause the rubber tip to wear eventually?
Does it help improve outdoor viewing?
Don’t want nor do I have a need for a phone that has a stylus. I personally think it silly.
fair enough, but you would be surprised how practical it is once you have used one. I for one miss the stylus from my old pdas when it comes to clicking on tiny web links.
Then go back to your iPhone.
Buying this on att day 1.
The stylus makes it unique.
As stated in the article it isnt a galaxy note without it. The pen is a key feature, and pretty awesome in my opinion
You are right. It does make it unique and a lot of people like the stylus . I guess I don’t because once I had a Windows phone that had a stylus . It was the Samsung Omnia 2. But it also had a resistive touch screen . which I did not like. I know the Note has a capacitive touch screen .
For me , a stylus would be fine with a tablet , but I just don’t want one with a phone. But that’s just me.
Thats why this is a phablet
Funny, I am just looking at my Omnia2 and the stylus was not embedded. Way to easy to lose. I do not agree with you, resistive is much better, but you can’t have the glass on top so it’s fragile. I can use anything on a resistive screen, not only a stylus. Try using the screen with gloves you know what I mean.
Resistive sucks, buy lumia 920 :)
The note 2 uses a capacitive screen with a wacom digitizer for the s pen. Check you facts
I know, I just said that resistive sucks -.-
A. I’m not a troll
B. Made that yourself?
C. Nokia lumia 920 is great and I’m advertising it because I’m finnish
Have you seen all the added functions it has, which are exclusively stylus-centric features? Air View, taking notes, clipping photos, navigating desktop webpages, etc.
2 people have small hands and you know what they say about people with small hands… ;)
smell like cabbage
Small gloves? ;)
note 2 will be the only keyboard they could possible type with both hands? not anymore with some fingers on pc keyboard? :)
So where’s the actual video?
Hmmm this or new nexus? decisions decisions -.-
The best review I’ve read in a while. =)
I love the Note 2 and Im getting it!
Can’t wait for this phone to come out in Canada!!!
about the drop test: just dont drop it and put it in a cover
Remember the Nokia N900. It had a stylus and it made the smartphone even better. I came wait to get this phone.
how much???????? :)
A lot. In the US, somewhere between 300 (on contract), and 800ish (64GB off contract).
The real questions are:
1- How practical is that big screen compared to a 4.7 or 4.8 SG3 ? The resolution is the same.
2- Should we buy this one or wait for LG Nexus G or whatever Nexus device will be ?
3- SPen looks nice, but I do not see myself using it as a primary tool.
4- For a device this big we need a carry case, that would make it even bigger. Now I do not have a purse with me all day (any day for that matter), and a bag or pouch is out of the question. My Friend has a SGN1 and a carry case, that thing is HUMMmmMMONGOUS, this one would not be any different. I may be able to accept size, but on the practical side I am not sure we can use it everywhere.
5- how solid is the device to bending or direct impact ? … I do ski in winter time and I need a phone with me. This being my phone I need a way to have it on me and not be afraid it will break in pieces if I slip and slide, tumble and roll, jump and fall. (you get the point) … the overrated 4s I use at the moment is quite minuscule in comparison.
I currently keep my note i747 in a pouch. It’s a bit on the big side, but after my n7000 got stolen (I didn’t have a belt holster before to store it) I won’t take a chance.
This is an expensive phone and if you truly see value in the device, the size of it is no longer an issue. If it is though, chances are this phone isn’t for you.
1. the screen is absolutely brilliant an you cant compare the GN II screen with GS III screen because the later uses pentile matrix arrangement and the former uses a new pattern which consists of 3 sub pixels per pixel like in the standard RGB displays. So the number of red and blue pixels is 33% higher in GN II than GS III. So the perceivable overall clarity and color production is great.
2. Thats your personal call. But i would by this if i were you for its insane software features and the future-proof hardware specs and its available right now.
3. I too was not very fond of stylus gimmicks before i bought GN I. It will change the way you use your phone in course of time!!!
4.Based on my experience, you can use it everywhere. Samsung’s flip cases will do good and will not make the device bigger but lightly thicker
5. watch the Android authority’s GN II drop test. It looks pretty solid.
1 The screen is probably the best you can get on a phone, due to the true blacks and sheer size.
2 Well that’s your call. Do you like Vanilla’s UI more than all the added functions of touchwiz?
3 I’m sure you’ll find some use for it in your life, wether it’s clipping images, taking notes, or navigating desktop sites.
4 You might not actually need a case, the back cover can be replaced a flip cover will ensure the front is safe as well.
5 from what I’ve heard, the Note II is a pretty sturdy device, but if durability is really important, I’d get a RAZR or Atrix HD as their splash-resistant, run close to stock Android, and are made of Kevlar.
I hoped you guys at Android authority would mention the missing polaris office from Note 2, which all other reviewers also failed to mention. It seems that the reason is that polaris office 4.0 (the one on SGS 3) works only on ICS and doesn’t work on jellybean. So for the time being, Note 2 doesn’t have any document editor (or even viewer). Any info on this subject Carl??
You can download it from Samsung apps. It’s free
At the Screen and Display section, You need to correct the part where it says “Coupled with the RGBG subpixel matrix and…” The Note 2 uses the RGB matrix in a different arrangement. Check out the digital microscope of the screen (courtesy of gsmarena):
When is this phone available to purchase? I currently have the S3, and am DYING to get this!
US unveiling event is Oct 24. I believe it starts at 7 pm edt.
Nokia lumia 920 is Finnish and will soon be Finish
Picked this up a few days ago. Phone is on another level. Yes its big. But its revolutionary. I shan’t be looking back.
tel about u amount sir……………
note 2 is either awesome or rubbish depending largely on the size of your hands
wanna buy a protector for my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 N7100,see this case : http://www.digitopz.com/builtin-nfc-chip-case-cover-for-samsung-galaxy-note-2-n7100-p-1210.html ,it looks beautiful,but just wonder what’s the NFC Chip ?
is swype native ?
any one find a good case with this phone? something that isnt too bulky in the pocket yet durable.
how come i cant watch movies during a call , the sam sung galaxy s2 can , thx
I droped my note 2 from about a foot and hit top left corner and broke glass. I did have a cover but it did not cover the corners
Does it work with a regular chip what happen when u get to Jamaic and there net work degi cell use a regular chip and not the micro one
10years a windows phone user. (all HTC phones) MY first Android phone and I love it!!! I dont sit at my desktop or laptop anymore. I have everything in the plam of my hands (you need two hands to hold it:-D) never going back to windows or HTC. Note 2 is the best!!