Android Central

The original Samsung Galaxy Note was never the likeliest candidate for a multi-million-selling Android device. Few expected it to succeed, and its inflated size and stylus input made it an easy target for ridicule. We were cautiously optimistic in our November 2011 review, but also skeptical as to its mass market potential. Yet somehow, in the ten months following its debut in late 2011, Samsung managed to turn this quirky technological showcase into something with sufficient mass appeal to shift more than 10 million units. And so here we are one year on with its successor, the Galaxy Note 2.

Samsung likes to talk about having created a new category of mobile device with the Galaxy Note, and the Note certainly stretches the boundaries of what can reasonably be called a smartphone. It’s even inspired a few imitators, including LG’s Optimus Vu and Intuition. But users of the original Note will concede that while the device was groundbreaking, it certainly wasn’t perfect. Samsung’s TouchWiz 4 software was hardly ideal for a phone of that size, and many usability hiccups remained in Android, particularly where the "S Pen" stylus was concerned.

In 2012, the Galaxy Note 2 presents Samsung with the chance to refine the Note formula, and possibly dominate this niche for another year. So have they succeeded? Read on to find out, in our definitive Galaxy Note 2 review.

Update, Oct. 6: This review has been updated in light of multi-window support being added via an over-the-air update.


The Good

The Galaxy Note 2 delivers thoughtful hardware and software improvements over the first Note, with solid build quality and surprisingly competent ergonomics. The screen is gorgeous, the camera matches the high-end competition, and the device’s performance and responsiveness are nothing short of buttery-smooth.

The S Pen, though still not a required in everyday use, has become more useful -- and usable -- in the Note 2. And then there's the latest version of Android, as well as the wealth of extra features offered by TouchWiz.

The Bad

The sheer size of the Galaxy Note 2 will be a turn-off for some consumers. TouchWiz remains visually and structurally chaotic, with some minor annoyances.

Conclusion

The original Galaxy Note wasn't a mainstream device, and neither is its successor. Nevertheless, the Galaxy Note 2 is the best large-screen smartphone available by a considerably wide margin.
 

 

Inside this review

More info

Galaxy Note 2 video walkthrough

Galaxy Note 2 hardware review

It’s impossible to talk about the Galaxy Note 2’s internal or external hardware without at least a nod in the general direction the Galaxy S3. Just as the original Note was heavily influenced by the Galaxy S2, the Note 2’s design is clearly based upon that of the S3. In fact, the it’s the spitting image of its little brother. It has a similarly curved design and metallic trim, the same button and port placements and an identical “hyperglaze” finish on the battery door. It’s clearly identifiable as a premium Samsung smartphone, and owing to its size, quite unlike any other mobile device out there.

The original Galaxy Note was the quintessential black slab -- understated in its appearance, its only distinguishing feature was its enormous size. The Note 2 is a bit more adventurous with its industrial design, coming in shiny “marble white” -- the version we’re reviewing here -- and “titanium grey,” which has a faux brushed metal effect going on. Because of its design, and the use of similar materials in its construction, holding the Note 2 feels a lot like holding a supersized Galaxy S3. The extra weight and thickness means it feels a bit more substantial than that phone, though -- more sturdy, less creaky. It’s just as much of a fingerprint magnet, unfortunately.

Upon closer inspection, the Galaxy Note 2 slightly more squarish than the S3, and at 9.4mm thick, a good deal heftier, with the extra girth allowing for a Wacom-enabled screen and monstrous 3100mAh battery. As we’ve said, the Note 2 is also a good deal larger than the S3, with a gigantic 5.5-inch HD SuperAMOLED display taking up much of the front face. The bezel surrounding the screen has been kept to an absolute minimum, though, and as a result of the device’s new 16:9 aspect ratio, it’s taller and narrower than its predecessor. The front surface area is around the same as last year’s Note, though the aforementioned bezel-trimming has enabled Samsung to upgrade to a 5.5-inch panel in place of the original’s 5.3-incher. At 180 grams, it’s far heavier than the average phone, but the Note 2’s large surface area gives the illusion of it being much a much lighter device than it actually is.

Android Central Android Central

Despite Samsung’s efforts to make the Note 2 as pocket-friendly as possible, we’re still dealing with an unusually large smartphone here. For all intents and purposes, the Galaxy Note 2 is the same size as the original model. The difference in shape does it make it easier to pocket and operate with one hand. Nevertheless, we doubt there’s a human being alive with large enough thumbs to activate the notification shade in one-handed mode. Samsung has provided some software tweaks to make one-handed use easier than it might otherwise be, just as they did in the first Note.

On the bottom edge of the Note 2 is the S Pen slot, which houses the phone’s pressure-sensitive, Wacom-based stylus. The pen itself has undergone a significant redesign -- it’s longer and thicker, and one of the sides is slightly squared-off, making it easier to grip. The on-stylus button has been textured to make it easier to locate, and the capacitive tip is slightly rubberized to give a better on-screen action. Individually, these are minor changes, they combine to form a profoundly-improved stylus experience. We’ll go into more detail on exactly what the software allows you to do with the S Pen later in this review.

In a nutshell, the Galaxy Note has been re-imagined using Samsung’s 2012 design language and technology. And the upgrades continue under the hood, as the Note 2 is packed with Sammy’s latest bleeding-edge internals.

Android Central

The spec sheet reads like a smartphone nerd’s fantasy. Running the show is a 1.6GHz quad-core Exynos 4 processor, backed up by a whopping 2GB of RAM. Storage in 16, 32 or 64GB configurations, expandable via microSD card. An 8MP rear camera with BSI image sensor. And a 3100mAh battery powering all the internals. That’s an awful lot of telephone for your money. We’ll get to the question of performance later, but we don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that the Galaxy Note 2 is a blisteringly fast device.

In terms of connectivity, the European 3G Galaxy Note 2 we’re reviewing (model number GT-N7100) offers data speeds of up to 21Mbps down and 5Mbps up over HSPA+, as well as 802.11n Wifi over 2.4 or 5GHz. There’s also a European LTE version (GT-N7105) that offers 4G connectivity, though that’s unavailable at the time of writing. Over HSPA+, however, the Note 2 was as fast as any comparable smartphone, obtaining data speeds of up to 13Mbps down and 4Mbps up on Three UK’s network. However, the lack of DC-HSPA+ support may cramp your style if you’re used to getting these higher speeds.

Despite its large size, we had no problems using the Galaxy Note 2 as a traditional cellphone in voice call mode. It’s difficult not to feel a little ridiculous holding a 5.5-inch block of plastic and glass to your head, especially given the Note 2’s stand-out design. But at least your calls should be consistently loud and clear.

Android Central

The screen

The Note 2’s display, as we’ve mentioned, is a 5.5-inch HD SuperAMOLED panel. It’s big, it’s bright, and it’s even better-looking than the Galaxy S3’s, on account of its RGB subpixel arrangement. What that means is it’s the best SuperAMOLED display available, and it experiences none of the discoloration or jagged edges often associated with older PenTile panels.

We’re about to get a bit technical here, so if you’re not interested in exactly why the Note 2’s screen is superior to your average SuperAMOLED, feel free to skip to the next section. We won’t blame you.

Typically, SuperAMOLED screens have a “PenTile” or “RGBG” (red, green, blue, green) subpixel arrangement -- that’s the order of the tiny LEDs that make up each pixel. This often makes for inferior image quality compared to SuperAMOLED Plus, which uses a more regular “RGB” stripe arrangement. That’s why you’ll hear many a smartphone nerd complaining of discolored whites and jaggies around text and other on-screen elements on SuperAMOLED screens, because you have fewer subpixels per pixel in an irregular arrangement.

Android CentralClick image to enlarge

The Galaxy Note 2’s screen doesn’t use a PenTile matrix arrangement, but it isn’t quite a traditional RGB stripe set-up either. Zoom in close enough on the Note 2’s screen, and you’ll see that each pixel consists of a red and green subpixel stacked on top of each other, and a larger blue subpixel to the side. It’s been speculated this arrangement helps to improve screen longevity, as the blue subpixels are often the first to burn out. The use of a larger blue subpixel, it’s said, means it can run darker without upsetting the color balance.

The bottom line is that the Note 2 has the most advanced HD SuperAMOLED display available, for the first time combining sharp text with vibrant, accurate colors and pitch blacks. We’d hesitate to place it above the HTC One X’s SuperLCD2 on our grand, imaginary league table of smartphone displays -- like all AMOLED panels, it can struggle in direct sunlight -- but it’s by far the best screen you’ll find on a Samsung phone.

Android Central Android Central

Galaxy Note 2 battery life

Android CentralWith an enormous 3100mAh battery on-board and no 4G LTE radio to contend with, we anticipated a Herculean battery performance from the Galaxy Note 2, and the results weren’t far off our expectations.

Unsurprisingly, that giant RGB HD SuperAMOLED screen is the biggest battery-guzzler, with other tasks -- even photography and mobile data use -- proving surprisingly light on battery consumption. The end result was an average of around 12 hours of very heavy use on Wifi and HSPA+ during our first full day with the Note 2. Later on, with more normal usage patterns, we managed well over 24 hours on a single charge.

That’s a respectable performance, but we have to wonder what extra toll 4G data might take on the LTE-equipped variants. In any case, if you’re rocking a Note 2 on plain old 3G, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting through a full day on a single charge.

Fortunately, Samsung’s TouchWiz software does include a multitude of battery saving options, which can be set to automatically trigger when the battery’s low. And the removable battery gives you the option to swap in a spare if it’s going to be a long day.

Android Central

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 specs

Android Central

Galaxy Note 2 software review

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 runs Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean alongside the TouchWiz Nature UX. It’s the first non-Nexus device to ship with Jelly Bean, and that’s a pretty big deal in itself, showing that Samsung recognizes the importance to keeping on top the latest code from Mountain View. As such, Note 2 owners will benefit from the new Google Search with Google Now, and “project butter” enhancements for a more fluid and responsive UI.

The core of the TouchWiz user experience will be familiar to those who’ve owned, or played with a Galaxy S3. For better or worse, the “TouchWiz Nature UX” is here to stay, complete with slightly disjointed visual styles and insipid water droplet sound effects (the first thing we disabled on our review unit). Visually speaking, TouchWiz remains a little messy, with assorted features strewn across the UI. Take a trip through the Settings menu and you’ll find even more features scattered around the place, many of which are disabled by default.

One favorite of ours is Smart Rotation, which helps out when you’re reading lying down, by checking the orientation of your face on the front-facing camera. Another is Blocking Mode, which lets you turn away calls and notifications based on time or contact. Incidentally, both of these features should be coming to the Galaxy S3 in its Android 4.1 update.

Android Central Android Central Android Central Android Central Android Central

The combination of Jelly Bean, the latest version of TouchWiz and that speedy Exynos CPU means the Galaxy Note 2 absolutely flies. It's flawlessly smooth and responsive, and in our experience, completely impervious to lag -- a tangible step beyond the already stellar performance of Jelly Bean on the Galaxy Nexus. Apps start up in an instant, and the second gigabyte of RAM means the Note can keep much more stuff loaded in the background. It’s the fastest, smoothest user experience you can have on an Android smartphone.

What’s more, every software feature of the Galaxy S3 is included on the Galaxy Note 2 -- from S Voice, to Smart Stay, to S Beam, to Pop-Up Play. It’s all there, and we’ve covered it in detail in our TouchWiz Nature UX walkthrough.

So we’re going to focus on new additions in the Note 2, and most of these are specific to the S Pen. As we mentioned earlier, the S Pen’s hardware has undergone some changes, and the software accompanying it has been similarly overhauled.

Android Central Android Central Android Central Android Central Android Central

Upon pulling the S Pen out of its holster, the phone now recognizes that it’s in use, and pops up a notification. If you’re at a home screen, you’ll be taken to a “page buddy” area -- an additional home screen containing a fixed widget and extra S Pen-specific shortcuts. The main area shows you a list of notes taken in the S Note app, as well as available templates for creating a new one. Page buddy also springs to life when you’ve got headphones plugged in, showing an overview of your music and media playback apps. There’s also one for roaming abroad.

Page Buddy can be disabled if it’s not your cup of tea, but we found it inoffensive enough during our time with the Note 2.

Android CentralThe S Pen can now be detected at a distance, and that means the Galaxy Note 2 displays a nifty floating cursor on-screen when the S Pen is hovering overhead. While useful for increasing the precision of pen input, Samsung has also built hover-specific functions into many of its apps. The gallery app allows you to preview folders or images by hovering over. The S Planner calendar app offers a similar function for viewing an expanded list of events. Elsewhere, hovering over parts of the UI will display tooltips for certain on-screen buttons and text elements, just like mouse input on a desktop OS.

The original Note included a few basic gesture commands that could be activated by the S Pen’s on-board button. This has been expanded considerably in the Note 2, with the inclusion of a “quick command” pop-up app. In addition to drawing gestures on the screen to activate the back and menu buttons, it’s also possible to swipe to the top of the screen to bring up the quick command window. From there you can draw and write to perform certain actions -- for example, question mark and a search term to perform a Google search, or @ followed by a name to send email. Handwriting recognition is markedly improved from earlier Samsung efforts, which makes these features all the more useful. It’s not perfect, so you’ll still have to watch your handwriting, but on the Note 2, it’s accurate enough to be genuinely useful.

Similarly, screenshots can be taken by holding down the S Pen button and long-pressing the screen, or you can hold the button down and trace around an area to cut it out and send it to another app.

Android Central Android Central Android Central Android Central Android Central

You’ll find a couple floating window apps appearing in places on the Note 2. The miniature version of S Note is back, activated by double-tapping the screen with the S Pen button held down. And the optional pop-up browser app can be used when clicking web links in other apps. The windows can’t be resized, but they can be moved around, and are able to send your web page or note of choice to the full-sized version of their respective apps.

Speaking of apps, a familiar suite of TouchWiz apps is bundled with the Note 2, including ChatOn, AllShare for media sharing and various “Hub” apps for music, video, games and books. Samsung hasn’t crammed too much unnecessary stuff onto the device, though, as most of the superfluous stuff has been moved a special area within Samsung Apps. From here, individual apps like the photo editor are available as optional downloads.

S Note makes a triumphant return on the Galaxy Note 2, with more features than ever. There are even more templates to choose from, and voice recordings and photos can be added to notes, which could be useful for college students or anyone taking notes in a meeting. S Note also includes an excellent formula recognition engine, which can turn any formula you can draw into the correct characters in the right place. You can also search the web based on formula input, which is a nice touch. We're not sure why you'd want to draw Einstein's field equations on a smartphone, but if you want to, here's proof you can do just that on the Galaxy Note 2 --

Android Central

And for the less scientifically minded, there's also Paper Artist, a filter-based art app that allows you to trace colors and certain patterns onto photos you've taken with the rear camera.

But perhaps the most impressive software feature of the Galaxy Note 2 is its "multi-window" support. This enables true multi-tasking in Android, through a menu activated with a long press of the back key. From this expandable menu, it's then possible to split the screen between one or more full-blown apps -- for example, you could watch a YouTube video up top, and write an email down below. This feature doesn't support all apps on the phone, but a surprising number are compatible with it, including a large number of Samsung and Google apps, and third-party offerings like Twitter. With features like this, the Note 2's extra screen realestate really comes into its own, and the functionality offered by the phone pushes closer towards desktop-level multi-tasking.

Galaxy Note 2 camera review

Android CentralThe Galaxy Note 2 sports an 8MP rear camera with LED flash, along with a 1.9MP front-facer. Both cameras use BSI (backside illuminated) sensors in order to improve low-light performance. Fundamentally, the rear camera performs much the same as the the Galaxy S3’s camera -- in fact, it may even be an identical camera module, though we’ll have to wait for a teardown report to know for sure.

In terms of performance and image quality, there’s little to separate the Note 2 from the S3. Both offer excellent image quality, particularly for macro shots. Like the S3, the dynamic range offered by the Galaxy Note 2's camera wasn't the best we've seen (the camera tended towards overexposure on bright shots), but on the whole, shots were clear and vibrant. The Note 2 offers near-instant shutter speed, as well as the increasingly standard "machinegun" burst-firing mode, which shoots a series of snaps in quick succession.

The standard platter of photo and video features is also offered on the Galaxy Note 2 -- image stabilization, options for controlling white balance, ISO and metering, as well as timer controls. Additional extras include a few basic photo filters, including sepia, black and white and negative modes.

Android Central

There's also a dedicated HDR mode, and the usual assortment of filters and shooting modes. Among these is a low-light mode, which we used to capture our low light sample shots below. As you'll see, using this mode trades image clarity for visibility -- from a distance, low-light shots look great, but they're lacking in up-close details. Samsung's excellent panorama mode has made it across, too, and works just as well as on the S3.

The software itself is identical to that of the Galaxy S3, which is to say it's among the best available on a smartphone. Galaxy S3 social features like buddy photo share and auto-share have made it across, and function just as they do on that device.

We were just as impressed with video recording on the Galaxy Note 2. Regardless of lighting conditions, the device spat out picture-perfect 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second. In daylight, everything is crisp and vibrant, and in even at night by streetlight, the footage produced is surprisingly clear. There's really not much nitpicking to be done here. There's always room for improvement in low light shots, but we think it'll take another generation of smartphone camera tech before that happens.

Galaxy Note 2 hackability

The international Galaxy Note 2 is just has hacker-friendly as any other Samsung smartphone. Rooting the device is simply a matter of flashing the relevant files across in ODIN mode, and work on ClockworkMod recovery for the device has already begun.

The hardware similarities between the Note 2 and Galaxy S3 should help to foster a diverse custom ROM community around the device in the months ahead, though patience is advised, as it’s still early days. Expect things to pick up considerably once the Note 2 launches in the U.S. later in the year.

Android Central Android Central

Galaxy Note 2 availability

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is available in the UK now, where SIM-free prices sit at around £530. On-contract prices start at around £41 per month for a free Galaxy Note 2. In the UK, EE will offer the 4G LTE version of the Galaxy Note 2 from mid-October. North American availability remains up in the air -- we’ll likely know more following Samsung’s Oct. 24 event in New York City.

Galaxy Note 2 review wrap-up

In the past year or so, 4.3 to 4.7-inch smartphones have become the norm. So when we talk about phones with large screens, we’re really referring to anything measuring 5 inches or above. That’s the new category Samsung lays claim to having created with the original Galaxy Note. And in this category, the Galaxy Note 2 is now the best device available, by the very longest of country miles. LG’s Optimus Vu and Intuition don’t even come close to matching Samsung's A-game.

The Note 2 delivers thoughtful hardware and software improvements over the first Note, with solid build quality and surprisingly competent ergonomics. The screen is gorgeous, the camera matches the high-end competition, and the device’s performance and responsiveness are nothing short of buttery-smooth. The S Pen, though still not a required in everyday use, has become more useful -- and usable -- in the Note 2.

On top of that, it brings the latest version of Android and most fully-featured (although arguably not the best-looking) Android UI, in the form Samsung’s TouchWiz. Sure, TouchWiz is TouchWiz, and design-wise, it’s still a bit of a mess. But on the other hand, the sheer quantity of features it now offers is staggering. Full-screen multitasking is a particularly significant milestone, and something we very much hope to see more of in future devices. With features like this, the smartphone inches closer to rivaling desktop operating systems.

Android Central

In many ways, you could make a strong case for the Galaxy Note 2 being an even better all-rounder than the Galaxy S3.  Certainly, there’s a lot more you can do with it. In our review of the S3 back in May, we pointed out that it was a device without any major Achilles' heel. The same isn’t quite true of the Note 2 -- in fact, paradoxically, its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. For every consumer who buys a Note 2 because they love the gigantic display, there’ll be at least one more who sees it as unwieldy or even comical. The redesigned chassis and narrower footprint does make it more pocket-friendly, but as long as it’s as large as it is, the Note will have to exist somewhere outside of the conventional smartphone market.

Nevertheless, the original Note proved there’s a multi-million unit market for unconventional smartphones. And in the Galaxy Note 2, Samsung has itself a worthy successor indeed.
 

Thanks to Clove Technology for providing the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 for review.

Android Central

 

Reader comments

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review [Updated]

146 Comments

Note 2 has an alarm to prevent you from walking away from it. Haven't lost my s-pen in 10 months with my alarmless note 1.

Glad you put forth the effort to complain what someone else mentioned rather than try to help others out. What do you know, posting this means I am as useless as you are.

The s pen should be like the Asus pad phone and also have a blutooth speaker and mic in it for taking calls, imo. I'd like a stylus just for my Gnex.

I remember samsung saying you could use the pen as a bluetooth headset during calls so you don't have to hold the phone to your face.. is this still true?
If so it makes it seem like it would cost a tad more then $23 right?

I'm not positive but guessing it's between $30.00-&40.00. I know with the original Note, they had a Genuine SAMSUNG Galaxy Note Stylus Touch S Pen Holder Kit for that price. It includes a holder that is the shell of an actual pen and the S-Pen fits right in there, making it look like an actual pen. You should be able to get replacements for pretty cheap on Ebay eventually. I'm sure they'll have a replacement S-Pen for the Note 2 as well. The Note 2 will have the alarm to warn you it's not put back in the phone.

If I hadn't recently re-upped my Sprint contract, or had a ton of extra cash on hand, and wasn't already ecstatically happy with my S3 I'd be ALL OVER this.

I'll never understand those people that want smaller phones (not just iPhones, although even counting the 5 that's the prime example still)... although I will say that I really can't imagine anything bigger than this being reasonable. I DO think Samsung has found and hit the upper limit of "reasonable" smartphone size (and as the review rightly pointed out, many will think they've already crossed the line and probably did with the first Note).

I'm also not sold on the whole stylus thing frankly... I think I'd have to play with that for a good long while to see any real benefit, if I ever did... but in terms of size, battery and overall hardware, WINNER!

Oh, and I can't believe I'm saying this having had a number of Samsung Android phones in the past, but I actually REALLY like what they're doing with TouchWiz UX... it's one of the biggest reasons I'm not jumping on a custom ROM on my S3, I don't want to lose a lot of those cool features. Yes, I use a different launcher for sure, TouchWiz as a launcher just doesn't cut it... but all the extra features that the TouchWiz Nature UX layer brings to Android I find to be fantastic.

I think the stylus has a few specific niches...

A. Some people just like it (I don't know why, except for the reasons below, but they do).

B. I think of a job that I had previously that was 80% handwriting on a touchscreen into an area for handwriting recognition. A stylus was an absolute must there. A physical keyboard would require inefficient modes of work that was simply not realistic and an onscreen keyboard would be completely unreasonable in the overall setting--I'd rather write it on paper and go back to the desk to type it out in that setting, which as I said, is extremely inefficient and could add hours onto the already long and exhausting shift.

C. When it comes to doing certain elements of artwork, you just can't beat the stylus. I don't know how much the Note (2) is going to fill up artists' space as of right now, but there's probably a lot of room for growth there, and I would expect it to grow a lot in the future. Especially thinking of an artist working on some design for a client, scribbling out some rough drafts on the screen for the client to see immediately--no need for fumbling around with paper or a device that's bigger than necessary.

D. That's probably only the beginning.

"I'll never understand those people that want smaller phones."

Many of us want to be able to use a phone with one hand. I'm sure some small-phone fans have other reasons, but that's a common one and the one that matters to me.

I certainly don't mind the existence of much larger phones, unless that kills off high-spec small phones (which seems to be the case in the Android realm).

Sadly I think you're right about it killing off high spec small phones. I love my Note LTE but I don't think people should all have to have giant phones.

I sympathize with your pain, but it's a simply matter of economics: the smaller phones are not selling anywhere *near* as well as the larger phones, ie: it's not as profitable to make the smaller phones. I love the size of my Evo3D at 4.3 inches, but I'm seriously considering the Note 2. I'll definitely have to play with it at the Sprint store for a bit before I make a decision, though.

I do have to admin, though, that I have larger-than-average hands, so it's not difficult for me to use the larger phones in one hand. Voice Actions might be a useful feature in this situation, though. Might be something to think about.

QUOTE: ... it's one of the biggest reasons I'm not jumping on a custom ROM on my S3, I don't want to lose a lot of those cool features. Yes, I use a different launcher for sure, TouchWiz as a launcher just doesn't cut it... but all the extra features that the TouchWiz Nature UX layer brings to Android I find to be fantastic."....

I couldn't of said it better. Touchwiz can be taken or left, for sure, but all those other goodies i would not sacrifice for a custom rom. Til someone adds each and every one of them, and then i guess it'd be pointless to call it a "Custom Rom" ...lol But it would be nice to see a "themed stock rom with ALL the features and maybe a lower LCD Density setting....." i'd jump on THAT....

BTC

"I'll never understand those people that want smaller phone"

I have a paralyzed arm, so anything bigger than my HTC Thunderbolt (4.3") I won't buy simple because I wouldn't be able to type very well on anything bigger than 4.3" unless I set it down on a table or something any time I need to use it.

Another reason I wouldn't want such a big phone is because of the space it will take up in my pocket. Again, because I have a paralyzed arm, I pretty much have to put everything into the same pocket which causes it to bulge out and look ridiculous.

I know I'm a rare exception, and that 99.9% of consumers actually have two functioning arms and hands, but that's two major factors on choosing a phone. If my left arm wasn't paralyzed, I still wouldn't want my phone to be so big, but I'd love to have a phone with a stylus. It would be great for my job and make a lot quicker and easier for me. If this phone was 4.3", I wouldn't hesitate to buy it.

So judging by screen shots you can STILL only have 4 rows of icons on this tall screen? If I'm right that's such a waste of screen. Even the crapple iPhone 5 has 5 rows on it's 4" screen. Seriously Samsung?!? I know I could get a launcher but what if I wanted to use stock launcher?

I was just thinking to myself, I hope I'm not the only one that sees this!

I love having a 5x5 homescreen (it doesn't help with all of the 4x4 or other ratio widgests, but i'm used to it on my OG Note). That would be a total bummer, but not a deal breaker, not due for an upgrade with ATT but this is a MUST HAVE.

You are aware that the Note 2 has 7 homepages onto which you can place your most used widgets and apps. And that you can quickly and easily create files on those homepages to combine like apps. And that when you access the apps file...the pages move side to side...so it is easy to see what the next row of apps is. Are you a current Android user....by any chance?

The Touchwiz UI just has so much wasted space in between your main homepage icons on the bottom row. I don't use Touchwiz on my S3 because of that space, it just looks bad. Regardless of how many home pages there are, there's no good excuse for all the wasted space.

You probably won't have any trouble starting a fight over the Touchwiz UI. I find more to dislike than like about it. Having said that....it is sited as a big reason lots of buyers gave for choosing Samsung. No accounting for taste. And I agree that space could be better utilized. But it is not as important in an Android phone as it is with iOS. But I don't understand what an extra row of icons buys an iPhone 5 users. Unless you scroll through your apps, full pages at a time, it doesn't seem to make any difference. When the icons scrolled up and down on my Droid X...I scanned the app rows in a continuous motion. Now that apps move side to side on ICS, that extra row might be important. But, as with most Android users, my most commonly used apps are on my home pages. It's pretty rare that I go to the apps directory. And because you can use the page buttons to move directly to any of your home pages...it couldn't be much easier or quick to find them. And, since multitasking allows me to run my top 5 or 6 apps continuously...I have to access apps less. And finally, a few of my favorite widgets rounds out access and control of my favorite apps.

Yes I am an Android user. I have a One X and a S3. Both are big screens with only 4x4 icons on the home screens. I realize you can have multiple screens but it's a huge waste of space to have just 4x4. It doesn't make any sense to increase the screen size just to increase the empty space between icons. I'd prefer more icons, or a tighter grid, per page than more pages.

Why don't you just run a custom launcher? I'm on the other side of town on this and I've noticed from homescreen screenshots that the majority is as well. I could have 7x7 but I find 4x3 to look much cleaner, less cluttered, and show off my dope wallpapers lol. Honestly I see most people with just a few folders...aka minimalistic view. My 2 cents.

I bought Nova Launcher for 25 cents during the Play Store sale even though I didn't need it at the time just for this kind of situation.

The switch from 1280 X 800 to 1280 X 720 is the likely reason they went from 5 columns on the Note to 4 columns on the Note 2.

Exactly. I run Nova launcher on my Evo3D with the Columns/Rows set to 4/5. I really wish more of the "stock" launchers would start including settings like this, but oh well. At least Android lets us use 3rd party launchers so we can get what we like :)

I thought the same thing, but then I use the GO launcher rather than Touchwiz (or even Sense on my old Desire HD) and that allows more icons and options which I like, so I don't see this as an issue.

The advantage of Android customization ability.

Great job Alex! Really looking forward to getting a Note 2 on TMobile. Looking to sell my N7 and One S and just run a Note 2. I find my self having a hard time balancing 2 devices. This would add simplicity to my life. And probably a lot of mockery from my friends and family. :^(

Side Note: (see what i did there) There is not pictures of you holding the Note 2 to your head nor of it stuck in your pocket. Make that happen please. Thanks for the great review.

Note 1 easily fit in pockets and I could even do the bra tuck thing on bag-free days. Holding it to your head, well that stands out, Bluetooth, earbuds or speaker preferred.

that must be one big bra, hehe... but as a guy with the note since release date, it fits in my pockets exceptionally well, (i just don't wear skinny jeans)! If a kindle fire cna fit in my back pockets, then a note should fit in my front pockets excepetionally well, with a 32 waist

Same here, I always have headphones, earbuds, etc. to talk on the phone, whether at home or out and about. I actually don't even care what people think by my having a big phone to my head when I do have to answer it without bluetooth device. I love my big phones and can't wait for this one!!!

You get used to it very quickly, and not being as wide as the old Note, it's slightly less silly looking. If you even think it's silly looking to begin with.

Also, it fits into my pockets fine, shirt or pants, and I'm not the largest fellow in town.

Your reviews need a "The In Between" category. You placed size under a "The Bad", but it's not really a "Bad" if you like the size. I don't like slider phones, but if I did a slider review I wouldn't list "slider" as a "bad" feature.

Well said, and a good point, although I think I understand his reasoning here: for *mainstream* adoption, the size is something that is, ultimately, going to work against it.

My goodness this is a great phone. If the worst complain is screen size then I'm all over it. You either like the 5.5 screen size or you don't. I can't wait to try it. Games on this will be awesome and this will be great for small business owners who want to edit documents and invoices. Will work perfectly with a portable printer. Thanks for the review. I think I'm stuck on this one even if they introduce a new nexus, unless they introduce a samsung nexus again but even then the note 2 will most likely be my next phone.

That is exactly what I was thinking. I do a job that's sort of like independent contracting in a way. I work for a company, but I'm on my own all day long doing work and dealing with customers, and it's my job to stay organized in order to better serve them as well as keep my company up to date on what I am doing. I am in a truck a lot, so I am constantly running google maps, music, fielding phone calls/texts/emails etc. I love the switch to touch oriented swing in smartphones (away from the stylus in palm/winmo) but there are definitely times I wished I had a stylus to make quick notes in the field. Currently I carry a windows mobile invoicer, a galaxy nexus personal phone (mostly for the screen size), a smaller android work cell, laptop, and printer along with paper/pens etc. I can see this device going a long way towards simplifying my work day and deleting devices. Quick notes with s note, a proper browser experience and email with the large screen and available smart dock, I will be able to dump my personal nexus etc etc. This device may not be for everyone, but I'd much rather "deal" with the larger than normal screen than "deal" with multiple electronics and paper, all while trying to keep them synced and organized. The only problem for me (the reason I have a separate small android work phone) is having to bend a lot during the day, leaning up against things, and being put into awkward positions. I don't think the device would be able to with stand the stress put onto it in a pocket, and I'm not sure a 5.5" device on a hip holster would work either. However, as was said above, if finding a way to deal with the size is the only concern, and it will ultimately simplify my life/make my work more efficient, that's the whole point of smart phones isn't it? Or have we all forgot about the reasons palm went to a phone rather than a PDA, and all the bellyaching that came from those devices.

I was still 5% unsure whether to get the Note 2 as my next phone, but this review has removed all doubt.

They're having a Note 2 launch party on 10/24, so it should be released within a week of that.

Can't wait to pick this up for AT&T, hopefully they will have both of the launch colors, I love the Titanium Grey, but not a fan of White.

Why? For the first time ever, OEM software is BETTER than stock o_O

If I can get my hands on one of these things, I'm rooting, but not romming. And I love romming.

You're right. This would be the first Android phone that I would likely just run full stock on. Crazy ;)

I'm still rooting it, though :)

Guys this device is a monster.. it is featured pack, things that even iphone will take yrs to develop. i have seen its review on utube, its awesome. those who wanna buy it, i have 1 suggestion jus wait lil while.. as new colours will be there other than white n grey.. jus as lil personal thing n that split screen function is not available in few of the devices.. so jus wait for a month or so n buy it on Christmas. other than that.. cheers

Split screen issue has already been resolved and all devices are able to use the split screen feature. Sounds like a couple of early devices shipped with an older firmware. Sammy's already pushed an OTA to fix it.

This is why I love Android Central. Comprehensive reviews and honest summary points that force OEMS to go back to the drawing boards. Sites like this improve the Android ecosystem, while tech blog sites (I won't name) hinder OEMS (I won't name) by making them believe they've come up with half baked products they can't improve upon.

I concur 1000%. This review is thorough, well written, and refreshingly honest in a world of fanboy fake review tech bloggers on the corporate take. Well done Android Central, and keep up the great work.

Great review the only thing I want to point out is in the "Bad" portion you referenced the screen size. The phone is caled NOTE2!!!! screen size should not be something that is looked at as bad when the point of the phone is that its big.

I believe the logic here is that the screen size will be a negative in terms of *mainstream* adoption. I'm sure it will still sell millions, but it will remain confined to something of a "niche" market as a result of the screen size.

You may be right, to a point. Regardless of the screen size, I think people are still going to get this just for the specs and features this awesome phone has. I hope it is extremely successful so that the carriers will continue to offer these 'Niche' devices.

Yes sir, Day one purchase for me when launched on Tmobile. I already own the Galaxy S3 it's truly a wonderful device. The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 will be the ultimate all purpose entertainment device ever made nothing will ever be better. Gaming, videos, business related documents, and any other entertainment advantage will be the best on this device. That full screen multitasking feature will be working when launched on USA devices come November you can count on that for sure. No other device arriving over these next 180 days will be better than the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. No Next Nexus, No Htc Droid Incredible X, No Lg Óptimus G/Nexus, No Droid Razr Maxx Hd, nothing will be better than the Galaxy Note 2 period.

1000% agree! This is going to be the best phone out for awhile and will force other companies (Apple, Motorola, HTC) to step up their game if they want to make it to top and remain there. HTC, I believe, will probably remain a top competitor, as they do have nice phones and will most likely up their game. Way to go Samsung! Can't wait for this phone to be released!

Love the review, can I nit-pick a little?

Mentioning the size as a negative is a bit silly.

If you're out to buy a phone with a screen this large then you're aware of, and willing to accept, the sheer size of the device. If your upper limit is around the 4.3" mark, and phones with screens this large aren't an option, then it's irrelevant to say the size is a deterrent.

Basically, it's inevitable that a device housing a screen this huge will be big, it's not a negative, it's just par for the course.

The biggest thing stopping me from getting this is the development. Will CM10 and other devs do roms for it with the issues of Samsung and the Exynos chip? Also, will those roms have the muli-app/multi-window function (when it's available)?

except one of the major devs for CM saying he won't develop for it anymore until Samsung releases the code and goes as far as saying he wouldn't buy a phone with the Exynos chip until they do, because it's too hard to develop

About the same amount of ignorance it took to make a comment like that. It's all about personal preference and what works for the individual. Grow up.

I think I'm going to have to agree with Nick on this one. I'm about as much anti-Apple as you can get. But it's getting to the point that I'm starting to have feelings of pity for the iFoneys (but not that much). They're getting further and further behind the curve, and with their closed eco-system and one new phone every year or so, along with their outdated and boring interface, there is no other option but for them to accept their fate of being second best. You can see it in their faces and in their comments. The market/innovations are moving along at a tremendous rate and they can't keep up due to their closed environment. Meanwhile, Android phones of monumental proportions are appearing right and left from all manufacturers.
But like Nick said, it's all about personal preference. Best thing is to let them get bored of their outdated OS. Let them glance at your phone and be envious. Believe me, we'll get a lot more converted to Android that way than by making derogatory comments on their choices.

Double Window missing because he has an old international version from an software standpoint. That feature will be working and ready to go straight out the box when Samsung shows off the Galaxy Note 2 here in New York City October 24th.

bravo to Samsung for fabricating such an incredible device!! I know the size isn't for everyone but I love it. Hurry up and come to US and to VZW. Its actually worth waiting in line for :) Cant wait to have it!!!!

I want one of these phones. But I seriously have to ogle it in a store first. As much as I trust AC, there is no way I'd ever buy a phone sight unseen or more properly phone un fisted.

I had the the origanal g. Note and found it best phone I have ever had. Thesize is not a problem. I just got the note 2 and its amazing. Its so fast gr8 for browsing, texting, gaming and oh its even gr8 for calling people! Me wife just got the Iphone 5 and it puts that to shame. Its going to take some phone to top this. Well done samsung

Dang..
This thing is almost as cool as my JellyBean Hybrid KKO OC Kerneled 1,832 mhz PA Rom'ed Galaxy Note 1..

Not Bad Sammy!

Those who don't get the stylus maybe haven't thought of the new ways they could use their mobile. I've had about a million ideas about how this device could change the way I work. Especially in environments where computers aren't typically used. I work in construction & most people thought I was mad bringing a netbook on site until they saw how you could solve problems quickly with all the latest plans. This will allow as fit plans to be recorded; electrical test results to be entered/recorded; proposed changes to be discussed/recorded/signed/emailed through the use of camera & pen all on site. I am sure there are numerous other work places this would be extremely useful in. This is pretty much my dream device, only things I can think of are a version of linux to use whilst connected to monitor/keyboard/mouse etc & sub 10ms audio latency on processed inputs for playing guitar/bass through (the ONLY benefit iOS now has IMHO).

Excellent review. Informative as always. I'd like to get my hands on one of these before I decide to make my purchase, but from everything I've read and seen online I'm 95% convinced that this will be my next phone! I'm due for an upgrade in mid November, and hopefully the phone will be on the shelf!

You're sitting much better than I am. I still have my gimped Atrix (on ATT). Been frustrated with this thing ever since they made me upgrade to gingerbread. The update did more harm than good. Going forward, staying away from Moto forever!

Hey... I am sitting on a gimped Droid X on it's last legs... I think I bought it the last week it was available (didn't know the X2 was coming out). NOw... my upgrade is due in a couple weeks. Do I go with an SG3? Or wait even longer for the Note 2? Screen size does bother me a bit.. but Dual Core vs QUAD Core bothers me a bit more.. SG3 will get JB eventually... so that doesn't weigh on me. Decisions, Decisions.

Problem is.. haven't been able to use my Droid as an Android in a while.. apps don't tend to work very well anymore. Too many freezes, reboots, and failures. SD card got wiped the other day for no apparent reason.

I'd get a Note 2. The S III is the best smartphone of 2012, but I feel like the Note II, mixes the best of both worlds tablet, and smartphone.

No real point at all... Yes you get a better processor, and a slightly bigger screen, but at this point, you'd be better off staying with your S3 and then upgrading to an S4 or whatever the Note 3 is later.

Unless you feel that the S3 screen isn't big enough for what you need (i.e. drawing, reading books/magazines) etc.

This. This is exactly where I'm at right now. The S3 screen is more than enough for me, and the processor in it is plenty fast. Not to mention, I just bought it back in July for the full retail price. But, for some odd reason, I want the Note 2. It may be because I wanted the OG Note, but it never came to Verizon. I think what I like about the Note 2 is the stylus and multitasking that come with it. The bigger screen would make watching netflix and my downloaded movies even more awesome.

I really want it for the stylus, but am completely satisfied with my S III for the most part otherwise. I more than likely won't be getting the Note II, but it's really tempting.

This phone. Samsung is SLAYING the smartphone market, wow. I actually just drew out a block with the same dimensions as the GN2 (Lol I know, right?) and yes, it's huge, but not as monstrous as I was expecting. This needs to hurry up and come out stateside so I can hit up a store to play with a REAL model.

Still, there's a new Nexus coming really soon, the GN2, AND likely an SIII predecessor sometime next Spring. Decisions like a m*therf*cker. Samsung, just take everything I own, why don't you?! Because I need all of what you're putting out.

Hahaha I only just realized a few minutes ago that I made that mistake and was on my way back to correct myself!

Since we all know it's out, why don't they start selling the accessories? Samsung displayed a bunch of them at the IFA. I would like to get my docks, chargers, maybe even a case,or fancy S-Pen, etc. in advance so I am ready. Plus I can spend money on those now and on the phone when it comes out; kind of breaks up the pile of money!

Yeah. This is going to be a concern for me, since I use my phone a *ton* while driving for GPS and such. I *have* to have a good dash mount and, as much as I'm loving the features of this phone, I have to know they'll have the accessories I need before I can commit to buying one.

LOL I agree! I'd like to get all my accessories for when it comes out so I can be ready with everything! Can't wait!

I recently purchased a GS3 with T-Mo USA. As much as the promise of a future proofed LTE equipped Note II on Magenta rocks, I have to say I'm happy with the size of the S3 and it makes my old Sensation feel puny in the hand. I have keep telling myself that my area won't see T-Mo LTE until late 2013 at the earliest if even in calendar year 13'.

Anytime you need a microscope to view sub-pixels and talk about how it's good/bad thing for phones, it's ridiculous.

No one can even see that difference with the naked eye. You'd be hard-pressed to spot the difference without zooming in like they have.

True, I figure this phone is so close to being perfect that people feel compelled to find at least one thing wrong (or more negative) with it. Nothing could change my mind and I will have this Note 2 the day it gets released!

This review was helpful but more than a little absurd. Knocking the device because of its size is much like knocking Android Central as a tech site for the fact that it has so much Android content.

Thinking of getting this phone which is a beast but i have only one concern since its a samsung will this phone have the same issues as the SGS2 (specifically the Sprint Epic touch) with LOS, and sometimes i get voicemails from calls that i missed but my phone never ranged for.. Also if someone calls me my phone wont start ringing till like the 4th ring which normally everyone hangs up by then. I use my phone heavily for work so i cant have that issue. I know this is the NOTE 2 not the SGS2 or SGS3. Dont know if the NOTE1 had this issue. Also i know its not out yet here in the states but wondering if anyone could answer my question.

Looks like this review needs to be updated given the new firmware update that just released allowing the use of the "multiwindow feature"!

After spending my time with the HTC Thunderbolt since its release, I told myself that I would not pick a substandard device again. After seeing phone after phone get released over the time, I am convinced that this is a device that will not slow me down, a device I will not outgrow anytime soon, and most importantly a device that allows me to be as productive as I wish to. I was waiting for this review. Now I just have to wait for one more and get a personal hands on; then this phone will be mine. Good job AC.

I was hoping the Optimus G, One X+, or the Xperia T would come to T-Mobile to give this thing some competition. That being said, considering the usefulness Samsung packed into the S-Pen and the multi-window mode...I don't think any of them would've swayed me. This thing is a BEAST, and right now it looks like the only thing that could top it would be a Nexus Note!

I've been using this phone for two days and WOW! Many upgrades from the previous Note, speed of an S3 plus some, S-Pen has more practical uses now, screen is amazing! BEAST is an understatement. I don't understand how so much hype can come from an iPhone, just cause its Apple? Note 2 has soooo much much more to offer.

You should do a review on Youtube and show people what you think and the features, etc. I'd watch it as I am always checking out the reviews. I really count on reviews until I can actually get the device in my hand.

The Note 2 is a MainStream Device. Once this power house makes it's way into the US market people, millions of people will buy it. This is very, very comfortable in the hand, most of the time when I'm using my phone I'm usually at my desk of in a vehicle where the size is never a problem but a plus. This is a bad ass power house that will put all other phones to shame, that's right I said phone. I used the international version and let me tell you, this is a beast. The US versions are coming with the same quad core processor but with LTE if called. Take my money and give it to me.
Thank You Samsung
Alex Dobie is the very best at Android Central.

I live in Honolulu HI and like most, I don't go to the city (tourist area) but I went last weekend with my son and we saw 10 notes in less than two hours and 8 of them were with small Asian women. To this day I haven't even seen a windows phone or a Pre in the wild.

The first gen note wasn't enough to push me over the edge and definitely not enough for me to switch from my EVO's to go to AT&T but I'm definitely getting this when it comes to Sprint and hopefully I will be able to keep it for 2 years.

Thanks Alex for updating the review with info and a video about the multi-window feature. It's made an already great review even better! Can't wait until this phone makes its way to Verizon, hopefully devs find a workaround for its locked bootloader!

Great review, agreed w/ everyone about listing the size as a con, its actually the "pro"... Especially liked the photos and all the angles...

anyway, why is there no ability to "like or thumbs up" a comment?? I've read almost every one of them here and ya got some great ones, unlike the usual arguing and name calling on some of the comments i read..... thanx! BTC

Samsung was not the first company to bring out a smartphone with a 5" screen. Dell brought one out a couple of years ago though it didn't use a stylus.

Do you know if Samsung has blocked the capability to move apps to the SD card like it did on the Galaxy Tab 2.0? I hate to think they're becoming like Apple and making you pay more for a higher capacity phone. Yes you can put music and videos on the card but a number of games are getting so large that you need the extra storage.

Thanks

This is more of a Google problem Google is trying to encourage people to use the cloud (Google drive) so in the future we might see other companys do the same thing which I agree isn't good but that's how they want it

This is awesome. I'm just imagining this as a nexus phone with all those features...wow...hmmm...and I'm back, powerful phone though.

Why hasn't this story been updated to include stateside availability instead of a useless reference to some Samsung event that happened 3 days ago?

Just got my GN2 a couple days ago. You failed to mention the most awesome feature -- the soft keyboard HAS A DEDICATED NUMERIC ROW!!!!!!! That, alone, makes this awesome slab of a phone worth getting.

Does Samsung Note 2 camera has function which capture photo in black and white n highlight one particular color in photo?

1. I could not sync the phone on Linux because I could not get direct access to the SD card. Not even with Developer options USB Debugging enabled.
2. Keis wont work because of that stupid Java Applet bug.
3. Samsung website would not accept my IMEI number from the back of my phone under the battery so I could not register it to get support.

I got a question how do you turn off screen shot on the Galaxy Note II especially if you're playing games and stuff .So freaking annoying than likely to get rid of the phone I've tried all bulshit on blogs i don't see no option.