Samsung Galaxy Note 2 SGH-I317M 16GB 4G LTE (White) Android 4.1.1 Smartphone Review @ ModSynergy.com
By: Michael Phrakaysone

Samsung

It was back in June of 2012 that I had a opportunity at reviewing the original Samsung Galaxy Note Smartphone.  That was only about 6-7 months ago, yet I find myself writing today in January of 2013 about the second iteration of the Galaxy Note series, aptly named the Galaxy Note 2. 

Why does Moore's Law make technology evolve so quickly?  The original Galaxy Note was released in late 2011, yet now in 2013, while it's still a heck of a Smartphone (I gave it our Editor's Choice Award rating), it's about to become old-fashioned with all the new offerings flooding in from various manufactures.  That's the one thing about Moore's Law' effect on the advancement of technology...you buy something now, but that device or technology becomes outdated and superseded in 6-12 months time.

The original Galaxy Note ran had the Android Gingerbread operating system.  I found that to be a great experience since it was very stable and just ran very well. At the time, it was a very mature operating system.  Yet here we are in January 2013, and plenty has changed since Gingerbread.  Since Gingerbread, there has been three major Android OS changes; Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, and now Jelly Bean.  Jelly Bean is the latest version of the popular Android operating system that was released on November 2012.  I remember using Ice Cream Sandwich in its infancy and how it was riddled with stability issues.  It'll be interesting to see how Jelly Bean compares today.

With technology in general, you hear me talking about the evolution of technology through incremental changes.  Nowadays you will seldom see a particular device, or operating system manage to provide a gigantic leap forward from past generations.  A gigantic leap is something that happens like Windows 3.1 to Windows 98 or the leap from Windows 98 to Windows XP.  Each generation of a product or software nowadays is usually just a minor piece of update, new features, improved from the last generation, there's little difference to the foundation.  One example of this is the new Windows 8 being an incremental upgrade from Windows 7.  There's a new user interface, but it's the same as Windows 7, as Windows 7 was based on the same foundation of Vista.  All three are based on the same groundwork, they just have improvements and a new look each time.

With that said, the same evolution of incremental change is given to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.  It's now got a brand new Android operating system (Gingerbread vs. Jelly Bean), two more CPU cores (Dual-core vs. Quad-core), 1GB more memory (1GB vs. 2GB), a larger screen (5.3" vs. 5.5"), and a larger battery capacity (2500mAh vs. 3100mAh) than the previous generation. Those are the main key differences, there are more lesser changes as well. 

What a great follow-up to the original Samsung Galaxy Note Smartphone we had for you back in June 2012.  It will be interesting to see and pinpoint the differences between both models aside from the higher price tag.  Please read on to see if the Note 2 is better than the original, or better yet, if it's worth an upgrade from the original.   We'll directly compare our experiences of both, so you owe it to yourself to continue reading if you're contemplating purchasing the Galaxy Note 2.

Samsung GALAXY Note 2 Product Overview

It doesn't matter if you need to update a document for a co worker, create a quick proposal, or share the photos from last night’s game, the Samsung Galaxy Note II™ is the ultimate Smartphone for creating, collaborating and sharing. The new 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED Plus screen, coupled with the innovative S Pen creates a seamless experience between your office life, family life and social life.

Samsung GALAXY Note 2 Product Features

  • See More and do More: The Galaxy Note II’s 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED Plus screen is the largest Smartphone screen available. You can watch incredibly clear HD videos and read and create large documents with ease. Take advantage of the larger screen and multi-task like never before. With the 5.5-inch screen, you’ll scroll less and see more.
  • Advanced One-Hand Operation: At 80.5 mm wide and only 9.4 mm thick, the Galaxy Note II is designed for creation and collaboration on the go. With a shift dial pad, keyboard, calculator and more, the Smartphone is easily transferable from both left- and right- hand use.
  • Productivity with Precision: With the Galaxy Note II’s improved S Pen technology, you’ll have more control than ever before. Update presentations, edit photos and create documents with incredible precision. You can also write Note II's and emails in free-form handwriting. With the S Pen’s Smart Gesture, you can select text, crop images and even send an email with a few swipes. The new Air View feature allows you to preview what’s in your folders, and the new Pen Loss Prevention system sends an alert notifying you when the S Pen has been left behind.
  • SAFE™ and Secure: The Galaxy Note II is SAFE Certified for secure business solutions. There is full Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync support for email, calendar events and contacts, and the 256-bit On-Device Encryption prevents unauthorized access to your content. The Note II also comes equipped with full VPN support for corporate intranet and network resources.
  • Long-Lasting Battery and Processing Power: The Galaxy Note II gives you more power in a Smartphone than you’ve ever experienced. The new Samsung Exynos™ 1.6 GHz quad core processor with 2 GB of RAM lets you quickly open and run multiple apps at once. With LTE, you can browse, share, stream, and download with incredible speed. And with the reliability of the 3100 mAh long-lasting battery, you can stay productive through your busiest days.
  • Immersive Cinema-Quality Viewing: The Galaxy Note II’s 16:9 wide Cinema View provides an immersive HD video experience. From important keynote speeches to catching up with highlights from last night’s game, Cinema View brings elements of colour, sharpness and clarity you never thought was possible on a Smartphone.
  • Single Screen Multi-tasking: The 5.5-inch screen combined with the new S Pen features provides a unique multi-tasking experience. The larger screen combined with Popup Note II allows you to quickly sketch ideas and take Note II's while you browse and review documents. By being able to see multiple programs on the same screen, you’ll save time by not having to constantly open and close windows.
  • Share Large Files Faster: With the Galaxy Note II, you can activate S Beam™ to easily send and receive large files with another S Beam enabled device. When this featured is turned on, you can beam files by holding the devices close together. For example, you can beam image and video files from the Gallery, music files from the Music Player and more. Share calendar events, contacts, maps, photos and more in seconds.
  • Android Jelly Bean: Android Jelly Bean helps make the Galaxy Note II smooth, fast and customizable. Google Now integration provides you with relevant information based on your calendar, location and search history each day, so the more you use your phone, the more it gets to know what you need. With Jelly Bean you’ll also receive expandable, actionable notifications. You can reply to important emails, set up a last-minute meeting or adjust a document on the fly, all from the notifications screen.
  • Intelligent Camera Features: The Galaxy Note II’s 8 MP camera lets you easily capture incredibly detailed photos. Burst Shot instantly takes 20 photos with a single touch, while Best Photo takes 8 shots and chooses the best one for you. The Note II also captures rich HD video content.

Samsung GALAXY Note 2 Product Specifications

Samsung GALAXY Note 2 Comparison


Full Technical Specifications found on GSMArena website: http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_galaxy_Note 2_ii_n7100-4854.php

First Impressions

The Samsung GALAXY Note 2's box is essentially the same as the first. It's very compact with its usage of space, just like the original Galaxy Note was.  Though I feel the original Galaxy Note's box design was significantly better, since it looked like they tried.  With the Note 2's box, it looks like they got lazy.  The original box contained an actual product image of the Smartphone and the blue Samsung logo, along with features and also provided written information on the rear.  This allowed the front box design to look classy and not have empty spaces. The Galaxy Note 2 only has the full product name in shiny font in the center of the box.  Other than that, there's negative space around it.  Behind the box, there are no product information whatsoever.  Therefore, the Galaxy Note 2's product box feels very bland.  It's just a plain white box.

The back of the box should have covered information pertaining to the important features and information of the phone.  It should have mentioned points such as the Samsung Exynos™ 1.6 GHz quad core processor, 2GB of RAM, 5.5" HD Super AMOLED Plus display, Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean operating system, S Pen stylus, 8MP autofocus rear camera, super large 3100mAh Lithium-Ion battery, Bluetooth 4.0, Advanced position GPS, full HD 1080p video recording & playback, and much more.

The back of the box should have touched across those above features.  It does the product a disservice if you don't put information on the box.  Lately these products I've been reviewing seem to be missing information on their packages, it's very head scratching how a company can forget something so basic.

The original Galaxy Note made use of a SoC (System on a Chip) created by Qualcomm.  The cell phone industry has changed since then, and there are now multiple players producing multi-core chips for the mobile market.  From the inexpensive solutions from MediaTek, to the higher priced solutions from Qualcomm, Samsung, and Intel, because they all want a chunk of the expensive pie.  The Smartphone industry is expected to rise in popularity.  The Smartphone industry has expected growth that is staggering, and China is the largest market to be had.  It's pretty cool to hear about not only more quad-core solutions, but now hexa-core, and octa-core processors all in one package!  That is 4, 6, and 8-core CPUs in a Smartphone!

See...in about another 6-12 months, the Galaxy Note 2 will become out-dated, which is mind-boggling, because it's pretty powerful!   Heck even the dual-core original Galaxy Note 1 is powerful.  But what I'm seeing is the hope of the Smartphone to be poised as becoming fully fledged desktop replacements, so more powerful CPUs and GPUs for the mobile market is to be developed further than they are now. 

Samsung GALAXY Note 2 employs Samsung's own creation, the Exynos 4412 Quad SoC (System on a Chip) that is capable of 4G LTE speeds.  A quad-core 1.6GHz CPU processor and Mali-400MP GPU rounds out the important aspects of the GALAXY Note 2, while the system features 2GB of system memory making this a very powerful computer that fits in palm of your hands.  It's most definitely an upgrade from the dual-core original Galaxy Note in the CPU department and graphics department.  The added RAM means multi-tasking and general performance should be speedy.

The display is one of the gems of the Galaxy Note 2.  Samsung elects to increase the display slightly larger than the original Note 5.3" AMOLED display.  Note 2 has now 5.5" of real estate space to work with.  Samsung uses their brilliant AMOLED display technology and the Note 2 has their new Super AMOLED Plus screen with added Corning Gorilla Glass 2, providing stronger scratch and impact resistance among other properties associated with Gorilla Glass.

The 5.5" Super AMOLED Plus display is exclusive to Samsung and their devices and provides superior viewing resolution, viewing angles, color rendition, and response time compared to competitors while operating at a lower voltage extending battery life.  I've talked about AMOLED technology on previous Samsung camera reviews and you have to see it believe it.  The Galaxy Note 2 compared to the original trades resolution for size though, that can be considered a drawback to some. 

This 5.5" display resolution is 720x1280 compared to the original Galaxy Note which had a 5.3" display and 800x1280 resolution.  The tradeoff means the display's pixel density is technically lower than the original screen.  The original Galaxy Note had a pixel density of 285 ppi, whereas it is now 267 ppi. 

Truthfully, I could not tell the difference when I turned on the Galaxy Note 2 for the first time.  I felt the Galaxy Note 2's Super AMOLED Plus display was superb, and that I thought it looked like it had those dummy demo unit films on top of the screens that you're supposed to peel off.  It literally looked fake -- in a great way!  I was laughing at how crazy the screen looked, that's how impressive the screen was.  It's a very detailed, very colorful screen, viewing angles are lovely, the transition between colors is top notch, blacks are black, and whites are white on screen.  Though the pixel density is a tiny bit lower than the original Note, I felt it was still comparable in just about every way.  The screen on the Galaxy Note 2 is still impeccably breathtaking!

The Galaxy Note 2 is a multi-touch capable screen.  Cheaper Smartphone's on the market only are capable of providing up to 2-5 touch points on the screen at once.  So if you're playing a game such as Fruit Ninja, you can only use whatever maximum touch points it supports on the screen with your fingers.  Well the Note2 allows you to use all 10-fingers on the screen at once! 

The battery of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 deserves acknowledgment because it's significantly larger than the battery on the original Note.  This new battery is a huge 3100mAh in rated capacity compared to the 2500mAh on the original.  That is 700mAh extra capacity!  We'll see how this benefits battery life later on in the review.  Given in tandem with the Note 2 is an 5V USB wall charger that charges the battery with 2A of current, this very quick.  Some USB wall chargers range between 500mA, 1000mA, and 1500mA.  The higher the current, the faster the charge is to the battery.  Lithium-Ions can be safely charged with 2A current in most cases.  If you're not in a hurry, then I would prefer charging it slower, which can help extend battery life expectancy. 

The feeling of eagerness is given when you open the box by removing the top cover for the first time. The emotion is such as opening something delicate, luxurious and extraordinary. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

Found within the Samsung GALAXY Note 2's box are the following items...

  • Samsung GALAXY Note 2 Smartphone (White Color)
  • High-Capacity 3100mAh Li-ion Battery
  • Proprietary USB data/charge MHL cable
  • Samsung noise isolating in-ear-canal phone/headset with silicone ear tips
  • Samsung USB 5v/2A Wall Charger
  • Warranty and product information cards

Visual Overview

I noticed a number of things when I had the GALAXY Note 2 in person.  The first was its size.  It was large but much lighter in weight than I could have possibly imagined.  I thought surely the GALAXY Note 2 would be heavier to hold because of the screen size, but that was not the case.  Weighing in at 183g with the battery is quite impressive.  This is virtually the same weight as the original Note.  The device measures 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4mm making it smaller in depth and width compared to the original Note.  The height is the only area where its slightly larger.  People ask me when they see the GALAXY Note 2 where I keep it, and I mention that I keep it my pant pocket or breast pocket!  In reality the GALAXY Note 2 can fit in regular pant pocket and breast pocket without hassle.  Usually they just ask me that to make fun of the size, but seriously when you have the iPad, iPad Mini and similar large devices on the market, the Galaxy Note 2's size is nothing unusual.

The 5.5" Super AMOLED Plus display (Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) is glossy in finish and has anti-glare characteristics with the purple and green hue reflections seen on the screen.  Fingerprints while shown, are hard to see on the screen.  It was as if the screen was immune to showing the oils on my fingers.  This is one of the benefits at having Gorilla Glass 2.  This is a special type of glass that is made by Corning to be very thin, tough, lightweight (providing greater touch sensitivity), have outstanding optically clarity, and being resistant to many damage related qualities such as bumps, drops and scratches.  There must be another coating that repels oil as well because fingerprints and smudges are less obvious, and the screen is very smooth with your fingers and it's easy to make clean.  If Samsung didn't take the time and energy to have the best screen possible, the experience suffers.  This was not even remotely the case with the GALAXY Note 2 SGH-I317M. 

GALAXY

There's no denying the elegance that is the GALAXY Note 2.  It's drop dead gorgeous in every aspect.  The glossy finish, the rounded curvy edges, super thin glossy bezel, minimalistic icon buttons at the bottom, shiny plastic back plate, camera lens and LED flash all gives the Smartphone visual flair like no other.  I'm surprised they managed to make the phone thinner.  I would have thought packing in more power would involve making it more thicker.  I would not have minded if the Note 2 was thicker, that would actually in my opinion help aid in better handling of the Smartphone in situations as using the camera, a slight problem I had with the original Note.

There's something weird though.  Maybe it's the way I'm remembering things, but I feel that this review unit feels more plastic and less rugged than the original Galaxy Note for some reason.  Maybe I am imagining things.  I can't quite put my finger on it.  This review unit of the Galaxy Note 2 has been used extensively by other people along the way, and it shows on the bezel.  The outer edges has a painted faux chrome finish, but this unit shows that if not taken care of, it can be chipped off and scratched.  Maybe it was from a fall or something else, but the faux finish isn't the strongest.

As this version is the white color, the whole casing is translucent to a degree.  You cannot really see the symbolized icons within the casing below for the touch sensitive buttons as you are able to on the original black color Note.  The biggest difference from the original Galaxy Note I reviewed is the home button. 

The original had a touch sensitive home icon button, but this Galaxy Note 2 has a tactile home button, the one you press down on, like on an iPod.  I personally prefer the past generation's touch sensitive button, as with this physical button it doesn't sit flush but pokes up a bit.  It also needs to be pushed a little harder than I like, doing so then moves the whole Smartphone in your hand.  I much prefer the way it was on the original.

The touch sensitive button on the bottom bezel of the Galaxy Note 2 can't be seen as the casing is white and translucent.  However, once the Note 2 is turned on these buttons will be backlit with white LED's.  Starting from the bottom left is the is the Menu key, tactile Home key, and Back key.  These are your main iconic buttons that you will often use aside from the touch screen interface.  Above is the superb 5.5" Super AMOLED Plus display exclusive to Samsung.  At the top is the earpiece, light sensor (for automatic brightness adjustments), proximity sensor and front facing 1.9-Megapixel camera lens.  The original Galaxy Note had a 2.0-Megapixel front facing camera. 

The sides contain rounded glossy curves, the volume rocker on the left side, and the single button that acts as the power/reset key on the opposite end.  These like the original Note stick out a bit and are not flush with the bezel.  As I stated with my original Note review, I didn't like the placement of the volume rocker and the power button, because these areas are where I grip and hold the phone, thus from time to time I accidently hit them changing the volume or turning off the phone by mistake.  I really feel Samsung should have placed these controls at the top or bottom of the phone. 

Another example is when taking photos in landscape mode, the handling is a little difficult because of the slim bezels.  Sometimes I would accidentally hit the volume rocker, making the camera zoom in when I didn't want to.  I would have thought Samsung would have addressed these issues with the side buttons, but they haven't.

Samsung Galaxy Android

The back of the Samsung GALAXY Note 2 features the speaker slot, S Pen slot at the bottom, Samsung logo, rear camera lens, and LED flash.  The back plate is made from shiny glossy plastic.  The original had a textured feeling back plate which I found more functional in terms of masking fingerprints and also providing some grip.  With a non-glossy textured back plate, you won't have to look at the swirls that will eventually appear needing plastic polish to remove them (I hate swirls) just like what happens on a vehicle.  Now with the Galaxy Note 2 and its shiny and glossy finish on the back plate, it's just too smooth and slippery.  To me this is taking form over function.  I don't know, it doesn't look like Samsung has been rather keen on improving the exterior and handling.  It's really not that much different from the original.  It could be viewed as a step backward in a sense because they overlooked making improvements to the handling of the device.

The Note 2's S Pen is an active digitizer stylus and not a capacitive model as some inferior products use.  This means that the GALAXY Note 2's stylus and screen employs a Wacom digitizer system to coordinate what happens on screen.  Yes you read that correctly, Wacom.

The cool part is that when you're using the S Pen, you can make use of it like a ball-point pen, meaning accurate pressure-sensitive input is possible.  Press lightly and the strokes are thin, increase the pressure and the strokes of the pen are larger, just like what would happen on real paper. 

A noticeable improvement on the Note 2 has to be the S Pen being used as a floating cursor dubbed Air View.  The S Pen is so sensitive with the touch screen display, that while you are hovering the S Pen around the screen, it provides an on-screen cursor (like a PC mouse) that lets you know where it is.  Samsung calls this technology the Air View floating cursor, and it's a very convenient feature to have.

With the Galaxy Note 2, Samsung elects to modify the S Pen design.  On the original, the S Pen was completely circular (like any normal pen), except for the tip that let you know how to put it back in the Smartphone correctly.  Samsung decides with the Note 2 to change to now a 3-sided pen design.  Being 3-sided takes the guess work out on putting the pen back in the Smartphone from what I see.  Now it only goes back in one way. What happens is that the way you grip a 3-sided pen compared to the original circular S Pen on the original note is now different.  I'm used to holding a circular pen, so a 3-sided pen makes handling different from what I'm used to.  I think Samsung may have chosen this because they wanted to closely mimic an artist pencil (art stores carry 3-sided pencil for design drawing).

For the most part, aside from the Gorilla Glass 2, the GALAXY Note 2 is comprised of mostly hard polycarbonate plastic. The back plate is the only thin and flimsy part of unit.  There's no aluminum, no metal anywhere on the exterior of the device, so some may look at it as a disadvantage while others say otherwise.  The only thing I can say is that compromises needed to be made.  The GALAXY Note 2 seems generally well built with should be able to withstand some punishment, though I felt Samsung should have added an eyelet somewhere on the Note 2 so you can make use of a wrist strap to prevent dropping it.  It's best to purchase a strong case as an alternative. 

A downside as I mentioned is I felt that the Note 2 is now too smooth and lacks any form of real solid grip.  The first time I held it, I found it somewhat difficult to handle because having no rubber grips, there was nothing really to prevent the phone from escaping your hands.   The rounded out plastic bezel edge actually hinders your grip of the phone because if your hands are oily, the grip becomes worse, and phone starts to slip and move around in your fingers.  I feel Samsung needed to add some sort of rubber strip on the edges, and on the back plate to give some added grip.  Even a fully rubberized back plate would have made a huge difference.  Once seated on a table, the phone moves far too easily and can possibly fall, it becomes a hockey puck on the table. 

As I also mentioned earlier, I initially found the GALAXY Note 2 difficult to handle because I kept on hitting either the power button or volume buttons with my fingers.  This was frustrating if trying to take a photo.  I kept on unintentionally zooming and turning the phone off during the process.  Needless to say it took some adjustments to prevent this from happening, though it always seemed to happen eventually.   

The second issue is about the large size of the device.  If your hands are small like mine, your thumb cannot reach all of the buttons at the bottom of the device, nor can it reach the whole real estate of the screen.  There's just too much real estate and effectively you are regulated to using two hands to fully operate the GALAXY Note 2.  It's next near to impossible to use a single hand, though it has single hand settings.  In the end you need to make the necessary adjustments to adapt to the GALAXY Note 2.  But once that is done, the experience is enjoyable.  I would have liked the GALAXY Note 2 to have an eyelet for a wrist strap, that would be the most secure way in preventing any possible drops of the phone.  It REALLY needs one, no matter how dumb it may look.

The HD Super AMOLED Plus display is the star of the show.  The GALAXY Note 2 outputs around 267ppi pixel density and at a resolution of 720x1280, meaning it's technically less defined.  However in reality, you can't really tell the difference between the two.  I feel it's still every bit as wonderful as the original Note's screen was.  The Super AMOLED Plus display is super bright, super sharp, super colorful, and super amazing. 

Once I tested the GALAXY Note 2 and was accustomed to its Super AMOLED display, and went back to use my iPod Touch, the experience felt utterly disappointing.  Going back to even my TFT LCD monitor was also a step backward.  I could see every pixel when looking at the iPod Touch' screen, the exact opposite of what I can say about the screen on the GALAXY Note 2.  Once you've experienced an AMOLED screen, you never want to go back and use something inferior.  The viewing angles are ridiculous because I can tilt and view at any angles and the color, brightness and image stays true every time.    

Please Samsung!  Make an AMOLED monitor!

Samsung Galaxy

If you've read my HDTV reviews, you will know that LCD is a technology that has a light source behind the LCD screen, where it then blocks light to create an image.  Well with AMOLED its different.  AMOLED is a technology that essentially emits light rather than blocking it to create an image. 

The result of AMOLED technology, according to Samsung, is increased contrast ratio, incredibly clear images, better color rendition, 3000 times faster response rate than compared to LCD, brighter, less power consumption, thinner and the ability to be viewed from any angle without color fade, and being able to viewed even in bright sunlight.  I have to say from my experiences with the GALAXY Note 2, everything is true and the best part from this AMOLED screen from any other LCD screen out there is the ability to be used in sun.  It's not perfect in the sun, but its substantially better in the sun than anything I've used before because it has the ability to get bright.  Can it be brighter, sure it can, but it's definitely not bad the way it is now.    

Android Jelly Bean - How does it work?  Is it any good?

I tried Ice Cream Sandwich back when it first came out and it was very buggy and unstable.  Battery life also went horribly wrong with Ice Cream Sandwich.  Needless to say the years have gone by and Jelly Bean is now a mature adaptation of what Ice Cream Sandwich should have been.  Again it's all about incremental improvements along the way. 

I loved my Gingerbread experience with the original Note, and with the new Note 2 and its Jelly Bean Android operating system, I have to say it has been a pleasurable experience.  Jelly Bean really takes advantage of the multi-core processor power of the Note 2 and has even more features that allows for better multi-tasking and more options for the camera.  It allows you to restart now, instead of having to shut down entirely and then turning the phone back on.  It has better text prediction for when you type and it somehow learns from your typing habits to predict better.

Jelly Bean

Jelly Bean is more streamlined, more efficient in the way it operates, gives you a ribbon style notification bar that allows you to multi-task between applications and allows you to jump between them and gives you a visual representation of that app as it was when you left so you can resume without having to do everything over again.  JB  also adds the feature of dragging and dropping icons to create folders, which is very convenient to organizing apps on the phone.

Jelly Bean uses the graphics chip more and allows for more smoother action and smoother animation effects.  It's just a more complete operating system and more intuitive for Smartphone's and tablets.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Android operating system, I would suggest visiting www.android.com.

Click below picture to see more screenshots of Jelly Bean in action

Samsung

With the Samsung GALAXY Note 2, the Android OS is paired with Samsung's own TouchWiz touch interface, basically it's just a customized skin that separates Samsung phones from others and allows it to make use of features within the operating system.  It's a very cool and smart interface.  For example, it knows when you plug in an earphone and immediately launches a notification and related applications such as music, movies, all in one window for you to choose from.  The same thing with the S Pen.  A new feature that was not on the original Note was when you removed the S Pen, the Smartphone knows and launches a notification and in a window in front of you to chose from applications related to the S Pen.  Removing the S Pen on the Note 2 now provides you a nudge (haptic feedback) that you've removed the S Pen. Very cool.

There are basically 6 different desktops (you can add more and remove them too) that you can navigate across that contain various widgets, icons, and tickers.  All of these screens are customizable and can be tweaked to your personal preference.  You can move icons to which screen you desire by pressing and holding the icon and moving it where you want it.  You can remove items and customize the style of each desktop screen.  At the bottom are five main icons that pertain to the Phone (keypad, logs, contacts, favorites), Contacts, Chat, Messaging, and  Apps.  These too are customizable to your liking by simply dragging and dropping which app icon you want to replace.

Like I stated before.  In each desktop screen you can add apps and widgets, create a folder and dragging and dropping the apps you want into that specific folder for organization, set the wallpaper for the home screen and lock screen or both, you can edit each page and select which is the home screen, you can search through Google by text or voice recognition, and go into the settings menu. 

Pull down a hidden menu from the very top of the screen and down comes a window that shows you new notifications, allows you to adjust brightness, and gives you 9 different icons that you can turn on and off very quickly.  These are for easy access.  The icons are labeled Wi-Fi, GPS, Sound, Screen Rotation, Power Saving, Blocking Mode, Bluetooth, AllShare Cast, and Sync.  Above to the right of these shortcut icons is the settings button where you can change many different options such as screen mode, data usage, ring tone, blocking mode, storage, battery, application manager, accounts, Motion, S Pen, Accessory, and many more.

The Samsung GALAXY Note 2 is a very powerful computer and its easily shown in how fast and smooth  navigating and shifting through the menus are, and watching how all the animations such as fade and motion tilt are executed without hesitation.  Everything is snappy and programs load within a second or two.  It's quite amazing at how quick the Samsung GALAXY Note 2 is.  It's far more powerful than netbooks and some notebooks on the market.  It's scary to think there's this much power packed into something pretty small.

In the original Galaxy Note I reviewed from the carrier Rogers Telecommunications, they had their own start up logo which extended start up times.  It took about 30 seconds to start to the home screen.  Now with the Galaxy Note 2 startup takes only 20 seconds to hit the home screen with no carrier logo, just the Samsung Galaxy looking logo.  Waking up the Note 2 from standby takes just 1 second after you hit the power button, very quick.  Shutdown takes about 9 seconds, much quicker than the original.

The thing I like about the Android operating system is that it's not fully locked out as opposed to other mobile platforms.  You are still able to download and use a Linux based terminal tool in order to navigate around the directories, get Super User root access, connect to a secure server and perform other commands. 

During my time with the Samsung GALAXY Note 2, I did not have any major issues.  Performance was very quick and it did everything I asked of it.  I played 3D games, scribbled some notes and drawings, watched 1080p resolution video files on the Note 2 without it ever slowing down, watched YouTube videos, went on the Internet, searched by voice recognition, took a photo/video, used it as a GPS all without incident. 

The only weird incident I had a few times was the Map service kept on failing from time to time.  Map had an issue and it had to exit. Also in the Android Browser if I hit the Bookmark icon, I could see some flickering/clipping on one of the folders in the Bookmark menu.  It only did this a few times, but this has nothing to do with the hardware, but most likely more with the software.  Just a minor annoyances, it's comparable to using an iPod and having it randomly exit for some reason.

I almost forgot to mention about the keyboard.  The original Note had an alternative keyboard called the Swype Keyboard.  I was originally skeptical about this but it turned out to be one of my favorite features of the original Note.  When I had the Galaxy Note 2, I saw no more Swype keyboard as an option!  I for the life of me couldn't understand why Samsung didn't keep pushing Swype as a selling feature.  I couldn't believe there was no Swype!  Why oh why?

Well after I was searching on the Internet, I found out that the Galaxy Note 2 does have Swype but the Swype name is gone, and the actual setting is hidden into the keyboard menu, not very plain to see.  You have to navigate to Language and input --> Samsung Keyboard * --> Continuous input and enable that setting where it will enable the sliding finger across the keyboard movement into the Samsung keyboard.  Why it is hidden is confusing to me!

Browsing & Multimedia

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is capable of connecting with wireless interfaces from A, B,G and wireless N standards so whatever the wireless router you have, the GALAXY Note 2 will have no issues connecting to it.  The antenna seems to have great strength being able to pick up signals from distances quite far.  If you have a data plan with your network carrier, you are able to utilize up to 4G LTE speeds for quick downloads.

As for the signal strength of the antenna that connects to the cell phone carriers network, it's always locked on to full strength or just below full strength indoors.  Mind you this is on a TELUS network up in Canada.    Outside, the signal strength was excellent.   Call quality is good, and the call volume can be hazardously high for your ears, while the speakerphone is equally loud.  You'd want to lower the volume.  The speaker for phone calls is sufficient and for music its loud but lacks any depth, which I find is the same for all of the other phones out there.

Internet browsing on the GALAXY Note 2 is superb.  The more built-in memory being 2GB helps even more.  I can have multiple tabs and jump back and forth without issues and it doesn't have to reload the website, it already has the cached image of it on memory.   The built-in Android Browser is compatible with most website pages and renders them without any issues on the 5.5" Super AMOLED HD display.  The only issue is on some pages Adobe Flash objects are not shown.  I believe if I recall correctly on the original Note and older Gingerbread OS this was working, but I know Android and Adobe have been having issues. Before I was able to YouTube videos in the website, now I have to open up in the YouTube app in another window, and I was able to view Flash enabled galleries on ModSynergy, now I cannot.  

For the AMOLED display, the color is beautiful, fonts are razor sharp when zoomed all the way, and it's possible to view them zoomed out.  The resolution is still very high even though technically it has a little less pixel density than the original Note.  The Note 2 being able to read tiny font and still have super sharp resolution tells you something.  The text is sharp like a laser printer.  You can save pages to view them offline too with the integrated browser.  This shows how powerful the GALAXY Note 2 is with its browsing capabilities. 

I had a YouTube issue with the original Note.  Before when watching YouTube videos with the original Note, the video slow down and lagged a bit when you increase or decrease the volume.  It's was as if the GUI indicator causes a slowdown in the YouTube video. Now with the Galaxy Note 2 and Jelly Bean, that's a thing of the past. Everything is super smooth and looks fantastic.  The AMOLED screen makes crappy quality YouTube videos look good, it makes everything look great.

Browsing along websites, you can copy, cut and paste text and images like you can do on your desktop machine, but with an added twist, you can use the Samsung S Pen to crop pictures intricately and save them for later viewing.  Insert them in emails to be sent to a friend with any messages or Note 2s you may want beside or on top of the image.  There's just so many possibilities with the GALAXY Note 2 and the S Pen tablet like addition that there seems to be nothing you can't do on this Smartphone.  There doesn't seem to be any glaring limitations to the web browsing, email and imaging experience when you combine Smartphone and tablet capabilities to a device such as the GALAXY Note 2.

Though I have to say that I was hoping for there to be more innovation to the S Pen applications.  I don't really see more variety, all I see is more of the same type of apps that were on the original Note.  And I think they did something with S Memo.  I think with the previous generation it was simpler, now you kind of have to go through more steps than I remembered before.  S Pen and apps should bring simplicity, no one wants to have to go through a number of pages and templates to get what they want.  If I want to take a note on a piece of paper, let me do that quickly.

The Apple App Store is by far the largest app store but how many apps do you really need?  I use the same argument for television channels.  You don't need cable or satellite.  Over-the-air is free and in HD.  How many television channels do you need?  How many can you watch at one time?  The same can be said for apps, in this case now called the Play Store on the Android platform. 

Android apps can be found on Play Store and the number of apps that is able to be downloaded via your Google account is more than you will be able to handle.  Some if not most of the apps that have become popular are now cross platform and will work on Android devices.  Programs and games such as Instagram, Angry Birds, Grand Theft Auto III, VLC and Torque Pro are available to download as well as a host of apps from Google. 

Play Store is not only about applications, but also about books and movies.  It combines everything as one.  You can buy eBooks and read them on the GALAXY Note 2 like a real novel flipping through the pages electronically with folds through the pages, and you can also rent and watch recent and older movies on your device.

You can also use the Samsung GALAXY Note 2 as your movie playing device and it works rather well.  It can support just about any file formats you throw at it no matter the size, resolution or how they are encoded.  And because of the Super AMOLED Plus display, they look excellent.  I've had no issues with AVI, MKV, MP4, WMV, XVID, H.264 and using subtitles, 720p or 1080p.  Surprisingly you can watch anything on the stock media player.  You can also download other media players as well such as MX Player if you want more features. 

With the original Note, I complained about dark scenes looking a little blotchy with some shimmering artifacts in the dark shadowy areas when playing videos.  With the new Note 2 and Jelly Bean, I no longer see this issue.  Great news!  Now it's fully dark with no weird artifacts.

The shadows still look very black to me but that is because the AMOLED screen is so direct with its colors.  To combat this problem, a new feature has been added into the Display settings menu called Screen Mode.  It allows you to choose between 4 possible screen modes ranging from Dynamic, Standard, Natural, and Movie.  These modes affect the look of the whole display, the tones change, saturation gets punchier or less saturated, the brightness and contrast changes among other things. 

This is a great idea and implementation.  Movie mode does help make movies look better and helps with shadows, it operates less saturated and at half brightness.  I think the Movie Mode screen mode has the most accurate color of all the modes.  Beyond movie mode, it's just more punchy saturated to make it look better, but that makes the black too black crushing the shadows.  I am curious but I wouldn't be surprised if staying on such a mode will help extend battery life.

The built-in speaker on the Note 2 has the room to become real loud, which is a good thing.  It's sufficient for general YouTube usage, phone call speakerphone use, but it lacks any depth and passion.  Using the earphone port with an earphone or headphone would solve this problem.

Sound quality when using a earphone/headphone sounds is the way to go if you are watching a video or listening to music.  It provides you with a much fuller dynamic range in regards to the sound it gives off.  I would have liked the sound to have sounded warmer, but it's far from bad.  I don't know what kind of sound chip is inside the Note 2, but it drives the KRK 8400 headphones pretty well and it does a better job with the Sennheiser CX-300 in-ear earphones as the volume is very loud even at 1/4 the maximum volume level you can go up to.  Sound quality wise for a portable device, the tiny SanDisk Sansa Clip FLAC/MP3 Player remains the best sounding player I've had on this site to date.  It's just on a different level.

Voice Recording

There is an app that comes preinstalled on the GALAXY Note 2 and is named Voice Recorder.  This is useful if you would like to save a conversation or lecture for later use.  It's a very simple app that has an image of a microphone and the record/stop button right below.  Head into the settings menu and you're able to choose the level of recording quality, give it a contextual filename, but are not able to know the bit-rate that you're recording at. 

Recordings are saved in 3GA file format and file size is very small telling me that the recording is obviously compressed during playback.  Quality is still quite good but not as vibrant as it could be.  I suppose this is a good compromise between file size and sound quality especially for a long speech or lecture, but if you are looking for the best recordings possible, it's better to look for something in the Play Store that will allow you to output to another format with greater flexibility and more format choices such as PCM and MP3.

  • Voice Recording #1 - Raptors Game at Air Canada Centre - VLC Media Player plays .3GA
  • Voice Recording #2 - Raptors Game at Air Canada Centre

    Galaxy Note 2 now has a Micro-SIM Card

Just had to note this subtle yet quite annoying change from the original Galaxy Note.  The original contained the more widely used Mini-SIM card size on the Smartphone.  With the new Galaxy Note 2 it contains a newer and smaller Micro-SIM card on the phone.  Basically what this means is that if you have a micro-SIM card like I do, it will not fit into the Note 2.  The only way to make it work is to cut it or sand it down to size.  Really?!@!   This is obviously very annoying and if not done correctly, you can damage your SIM card losing all information recorded on it.  This is the same thing that is done on the new iPhones/iPads...I really don't like it.

The 8-Megapixel camera -- As good as the original?

Read my original Galaxy Note review and you will know how impressed I was with the rear facing 8MP camera.  The photos it produced could literally rival entry level DSLR offerings on the market (sans low light).  The camera on the original Note was an excellent still camera that produced super sharp photos from end to end with little to no softness around corners.  I honestly fell in love with it.  Some of my product photos afterwards were taken with the original Galaxy Note, that's how good it was.

It provided great colors that really popped and it was generations ahead of what could be done on a little point & shoot variety.  It was significantly better than any other Samsung digital camera I reviewed an even the DSLR-like NX series interchangeable lens camera from Samsung couldn't compare.  Equally as impressive was the macro function because you could literally autofocus right beside the object without issue, there was no need for a dedicated macro lens.  If you saw my comparison between the original Note's picture quality vs. the Samsung WB550 digital camera, you saw that they were worlds apart.

From comparing EXIF data on both the original Note and Note 2, it looks like the camera is almost the same on both, but with slight differences.  The specifications are very similar in the marketing materials so I really had no idea.  In reality they are closely rated from what I see.  Both have the same quick F-stop of f/2.6 and also technically lets in the same amount of light, both have the same focal length of 4mm, both do exactly the same resolution, both can do ISO 100-800, however, the Note has a Max aperture of 2.76, while the Note 2 has a Max aperture of 2.81.  But how do the photos compare?

The rear facing camera is a 8-Megapizel autofocus camera that is based on the BSI (back-illuminated sensor) variety that they have used on a few of their other digital cameras.  The theory is with a BSI sensor is that the technology presents more efficiency, and better lower light performance.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 also contains a 1.9-Megapixel front facing camera, making it a slight downgrade from the 2.0-Megapixel front camera on the original Galaxy Note.  The front facing camera is for situations such as video chats through Google Talk and Skype.  Speaking about the quality of the front facing camera, think of it as a webcam because that's what it basically is.  Check out the samples below, there's one picture that's clearly different, and that is from the front facing camera.  It has no autofocus and is fixed focus meaning you have to be at the right distance to have a clear picture, it's not very wide but it is wider than the original Note's front facing camera from what I remember.  The picture quality is nothing to write home about. 

Let me make a statement about those who made this camera on the GALAXY Note 1 and Note 2.  If the same engineers and designers implemented what they did with the Note's 8-Megapixel rear facing camera into the rest of Samsung's digital camera lineup, it would completely change their position and bring them generations ahead of where they currently are in terms of image quality.  And I hope the brand new Samsung Galaxy Camera is that product when it releases, it's on pre-order status.  It's a soon to be released camera with a super long zoom optical lens, fully touch screen rear because its running the Android Jelly Bean operating system!  Call it what you like, it's some sort of fusion of everything in one, like an Android Smartphone, but without the phone capabilities, and focused on the camera/video capabilities!  This may very well be a game changer for digital cameras and photography in general!  This is what you call innovation!  Go check it out.

The image quality from the 8-Megapixel autofocus rear facing camera on the new Galaxy Note 2 is comparable to the original Note considering the circumstances of season I had tested both, though I feel the original Note had the better camera picture quality overall (slight margin).  It had that extra punch with its picture, and looked a little sharper end to end, and sharper in general.  Maybe the weather has part of the reason why I believe this to be true, however that's not the full reason.  I believe there is a slight issue with auto white balance with the integrated LED flash you'll read below in a bit that I never saw with the original Note.

The original Note I tested in a hot and bright summer season.  I tested the Note 2 in essentially a groggy overcast white winter weather with much less direct sun exposure that summer offers.  I felt the Galaxy Note 2 camera made the picture seemed darker than it really was when outdoors in winter weather.  You would have to bump up exposure compensation or use the new HDR option to compensate.  The sunny weather will always choose the fastest ISO/Shutter combinations.  The color cast is different between the two seasons.  I can say I noticed slight differences that favored one over the other, but I feel the original still holds the better camera from a purely picture quality perspective.  The Note 2 camera is still high rate and is equally as impressive as it keeps about the same formula against the original, but the original I feel is still best. Good thing I saved original photos shot with the Galaxy 2 so I can compare.

One noticeable improvement I experienced with Jelly Bean (really came with Ice Cream Sandwich) is what they call zero shutter lag.  As the same suggests, you can now take photos very quickly.  With the original Galaxy Note and Gingerbread there was a slight delay (1-2 seconds at most) when it had to focus and then shoot.  With the Galaxy Note 2 and Jelly Bean the camera is constantly focusing and the photo is taken instantly once you hit the shutter button, you can notice this right away between the two.  However, this does not mean there is elimination of blurry photos.  You still have those from time to time for really fast moving subjects.  For the most part blurry photos are kept to a minimum with zero shutter lag and anti-shake option in the Note 2.  Zero shutter lag doesn't work when you use the LED flash, that still takes longer.

I kid you not when I say that you can achieve DSLR-like photographs out of this camera.  I was surprised at the image quality and general performance of the camera.  The picture quality is truly wonderful from such a small device.  Forget the traditional point and shoots, because this one trumps them all.  Out of the box without any tinkering the camera picks up the fine wonderful details, the autofocus is pretty quick, the color rendition pops, the picture is razor sharp from end to end with little to no distortion, and the image quality is just impeccable.   

I was truly astonished because it truly flattens any point and shoot digital camera I've ever used to this point.  I think the quality rivals and in some cases betters some DSLRs as well, which says a ton.  Whoever contributed to creating the camera within this GALAXY Note 2, I salute your efforts.

Operation is simple enough.  You head into the applications menu and run the Camera app.  Camera options are located at the top, image review bank on the lower left, autofocus/shutter button in the lower middle of the screen, and a switch that allows you to move between photo and video recording.

There are two ways that you can take a photo with the GALAXY Note 2.  In your screen there is a small square that acts as the focus point.  You can either hold the shutter button as the focus point turns green (signaling that its focused on the subject) and letting go to take the photo.  Or simply touch anywhere on the screen to choose the focus point, the camera automatically focuses (green square) and simply touch the shutter button once to take the photo.

With the rear facing camera, you are given a good amount of options to your disposal.  The Note 2 now has quite a bit more options, more effects, and more shooting modes than the original Note had which is always a welcome, and now ranks among the most camera options you can have on a camera.  There more of everything and new settings.  You can control the flash, shooting modes (single, best photo, best Face, Face Detection, panorama, share shot, HDR, Buddy photo share, Beauty, Smile Shot and Low Light), scene modes (portrait, landscape, sports, party/indoor, beach/snow, sunset, dawn, autumn color, text, candlelight, firework, backlight, night), exposure compensation, focus mode (auto, macro), timer, effects (cold vintage, warm vintage -- I like this look, posterise, solarise, green point, blue point, red-yellow point, washed out, cartoonify, black and white, sepia, negative), resolution (8M 3264x2448, 6M, 3.2M, 2.4M, 0.9M, 0.4M), white balance (auto, daylight, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent), ISO (auto, 100, 200, 400, 800), metering (center-weighted, spot, matrix), anti-shake, auto contrast, on, guidelines, image quality (superfine, fine, normal), GPS tag, shutter sound, and new options such as Take photos using voice (great for self portraits), Contextual filename, and Outdoor visibility. 

For your photos you can also edit and modify within the Smartphone and without uploading them to your computer.  You can rotate, crop, add a photo note, tags, share, adjust color, give effects, red-eye reduction, give decoration such as split photos into multi-grids, split in 2/3 to make a collage, adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, and edit photos with the use of the S Pen (can do things like doodle on top of photos, give someone a crown hat, whiskers, and more awesome fun stuff!) and much more. 

Some of options that I'd like to point out is the GPS tag, Contextual filename (name file based on location using GPS -- neat feature), Take photos with using voice -- say Capture, Smile, Shoot, and Cheese, flash, panorama, and ISO.  As the name entails you can use the GPS abilities of the GALAXY Note 2 to tag where the photos were taken.  Some call it geo-tagging but I just found it to be useful because you can view details about the location, latitude and longitude of the photo for reference. 

The GALAXY Note 2 contains an LED flash beside the camera lens. The original Note had the camera and LED flash in the same position.  It acts as the camera's flash and I'm happy to report that it's still very bright as the original Note's LED was.  I think the LED on the Note 2 has better diffusion.  The color cast is also a little more warmer on the Note 2 compared to the original Note.  I thought the original Note did a great job with auto focusing and getting the white balance correct with the LED flash in auto white balance.  I find sometimes with the Note 2 and the LED, the picture becomes too cool for some reason with the flash.  There's a mist of cool blue color cast on photos with the LED flash and white balance set to auto when the lighting is poor (indoor).  It happens on some photos. 

ISO ranges from 100 to 800 and I have to that Samsung has done a great job at keeping the noise in the photos to a minimum.  It's definitely an improvement from what I remember from older Samsung digital camera reviews.  Even at ISO 800, its definitely manageable and details are still good.

The panorama function is very simple to use because instructions are given at the top of the screen.  Simply press the shutter button once and start slowly moving from end to end while using the blue rectangular outline as a guide of keeping the camera level.  The camera automatically stitches the photos together creating a panorama.  When you don't do the panorama correctly some parts of the image will look blurry as the stitching is not correct.

The new HDR option is very good at bringing out the dark areas of the photo.  It reveals the dark shadowy areas on the photo making the overall image better.  There are two HDR modes, one is Normal, the other is Strong.  Though you'll find in certain scenarios, using HDR will make the photo look unnatural at times. 

Burst mode is another new feature on the list of camera options of the Note 2. It's a pretty rare feature on Smartphone's.  When you start the camera for the first time, Burst mode is enabled by default and always shows you a message box going over how to use it (can disable the message box from showing on the next start).  You simply hold down the shutter button and it fires off the audible shutter sound like an automatic gun consecutively up to 20 times.  It shoots about 6 frames per second (just like most DSLRs), but I personally don't use Burst Mode because I find that for me it's a little annoying since there are times when I only wanted to take one shot, but accidentally shot a few more extra photos.  It doesn't help prevent blurry photos when panning.  It's better when you stand stationary and try to capture something that is moving, like in a outdoor sporting event, or capturing race cars zooming by.  The good thing about 20 consecutive burst photos is that you can turn those 20 photos into a GIF later on.  Burst Mode is a pretty rare feature to have on a Smartphone so it's nice of Samsung to have added this capability.

The 8-Megapixel rear facing autofocus camera also acts as a video recorder, in this case it's possible to record in full HD 1080p resolution.  Again more options are now available to use in video recording mode while the original Note did not have these options.  You can also record in 720p and smaller sizes if you like.  The anti-shake option is now available when shooting video (original Note did not have this capability), however you lose the ability to take a snapshot while still recording if you turn anti-shake on.  The anti-shake feature on the Note 2 for videos does make a difference, I think more so for panning shots.  You can tell the difference as soon as you turn it on by looking at the screen.  It doesn't help much for prevent shake when walking, but I don't think most digital or even optical based anti-shake algorithms built in to consumer products can stop that much judder, unless you have a steadycam.

While recording you can pause video recording, resume video recording, and stop recording when you're done (Note 1 could not do this), this allows you to create a pretty convenient video of the moments you only want to share.   While in video you can record with the available photo effects (all of them listed as in the photo section -- I love warm vintage filter look), can record fast motion (great way to make time-lapse video -- I really like this) which records video 2x/4x/8x quicker than normal, use the LED flash for night time use, and more.

With the original Note I stated there was an oddity that happened when recording in 1080p.  With the original Note recording in 1080p, the focal length (proximity to the subject) became closer than normal.  With the original Note when you changed to 720p, the focal length retracted to its normal focal length.  Now with the new Galaxy Note 2, that oddity remains for 1080p but now also 720p is plagued with this same weirdness!  Now you have to record in 720x480 for the lens to retract to its normal focal length!  Wow that is not good anymore.  The original Note had a better tradeoff as 1080p was the only setting affected, you would just use 1280x720 for tight spaces, now with the Note 2 that is no longer the case.  Why!!?  Hopefully slapping on a wide angle lens helps.

Playing back the videos recorded on the HD AMOLED Plus display makes everything look great but I attribute that to the small screen size more than anything else.  But in reality when I'm playing the videos back on my computer and HDTV, it also looks good.  Aside from the shake, the GALAXY Note 2 captures good video and it's got good colors and very good sharpness.  I think it's a little better than the original with its video recording.  Compared to the Samsung WB750 I reviewed not too long ago, the video is comparable but it's definitely sharper.  The only disadvantage is that it lacks the 18x optical zoom the WB750 had to its disposal.   Audio quality within video recording seems surprisingly clear than the Voice Recording app that is included with the operating system.  This is because while recording in 720p or 1080p, it's recording at a much higher bit-rate than any 3GA file format can manage.  Wind suppression isn't the best as gusts of wind will create the usual whoosh distortion in the audio.

I totally forgot to mention that you can have a boat load of photos and videos stored on the Galaxy Note 2 as the microSD expansion slot can take up to 64GB of memory! 

Test Images - Full 8-Megapixel, original samples

ISO 100% CROPS

ISO

Picture Effects (Just 2 Examples)

HDR Examples (Rollover Images = HDR on)

Battery Life

This is a very important area for most customers because they don't want to be charging their phones all day long.  And with the high-capacity 3100mAh Li-ion battery that is included with the Samsung GALAXY Note 2, they won't have to fear about battery life being poor and not having enough juice to last through the day. 

The original Note had only a 2500mAh capacity battery so the Note 2 should offer longer battery life with its 3100mAh capacity, though that could be offset as the Note 2 is packing two extra CPU cores, slightly larger screen, and it being generally more powerful. 

During my mixed usage with the Samsung GALAXY Note 2, I had the brightness set to dynamic, WIFI on, GPS on, surfed the web, checked emails, shot photos, watched long length videos, made phone calls, did normal Smartphone stuff, and I could consistently achieve a over 21 hours of battery life. 

Lithium-Ion Battery

I remember only managing to get 10-13 hours of battery life with the original Note and Gingerbread, so the larger 3100mAh capacity battery and Jelly Bean operating system is definitely producing great results! 

If you don't use the phone much, you can get a little over 1 day of battery life before needing to recharge.  A recharge from 4% to full capacity took me around about 2 hours and 15 minutes with the 2A 5V USB wall adapter.   Check the gallery to see screenshots of the battery life.  A definite improvement! 

S Pen -- How does it work and is it any good?  What can you do with S Pen?

The Samsung GALAXY Note 2's biggest selling feature is obviously the tablet abilities of the device.  While you don't have much real estate on screen compared to larger devices such as the GALAXY Tab or Apple iPad (10+ inch screen), surprisingly you can still do a lot of useful things with the S Pen and 5.5" HD AMOLED Plus display.  Having Wacom on board is surely a positive because those guys are the experts at this type of function with their built in digitizer technology in the Note 2. 

Samsung has apps dedicated to the S Pen such as the S Memo, S Art, S Planner, S Choice where you're able to create drawings or just write jot-note's with the pen.  You can use the S Pen as a navigation tool if you like.  As I stated earlier, the cool part is that when you're using the S Pen, you can use it like a ball-point pen meaning accurate pressure-sensitive input is possible.  Samsung says there are 128-levels are pressure sensitivity.  Press lightly and the strokes are thin, increase the pressure and the strokes of the pen are larger, just like what happens on real paper.  You can select different pen colors, different brush strokes, variations such as brush, pen, pencil or highlighter giving you lots of flexibility. 

S Pen

A new improvement with the Note 2 is using the S Pen as an Air View cursor around the screen.   The S Pen does not have to be touching the screen for it to be recognized, just hovering around the screen will produce a cursor of where it is on the screen, so the S Pen can be used as an air cursor for presentation if you connect the Note 2 via MHL on a big screen for speeches or lectures.  The hovering allows you to also bring up descriptions of buttons you hover across to see what that specific icon does.  Using the S Pen is intuitive and you can use the hovering technology to browse the internet easily as hovering at the very top and very bottom of the page will automatically smooth scroll up and down for you like a 3rd button on a PC mouse.  Going to Google or any sites where you have to type in information will bring you a lower writing pad that will convert what you write on screen as text on the bar.

Stylus

You can draw, write, or doodle over images anywhere you like.  If you're researching through a document you can use the highlighter to highlight important lines, just like in real life with a book and highlighter.  To capture a screenshot simply tap and hold on the screen once with the lone button on the S Pen.  This button allows you to execute functions as it registers various gestures and commands.  It saves a screenshot as an image and then you can do with it as you please with the S Pen. 

Design

Or you can go to the gallery, double click on an image with the button pressed down giving you ability to edit the photo and create a quick memo.  You can draw on it, share it with the pen.  The possibilities are endless and the learning curve of what is possible will keep you busy as there are a number of commands to go through.  There is some lag when writing but you will get used to it since its only minimal.

Okay, Where Do You Buy it? For How Much?


Conclusion

There's not much not to like with the new Samsung Galaxy Note 2.  It's virtually better in about all areas compared to the original Note.  It's got a slightly larger screen size, much faster with 2 extra cores making it a Quad-Core, better graphics processing unit, more system memory (RAM), more internal storage with a 64GB model, significantly better battery life from a larger capacity batter, a new Android operating system that is stable, more features throughout, just more of everything.

There are slight downfalls related to placement of the power button and volume rockers that have not changed since the original, the slightly bluish photos when using the LED flash on some occurrences, some minor glitches relating to software applications, but for the most part these are very minor problems that don't alter the experience much in any way. 

The only real downfall is the decision to move from the more popular mini-SIM card size to the smaller newer micro-SIM card size forcing owners who have mini-SIM cards to cut down their SIM cards to fit resulting in possible damages to the SIM.  If you ruin your SIM card, all your stored contacts and info will be lost.

The other real downfall is that Canadian Samsung Galaxy Note 2 owners do not have the new multi-tasking feature called Multi Window, which allows the user to have more than one application on the screen at the same time!  This multi-tasking feature is a big deal and Canadian owners do not have this feature yet in their firmware.

The other slight downfall is I wanted to see more innovation on the S Pens applications front.  It's a new generation but I see more or less the same applications I saw with the original.  The new "Air View" floating cursor feature with the S Pen is a lovely upgrade the original never had.  I want to see more features and apps that have evolved.    

But other than that, I fell in love with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 the same way I fell in love with the original.  

It easily earns our Editor's Choice Award.

As I end this review, CES 2013 is happening at the same time.  And guess what?  I hear news from Samsung as they officially unveiled their 8-core processor for mobile Smartphones dubbed Exynos 5 Octa...Wow go figure!

Editors Choice

Facebook

Custom Search