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Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is being called Samsung's biggest smartphone release this year. In terms of size, that's certainly true - this 5.5" Android-powered smartphone is almost tablet-size! Does the Galaxy Note 2 tick our boxes? Find out, in our Note 2 expert review.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 - the Geek Squad expert review

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is the sequel to the surprise hit Galaxy Note, released in 2011. The original Galaxy Note coined the phrase “phablet”, and currently holds the record for the largest screen of any smartphone on the market today! Note 2 is thinner, slimmer, way faster than its predecessor and comes with the latest Android software - Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). How does it hold up in this competitive smartphone market? Let’s find out:

Galaxy Note 2 pros:

  • Super AMOLED HD 5.55” screen - the largest smartphone screen yet, with HD resolution
  • More than double the speed of the original Galaxy Note, with a 1.6 GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM
  • The latest Android software, 4.1 Jelly Bean, with Google Now (your digital assistant)
  • Improved S-Pen – a stylus that lets you draw, edit and do much more, with new features like preview mode for a sneak peek at your content
  • Longer battery life with 3100mAh capacity battery for more time online, playing games and chatting
  • 4G-compatible for faster internet (Note 2 LTE version, please check which version you are purchasing if you would like a 4G-compatible smartphone)

Galaxy Note 2 cons:

  • That large screen is too big for some people
  • The plastic finish doesn’t give the phone that premium feel

Galaxy Note 2 design

To me the Note 2 looks like the Galaxy S3's big brother, which is no bad thing. It has the same metallic outer edges, curved corners and curved plastic back panel. Two hidden capacitive buttons to the right and left of the home button light up only when the handset is on. The S-Pen is neatly hidden away in the bottom left corner.

In my opinion the Note 2 is a good looking handset, in fact all of Samsung's premium 2012 Galaxy range phones look great. The only downside for me is the phone still feels plastic. It’s a solidly-built handset, there’s no doubt about that, but that plastic finish doesn’t give the phone the premium feel that you would expect from a £500 handset!

Then there is the size, there is no getting away from it being a large phone which, lets be honest, isn’t for everyone. Having owned the original Note 1 found it a large phone to begin with but after a few weeks I was soon used to the size and didn’t think anything of it. The phone's design is like Marmite; you either love it or you hate it. Me? I Love it!

Galaxy Note 2 hardware

Talk about an upgrade! Samsung have more than doubled the processing power inside the Note 2. It’s gone from a 1.4 Dual Core processor to a 1.6 Quad Core processor, that’s double the amount of cores at a higher clock speed! Samsung have also chosen to double the amount of RAM, putting 2GB in the Note 2.

The Note 2's 5.55” capacitive Super AMOLED HD screen has Corning Gorilla Glass 2, which is lighter and thinner than the original Gorilla Glass and should resist scuffs and scratches. I found that the 1280x720p resolution made 720p HD movies or TV programs look stunning when I played them back on the smartphone. There is a sight loss in PPI, but at 267 it’s still better than a lot of other leading handsets.

The S-Pen is back and it’s got more features than ever, we will look at this more in the software section, but from a hardware perspective it’s now even more accurate than the original, with 1024 levels of sensitivity compared with 256 previously.

You can purchase the Note 2 with 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of memory, and increase this by adding up to a 64GB MicroSD card as well, perfect for storing those HD episodes of Homeland or Game of Thrones to keep you occupied during long commutes.  

Battery life is a big concern with smartphones, as they always seem to run out of power so quickly. Samsung have clearly thought about this with the Note 2, giving it a 3100mAh capacity battery that’s sure to last a full 24 hours, even with heavy use.

With the advancement of 4G network technology in the UK, which has just been released by the Everywhere-Everywhere (EE - Made up of Orange and T-Mobile) network, you can now get a much faster internet connection through your mobile device. It’s so fast in fact that it might even be faster than your home Broadband connection. The Note 2 LTE version is set to be realised this month (October 2012), which will allow access to this extremely fast network, although at present 4G is only available in a few cities.

Galaxy Note 2 software

This flagship handset comes with the latest Android software, Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), which brings some great features to the phone, such as:

  1. Project Butter - a section of the Jellybean software deigned to do nothing except make your phone run butter-smooth. No more jerky interfaces! When coupled with the Note 2’s already speedy hardware the phone runs extremely quickly.
  2. Google Now – Google’s answer to Siri, ask it anything and it will answer you at lightning-fast speed! Allow it to assist in planning your journeys, or even your whole day! It’s smart enough to work out where you live and work and provide you the traffic information for your route to work, clever stuff.
  3. Smart Widgets – adding a widget gets even easier with Jellybean, add a big widget and watch the rest move out of the way.

It doesn’t stop there though, as Samsung have added their own TouchWiz user interface (UI) to the phone with plenty of its own unique features:

  1. The Gallery gets a massive overhaul in Samsung’s latest incarnation of TouchWiz. View your photos in albums, view them like scrolling space paragraphs (think Star Wars) or even in a 3D spiral! It’s a feature that makes you go oooh!
  2. The S-Pen has several new features like preview: Hover over a photo album to see a preview of the contacts or hover over a video timeline to peek at the next scene. Multitasking is made easier with the S-Pen quick menu; giving you fast access to your favourite apps.
  3. Pop-up play allows you to pop a video out of fullscreen mode and into a small window,  which you can keep on the screen while preforming other tasks, like messaging or web browsing.
  4. S-beam lets you share photos and videos with another Samsung phone by simply placing them back-to-back and tapping share!

There are far too many features to list them all but these are the ones I have found the most useful and interesting.

Agent verdict on the Galaxy Note 2

In my opinion the Note 2 is Samsung’s best Android-powered smartphone to date. It's feature rich and lighting quick, a big step up from the original Note and even outguns the Galaxy S3. It will be interesting to see where Samsung go from here. Comparing the Note 2 with the rest of the current smartphone market it’s hard to find a phone that can compete with it and while the size might not be to everyone’s taste, one thing is for sure, after testing the Note 2 for several days, this Agent will be buying one!

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is available to buy now from Carphone Warehouse.

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