Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review [updated]

Reviews Paul Briden 14:28, 9 Oct 2012

We've spent six months with the Galaxy Note 2 to find out if Samsung has perfected the 'phablet' formula

Rating: 
4
Pros: 
Excellent display, Refined and useful pen input, Good power, Fast UI, Android Jelly Bean 4.1, Decent camera, Plenty of storage, Good connectivity, Highly customisable interface
Cons: 
Tacky and slippery plastics, Size can be awkward
Verdict: 
The Galaxy Note concept has at last been brilliantly realised

As with its predecessor, strike up any conversation about the Galaxy Note 2 with a small group of people, or even just take it out of your pocket, and you’re sure to hear plenty of comments to its detriment.

Clearly, the case for the argument of ‘it’s too big’ can plainly be seen by all, but, if sales of the original Galaxy Note are anything to go by then what’s also clear is that there’s some kind of silent majority eager for this kind of device.

Like it or not, there is a market for the ‘phablet’ and Samsung is keen to continue tapping into it with successor handsets.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 build

For now let’s ignore the size of the Note 2 and talk purely about its aesthetic design and build quality.

To fans of Samsung’s Galaxy S3, things will be instantly recognisable here – the corners and back panel are curved neatly, there’s a metallic surround on the outer edge and plenty of chrome accents throughout.

The screen is squarely centred in the front panel, creating a very narrow bezel on the long sides and two evenly spaced sections of bodywork above and below.

In the lower section is a chrome-trimmed physical home key flanked by two capacitive touch controls which are only visible when the device is active. Your choice of colours at present is grey or white.

It’s Samsung’s signature style and from a visual point of view that’s no bad thing, the company certainly makes devices which look pleasing to the eye.

But, sadly, part of that signature style also appears to be in choosing build materials which, while relatively robust in practice, feel flimsy and unappealing in the hand.

To be clear, there’s not any creaking or give in the construction – it’s a solidly made device, but the slippery plastics don’t contribute to the impression of a premium model, even though that’s precisely what the Note 2 is in terms of specs and price.

On to the subject of size then, the unavoidable ‘800 pound gorilla’ topic for a phone of this scale. It is, quite simply colossal, accommodating as it does a 5.55-inch display within its frame.

As we’ve mentioned in previous coverage, many of the pros and cons from the original Galaxy Note’s 5.3-inch size are still present here, although in some cases they’re made better or worse owing to that extra 0.25-inches.

It must be said that even this large-handed reviewer found the Galaxy Note 2 a little difficult to handle and in particular we found one-handed use is simply out of the question. Things are not helped by that slippery plastic finish we mentioned earlier.

There is still the issue of whether or not you feel comfortable making calls on a phone of this size too, you’ve essentially got three options: you can either be the confident type and hold it to your face as if everything is normal, you can rely entirely on the speakerphone or lastly you can make sure you’ve got a hands-free kit with you at all times.

However, for the most part this is an issue of perspective, we have to admit that if you do just get on with things and use it like a normal phone you’ll probably get used to it and not think anything of the larger size within a couple of days. That’s something we’ve found with both the original Galaxy Note and its new successor.

It’s also true that the majority of positive points about the size are directly tied to the scale of the display specifically, because that vast stretch of HD glass is absolutely ideal for reading eBooks or web pages, watching films or TV shows, playing games and viewing photos.

So, now would seem like an appropriate time to go into the display in more detail...

Specifications

Typical Price £530
UK Launch Autumn 2012
Frequency GSM 850/900/1800/1900, HSDPA 850/900/1900/2100, (Separate LTE model available: LTE 700 MHz Class 17/2100-N7105)
Phone Style Touchscreen, Phablet
Thickness 9.3mm
Length 151.1mm
Width 80.5mm
Weight 183g
Built-in Memory 16GB/32GB/64GB, 2GB RAM
Additional Memory MicroSD 32GB, SDHC/SDXC 64GB
High-speed Data GPRS,EDGE,HSDPA,HSUPA
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0,GPS, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct,Wi-Fi Hotspot,DLNA,MHL A/V,MicroUSB,NFC
Screen Size 5.55-inches
Screen Colours 16 million
Designer Lens 8-megapixel BSI f/2.6
Camera Resolution 3264x2448 pixels
Zoom Yes
Flash Yes, LED
Video Resolution 1080p HD
Ringtones Yes
Music Player Yes
Music Formats MP3/WAV/eAAC+/AC3/FLAC
Song Storage Yes
Radio Yes
Speaker Yes
Video Calling Yes
Internet Yes
Browser HTML
Games Yes
Battery Standby 980 hours

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