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Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

The Note is back, bigger and better

Our Verdict

Still a little too large for some, it's still a great device to help users enter the phablet market at a reduced cost.

Product features

  • Built-in Memory : 16 GB
  • Rear Camera Resolution : 8 Megapixel
  • Battery Talk Time : 1 Day
  • Screen Resolution : 1280 x 720

View full specification

For

  • Enormous battery
  • Expandable memory
  • Amazing screen
  • LTE capable
  • Blazingly fast

Against

  • Expensive
  • S-Pen is still complicated
  • Slow camera shutter
  • Size may be a barrier

Update: The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 may be a few months old now, but it's been given some tweaks to make sure it can compete with the class of 2013, including an update to Android 4.1.2. We've updated our review accordingly.

It hasn't even been a year since the original Samsung Galaxy Note launched. It was a work of genius for old Samsung. Many (including us, we admit) were not convinced. Who on earth would want something so big to make their calls and surf the internet, even with a glorified stylus?

Cue awkward silence.

Millions of you, it would appear. The Samsung Galaxy Note has sold by the bucketload. And while it is most definitely a niche device, it's done wonders for Samsung's balance sheet. How do you follow that up? With something better, of course - the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

If you've ever fondled or caressed the original Samsung Galaxy Note and found its larger size too much to handle, we'll break this to you with a sledgehammer - the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is bigger.

It's now 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4mm (5.9 x 3.2 x 0.4 inches), so slightly up from 146.9 x 83 x 9.7mm (5.8 x 3.3 x 0.4 inches). That said, we didn't find it cumbersome at all.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

In the way the original Samsung Galaxy Note followed the Samsung Galaxy S2's square design, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 follows the Samsung Galaxy S3's more rounded rectangular look.

And what a beauty it is. It actually felt slightly smaller to us in day-to-day use - but that may be down to the fact that we have gravedigger hands.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

The Samsung Galaxy Note had a frankly amazing screen as it was, so would have taken some beating. But Samsung clearly likes a challenge. The size has gone up slightly from 5.3 inches to 5.5. And although pixel density is reduced, we didn't notice it.

This is the bright, vivid Samsung Super AMOLED panel that we all know and love - and what a beauty it is, replicating colours amazingly and immaculately. Side by side with the Samsung Galaxy S4, it may look a little less glam. But so will most phone screens.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

As expected, that screen takes up most of the front. You get a home button and two hidden soft keys beneath it as before, plus a front-facing camera and sensors up top.

The handset itself has little to note (geddit?) around the edges. A headphone jack up top, power button on the right, volume on the left and charger port below, right alongside the S-Pen slot - more of which will follow later.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

Around the back, you'll find the 8MP camera with flash.

The additional sorcery is carried out away from view. The microSD expansion slot is beneath the rear cover - as is the microSIM slot, hidden behind the enormous 3,100 mAh battery.

And there's a whole lot of goodness even further inwards than that: HSDPA (LTE if you're extra lucky), NFC, GPS, Wi-Fi and so forth. It's a veritable treasure trove of geekdom.

One other thing we'd say is that this does feel like a quality Android smartphone/tablet. We're aware of the protestations by some readers (particularly iPhone users) that phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 feel like toys because they're so light and plasticky.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

At 183g (0.4lbs), you couldn't describe the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 as a feather - and the weight gives it a real notion of substance.

If you want to pick a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 up, you'll need to be willing to part with some serious cash. Although it has come down in price. From around £530/AU$999/US$700 SIM-free late last year, just a few months on, you can pick one of these up for as relatively little as £430/AU$700/US$615.

It is also available on contract, but be willing to shovel £40+ per month in the network's direction for two years if you'd like the handset gratis in the UK.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

Buying Guide
Best Android phone   which should you buy
Best Android phone

Normally, this is where we'd talk about the alternatives on offer. But we admit, we're stumped here. Why? Well, in our mind, there is no clear rival. The Samsung Galaxy Note created its own category, in that there were no real phablets about before.

And while you'll get the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system and similar benefits from the Samsung Galaxy S3 or Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (depending on whether you want a phone or tablet), the form factor is pretty unique. You can bring other larger handsets into the fold - like the Sony Xperia Z, for example - but they don't have an S-Pen or equivalent.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

In fact, the only real rival is the original Note - a worthy contender for that title because it's now available for a much reduced sum. Just £345/AU$500/US$450 SIM-free will get you one of those babies - and that makes it a very serious and credible alternative to its replacement, the Note 2. Though bear in mind, we are likely to see the Note 3 towards the end of the year, so the original will be way out of date by then.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Maximum Memory Card Size Supported64 GB
Built-in Memory16 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotYes
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyEDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, UMTS, HSPA+, GPRS
SAR Value0.17 W/kg
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationYes
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyGalaxy Note II
Cellular Generation4G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 850, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100, LTE 700, GSM 850
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution8 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Memory Card SupportedmicroSD
Phone StyleBar
ColourTitanium Grey
Operating SystemAndroid
Brand NameSamsung
Battery Talk Time1 Day
Product ModelGT-N7100
Screen Size14.1 cm (5.6")
Screen Resolution1280 x 720
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)182.5 g
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerSamsung
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Operating System VersionAndroid 4.1.1 Jelly Bean
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, Instant Messaging
USB StandardUSB 2.0
Pixel Density267 ppi
Height151.1 mm
Width80.5 mm
Depth9.4 mm
Radio TunerYes
Battery Standby Time980 Hour
ManufacturerSamsung
Product NameGalaxy Note II GT-N7100 Smartphone
Processor Speed1.60 GHz
Processor TypeExynos
Product LineGalaxy Note II
Screen TypeOLED
Sensor TypeAccelerometer, Magnetometer, Gyro Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Barometer
Manufacturer Part NumberGT-N7100TADBTU
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.samsung.com/uk/
Marketing Information

Unbeatable viewing experience - See more clearly in one view
The Galaxy Note II features a 5.55" (141mm) HD Super AMOLED display providing brilliant visual clarity. Its 16:9 screen ratio ensures an immersive and enriched movie theatre-like video viewing experience. Its larger screen allows users to see content clearly and vividly, which enhances readability. In addition to the rich content consumption experiences, users will also be able to do more tasks efficiently and create content freely, whilst on-the-go, as Galaxy Note II comes with a thinner, lighter, but yet bigger screen.

Advanced S Pen & S Note usage
Everyday tasks on Samsung Galaxy Note II are made easier and more intuitively using S Pen enabled features. Air View allows you to hover with the S Pen over an email, S Note, S Planner, image galleries, or videos to preview the content without having to open it. This gives you quick access to search and view more information in detail without screen transitions; and the device's new gesture pad feature called Quick Command lets you use to the S Pen to take shortcuts.

The S Pen's advanced features also provide enhanced capabilities to capture ideas and inspirations instantly or to combine handwriting with any digital content directly on the screen. By simply pressing the dedicated S Pen button, it magically recognises that you want to clip or edit the selected content on the screen. This action allows you to instantly crop the screen or its contents in any shape required-ready to save, share or paste-and you can also edit Web or digital images instantly with colouring, shading, or your own personal handwriting. It is as quick and easy as pen and paper but better because there is more functionality. Users can also capture screen-shots for instant copying or sharing, or use the Screen Recorder feature to record a whole sequence of actions on their screen- for example, a demonstration of how to use an application-and then share it with friends for comment, or just for fun.

Seamless multitasking

Whether you're watching a video, texting a friend or sketching an idea, the Galaxy Note II makes multitasking seamless and intuitive with three new features:

Popup Note lets you open an S Note instantly as a pop-up window anywhere on the screen. For example, you might watch a soccer game on the display while looking up a player's statistics at the same time. Or you can take notes on S Note while your friend gives you directions over the phone, or even sketch the directions as a map during the conversation. Whatever the task, Galaxy Note II has the right tools to keep you active while on-the-go.

Another new multitasking feature is Popup Web. You can now open a web browser anywhere on the screen and open a web link without having to switch between screens.

Thanks to the breadth of Galaxy Note II's amazing viewing experience, a feature called Popup Video extends the concept of 'Pop up play.' While watching a video, with the touch of a button, the video will become a floating window on your display. The video will continue to play and it can be repositioned to any part of the Galaxy Note II's screen. This versatility means you are free to load other applications beneath it to browse online, connect with friends or plan your day.


Limited Warranty2 Year