Samsung Galaxy Note 2

Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 2 -- Bigger and Better

4 stars
It's not easy to hold, but it's the best phablet out there.

5.5-inches, 720 x 1280 px, 16,700,000 colors
Super AMOLED HD (Gyroscope / Accelerometer / Compass / Proximity Sensor / Ambient Light Sensor)
8.0 MP / LED Flash / Auto-Focus / Panorama / Face Detection / 1080p Video Recorder / 1.9 MP / Video Calling

1.6 GHz (ARM Cortex A9)
16.0 GB or 32.0 GB or 64.0 GB

Block / Google Android OS v4.1
151 x 81 x 9 mm
180 g
3100 mAh Li-Ion
Talk Time:
Standby Time:

How big is too big? Well, if you're Samsung, the answer is, "not big enough." After Apple failed to predict the demand for larger devices, Samsung released the Note to huge success. At the time, critics asked, "Who'd you want such a large device?" Well, it turns out a lot of people.

As data speeds get faster and multimedia gets more robust, you can do a lot more on your phone -- and larger canvas makes for a better experience. Riding on that success, the Note 2 is even bigger, further blurring the line between a smartphone and a tablet.

Compare With Similar Phones:

Google Nexus 5 Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Apple IPhone 5C Apple IPhone 5S Motorola Moto X
Google Nexus 5 Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Apple IPhone 5C Apple IPhone 5S Motorola Moto X

The size isn't for everyone, but you love to watch movies and browse the Web, you won't find a more enjoyable device, unless you go for a full-sized tablet. But then, how would you fit it in your pocket?

The Note 2 is made of plastic, to keep the weight down at a still-hefty six and a half ounces. But the built quality just looks cheap compared to premium devices like the HTC One X or iPhone. The high-gloss surface can reflect light too, often in annoying ways.

Photo 1

But Samsung managed to add a larger 5.5-inch display without increasing the size. How? It slimmed down the aspect ratio of the screen to the more common 16:9 standard from 16:10. That allowed it to thin down the bezel, making the Note 2 a smidge narrower and a bit taller at just shy of six inches. It's also skinnier at just 0.4-inches. The more ergonomic shape is easier to grip, but make no mistake, you still need two hands to open apps, browse the Web, take photos and record videos, write texts and e-mails, everything.

The Note 2 looks a bit like the gigantic Galaxy S3. It's huge and awkward to hold. When I brought it up to make a call, my face literally disappeared. And every time I'd stretch a thumb across the screen, my palm would accidentally hit other parts of the display, unintentionally launching apps. If you have small hands, try it out in person. Also, slip it in your pocket to test the fit. The size might be an issue. It was for me.

The Super AMOLED display is, predictably, outstanding. Colors are vibrant, though, like all Samsung products, a tinge oversaturated, and blacks are deep. While the 267-pixels per inch isn't as dense as on others devices, you can't tell while watching movies and browsing the Web, which are fantastic. But next to the iPhone, whose famed Retina display boasts 326-pixels per inch, and you can see the lack of fine detail in the 720-by-1,280 resolution. It's bright, too. But outdoors, I had a hard time seeing things in direct sunlight. Overall, the Note 2 has a great display due to sheer size, but the image quality is above average at best.

The 8-megapixel camera takes crisp, vivid photos and 1080p high-definition videos -- comparable to the S3 -- outside and slightly dull indoors. A touch of the display focuses on subjects, and a powerful LED flash illuminates dim environments. All the S3's filters are here, too, like exposure, HDR and ISO settings. You'll also get a facial recognition and panorama apps. But my favorite: the "best faces" function. You can take a series of rapid-fire shots and then choose the best mug for each person before stitching it together for an ideal shot. But I missed a few surprise photo-ops, since the shutter is a bit slow. The front-facing 1.9-megapixel lens lets you video chat, but it's not especially noteworthy, either.

The Note 2 runs on Jelly Bean. Bolstered by Google's "butter" project, Android is now faster, smoother and easier to navigate. Samsung also added a cumbersome TouchWiz interface. Besides an unattractive look and annoying water droplet sounds, it's also clunky, bogging down Android with redundant and buggy apps.

But it also improves on its "S Pen" writing app, transforming the Note 2 into a full-fledged digital notepad. Apple largely sent the stylus to the grave, but Samsung wants to bring it back. The pen -- based on pressure-sensitive technology from Wacom, though a far cry to professional tablets -- is a bit longer and slightly beefier than before, but also more accurate and responsive.

Photo 2

There's a plastic tip at the end, too, giving a bit of tactile resistance. By applying pressure, and choosing nib sizes, you can write with precision or paint in broad strokes. It also captures screenshots that you can scribble on before attaching them to e-mails to send out. You can write notes, make lists and add calendar appointments by hand, the software will convert it all to text. But my favorite: if you're in college and need to jot math formulas, it'll change them into characters, too. It's a handy interface.

But you don't even have to touch the screen. By hovering the pen over the display, you can control the interface, too. You can bring up a preview window simply by pointing the pen at a movie, for example, and I suppose it's useful if you need to show a demo without blocking the view, but it felt like a gimmick since it takes more effort to hover than touch. Really, typing is just faster in most cases.

Jelly Bean also comes with Google Now, a personal assistant app, that's like Siri, but worse. It can organize information on "cards" that you can pull up when you need them. Some are great, like the traffic card, since it uses Google's sophisticated Maps program. But if you want to do more than find your way to an appointment or look at your flight schedule, it's pretty limited.

Voice controls are improved, too, but it's still overly fickle when it comes to spelling. When I said, "Call Mary," for example, I thought I was saying, "Call Merry," and didn't recognize the contact.

Photo 3

The 1.6-gigahertz quad-core chip is one of the fastest on the market. And 2-gigabytes of RAM powers apps smoothly, no matter how many are in the background. For a device built for movies, the 16-gigabytes of storage is puny, and you should pick up a microSD card.

With large displays, power drains quickly -- but not on the Note 2. The whopping 3,100 mAh battery provides plenty of juice, enough to last about two days with moderate use. Short of Motorola's Maxx HD, it doesn't get any better than that.

The Note 2 is a unique product, and while it's a great phone, the tablet functions are its most attractive qualities. It's a great device to consume media on the go and an equally competent Web browser. The stylus makes digital note-taking a pleasure, though S Pen isn't the easiest to use. So if you're a doodler or a scribbler, it's a fun gadget.

But if you want for an everyday phone, the Note 2 is cumbersome. So hold it, slip it in your pocket, try it out -- just make sure you see it in person first.

The Note 2 is the best phablet around. Period. If you want another big-screen device, you can check out the LG Intuition, but frankly, it's far worse.

If you prefer a smaller device, you can't go wrong with the S3 -- think of it as a mini-Note. But with such a specialized device, there are few competitors, and even fewer exceptional phablets, that can match the Note 2.

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User Reviews

Better Than the Best

Rating: 5 of 5 | Tim Benson on September 30, 2012

I used to be the proud owner of the original Galaxy Note -- I say "used to" because as soon as I got the Note 2, I never picked up the Note again -- and I couldn't be happier!

When the phone arrived, I couldn't wait to turn it on. Fortunately, it came in the package with some juice in it. Once I charged it up, I was able to get a full day's worth on it, whereas I'd usually die three quarters into the day with the original.

I'll start from the exterior -- it's absolutely gorgeous. The screen is bigger, and amazingly, it retains the same size. It's really easy to hold and comfortable in the hand. The display is easy to view and feels too.

This sounds like a small issue, but the speaker is even better -- it's the best. Calls blast out loud and clear, but did you know you can even play music aloud? It's fantastic to listen to. I just set it on my desk and play away.

The S Pen function is more comfortable now too. You can hover over things to bring up a display of an e-mail or other tasks. The pen itself is more comfortable too, and you really don't realize how useful it is until you use other phones.

It runs on Jelly Bean, so you won't have to wait for an Android update to get pushed out. Overall, it's sleeker and more streamline. And it's easier to move around the menu and get notifications. Speaking of interface, the Note 2 has a better gallery display. You can choose patterns to show off your photos -- like a circular format, or a spiral -- it's kind of fun.

Lastly, Android makes transferring over contacts and content a breeze. Just sign in with your Google account and everything happens automatically -- like magic.

I'm telling everyone to buy a Note 2.

The small grumble I have isn't with the phone. I can't find accessories. I guess they weren't released at the same time. Anyway, until then, you'll have to be very careful with the phone.

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Even Better Than the Original

Rating: 5 of 5 | Andy B. on September 28, 2012

This is my second Galaxy Note. After using the original Note, I was excited to get my hands on the Note 2. I've always felt the iPhone and S3 were too small, and I needed a larger screen to do things like read e-books, VNC into my PC and browse the Web. Tablets are a bit too large to fit into my pocket, so the Note seemed like the best of both worlds.

First off, the thing that surprised me out of the box was the screen size -- and that's a good thing. The display is larger than the original, and yet, Samsung managed to reduce the overall size of the device. Bigger screen, smaller package -- the display now takes up more of the front, with a smaller bezel around the edge. Amazing.

It's a bit narrower than the original, but now it's easier to use with one hand. There's not much difference in the weight, which can be a bit heavy, but personally, I've gotten used to the heft after using the original for so long. The build material is so-so, and I sort of wished they used a premium metal casing, despite the heavier weight.

The image quality and clarity is as good as it gets -- it's not much different than the original's screen, but it was already top-notch. It's just awesome.

There have been a lot of gripes on S Pen, and rightfully, it wasn't the best. The Note 2 improves on the stylus and software with a better connection to the LCD -- so you have far more options to control the writing and drawing functions. The stylus itself is longer and much easier to hold too.

Aside from this, the other major improvement is the performance. I had problems with the original sometimes lagging when several apps were running in the background. There's none of that on the Note 2. I've yet to be able to slow this phone down. The Note 2 just flies through everything I throw at it, and much more.

I get around 20 percent more juice from the battery, and the speaker is louder and clearer too.

Overall, I couldn't be happier with the Note 2. After using the original Note, I was hesitant to switch because I was pretty satisfied. But boy, if you're looking for a smartphone to watch videos, browse the Web and read e-books, it's a fantastically big device.

The few gripes I have are with the camera. It's not bad, but there's no improvement over the original's lens. Of course, the size isn't for everyone, so try to play with it in person. That's about all I can think of.

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Good But Annoying Interface

Rating: 3 of 5 | Jim Chui on January 01, 2013

Aside from the features everyone always talks about, I'd like to point out that the battery is great. I can get through the day, which is a major hurdle for most phones with a screen this big. After 24 hours, I'll still have around 5 percent of juice left.

The display, of course, is the highlight. But if you were expecting one of the best screens on the market, you'll be disappointed. Now, it's good, but it's not great. It's just not that bright, even the screen on the S2 is more vivid. Very disappointing, considering HTC can throw a superb display on a 5-inch behemoth like the DNA.

I've never really been a fan of Samsung's TouchWiz interface. I guess there are some features that are useful, but overall, it adds too many warning menu popups that make it annoying to use. It's as if Samsung designed it for the novice in mind. I'm pretty knowledgeable about Android, and all these popups, which add a second or two, make the software a pain to use.

Another gripe is how it clears all the default apps whenever I reboot. That means I'll have to waste a minute or two to choose the launcher, keyboard, browser, and other features.

I guess it's good for people who set the wrong feature and don't know how to set it back, but, again, it's completely slows down people who know what they're doing.

TouchWiz isn't all bad, I suppose. There's a nifty gesture control that lets you, for example, make a call just by lifting the phone up to your ear. If you want to take a screenshot, you can do it by just swiping a finger across the display. These little things make the phone more enjoyable to use, but unfortunately, not enough to cover up the annoyances.

Don't get me wrong, it's a good phone. But I can't give it full marks.

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Cutting-Edge Tech in Your Hand

Rating: 5 of 5 | Wilson M. on October 03, 2012

I got my Note 2 earlier this month, and I haven't put it down yet!

If you're worried about the size, don't be. It doesn't feel uncomfortable in my pocket, and it just takes a week or two to get used to. After that and you'll think other devices are too small. Hah.

Anyway, this phone is incredibly fast -- all the apps load smoothly and it doesn't lag or slow down one bit. The 5.5-inch display is just amazing. It's by far the best screen I've seen and I don't think I could go back to a smaller device.

The Note 2 used to have multitasking issues, but Samsung just updated the software a few days ago, so the problems are fixed.

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Great Phone with a drawback

Rating: 5 of 5 | Dave on December 06, 2012

Screen size, durability, ease of phone, fast processes, 1 handed dialing, Big Numbers
S voice is great, Internet fast with wifi, battery life is good, Probably the best phone I ever had

I hate how you have to answer phone with swipe, voice answer does not work good, only had the phone freeze once, Just reset phone, has not happened again

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A Little Too Big

Rating: 3 of 5 | Kurt Newhouse on November 05, 2012

I was debating whether to get the Galaxy Note 2 or a tablet, and I went for the Note 2. Listening to music is great too. Samsung's phones are pretty great at playing lossless files.

The display is great, but it's a pretty big device, almost to the point of being too big to use comfortably -- I have average-sized hands.

After a few weeks, I'm still a bit uncomfortable when typing on it. I'm hoping I'll eventually get used to it like what other people say, but I have my doubts.

I have a bit of buyer's remorse, and think I should have gone with the Galaxy S3, which feels much better. But, when browsing the Web, the Note 2 is unmatched -- same when you watch videos, view pictures and read the news.

The battery life is not that great, so I'd suggest getting another battery -- in case you forget to charge it. I leave my Wi-Fi on all the time.

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Rating: 5 of 5 | B. Bosch on November 28, 2012

What attracted me to this phone was the extra-large screen. And it's exceeded all my expectations. The big display makes everything easier to read -- webpages, emails, texts. Watching videos is equally enjoyable. I take it with me on business trips and use it as a note-taking, saving me from bringing a laptop. If you're working if it's too big, let me tell you that I have no troubles with the size. There's plenty of power from under the hood, and the battery life is long. Coming from the iPhone, after using the Note 2 for a day, I was hooked -- and you will be too.

The power button is located on top of the device -- sort of in an awkward position. It's also hard to tell if the button is pressed or not.

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Blazing Is an Understatement

Rating: 5 of 5 | Quartermaster on October 29, 2012

I bought the Note 2 knowing it would be big, but I didn't know it was this hulking huge. It took me about a week to get used to it, but now I'm hooked. I won't be able to go back to a 3.5-inch device anymore.

The other thing that surprised me was the speed of the phone. Blazing is an understatement. For instance, loading Chrome is nearly instantaneous. Webpages fly by, it's so fast -- also partly due to Verizon. It's by far, one of the best phones you can buy. The iPhone 5 and iOS 6 look like last year's models compared to the Note 2.

If you're debating between the S3 and the iPhone, go with the iPhone. You won't regret it. I didn't.

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Pretty neat

Rating: 5 of 5 | ashley on January 19, 2013

i LOVE the multi tasking features it has, I'm a person who wants to do everything at once... and this phone is awesome for that! Huge screen. Loud speaker, very user friendly. So many things this phone does. Its sUPER FAST! and for an impatient person (me) ITs AMAZING!

I had a bad experience with my 1st one I got brand new almost when it came out, the phone literally tumbled over my flip flop on the floor at home and my screen broke, so that can happen VERY EASILY with this phone because it its size. I was so mad I almost went back to the iphone. But I stuck it through AND its fallen again but nothing happened. Its all good though. Its a keepr

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Lost 2 screen

Rating: 0 of 5 | sidd on April 17, 2013

Speed, look, apps of google play.

But have basic screen design problem.

After a week it got slip from my hand and screen got cracked and stopped working.

I bought a new screen, after a month that got cracked in my pocket only (without any impact).

So I recommend you not to by this model or any Samsung big screen phone as the screen is exposed.
And if it is cracked then expansive to replace them.

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Ultimate smartphone for work & play

Rating: 5 of 5 | Sanjeev Rathore on May 19, 2014

It feels glad to use Note 2... I just love swiping and tapping fingers while playing games and texting on its giant display.. The phones touch is very responsive for super faster user experience... Media support is quite impressive... You will really enjoy the authentic acoustic for superior music experience... Few time back I saw the same phone on an really attractive price on Although, it was a refurbished one by the brand itself with decent warranty on dat.. But there isn’t any harm who is actually looking for stunning build quality in an eye-catching price. The phone rocks...

No quick way to mute media volume

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