Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Australian Review: Bigger And Better Than Before


It's baaaaaack! Call it a phablet, call it a phone, call it maybe. No matter what you call it, the Galaxy Note 2 is here and it's large and in charge. Before you fork over your cash, find out how it went when we put it through its paces.

What Is It?

It's the new Galaxy Note which is imaginatively called the Galaxy Note 2.

The original Galaxy Note had a 1.4GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM and a whopping 5.3 inch screen. You wouldn't think it possible, but the Galaxy Note 2 is a larger version of the original, 5.3-inch Note. Sizing up at 5.5-inches, the Note 2 is packing some serious hardware.

It's a quad-core, 1.6GHz chip with 2GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel camera and a screen that packs a 720 x 1080 pixels at 267 pixels per inch. We reviewed the 16GB version from MobiCity, which retails for $689.

More: Samsung Galaxy Note II: Australian Price And Availability The local version of the Note II will support 4G at launch — a change in strategy from Samsung's last few devices — and it will come packed with faster specs than the international versions. You get a 1.6GHz quad-core processor rather than the 1.4GHz chip and it packs the same 2GB of RAM.

The company's local head of telecommunications, Tyler McGhee, told a packed house that the device would cost $899 outright. That's a good $200 or so more expensive than 4G-enabled grey imports from the likes of Kogan and MobiCity.

So how does it stack up against the original?

What's Good?

Other than the immense size, the first thing you notice about the Note 2 is the difference those beefed up internals make.

Samsung dominates the Geekbench 2 charts, holding the top six of the first ten spots. The Note 2 holds the top spot with an insane score of 1994. It's close enough to be named the first mobile device to crack the 2000 benchmark. To put that in perspective, it has the same amount of power as the first Intel Core 2 Duo-powered MacBook Air, all in a thin, 5.5-inch package. Needless to say, it also blitzes the Quadrant tests, too, with a score of 5717. That leaves the top rated device — the HTC One X — in its dust.


On top of the awesome performance, the Note 2 mercilessly comes with Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean underneath the TouchWiz UI. This means that — on top of the mind-reading Google Now — you'll have Project Butter-goodness. All of these combined make using the Galaxy Note 2 a pleasure. On a side note, if I see another Android handset released this year without 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, I'll scream.

Despite the monolithic size, Samsung have tried to be understanding to people who want to attempt using it with one hand. Jumping into your keyboard menu brings you a gamut of options for one-handed operation. The keyboard jumps to the right and shrinks for easier navigation, for example. Nifty indeed.

The difference between the Note line and the Galaxy line is the S-Pen — the fancy name for a Samsung-branded stylus. It's remarkably responsive and pressure sensitive which is nice. The S-Pen is also longer and easier to grip than the stylus on the original Note. On top of that, it comes with a bunch of bundled Samsung creativity apps and templates so you can get your artist on. The size means that the device is good enough to be used by artist types for rough sketches when you're out and about.

As far as the camera is concerned, the 8-megapixel shooter is one you could feasibly usein lieu of a bespoke compact camera. That's a real plus, especially considering that its competition — including the little brother, the Galaxy S III — can leave a bit to be desired.

On top of all the other added goodness, the Note 2 still comes with 50GB worth of free Dropbox storage for two years so you can throw all your junk in the cloud.

The Best Part?

TWO GLORIOUS DAYS OF BATTERY LIFE! That was tested under heavy use, with Wi-Fi on and the brightness at maximum.

What's Bad?

The S-Pen companion apps are just a bit twee for my liking. Sure, you can create some fun stuff to send to your friends and show off at dinner parties with, but it's not something you're going to use to be creative all the time. You'll want a copy of Adobe Photoshop Touch for that. Plus, having the creative apps pane pop up everytime you remove the S-Pen can get old. You'll want to turn that off early.

The only other major flaw we found with the Note 2 is that the multi-screen capabilities that the Note 10.1 and Galaxy S III support out of the box, don't work yet. All that screen space is ideal for holding more than one app at a time, and it's such a disappointment that you can't split your real estate just yet.

Samsung have promised an update to the Note 2 that enables multi-screen, but right now it's just a firmware myth that has rolled out in Europe. We're still waiting. Pick up your socks, Samsung.

Fatal Flaw...

The model we got from MobiCity, along with the one available from other online stores like Kogan, doesn't have 4G-compatibility. All signs point to Samsung releasing a 4G-compatible model in Australia shortly, but for now, this is what we'll have to put up with. It's still a solid handset, mind you.

Should You Buy It?

Despite everything, you should still wait to buy this handset. We've already seen the iPhone 5 and Samsung's latest Galaxy salvo has come in the form of a diminutive version of the S III, but there is still Google's Playground event to consider, where we're more than likely set to see a new Nexu devices. It's doubtful that anyone is going to bring us something that can match the sheer power and size of the Note, but it's still worth holding out at least until the end of November just to see if there is going to be a 4G version of the Note 2.

If you can live with HSDPA+, though, this handset is a steal. From the power under the hood through to the nifty S-Pen and all the goodness in-between, the Note 2 is a big phone with the performance to match and a price tag to surprise. Regardless of the connectivity, the Note 2 is my new favourite Android device next to the Nexus 7.


Comments

    Thanks for the review guys; been waiting to get my hands on one of these babies!

    Make sure you post up as soon as there's news of this on Telstra 4G :D

      Gday owen, i have owned the note 2 3g for over a month, it is by far the best phone i have ever owned, and i have had many. I want to advise that ipon its november release, there are plans to mojly
      release the 4g model, be warned, from all international reports, the 4g battery life requires you to charge mid way through the day, yet blistering fast hdpsa speeds oj note 2 3g enable me to go a day and a half.

        So ah, how's the keyboard on it? ;)

    "and a screen that packs a 720 x 1080 pixels at 267 pixels per inch"

    Believe that should be 1280x720 or 720x1280 if you like listing horizontal res before vertical :)

      Exactly right. the res is 720 x 1280. I like to go with horizontal before vertical. Imaging programs do it that way.

        I believe insomniac was referring to the 1080 vs 1280 typo, not the HxV vs VxH debate.

          Yeah, I know. :)
          I was just addressing both things.

      This would depend completely on how you hold it.

    Good review and good advice. I think I'll wait for the Google launch but i am pretty sure I'll be noting in no time.

    Thanks Luke, good balanced review.

    Am definitely keeping an eye on this and also waiting on 4G variants.

    The only decision then will be whether I go the (in my opinion) better value for money Optus but occasionally hit/miss coverage/speed or the reliable but more expensive equivalent Telstra.

    As an owner of the GN1 who got it on contract as soon as it was available in April this year, on the one hand, I'm pleased that there's a bigger and better one coming out, but on the other hand, I'm not so pleased that I've still got about 1.5 years on my contract. Of course, given the rate of Samsung release vs local telco release, it might not come out until April next year. Still, at this rate, I'll just have to wait to get the GN4 instead :-)

    I saw one of these last week. It seriously rocks! Want to know when they are going to be available in the US.

    With the USA getting the GN2 this week, this leaves Australia as the only main region without it. What's going on? When will GN2 be available here in 32GB 4G version??

    Photoshop touch isn't available for the Note 2 yet. you're best off turning off the S pen program stuff for a start, then get Go Launcher so you're not stuck with Samsungs silly screen covering widgets and rainbow vomit oversized icons. after that it's brilliant!
    I use Autodesk Sketchbook for drawing with the pen and it's a fantastic art tool, like a mobile Wacom Cintiq.
    this is what I drew so far, little nsfw:
    https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-dY_GPU7i7qw/UIShpvako4I/AAAAAAAAA-Y/vZ4BB69x_A0/s1072/Sketch2102162.png

      Completed version at full size, partially nsfw:
      https://twitter.com/Ozoneocean/status/260257519958638592/photo/1/large

      Simply an excellent art phone!

        Nice pic. I'm an artist but haven't got the hang of digital art..... even on my IPAD3. As a new GN2 owner, I might give it a shot again with the S-PEN. First thought was, wow, I thought I was past my PDA stylus days, but I've already been using it at work for taking conference call notes.
        Went to download Sketchbook, but found I had already had purchased it on my old Dell Streak, so just had to redownload to my Note II.

          The problem with iPad3, even if you use stylus, it's not presure sensitive, you have to keep changing the radius etc, I found it hard to draw actually

          You'll find it a breeze to use for drawing! I could never get into sketching on tablets or phones with my fingers... Getting the brush presets right each time is a bit of a learning curve and finding how to do colour and stuff too, but once you're past that Sketchbook Mobile is great.

    I've had my GN II for nearly three weeks now and after getting over the sheer size it has replaced my HTC HD2 as my new "daily driver".

    "TWO GLORIOUS DAYS OF BATTERY LIFE!" I can easily get 2 days inbetween charges and often get 3 days when I have not needed the GPS.

    "Samsung have promised an update to the Note 2 that enables multi-screen, but right now it’s just a firmware myth that has rolled out in Europe. We’re still waiting. Pick up your socks, Samsung."

    My phone was sourced in UK and I have received the update OTA. Multi-screen is another plus to this phone.

    No 4G is not a flaw, fatal or otherwise. By the time 4G is available in every state/territory capital city and bigger regional areas (2014-2015) and reaches 95% + of the population (2020?) it will be time for a new phone. Oh and 4G voice calls in Australia is the myth that may never happen.

      This coming from a guy who just last year was screaming about the iPhone not having 4G.
      'No 4G is not a flaw, fatal or otherwise. By the time 4G is available in every state/territory capital city and bigger regional areas (2014-2015) and reaches 95% + of the population (2020?) it will be time for a new phone. Oh and 4G voice calls in Australia is the myth that may never happen.'

      "No 4G is not a flaw, fatal or otherwise."

      Hahahahaha.

      It was an astronomical flaw that was totally unforgivable to all the 'droidboyz when iPhone 4 was released! HEADS SHOULD ROLL AT APPLE - was the call!

      Now that it is not in a Sumsing product ... meh, not important (who's even heard of 4G? Must be some sort of mythical thing anyways)

        You must have me confused with someone else. Owning an Android phone for 19 days does not a "'droidboyz" make. At least I hope so.

          Sorry did not mean to direct at you specifically.

          Referring to the general Apple bashing that happens as soon as an iDevice is mentioned here on Giz!

          Apologies for not making that clear.

      Lack of 4G absolutely is a flaw. 4G doesn't have to be in range of 95% of the population for millions of customers to benefit from it if they do have reception. Even if not everyone will be in a 4G zone 24/7, I'm sure many will find them selves in those areas at times, possibly at the times where they actually need the reception such as when they are getting around town and can't use their home internet connection that they would otherwise be connected to.

      It isn't a fatal flaw in my books, but it certainly is a big miss.

        Until 4G benefits voice to the same degree as data it's just the icing on top of the cake...it's not the actual cake. If you don't Facebook, Myspace, tweet, youtube or blog for a living or every 20 minutes (some kind of addiction?), 4G is take it or leave it.

        For the serious geeks with pdf email attachments of 10Mb+, 4G may shave some download seconds off your flat-out day. I'll wait until 4G+ or 5G or whatever is the go in 2015.

          It probably never will benefit voice to the same degree as data given that besides reception, voice hasn't really been an issue for most users for a very long time.

          Something tells me that the people buying a Galaxy Note are doing it because of uses and applications that stand to benefit from data, not because they think it is a great device to make calls with. The voice bit is likely secondary to the applications and web browsing experience for a device like this.

          Also it doesn't take an addiction to mobile browsing to benefit from faster connections. You may as well argue dial up is fine for home use too. Regardless of how often you use something, when you finally do hop onto a system be it 10 minutes from the last session or 2 weeks, you still want the experience to be a good one.

      +1 on 4G not a fatal flaw. It's kind of over rated...... Who really needs that speed anyway? H, H+ does a great job for me.

    Mobicity is selling the 4G version for $829
    please note that was the price of the 3G version 3 weeks ago and they dropped the price drastically now to 689, probably because i complained after noticing kogan has the 3g version for $650, i bought the note 2 for my wife
    Im waiting til the 4g comes down to around $700 before getting it from anyone

    I have owned the Note 2 for over a week now, loving the battery life and its ease of use I will definitely stay with the note line. The Only issue I have at the moment is my device running 4.1.1 jelly bean when I installed SwiftKey 3rd party keyboard app to my device and set it as default every time I restart the device is returns to the Chinese IME Default keyboard even though before I turn it off I confirm that swift key is the default. I believe this is an issue between Jelly bean and the swift key install data as it may be installed in the incorrect location and at this point in time only resolution is to root the phone which I really don't want to do. Hope Samsung fix this soon and bring out 4.1.2
    Otherwise Fanatsic PHABLET. LONG LIVE THE NOTE 2

    Brilliant review. I've been waiting for a good phone to drag me out of the iOS spiral, might as well get a phablet.

      Are people actually buying into this 'Phablet' fad?!

      I hope people realise that they look ridiculous when they hold it to their ears!... On numerous occasions I have seen people point and/or laugh when people see someone hold something so ridiculously big to their faces! It's almost as bad as when people try to take pictures with an iPad in public!

        When you have one you really don't care to be honest. It's a pretty good looking phone and realistically it's not actually that big when measured against most popular phones these days.
        Speaking of phones looking funny due to size though - the funniest thing I ever saw was a very large man, with an oversized pumpkin of a head speaking into an extremely teeny miniature silver phone. It made his already massive bonce look positively swollen.
        -That was a few years ago when the fashion was for expensive dumbphones to be as small as possible.

          "That was a few years ago when the fashion was for expensive dumbphones to be as small as possible."

          That was such a bad time for technology.

        I bought an unlocked GN2 N7100 last week and it is awesome. I owned a Dell Streak 5" for 2 years before with very similar form factor and size. I enjoyed the Streak, but the GN2 is a whole new experience. Ridiculous to hold up to your head ? not much. Works great as a BT car phone, GPS and music player mounted to the windshield. Small phones you tend to swipe, pinch too much to get browser stuff to fit, as well as other mobile/vehicle apps. Just waiting to see if AT&T's 4G Note II will be worth a trade-in, without a cost or loss of investment. If not, 3G speed works with the powerful GN2.

      +1. This may be the phone that replaces my iPhone.

        Waiting, and very much looking forward to, upgrading my IPhone 3GS to an LTE Galaxy Note 2.
        NO interest in non-google maps and sick of apple limitations. Hubby has a Nexus and I am sold, but want the biggest screen as my eyes are not getting any sharper. Really sick of trying to read micro-time on ios.

    I don't know, I saw someone putting something of a similar size to his ear and talking into it. He looked downright ridiculous.

      I don't think that person cared what you or anybody else thought they looked like. If they are happy what does it matter? I think they are more interested in their overall performance and function than style and image.

      Who gives a flying fuck what it looks like?!

      I've probably put my phone to my ear twice this week. Most other times are emails and text. Maybe a sign of change? Some people just do screen bashing more than others and this phone would suite their preferences.

    can you really get 2 days of battery on this thing??? I just can't believe it

    If it had Stock Android I would consider it. Would the pen still work as a input device with Stock Android?

      Samsung released the SDK for the stylus input, so custom roms may be made to work with it while retaining a stock look and feel

    I'm trying to patiently wait for this phone to come out!! Will they bring it out on 3G and 4G on contracts??

    Nice review, but I just noticed a small spelling error in the second to last paragraph. "likely set to see a new Nexu devices." I think it's spelled Nexus. ;]

    Any Details about your review on this ones
    +++
    TWO GLORIOUS DAYS OF BATTERY LIFE! That was tested under heavy use, with Wi-Fi on and the brightness at maximum.
    +++
    What's TWO GLORIOUS DAYS OF BATTERY LIFE mean? Does it mean you unplug from changer in
    06.00 Day One than you need to re change it again on Day three in 06.00 (48 Hours)???

      For me, you charge it in the evening, then use it normally the next day, then use it normally the day after, then charge.
      If you're doing a lot of drawing though you can cut a day off of that time. Which is fair enough.

      Last edited 22/10/12 11:21 pm

    To everyone saying "holding this to your ear looks ridiculous" etc etc, I'm concerned by how much you care about what other people think? I personally, do not care if someone thinks i look "silly" because i have an awesome phone on my face. it makes me happy and frankly, your opinion on how i look is irrelevant. So, thanks for being so judgemental, and i'm sorry that you can't just be happy and get on with your life doing what you ENJOY not what others think is socially acceptable for you.

    P.S my note 2 arrived last week (i ordered from kogan) and i have multi-view just fine! I'm not sure what you mean by this feature is out in europe but not here, because mine works perfectly, you just have to know how to turn it on!

    IM A NOTE POWER USER & MUST SAY THAT AFTER USING THE NOTE I AM SATISFIED AS THE PHONE IS A BADBOY BUT THE NOTE 2 LOOKS TEMPTING....AFTER BIT OF RESEARCH THE NOTE2 HAS A SMALLER THINNER SCREEN AND A LOWER RESOLUTION..NOTE 1 IS PURE AWESOMENESS AND ORIGINAL...THE NOTE2 IS A SEQUEL HANDSET.!!

      Thats one sided view dude, just use a note 2 and then tell ur comments, i'm sure note 2 will be ur next phone. Just try it.

    Hi all, i have owned my note 2 for over 5 weeks,in fact i have two, one in white and one in grey. I have smallish hands and dont notice the size, it feels solid and comfortable in the hand, i have not once used the left or right hand configuration. The grey flip case adds an element of style and unlike the white, does not get dirty. Note 2?think Speed, its so bloody fast to do everything. The multi tasking feature (now out of the box) is incredible, wiith no lag whatsoever. I have read that note 2 will get a local release date optus, december, telstra november, problem is. You will only be offered 4g lte. As lte version has a seperate radio chip for 4g, this eats your battery. Speak to anyone with the s3 lte. Do youself a favour and track down the non lte version. Take full advantage of your 3100 mh battery on super, super fast 3g. Have some great suggestions and app recommendations if your all interested too.

      just turn off 4glte to save battery? simple. as. that ?

    You CAN do split screen.

    I have one myself.

    You need to hold the back button down to get the quick access menu up. Once you have this up, touch and drag any icon down to the bottom or top section of the screen and that app will open up in split screen.

    Why is this pinned on the front page when it's three weeks old...

      Australian price and availability has only just been announced, so some people might want to check out the original review. It's also been beefed up slightly for Australians, and will support 4G in Australia.

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