- Outstanding hardware
- Expensive on 4G plans
You just have to eye over our Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review to see how impressed we were by it. 4 ½ stars, high praise to the max and it’s little surprise when you think about what’s inside. Smashing the size supremacy of its predecessor, it pulls off a 5.5-inch 720p HD Super AMOLED display loaded with an S-Pen packing a full 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity. Add to that a 1.6GHz quad-core processor and a very respectable camera, not to mention expandability and stonking battery life and you have to wonder, how could it possibly get better? 4G, that’s how – meet the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE: Design
We liked the design of the original Note 2, we just didn’t love it. When the Note 2 LTE rocked up with the same chassis, it left us with exactly the same sentiment – good, just not great. Available in a gun metal-esque hyperglaze and a pearl white, it’s high gloss in both and looks like a blown up Samsung Galaxy S3. It does feel considerably more solid and slips into the pocket with ease given the slippery surface. This lack of grip is however a double edged sword, especially when using the Note 2 as a camera.
It’s straightforward in terms of ports with a 3.5mm headphone jack up top and a micro USB port down below. You’ll find a volume rocker to the left and a power button to the right. On the back is the 8-megapixel camera and LED flash with the 3100 mAh battery, micro SIM card and microSD card slot underneath.
At 9mm thick, it’s actually a surprisingly skinny phone when you factor in how much screen this baby packs. It also sits well in the hand, leaving the other to thumb or scribble with ease. We’ve lived with an original Note 2 for over of 2 months now and feel we’ve gained more from the additional size than compromised.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE: Screen
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE’s screen is no better or worse than that of the original – and we’re not complaining. It’s an AMOLED panel with a resolution of 720p. If you want to know more about AMOLEDs just check out our AMOLED Explained video guide. Once you have, you’ll understand exactly what we mean when we say that the Note 2 packs a non-PenTile sub-pixel formation. This means better clarity than other AMOLEDs such as that on the S3 and original Samsung Galaxy Note. It’s great to use and thanks to the size and clarity, the 4G on board the Note 2 LTE helps the experience along nicely.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE Review: User Interface
Android 4.1, also known as Jelly Bean is the operating system of the day as far as the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE is concerned. It’s much improved over its predecessor and standalone looks and feels fantastic. That said, Samsung doesn’t really let the true Android 4.1 experience shine through, covering it up with TouchWiz. This is their own custom skin that’s laced Samsung devices in the past, though never quite so heavily as on the Note 2 and Note 2 LTE. This is both a blessing and a curse, here’s why:
TouchWiz, the blessing: Thanks to TouchWiz, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is in the best position to take advantage of its screen size. A fantastic feature called Multi Window is present, splitting the screen in two, running one app in one half and another in the other half. In addition, the S Pen comes into its own thanks to TouchWiz. A double tap on the screen pulls up a note you can instantly jot on for example. It also interacts with the gallery, calendar and other parts of the UI with hovers and taps – extremely intuitive and innovative. The extent of these fantastic additions can be found in the original Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review.
TouchWiz, the curse: We love Android. Android 4.2 has just been launched and serves fierce innovation across the UI. Android 4.1 in the Note 2 LTE is still extremely current and while it peeks through with the notification bar and apps drawer, it’s heavily made up both in terms of visuals and functionality. While more functional, it’s also more complicated. We wonder if people will use half of the TouchWiz features. What’s more, the extra layer manages to make even this behemoth of a phone stutter in the gallery. This is an area that hasn’t been resolved since the Note 2 first came out and has resulted in us opting for a different gallery application.
All in all, we’re prepared to take the hit for the time being. Enthusiasts will definitely take the time to learn the S Pen gestures, how to use Multi Window and what apps work with Air View. For folks like us therefore, and possibly you, this phablet is offers a killer UI, but even we wish it was just a little more stock on the inside.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE: Camera and Multimedia
Sporting the same 8-megapixel camera module as the Samsung Galaxy S3, the Note 2 and Note 2 LTE perform exceptionally. This translates to great levels of detail, albeit with slightly less impressive noise handling. Samsung’s fantastic camera UI is also accompanied by a 6 frame per second burst mode at full resolution, allowing 20 fast capture 8-megapixel shots.
Dynamic range is strong, with exposure set using the overall scene as opposed to the area you tap on the screen. Focus is snappy and accurate delivering great detail in good lighting. It can also handle bright environments pretty well. Noise is something of an issue in low light when compared to the likes of the Apple iPhone 5 for example, however there’s no denying that the Note 2 has one of the best flashes around, remedying this shortcoming no end. The 5.5-inch screen makes for a great viewfinder upon which to frame shots and overall handling isn’t too cumbersome either despite the size and slippery high gloss.
As a video recorder, you can expect similar results. Good, solid performance, especially in broad daylight coupled with competitive, albeit slightly noisy low light performance. The Note 2 LTE packs a steady framerate and digital image stabilisation which works well and delivers results perfect for YouTube, viewing on the phone itself and casual use on a big screen.
Other multimedia needs are incredibly well served on the Note 2 LTE. Thanks to EE’s superfast 4G, streaming music and movies doesn’t even warrant a second thought. A 40MB file was downloaded in no more than a matter seconds and our benchmarks were very conclusive – 4G is blazing fast.
The gorgeous screen was made for movies thanks to its size, resolution and aspect ratio. The 16GB of internal memory and expandability mean you’ll be able to fit plenty of films on there, not to mention games. With its powerful quad-core processor, the Note 2 LTE handles games exactly like its predecessor – impeccably.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE: Storage and Connectivity
The 16GB of storage on the Note 2 LTE will give you a great start when it comes to storing all your lovely media and thanks to a microSD XC slot, the Galaxy Note 2 LTE can be boosted by an additional 64GB.
When it comes to connections, you can’t beat this phablet. All the Gs – 3G, DC-HSPA and 4G, NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and a GPS ensures this is one industry leader. The Samsung web browser is superb however for Chrome OS and browser users, Chrome for Android provides great syncing services. What’s more thanks to the giant screen, great text depiction and incredibly fast 4G services that averaged 40MBps per second in central London edges it above any other in terms of internet power. Outside London, we found the 4G service less reliable, though still strong in certain areas. You’ll want to check your coverage before signing up.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE: Performance and battery
Thanks to Samsung’s quad-core Exynos 4 processor complete with 2GB of RAM, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE delivers amongst the best performance out there. Its benchmark scores are at the top of the pile, performance is smooth within the UI and the gallery is an anomalous wave in a sea of smooth experiences. With strong call quality to match, despite looking a touch Dom Joly when on a call with the Note 2 LTE, it’s an undeniable all rounder.
Thanks also to its 3100mAh battery, the Note 2 LTE has enough power to manage its big screen and fast web. It lasts a comfortable day with a little juice left in the tank. Thanks to the removable battery cover, you can even carry a spare so you really have no excuse to run out on the fly.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE: Verdict
As we said, you just need to eye over our original Note 2 review to know that unless Samsung did something drastically wrong, the Note 2 LTE would be at the very least good. As it stands, it’s better than that, it’s great. The hardware in isolation could be the best phone out there thanks to its huge, sharp screen, great performance, smart features and strong camera, not to mention LTE on EE taking full advantage of all of these. It’s expensive though, considerably more so than a non-LTE Note 2, with the handset not bundled in for free on any tariff, even when they cost in excess of £60 per month. Such is the price early adopters pay though, so if you want the fastest internet on the go with the fastest phone on the market, you know what to do.