First of all I have had the first Galaxy note before it was released in Egypt, when I heard of the Note 2 I was interested but hesitant to spend money again not because the Samsung Galaxy note was bad but because it was so good that I did not feel that I needed more. The original Galaxy Note had survived my extreme abuses. I am not the sort of a guy that takes care of his mobiles and honestly the Galaxy note fell from my table to the wooden floor nearly 3 times per week and withstood it like a true soldier. I am incredibly impressed with what Samsung does with plastic and Corning Guerrilla glass.
Yet the Note 2 enticed me with the promise of a phone that is easier to hold in the hand, for although the screen was larger, it was narrower and taller, thus holding it in your hand is easier. The quad core processor was a strongly seducing to me as a computer nerd. Let me tell you why.
Performance and user interface.
You know how Notebook and desktop processors stopped their aggressive performance increases 2 years ago and now it seems that the limit for high performance computers is like 3.6 Gigahertz and that for low power and light notebooks is more like 2 Gigahertz. Well this will be the same for mobiles in the very near future and I think that most mobiles will not be able to go above the 1.8 or 2 Gigahertz quad core. So really at 1.6 Gigahertz quad-core the Galaxy note 2 can live a long life as a good performance mobile.
So I took the plunge and bought it. Now on opening it I was disappointed a bit, the phone’s body was glossy, I hate glossy. Still it had a smoothness that I have never experienced before, this thing is really smooth. And when you start using it you will realize that they should have called it smooth and not the note! The screen transitions are amazing, I mean every part of the user interface is designed to be beautiful and elegant, the new Android user interface is actually called “butter” and believe me it is a good name that tell you how smooth it is. As usual Samsung added a lot to the default Android interface and with the quad core processor used the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 manages to make butter become smoother than silk. The interface is fast to the degree that you totally fail to notice any slowing down, this is not like riding a Porsche, this is like walking into a portal that takes you where you want to go instantly.
The browser of the Note 2 really shows how fast it is. Gone totally is any lag that you have ever seen in any android device when scrolling, which friends with iphones always loved to boast about. The browser on this beast of a device is the fastest ever and the benchmarks prove that it is a few percent faster than even the iphone 5. Please note that this is a huge feat, since generally Android browsers are much more compatible with complex pages than the iphone, while the iphone can cut a few corners and have errors on some pages I have not seen any such problems on either the Galaxy Note or the Note 2.
For those that do know Android this may be a bit redundant, Android allows you to treat your phone’s main screen more like your computer desktop and put interactive widgets rather than the simple and very inflexible interface of the iphone. On my home screens I have a widget to show me the latest stuff on my facebook another widget shows me the time for prayers. I also have a widget that when pressed turns on and off the camera flash essentially turning the phone into a very accessible flash light and you do not need to open a program to do this, it is on your home screens. Over all every part of the user interface is extremely attractive and responsive and beats the iphone in every respect except its mind numbing simplicity. Personally I would not pay money for a phone that treated me like a child expecting me to need things to be simplified to me to such a degree that I loose all the perks of actually owning a smart phone. The whole point behind modern computers and mobiles is flexibility and Android give you that where iphone IOS sacrifices that for over-simplicity. That is not so say that android or the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 are hard to learn, not at all, any normal users of computers and the Internet will be able to learn it in no time, especially since every time you use something for the first time a wizard opens up to teach you the most common shortcuts for getting things done better.
Now we talked about how fast this beast is but here is one thing that demonstrates that this is far far out there in terms of speed. When you open the videos application you get a live preview of all your videos on screen. This thing is giving you a video preview not just an image for 8 videos at a time. Talk about unparalleled raw performance. I installed one of my favourite apps which is foldersync which allow me to sync my folders with the great opensource owncloud system. Owncloud allows you to store your own files in your own managed cloud. The performance and speed of sycing where great on the Note 2.
Body and screen.
The note 2 as I said has a smooth glossy body, I hated it at first, but after a few hours of use that hate turned into something else. For the first time in my life I actually wanted to put a mobile in a cover to keep its condition pristine. The entire body of the Note 2 is amazingly smooth. The screen glass is tapered at the edges where it meets the rest of the body with a curve that is very pleasing to touch. The color is a brushed metallic gray that gives plastic a luxury look that is beyond anything I have ever seen in a mobile short of a metal body. And believe me you do not want a metal body, Samsung know how to use plastic, and as I said before my original Galaxy Note took such abuse and lived, had it been an iphone it would have broken in the first 4 months as I am a clumsy person that expects gadgets to adjust to me not the other way around. The plastic on the Galaxy Note 2 resembles that on the original with the exception of color, the gloss and the smoothness, I fully expect it to last as long but the gloss will show signs of scratches more than it did on the original note.
One important thing is that the Note 2 is both larger and has a bigger battery than the original Note surprisingly due to its rounded corners and narrower body is easier to carry in your pockets than the original. The Note was surprisingly light for its size and the new Note even more so given its larger 5.5 inch screen which is the largest in any mobile in the market. Speaking of the screen, it uses OLED technology which is better than the LED and LCD in most phones and TVs. OLED gives you the brightness of an LCD with the contrast ratio of a plasma display. The result is a screen that is nothing short of amazing. The colors are and contrast is like nothing you have seen before, it is better than the best TV on the market today, only the new OLED tv that are to be released in late 2012 and early 2013 will have the same level of color and contrast and these will be around 3 times to 5 times more expensive than the most expensive LED on the market.
Battery life is nothing short of amazing. The battery is bigger than the one on the original Note even though due to better manufacturing technology by Samsung the quad core in the galaxy Note 2 typically consumes less power than the one in the original note. If you are only doing phone calls and not a lot of smart stuff the phone will last 3 days. Now on my first day with it, it lasted over one day and a few extra hours on a charge. See the first day is the day with the most usage, the one that I was discovering about the phone. Now I can get up to 1.5 days without recharging. This is very good battery life especially taking into consideration that I use it a lot for email and browsing even when my Notebook is next to me and turned on since I would rather read my emails on the Galaxy Note 2 and even reply to short ones on it. For longer email replies I use the notebook.
Sound and call quality.
The call quality on the Note 2 is quite good. I did not use it extensively enough to give a final judgment as to call reception strength. That aside the speakers on the Note 2 are better than on the original Note. The speaker when used in loud can play decent music for a phone, do not take me wrong this is not a replacement for larger speakers, but the sound volume and quality is better than most phones, if you just need to share the music or Quran then it will do better than other phones for a small group of people sitting next to each other. The included headphone is a disappointment, if you invest this much in a phone then invest at least 200LE in a half decent headphone (finding good headphones in Egypt is not easy) . I plugged in my Denon AHD 1000 over ear headphones and got two surprises. The first is that when you connect a head phone the phone detects that and automatically opens up the mp3 player. This is an amazing feature and is in tune with what Samsung have done with the stylus because when you remove the stylus a menu of stylus specific programs is presented to you. This shift of the smart features of a smart phone from the software to the physical actions is nothing short of amazing. Going back to sound quality, when I plugged my high end ( well medium end in reality if you are really into music some headphones can cost up to a 10,000LE ) I was surprised at the sound quality. I had put some FLAC files which are like MP3 but of a higher quality or rather they are fully CD quality where MP3 is less than CD quality for those that do not know, and the sound quality of the music was better than the previous galaxy Note. The difference is not huge since the old Samsung was not bad at all, it is just that this one is better. Mind you, with cheaper speakers you might not feel the difference but at least if you are a music lover this phone will not disappoint.
Is it for you?
Well if you are heavily invested in the apple like having an appletv and a lot of purchases on your iphone then you might want to stay there with overly simplified apple products that assume that users are willing to sacrifice flexibility for mind numbing ease of use, but you still can use your stuff. Most if not all music from your itunes purchases will work on the Samsung since it supports DRM free apple songs and most of the songs on itunes now are DRM free ( not a single one in my collection is DRMed ). Videos purchased on itunes nearly always have DRM and will not work on any android phone. Also Note that with some software you can stream music and videos to your 2nd generation appleTV from Samsung and other android phones. So if you are invested in the Apple ecosystem there are enough features in android to help you overcome your apple addiction. The thing is most iphone onwers in Egypt are not that invested in the apple Eco-system.
The Galaxy Note 2 is more ergonomic than the previous Galaxy Note, but still it is a huge phone, still it will fit most trouser pockets for men and will not be heavy in womens purses. Still you loose one handed operation for many things, but hey one of the best features in apple ( also in Samsung ) is the pinch to zoom and that needs two hands. With the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 you will need to use both hands more often than in most phones, but remember this you can do more on the Note 2 than you can do on most phones. The large screens makes working with spreadsheets, word documents and browsing the Internet easier and you will find your self reaching for your phone more than you usually do with other phones.
The Note 2 is a class of its own, it is simply the most productive phone on the market now. Its weakness it is most important strength, which is its size. It allows you to ditch your tabled and get a kind of business productivity on the go that is not available in other devices. The Samsung Galaxy S 3 shares the same DNA ( it is clearly its smaller brother ), and can be a good alternative if you do not want such a large phone.
Large phone that allows a kind of productivity that is simply not possible in smaller phones such as the iphone 5.
Amazing interface, screen and sound quality.
MicroSD card for expansion.
Glossy finish is beautiful but smudges fast and could be easier to scratch this is less of a problem than in iphone since the battery cover is removable.
Large making one handed operation harder.
Checkout the second part follow up to this review