Samsung Galaxy Note II Review (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint)

Introduction and Design
In this review we've used the T-Mobile version of the Note II. The other versions are exactly same, with the only difference being that they support LTE connectivity.


Experimenting with something a bit out of the norm, Samsung decided to gamble on bringing back the stylus with the Samsung Galaxy Note – and surely enough, it proved successful in shedding some light on the long forgotten pointing device. As we all know, it wasn’t just your traditional stylus, but rather, the Note’s S-Pen extended the functions of the smartphone. Not only was it accurate in accomplishing expected operations, like making selections and highlighting stuff, but it provided consumers an alternative to the paper and pen.

Beyond the S-Pen, the Galaxy Note was a sight to behold on its own, partly because it stepped outside the box with its immense size and large 5.3” screen. Simply, it pushed the envelope in terms of what was possible with the size of today’s smartphones. Well folks, a good thing is hard to let go, so that’s why Samsung pushed forward in bringing to market its successor – the 5.5” Samsung Galaxy Note II.

Our friends overseas have been getting some good face time playing around with the impressive smartphone, but now the smartphone is coming to the US – with all four major carriers getting in on the fun! Now that we’re seeing light of the US variants of the Samsung Galaxy Note II, it’ll be intriguing to see how it’ll fit into the lineups of the respective carriers knowing that there are other highly prized smartphones lurking about.

The package contains:

  • microUSB cable
  • Wall Charger
  • Stereo Headphones
  • Additional ear buds
  • Start Guide
  • Health & Safety and Warranty Guide


Instead of seeing a minor change, like what we saw with the US variants of the Note, which ditched the physical home button in favor of an all capacitive lineup, the T-Mobile version we’re checking out retains the design of the international unit. Those familiar with the Samsung Galaxy S III will clearly realize the resemblance with this device, as it’s essentially a stretched out version of Sammy’s flagship to accommodate its larger display. Compared to its predecessor on the other hand, it’s surprisingly similar in size (0.37” thick) and weight (6.42 oz) – while still packing a display that’s slightly bigger. Regardless of that noteworthy item, it’s still a bit unwieldy to hold in the hand, making it more suitable for two-handed operation.

You can compare the Samsung Galaxy Note II with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

With its rounded edges and high gloss polycarbonate body, it makes the handset feel rather slick in the hand. Unfortunately, for a device expected to tangle with some of the premier smartphones in the market, it lacks the premium aesthetics to catapult it into the same category of its rivals. However, it’s one of those devices that get people talking about it, or question what it is – whether it’s a tablet or smartphone. Overall, we can’t say that we’re totally impressed by the design, mainly because we’ve seen it before, but nevertheless, we’re most comforted knowing that it’s maintaining its figure.

Lining the area above the screen, we’re presented with the usual suspect of characters – these include the earpiece, light/proximity sensors, front-facing 1.9-megapixel camera (can shoot video in up to 720p), and LED notification light that’s discreetly hidden from view. On the opposite edge, its prominent home button is surrounded by its capacitive menu and back buttons.

With the placement of its volume control and dedicated power button, they’re located in the same positions that we’ve been seeing with most of Samsung’s stuff of late. Thankfully, they have a pronounced feel that makes them easy to touch with our fingers – while exhibiting springy responses when pressed.

Of course, both the 3.5mm headset jack and noise-cancellation microphone are located on the handset’s top trim, with the regular mic and microUSB port are placed on the bottom side of the handset. Not only does the microUSB port offer data and charging connectivity, but we gain video-out functionality with the aid of an optional MHL adapter.

In the rear, the Samsung Galaxy Note II is sporting an 8-megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash as before, which also has the ability to shoot 1080p videos. Meanwhile, two notches towards the bottom edge tuck away its internal speaker. Using the slot on the upper left corner of the rear, we’re able to pry off its plastic rear cover – thus, granting us access to its beefy user-replacable 3,100 mAh battery, microSD slot, and microSIM card slot.


After overcoming the shock of realizing how gargantuan in size the handset is while holding it in our hand, our attention is soon fixed onto its obnoxiously large 5.5-inch HD 720 x 1280 Super AMOLED display. Detailing it already, the Note II manages to maintain its predecessor’s overall size – while being able to accommodate a slightly larger display panel. At first glance, some will quickly realize that the resolution has dropped to 720p, as opposed to the WXGA 800 x 1280 from before, but it doesn’t prove to diminish its detail primarily because Sammy has decided to employ a modified RGB matrix arrangement with its pixels. As a result, we’re presented with details that aren’t softened in the least bit.

Whereas AMOLED screens in general are known to exhibit cooler looking colors, the improvements made upon the HD Super AMOLED display of the Note II is evidenced by its disposed appearance – giving it a softer tone. However, its color production is still on the saturated side, which isn’t bad at all, considering that it gives the handset its wow factor. Beyond that, it exhibits all the qualities we naturally adore about AMOLED screen in general – like its high contrast, wide viewing angles, and deep black color. For all of its beauty, it’s still prone when it comes to outdoor visibility, as the display is hardly viewable in direct sunlight.

S Pen:

Tucked away in the bottom right corner of the device, just like last time, the S Pen discreetly blends into the handset when it’s not in use – ensuring that it won’t be misplaced or lost. Once it’s take out, we notice some appreciable improvements made on the design of this new S Pen. For starters, it’s both thicker in size and longer to make it easier to handle, which essentially makes it more ergonomic than its predecessor. Fashioned into the shape and style of a pencil, we’re able to grasp it with a natural feel.

Of course, it’s accurate in terms of its responsiveness with the display, but there are some additional new features with the S Pen that extends the functionality of the handset further – we’ll expand on it more in the interface section. Showing its appreciation to the S Pen, there’s an option that allows us to be notified if we’ve forgotten to put the S Pen back into its slot when we take a few steps away from where we placed the S Pen. Overall, it’s a wonderful alternative to interacting with the smartphone.

Samsung GALAXY Note II 360-degrees View:

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