I’ve recently replaced my aging HTC Desire HD smartphone with a new Samsung Galaxy Note 2. These are my impressions of the phone after I’ve used it for a week.
In common with a lot of modern phones, the note 2 uses a micro sim so I needed to replace the sim I was using in my old phone. Although it’s possible to cut a sim down to micro size, I wanted to move to an unlimited bandwidth provider so I wouldn’t be constantly worried about using up my network allowance. I therefore sent for a sim from giffgaff which I’ve fitted. This gives me unlimited network and texts and 240 minutes calls for £12 a month. Once we move my wife’s phone to giffgaff, we can get calls between our mobiles for free.
Size and handling
It can’t be denied that this is a big phone. Before I bought it I had decided to buy the Galaxy S3 but once I’d seen the screen on the Note 2 I was sold and decided it was the phone for me.
Because I wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t be a problem carrying such a big phone about I made a cardboard “dummy phone” of the same dimensions which I carried around for a week beforehand to make sure it wouldn’t be inconvenient to carry. Because the phone is slim, it actually fits in the pocket quite easily and I haven’t yet found it difficult to carry about. This may change in the summer when I won’t be wearing a jacket (although in the UK that may not be true) but certainly at the moment it’s not been a problem.
One of the problems I had with my old Desire HD was the fact that I was finding it difficult to see some content on the screen properly. The HD had a 4.3 inch screen which, at the time I bought it was a big screen, but the Note 2 is 5.5 inch and really high quality so is a step up from the Desire. There have been no problems seeing content on this phone; the text is clear and sharp and the phone is fantastically responsive.
The one issue of the design that I’ve found which has been slightly annoying is the positioning of the on/off switch in relation to the volume buttons. They are directly in-line on opposite sides of the phone and I’ve found that I will quite often adjust the volume as I wake the phone up because I naturally press both buttons together, however that’s a minor issue.
The phone is a dream for playing media. I had set up the amazon cloud player a few months ago which made the android amazon app the obvious choice for music playing, but there are a variety of other players available as well. A really nice feature of the phone is that I can configure it to switch the audio to mono when earphones are plugged in. Because I’m deaf in one ear I had always found I had to use a special player which would allow this, but being set at the operating system level means it works for all media applications which is really cool.
The phone is loud when played through the speaker and can easily be used for watching videos whilst sitting in a quiet room at home. The audio quality is good for a phone but that means it sounds like a small radio set – hardly HiFi.
Video quality is also extremely good. The resolution is 1280 x 720 and it’s an AMOLED screen which seems to be very good in bright sunlight. My last phone looked like a mirror in the sunlight and I had to remember the screen layout when I had a call in the sunlight, so this is a vast improvement. I haven’t yet watched a lot of video on the phone, but I have Netflix installed and will possibly do another review after a bit more use.
I’m particularly interested in the camera performance for my phone since photography is my main hobby. I used to have a Samsung Wave S8500 which had a very good camera and I really noticed how much poorer the camera on my Desire HD was.
I don’t expect a camera in a phone to be the same as a DSLR or even a compact camera; the sensor in cameras don’t have the size to get proper performance, but I do want a camera which can be relied upon to take good pictures and video in situations where we are out with the family and I don’t have my Pentax K-5 or even my Canon S95 with me.
The galaxy note 2 has not disappointed me. It has good performance in good light and also seems capable of pretty good results in low light. I’ve put some sample images on my G+ account which you can see here. Some of these were taken in the garden at home in good light, the rest during a bike ride with my son and they show the sort of quality which can be achieved. There are a whole host of different effects and shooting modes which I haven’t explored but I’m happy that as a basic camera for the situations I need it for it’s good.
I tend to use the location services on my smartphone to track exercise. I either walk or cycle to work and I like to have a record of the journey to keep an eye on the level of calories I’m burning (I have been trying to control my weight over the last few months and keeping track like this has helped.) I use endomondo to do this and so far the gps has locked on quickly and managed to track my walks really well. The Desire HD would sometimes just refuse to lock to GPS and I’d loose whole sections of the walk but the Galaxy Note 2 has kept lock with the phone in my jacket pocket at all times. Admittedly, it’s only tracked three journeys so it’s early days but I’ll see how it goes.
The other noticeable feature of the phone which I’ve picked up is the battery life. With my last phone I had to charge it several times during the day or it would run out quite quickly. Now the battery in that phone was old and well past its prime, but even when new I had to put it on charge at work to keep it topped up. The Galaxy Note has a 3100 mAh capacity battery and so far it has easily lasted all day without any top up. I’ve found that 30 minutes on charge during breakfast and an hour or so in the evening has kept the phone running. The capacity hasn’t fallen below 40% following this pattern which I find very good.
Other useful features
In the week I’ve had the phone the other things which I’ve noticed are
- The stylus which I’ve used for taking notes
- The gallery app which has face tagging
- The alarm which has a nice location option so the alarm only sounds when in a certain location.
- Google Now which comes with Jelly Bean.
I may do other posts on these or additional features when I have used the phone more.