Unfortunately, the location of the speakerphone grille also remains the same -- as ever, its placement directly adjacent to the S Pen makes it difficult to feel around for the stylus. Also, a charging / notification light would've been a welcome addition. All in all, though, these are minor quibbles, but Samsung could've used this refresh as an opportunity to make these improvements, and it's a shame that didn't happen. As for the one cosmetic difference you will notice, T-Mobile's logo sits up top, in place of AT&T's branding (naturally).
It goes without saying that the Galaxy Note's massive 5.3-inch display is by far its most polarizing feature -- you'll either love the added real estate or resent the extra girth. This is the same 1,280 x 800 Super AMOLED screen used on all the models, which is to say it's of the PenTile variety. All told, the sub-pixel layout means little in practice, as text appears sharp and colors are incredibly vibrant. It's worth pointing out, however, that display technology has advanced since the introduction of the Galaxy Note, and the difference is plainly obvious when you compare the phone to newer contenders like the Galaxy S III and One X. While we'd previously marveled at the bright whites of the Note's display, it appears somewhat murky with predominant yellow and blue tones when compared to newer, more advanced handsets. Don't let this serve as too much of a deterrent, though: unless you hold the two phones side-by-side, the Galaxy Note's display is still utterly drool-worthy.
With respect to the Galaxy Note's hardware, we're left with one final elephant in the room: its physical size. If you're familiar with the AT&T variant, you already know what to expect, as T-Mobile's is exactly the same, down to the sub-millimeter. As we've said, it's not for everyone: those with large hands will likely be overjoyed by the jumbo-sized proportions and the expansive virtual keyboard. Those with smaller hands, meanwhile, may struggle at first to maintain a proper grip. That said, while the handset may strike some shoppers as slightly unwieldy, anybody intrigued enough should be able to adapt quickly enough.
| ||Galaxy Note (T-Mobile) ||Galaxy Note (AT&T) ||Galaxy S III (T-Mobile) |
|Pricing ||$250 (after $50 mail-in rebate) ||$250 ||$280 (16GB), $330 (32GB) |
|Dimensions ||5.78 x 3.26 x 0.37 inches (146.85 x 82.95 x 9.65mm) ||5.78 x 3.26 x 0.37 inches (146.85 x 82.95 x 9.65mm) ||5.38 x 2.78 x 0.34 inch (136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm) |
|Weight ||6.34 oz. (180g) ||6.34 oz. (180g) ||4.69 oz (133 g) |
|Screen size ||5.3 inches ||5.3 inches ||4.8 inches |
|Screen resolution ||1,280 x 800 pixels (284ppi) ||1,280 x 800 pixels (284ppi) ||1,280 x 720 pixels (306ppi) |
|Screen type ||Super AMOLED HD ||Super AMOLED HD ||Super AMOLED HD |
|Battery ||2,500mAh ||2,500mAh ||2,100mAh |
|Internal storage ||16GB ||16GB ||16GB / 32GB |
|External storage ||None included, MicroSD ||None included, MicroSD ||None included, MicroSDXC-compatible (up to 64GB) |
|Rear camera ||8MP, AF, LED flash ||8MP, AF, LED flash ||8MP, AF, LED flash, f/2.6 |
|Front-facing cam ||2MP ||2MP ||2MP |
|Video capture ||1080p ||1080p ||1080p HD |
|NFC ||Yes ||Yes ||Yes |
|Radios ||GSM / EDGE (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900MHz); UMTS / HSPA (850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100MHz) ||GSM / EDGE (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900MHz); UMTS / HSPA (850 / 1900 / 2100MHz); LTE (Bands 4 and 17) ||GSM / EDGE (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900MHz); UMTS / HSPA (850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100MHz) |
|Network speeds ||DC HSPA+ 42Mbps ||LTE; HSPA+ 21Mbps ||DC HSPA+ 42Mbps |
|Bluetooth ||v3.0 ||v3.0 ||v4.0 |
|SoC ||Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 MSM8660 ||Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 MSM8660 ||Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 |
|CPU ||1.5GHz dual-core ||1.5GHz dual-core ||1.5GHz dual-core |
|GPU ||Adreno 220 ||Adreno 220 ||Adreno 225 |
|RAM ||1GB ||1GB ||2GB |
|MHL ||Yes (special adapter needed) ||Yes (special adapter needed) ||Yes (special adapter needed) |
|WiFi ||802.11 a/b/g/n ||802.11 a/b/g/n ||802.11 a/b/g/n |
|Operating system ||Android 4.0.4, TouchWiz UI ||Android 4.0.4, TouchWiz UI ||Android 4.0.4, TouchWiz UI |
Performance and battery life
Much of the goodwill surrounding the Galaxy Note is due to the fantastic performance of the original, global model, which packs Samsung's homegrown Exynos processor. Still, the story changed a bit when we reviewed AT&T's variant, which is based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon S3. While the phone's performance remained respectable, it simply couldn't match that of the original. This is true for T-Mobile's version as well, which features the very same internals as the AT&T model.
| ||Galaxy Note (T-Mobile) ||Galaxy Note (AT&T) ||Galaxy S III (T-Mobile) |
|Quadrant ||3,347 ||3,598 ||5,032 |
|Vellamo ||1,320 ||1,353 ||2,360 |
|AnTuTu ||6,354 ||6,530 ||6,868 |
|SunSpider 0.9.1 (ms) ||2,661 ||2,769 ||1,764 |
|GLBenchmark Egypt Offscreen (fps) ||33 ||34 ||54 |
|CF-Bench ||6,520 ||6,523 ||8,759 |
|SunSpider: lower scores are better. |
In real-world usage, the Galaxy Note is a capable performer -- albeit, not a very graceful one. While apps often open quickly, transitions and animations often stutter. Similarly, web pages often load and render without hesitation, but you're bound to notice slight hiccups during pinch-to-zoom. Curiously, the T-Mobile variant consistently delivered lower benchmark scores than its AT&T counterpart, though the difference was negligible. Compared to faster phones such as the Galaxy S III and One X, it's hard to classify the Galaxy Note as a powerhouse. It's a shame, then, that Samsung didn't update the T-Mobile variant with a Snapdragon S4, which could have secured the Note's place alongside other top-tier devices. Instead, you'll need to ask yourself whether the unique advantages of the Galaxy Note outweigh the performance hit.
Despite the massive 2,500mAh cell, battery life is stil just a bit better than average. In our standard rundown test, the phone managed to stay alive for a little more than eight hours, which is directly on par with AT&T's model. Similarly, during real-world tests with moderately aggressive usage, we could typically expect 28 hours of uptime before needing to scramble for an outlet. Overall, T-Mobile's Galaxy Note should be sufficient for people who already charge their phone each evening. If you forget, though, you'll be kicking yourself the next morning.
On the whole, call quality for T-Mobile's Galaxy Note is adequate, though if you have particularly discerning tastes, you'll likely prefer AT&T's variant. Every time we a call placed over T-Mobile, we noticed a small amount of distortion and echo in the background, and while we were always able to carry on a conversation without much trouble, it was a constant annoyance that we were never able to escape. It's worth mentioning, however, that we also perceived a subtle but persistent hiss from the earpiece on the AT&T version, which we didn't notice here. Even so, though, we found that hiss on Ma Bell's model easier to ignore. Although we weren't able to test the feature, it's also worth pointing out that the Galaxy Note for T-Mobile supports WiFi Calling, which may eliminate these voice quality concerns. This is a free service that allows users to augment their coverage in spotty areas and place unlimited calls without affecting their monthly minute allotment -- not too shabby, and you can only find it on T-Mobile's version.
At this point, you're likely familiar with the 8-megapixel camera of the Galaxy Note, which is the same fantastic setup featured in the Galaxy S II. Needless to say, it's hard to take a bad photo with this phone, and it's easy enough, even, to capture truly gorgeous shots. Not only is the camera a solid performer in auto mode, but those who wish to fine-tune their photos will be delighted to find advanced features that include light metering, EV and ISO controls. Better yet, the interface of the camera app is completely customizable, which allows you to pin your most frequently used settings to the main screen, mitigating the need to dig through menus.