T-Mobile will launch the Galaxy Note on August 8th for $249.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and with a two-year contract. That’s not cheap; in fact, you could buy the Galaxy S III, which packs a beefier processor, for slightly more.

The device is very similar to AT&T”s model, but will launch with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and support for T-Mobile’s 42Mbps HSPA+ network instead of offering 4G LTE. The rest of the hardware features remain the same: it packs a beautiful 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED display and a zippy dual-core processor, among other specs.

I’ve been cruising around with T-Mobile’s first phablet for a few days now. Let’s move on to TechnoBuffalo’s full review.

Hardware

T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Note1

At first glance, the T-Mobile Galaxy Note is nearly identical to the AT&T Galaxy Note we reviewed. The dimensions, ports and display are all identical. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack conveniently placed on top of the phone, a power button within easy reach on the top-right of the device, soft-touch buttons for the menu, home, return and search just below the 5.3-inch display and volume controls on the top left-hand side of the phone. There’s also a microUSB charging port at the bottom of the device.

Under its hood, you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor, 16GB of internal storage, NFC support, a removable 2,500mAh battery and a microSD card slot for expandable storage. There’s also an 8-megapixel camera capable of recording HD video and a single LED flash on the back of the phone, as well as a small S Pen device (I refer to it as a stylus but Samsung hates that moniker) that fits snugly into a compartment on the bottom right of the phone.

The 5.3-inch display certainly isn’t for everybody, and I did feel a bit geeky using it during phone calls or even walking around on the subway, but it’s an absolutely fantastic size for gaming, reading or consuming other media, such as movies, on long car trips, plane rides or train escapades. I love the Galaxy Note’s form factor and, while I prefer the Galaxy S III screen size, it’s still a stellar device.

T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Note5
I love the Galaxy Note’s form factor and, while I prefer the Galaxy S III screen size, it’s still a stellar device.

Software

T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Note6

AT&T’s Galaxy Note just received an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but T-Mobile’s launches with Android 4.0.4 out of the box. That’s a good thing: I certainly would be upset if this launched with Gingerbread, but I also hope that it’s updated to the latest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean build of the operating system. I won’t go into Android Ice Cream Sandwich much because I assume most of our readers are already acclimated with the software, but it’s snappy and includes bonus features such as Face Unlock, Android Beam for sending files to other NFC-capable devices and more.

Samsung’s S Note software is a stellar note taking application. S Note, if you’re unfamiliar, allows you to write on the screen for notes, or for sketching and drawing. There are several templates available including ones for creating your own idea notes, meeting notes, a magazine, a diary, a recipe and a travel log. The S Pen works wonderfully on the display and is so accurate that I found it to be a wonderful tool for cheating while playing Draw Something with friends.

T-Mobile includes quite a bit of bloatware on the device, which could be a turn-off for some users. The Galaxy Note comes pre-loaded with T-Mobile ID, T-Mobile Mall, T-Mobile TV, Telenav GPS, Zinio, Slacker Radio, Polaris Office, 411 & More, Access T-Mobile, Bobsled Messaging and more. Many applications can be removed, but most of T-Mobile’s branded applications cannot be uninstalled.

Camera

Samsung Galaxy Note T-Mobile camera sample

Samsung includes a very solid 8-megapixel camera on the Galaxy Note. I loved the camera AT&T’s version and it’s no different on T-Mobile’s model. I prefer the shooter on the Galaxy S III because it can capture images in rapid fire and includes several additional features, such as one that allows you and several friends to shoot pictures and share a combined photo gallery.

I found that auto-focus generally took under a second and that pictures were crisp. They also looked great when I viewed them back on my monitor. The Galaxy Note is also capable of recording 1920 x 1080p video, which also looked solid, although it defaults to a lesser 1280 x 720-pixel resolution at first. Unfortunately, the phone doesn’t have an HDMI-out port for sharing media to an HDTV, but it does support DLNA (if your TV does as well) for wireless sharing. Or, you can purchase a microUSB to HDMI accessory that will do the trick for you.

Data/Call Quality

T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Note9

I found the call quality on T-Mobile in New York with the Galaxy Note to be excellent. I didn’t experience a dropped call or even a missed word during my tests. I also found that the speakerphone was sufficiently loud, although it was a bit tinny at higher levels and my caller could tell I was using speakerphone.

T-Mobile lists about a dozen areas in New York City where I could find optimal data speeds on its 42Mbps data network, but I typically try to use the phone as I would any other device and not stand in predetermined areas for my testing. While I’ve seen data rates that are on a par with 4G LTE data networks, I generally found that the Galaxy Note’s download speeds averaged in at 2Mbps and upload speeds fell in around 1.2Mbps. Those speeds are quick for a 3G network, but not quite what I see from Verizon’s 4G LTE or AT&T’s 4G LTE networks, which blanket New York City.

Battery Life

T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Note3

Battery Life was quite good during the several days that I used the Galaxy Note. It lasted slightly longer than my Galaxy S III, likely due to its larger capacity battery, and I was able to make it until bedtime without having to charge the phone on most days.  Moderate users should have no problem making it a full 24 hours, although I’d recommend keeping charger nearby for longer day trips.

Wrap-Up

T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Note2

I love the Galaxy Note. I always have, since the time I first picked up Jonathan Rettinger’s international unit in our offices. There’s nothing inherently wrong with T-Mobile’s version – although I prefer the faster data speeds that AT&T’s 4G LTE network offers — but most customers should be better off with a Galaxy S III. It offers a still-large 4.8-inch screen, support for the same data network, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, better camera options such as Buddy Share, better Snapdragon S4 processor, a more pocketable design and costs just $30 more. Or, you could head to AT&T and pick up its LTE-toting Galaxy Note for $249.99 with a new two-year contract.

Rating

7.5

T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Note Gallery