Samsung Galaxy Note Review: A Decent Travel Companion

I recently took a road trip my new Samsung Galaxy Note and it performed great for a few things – entertainment, GPS, and note-taking at the convention I attended. However, my positive experience with the Galaxy Note soured a bit on this trip due to the horrible battery life.

The Big Screen Shines Bright

We drove from North Carolina to Atlanta, then Mobile, Alabama and then on to New Orléans and back over an eight-day period. We didn’t know the routes we took by heart, so using Android’s excellent turn-by-turn directions helped a lot. I love seeing my destination on the large 5.3-inch screen so that I know exactly what to look for upon arrival. The large display also helps when you need to quickly glance at the next turn on the maps while driving.

Samsung Galaxy Note Travel Companion

Read: Samsung Galaxy Note Review: One Week Later.

As I sat in meetings for two days at the convention, I took notes using the Samsung Galaxy Note’s S-Pen. I used Papyrus, a great note taking app designed for the Note. It lets me use my finger to erase and the pen draws and writes. I don’t need to tap an eraser icon with the pen before getting rid of my unintended scribbles. I wish the S-Memo app included this feature.


As my son and wife shared some of the driving, I plugged in my ear buds and watched some videos I loaded on the phone before we left. This helped while away the hours. I also listened to music and read a book on the Amazon Kindle app. Video and text look awesome on the spacious screen.

The Big Screen Kills the Battery

Despite performing great on many tasks, the Note fails in a key spec – battery life. The Note under heavy use lasts at the most ten hours. Let me define heavy uses. They include:

  • Screen on for GPS directions or viewing video
  • Bluetooth on for hands free calling
  • Wi-Fi turned on for wireless sharing of data so others can get online
  • Occasional phone calls, checking email, Twitter and Facebook

No problem. Just plug into the cigarette lighter and keep the battery topped off. However, the battery on the Samsung Galaxy Note still drains even when plugged into the charger under the above usage. I didn’t experience this issue on my iPhone 4S.

I tried many chargers and can’t find one, including Samsung’s own charger, that keeps the phone powered with all that running. It drains slower, but it still drains. If any Samsung Galaxy Note users can recommend a car charger that really charges the phone even with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and the screen turned on, let me know.

Unfortunately, I just learned about the new 10,000 mAh battery backup from Satechi, and wish that I had had one with me on my trip. It offers a lot of extra juice for power-hungry phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note.

When you use an iPhone for years, iPhone accessories are easy to come by. I own an iPhone cable that plugs into the 30-pin dock and charges my phone while sending audio from the phone to my auxiliary input on my car. That way I could keep my iPhone charged while listening to music over my car stereo.

I can’t do that with the Samsung Galaxy Note or any other Android phone that I know of and it’s something that made traveling with the Galaxy Note more difficult than it should have been.


  1. I’ve been using this:

    And it charges the phone while I have google navigation running/screen on 100%.

    Also the samsung official 1 amp charger runs well.
    THere are other suggestions on the XDA galaxy note forums.

    You should use a battery stats program to make sure the charger is giving the phone at least 750 mA or so. Also the usb cable you use may affect things.

    – Frank

  2. I like your review of this phone under an actual usage vs what the manufacturers say but I have to say and meaning no disrespect you sound like an idiot. I am sure you are not an idiot but never thought of it. First when running your phone like that it is going to drain the battery, manufacturers make these phones so they can keep up with everything we do but a consumer comes along and uses it for more than its meant to do at one time. It might be able to run applications like that but not on a consistent basis. Also you need to look into getting a power inverter. Car chargers ruin cell phone batteries, it gives it a quick charge but never a full slow charge. I recently made a cross country trip with my old droid x and used a power inverter. I had GPS running constantly and then would use the phone for calls and apps when we stopped for food, bathroom, or sleep. I would say that a phone that size with you running it like that, that if its getting 10 hours of battery life then thats good. Compare the note to an Ipad not the iphone because the note is more like a tablet than a phone, then factor in that it makes calls too which is even more of a drain on the battery. Bluetooth on some phones kills the battery, I don’t know about the note. Wifi actually helps the battery because 3g and 4g is a battery killer. Just go with a cheap power inverter from walmart for about 30 dollars since its just for the phone and you get to use the factory charger that came in the box with your phone, car chargers cost about what? 20 or so? This will fully charge your battery and not harm it like a car charger will. Some models have the usb option so you can charge it like that and about 2 other devices, just as long as you don’t exceed the power rating. Phones should be ok but laptops and larger devices draw too much power for the inverter too keep up when you have multiple devices. Love the note but am waiting for it to come to verizon before I get it.

  3. Did you say that the battery drains during use even when plugged-in to a charger? This isn’t my experience… I’m constantly streaming audio, sometimes through the browser (ie screne on) and it stays flly charged just fine. I think spare batteries are under $10… I’d pick up one and a charger if I were doing a trip like you described. The quick swap out is one of the Notes nice features.

  4. I have the same issue wrt the battery. If i use the gps and keep the display on… The battery drains… Even while plugged into a 2 amp charger! I had at&t send me another phone… And the exact same results.

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