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The long-awaited and highly-rumored Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was finally announced during a Samsung press conference at IFA. One millimeter slimmer and lighter than its predecessor the Note 2, the new Samsung phablet features a faster processor, the Snapdragon 800 (for 4G markets only – Exynos for 3G countries), a 5.7-inch Full HD Super AMOLED display, an updated 13 MP camera with the same features as the Galaxy S4, 3 GB of RAM, 32/64 GB internal memory and a larger 3,200mAh battery.

On the software side, the Galaxy Note 3 will be the first smartphone to ship with Android 4.3 (according to the manufacturer) and Samsung developed a set of impressive new features to enhance the user interface and the S-Pen experience. The Samsung GALAXY Note 3 will ship in more than 140 countries around the world starting from September 25. I had the opportunity to briefly get my hands on the new Samsung flagship product, read my first impressions in the complete article.

Update: don’t miss the full review of the Galaxy Note 3 with complete performance analysis and days of usage.

Galaxy Note 3 Specifications Highlights

  • Processor (option 1): LTE Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.3 GHz Quad-Core CPU with Adreno 330 GPU
  • Processor (option 2): 3G Samsung Exynos 1.9 GHz Octa Core CPU (four core: A15 1.9 GHz + Four core: A7 1.3 GHz)
  • Display: 5.7-inch (144.3mm)Full HD Super AMOLED (1920 x 1080)
  • Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean)
  • Camera: 13 megapixel rear camera with LED Flash and 2 megapixel front camera – both full HD @ 30fps video recording
  • Memory: 3GB RAM
  • Internal storage:  32/ 64 GB+ microSD slot (up to 64GB)
  • Connectivity: WiFi a/b/g/n/ac, GPS / GLONASS, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, IR LED (remote control), USB 3.0, MHL 2.0
  • Battery: 3,200 mAh
  • Dimensions: 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm
  • Weight: 168g

What’s new?

  • Same height, 1 mm slimmer and 15g lighter
  • Faster processor Snapdragon 800 with 3GB RAM (4G markets only), the Note 2 has a Exynos 4412 and 2GB RAM (3G markets will get an Exynos processor)
  • 5.7-inch full HD super AMOLED display – previous version features a 5.5-inch 1280×800 super AMOLED display
  • 13 MP rear camera (vs 8 MP for the previous model)
  • 3,200 mAh battery (vs 3100 mAh for the previous model))
  •  New S-Pen: slimmer with enhanced sensitivity
  • Android 4.3
  • New multi-window features and new Air command user interface with new apps including scrapbook
  • My magazine news application accessible when swiping up from the bottom from the home screen
  • New camera application, similar at the one found in the Samsung Galaxy S4
  • New design language

Industrial design (very good)

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Compared to the Galaxy Note 2 and even the Galaxy S4, the Galaxy Note 3 features a more elegant design style packaged in a slicker and lighter body. Samsung explained that the new look is part of a new design language, which definitely makes the new device look gorgeous and solid at the same time.

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On top the Galaxy Note 3, beneath it, the Galaxy Note 2, see the textured metal and the thinner body of the new model

In the past , the Galaxy product line has been criticized for its plastic back cover which made it look a little cheaper than to other competitive high end devices.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the new Note 3 features a beautiful back cover made of stitched leather, which undeniably conveys a sense of luxury. The edges’ design has been enhanced with textured metal that features a pattern which is also repeated on the S-Pen.

The Note 3 feels great in the hand, the leather back cover offers a better grip than its predecessor.

At the top you will find the 3.5 mm jack on the left side and the IR emitter for universal remote application on the right side. At the bottom, the micro USB3.0 is at the center and the S-pen is located at the right corner, the loudspeaker grill is placed in between. The power button is placed at the top of the right edge, and above it, you will find the notch to remove the back cover. The volume rocker is located at the top of the left side.

According to the Samsung representative I talked to, the back is covered with stitched leather, which helps it stand out from the previous model. The camera and its LED flash are placed at the top center and the Samsung logo is embedded in metal letters in the middle. The S-Pen notch is visible at the bottom left. 

Display (very good)

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The beautiful 5.7-inch Full HD Super AMOLED display is crisp and clear, and delivers bright and well contrasted images. Since the resolution has been increased, it looks more defined than the 5.5-inch 1280×800 super AMOLED display of my Galaxy Note 2.

You can get a sense of the image quality by checking the photo gallery below with the various images that I found in the phone’s photo gallery.

S-Pen (Excellent)

The new S-pen is slimmer to fit in the slicker chassis, and deliver even better sensitivity. I was quite impressed when I tried it during the briefing and the Samsung representative was happy that I noticed since this topic has not been addressed during the presentation. (I carry a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 as my main phone, which I purchased).

Performance

The overall system performance was really good, the scrolling was fast and the user interface responsiveness, even with the S-Pen, was snappy.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 is currently the fastest smartphone processor on the market, so far only two other smartphones feature it: the Sony Xperia Z Ultra and the LG Optimus G2.

According to our Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 benchmark performed with the development kit, this processor is powerful, almost as fast as the NVIDIA Tegra 4 which is only featured in a few tablets.

When we tested it with the LG Optimus G2, the overall performance was excellent, so we can expect similar results with the Samsung Galaxy note 3.

Software (very good) – new features (excellent) -

Android 4.3

According to Samsung, the Galaxy Note 3 will be the first smartphone shipping with Android 4.3 (Jelly bean). The first device to be announced with Android 4.3 was the new Nexus 7 tablet. Check the OS’ new features on the official page here.

Samsung New features

Samsung gathered users’ feedback to make a few changes to its famous software feature Multi Window. Additionally, the S-Pen has been enhanced as well, and a new Air command menu is available by pressing on the S-Pen button and hovering over the screen.

Multi-Window, new features

The new multi window offers the ability to drag and drop items from one window to the other. For example, you can copy a picture from the browser into a message thread in the messaging application. It is now possible to open one application in two windows, for example, you can read two different web pages in the browser simultaneously.

S-Pen one palette > Air Command

A new Air Command menu has been created to work with the S-Pen, it provides access to five  ultra-cool features that I tried during the briefing:

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1) Action Memo

Action Memo allows to convert a hand-written note into an action. A phone number provides instant access to the phone app, an email address can be clicked to immediately write an email, a street address directly trigger the map application with the exact location. From the actionable note you can also launch a web search or save a task in a to-do list.

2) Scrapbook

It looks like the success of Evernote continues to inspire hardware manufacturers to integrate similar functions at the system level. Scrapbook allows users to collect different types of content from various sources including YouTube, the web and the gallery. Users can organize the harvested content into multiple categories that look like digital scrapbooks.

3) Screen Write

Screen write allows to grab a screenshot of the current window and write a note on top of it. A similar feature was launched by LG with the Optimus G back in September 2012.

4) S-finder

S-finder is a search engine dedicated to search any type of content on the device.  You can use filters such as date, location, and content type to search related documents, events, communication threads, and even the Help page. During the demo, the Samsung representative showed that even hand written notes can be searched.

5) Pen window

Pen window is one of my favorite new features: simply by drawing a window of any size on the screen with the S-Pen, users can quickly open another application window such as YouTube, calculator or Browser. The new window stays on top of any application window and when you minimize it, it is displayed as a small circle that can be reopened as a window by clicking on it. The concept of having small circles floating around the screen of a mobile device has been shown first by Facebook chat for Android.

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Example of a window with the claculator sitting on top of the screen created with Pen Window

My Magazine

My Magazine is a new Samsung application that you can access by swiping up from the home screen. Developed in partnership with Flipboard, the app offers a personalized news, social media, entertainment and in-the-moment content experience. It looks like Samsung was inspired by HTC Blinkfeed.

Camera application

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According to Samsung, the new camera application is similar to the one launched with the Samsung Galaxy S4, which you can read our review of the Galaxy S4 to know more about the camera application. I had no time to try it yet. The user interface looks different, in our S4 review, the command icons are still displayed on a black background, while they are directly displayed on the image in the Galaxy note 3 (see picture above). The Galaxy S4 Active seems to have a similar camera user interface.

Conclusion (Excellent)

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 offers top notch performances with a much improved product design which delivers a truly stylish look and feel. The new software features, unique to Samsung offer a much better and fun user experience, with enhanced multitasking capabilities. I am glad that the manufacturer refrained to go up to 6-inch, which is the limit for a good one –hand experience in my opinion.
I cannot wait to review it!

Filed in Cellphones >Featured >Reviews . Tags: Galaxy Note 3, IFA, ifa 2013, Jelly Bean (Android) and Samsung.
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