galaxy-note-3-review-28We saw the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for the first time at IFA in Berlin when it was unveiled alongside the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch. Now the device is available this month for 299.99 from all four carriers, and we spent some real-world usage time with a retail unit from Sprint.

Samsung has come a long way since the release of the original Galaxy Note 1 in 2011. Then, most people made fun of me when I was placing calls from this “ridiculously big phone”. Fast forward to 2013, it looks like the Galaxy Note smartphone lineup is taken very seriously now, and Samsung has sold over 30 million Galaxy Note 2. Ultimately, the Korean giant started the “large display phones” trend in the mobile industry and recent flagship smartphones such as the LG G2, feature over 5-inch displays while they are not even categorized in the phablet segment anymore. 5” is the new normal.

The most notable feature upgrades in the Galaxy Note 3 are the full HD 5.7inch AMOLED display, the new powerful processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 (2.3 Ghz), 3GB RAM, an improved S-Pen and the new design language with a faux-stitched leather back that replaces the overly criticized plastic body of the Galaxy Note 2.

On the software side, the most interesting innovation is the Air Command menu that works with the S-Pen and gives access to five practical productivity features that we will describe in the review.

Specifications

  • 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) > for some markets outside the US
  • 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: 5.9×3.1×0.33 inches – 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm
  • Weight: 168g

Context

It’s important that I tell you how I use my phones before you read the review. My own usage is the prism through which I will see how useful and practical the phone’s features really are, and how they improve the user experience or not. Hopefully, you can relate to my usage and figure out how this will apply to your own.

I use my phone as a computer: I check a lot of emails and mainly curate/flag them. Social network updates (FB, FourSquare) are important to me, and I tend to test a lot of apps as well, so it’s pretty common for my phones to have 50-80 apps installed (in addition to the pre-loaded ones) and I don’t always take time to close them all, except if I’m going to run some benchmarks. I don’t play games or watch videos much, except maybe during a long flight. Finally, I’m really liking the wearable technology trend, and I have used a number of watches and other self-quantifying sensors.

What’s New?

  • Same height, 1 mm slimmer and 15g lighter than the Galaxy Note 2
  • Faster processor Snapdragon 800 with 3GB RAM (4G LTE markets only), the Note 2 has an Exynos 4412 and 2GB RAM (3G markets may get an Exynos processor on the Note 3)
  • 5.7-inch full HD 1920×1080 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)
  • 3200 mAh battery (vs. 3100 mAh for the previous model)
  • New S-Pen: slimmer with enhanced sensitivity. Much faster ink speed
  • 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 – surround shot new feature replace Photosphere + 4k video capture
  • New design language

Industrial Design

I have small hands (women gloves, size S)

I have small hands (women gloves, size S)

Samsung launched the first “phablet” (phablet=phone/tablet) in 2011, namely the Galaxy Note, and we named it a “fablet” when we reviewed it in 2011  … I personally loved the large form-factor right away despite the mockery of my tech friends, who regularly said that I looked ridiculous when placing calls with this “huge brick” on my face (their term). My preference for the large smartphones comes from the fact that it is much more comfortable: I can read books on them, have a great mapping experience when travelling abroad and comfortably browse desktop websites.

Except for the handset manufacturer “headquartered in Cupertino”, the 5-inch+ display size is not uncommon nowadays, and I have not heard so many negative comments for quite a while. The 40 million sold mark (Galaxy Note 1 and Note 2) is also a valid evidence that large-display phones is a successful product idea, when developed correctly.

galaxy-note-3-review-20

Compared to its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 3 offers a larger display (5.7-inch vs. 5.5-inch) for a similar footprint, thanks to the reduced size of its bezels. The phone speaker is placed at the top center of the display, on the right you will find the proximity and light sensors. The 2 MP front camera is located on the upper left corner. At the bottom of the screen, in the center, you will find the home button and on the right the back key and on the left the menu key.

galaxy-note-3-review-14

"THE FAUX-LEATHER ADDS ELEGANCE AND WARMTH"Samsung created a new design language, probably after listening to the feedback related to the “cheap-looking plastic” used on the back of its Galaxy line up. The back cover is now made of faux-leather with stitching and  all, which helps to add some elegance to the package. At the same time, the new design conserves the scratch-resistance and light weight that made the previous polycarbonate design work. The 13 MP camera with the led flash is placed at the top of the backside, above the Samsung logo. The Galaxy Note 3 logo is printed at the bottom.

Like any Galaxy Note, the back cover is removable, to give access to the large 3200 mAh battery and the microSD card slot that extends the internal storage by up to 64 GB. The slot which located on top of the SIM card.

At 0.33-inch (8.3 mm), the Note 3 is a hair thinner than the Note 2 (0.37-inch/9.4 mm) and features a textured metal-looking frame that runs around the edges. Just like all the Galaxy series smartphone, the volume rocker is located on the upper part of the left edge, while the power button is on the right side, close to the top. The humidity and temperature sensor can be barely seen just above the lower right corner of the device.

The Note 3, next to the iPhone 5S

The Note 3, next to the iPhone 5S

The micro USB 3.0 connector that supports MHL 2.0 connectivity is located at the bottom, on its right side you will find the speaker. The microphone is placed on its left side. Close to the right corner, you will be able to slide the S-Pen out. USB 3.0 delivers a theoretical maximum transmission speed  of up to 5 Gbit/s, which is a great improvement over USB 2.0 which provides at best 480 Mbps.

You will be able to plug your headphones in the 3.5 mm audio jack located on the left side of the top edge, where you will also find the second microphone. The IR transmitter is placed on the right side at the top.

Display

galaxy-note-3-review-30

The beautiful  5.7-inch Full HD super AMOLED (1920×1080) delivers a crisp and clear image quality with a higher definition than its predecessor: 386 ppi vs 267 ppi for the Galaxy Note 2. I personally like the slightly unrealistic and over-saturated style of the AMOLED technology, however, we noticed that the latest flagship smartphone from LG, namely the LG G2 delivers a better viewing experience with its 5.2-inch IPS display, for people who prefer more realistic color rendering. Additionally the Note 3 features good viewing angles.

Filed in Cellphones >Featured >Reviews. Read more about Galaxy Note 3, Samsung and Samsung Reviews.

Display
5.7"
1920x1080
Super AMOLED
386 PPI
Price
~$395 - Amazon
Camera
13 MP
F2.2 Aperture F-Stop
Weight
168 g
Battery
3200 mAh
Removable
No Wireless Charg.
Launched in
2013-09-01
System
3GB RAM
Snapdragon 800 + MicroSD
Storage (GB)
16, 32, 64
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