Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review

‘Phablets’ are getting all the attention these days that they are now being sought after, despite being larger than a single hand can handle. So with the release of the highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy Note 3, we couldn’t help but drool on the specs such as the latest Snapdragon 800 chipset, 2.3GHz processor and the whopping 3GB RAM!

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Knowing that the Note 3 is a successor to the famous Galaxy Note 2, we couldn’t help but have high expectations for this device. We were fortunate enough to get hold of this hot item and get up close and personal even before it’s yet to be released. So enough of the introduction and let’s see what the Galaxy Note 3 has to offer.

Design

While it’s not much of a face lift, the Galaxy Note 3 sure looks much better from the usual design that Samsung applies on their smartphones. What we have here is the black one which also comes in variants of white or pink. One thing that’s apparent is the slightly curved edges that is reminiscent of the Galaxy S2 but more stylish due to the grooved metallic edges. Also, the power button and the volume rocker has a really nice metal finish to it so you won’t feel anything ‘plasticky’ when pressing them.

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Looking at the screen size, the Galaxy Note 3 has a 5.7″ Super AMOLED 1080p display which is just a little bit bigger than the Note 2’s 5.5″. And the brushed metal bezels are thinner on this one so overall, the phone doesn’t seem too big as compared to the previous Note 2.

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The Note 3’s side is just 8.4mm thin rather than the 9.4mm of its predecessor and it’s also lighter at just 167 grams compared to 182 grams. The weight difference is a bit minimal so you still get that heft which makes up for a premium feel.

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Flip the Note 3 over its back and you’ll see a nicely done, leatherette back finish (don’t mind the writings on the back as we were handed with a demo unit). This made the Galaxy Note 3 feel like a personal notebook rather than just a phablet device. And the stitching is a nice touch too! Moreover, the phone feels really solid and the Note 3 has got to be the most solid phone I’ve ever held from the Galaxy lineup. Mind you, the Note 3 is mostly made of plastic so while that got me fooled in thinking it’s somehow made of metal, you won’t think of it otherwise.

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We also have the camera which boasts at 13MP with LED flash and can also record 1080p videos at 60fps. Cool right? It can also record 720p videos at 120fps.

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Open up the back and you’ll be see how surprisingly thin the back cover is. It’s still plastic but once placed on the back, you won’t feel anything cheap about it thanks to the leatherette finish. My only concern though is that it won’t offer much protection from shocks so you may still want to invest on a good case.

Looking at the insides, the micro sim as well as the micro SD slot are placed into one spot so no hot-swappable feature for this one. Not that it matters for me though unless you’re a frequent swapper of cards.

The S-Pen

The Galaxy Note 3 comes with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean right out of the box. And while the OS has lots of awesome features to offer, we’ll be focusing on the new things Samsung did to give you that Galaxy Note experience.

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So the S-Pen is what the Galaxy Note 3 (and other Galaxy Notes) is proud of. It’s nicely tucked under the phone and doesn’t take much effort to pull. Removing the S-Pen also unlocks the phone directly (except if you have security enabled) and opens up the Air Command. Now, the Air Command gives you access to the Note 3’s powerful tools such as the following:

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Action Memo – is a very nifty tool that lets you perform tasks based on what you wrote on the memo. Writing on the memo can make you perform tasks such as calling, adding to contacts, messaging, emailing, searching on Google, looking for it on Google Maps and even adding it as a task. So this really makes you perform tasks faster in a neat memo thanks to the Note’s handwriting recognition.

Action-Memo

Scrapbooker – the scrapbooker is for those who grab ideas, pegs or inspiration on the go. With the scrapbooker, you can grab almost anything from pictures, videos, even a whole web page and store them in a neat interface. You can also organize them into multiple categories.

Scrapbooker

Screen Write – the screen write takes a screenshot of the display and let’s you write anything on it with options to choose from which type of brush, pencil, size, color, etc. Not new to the phablet scene but it’s there for you to peruse.

Screen-Write

S-Finder – takes you to a search tool where it basically searches within your phone from your apps, messages, notes, scrapbook, calendar, tasks, even your web history. It’s a very useful tool for gaining access immediately to what you’re looking for but this is only limited to searching locally in your phone and not on the web.

Pen Window – the pen window opens up a shortcut menu with the commonly used apps such as clock, calculator, contacts, etc. These apps open up in small windows on top of your screen and they can be moved, resized or minimized to a floating icon on you screen. Definitely a useful feature.

Pen-Window

You can open up the Air Command any time by bringing the S-Pen closer to the screen and pressing the button on the pen itself. Although, I find the S-Pen to be a bit flimsy and the button seem awkward to press. I would’ve preferred on a more sturdy build to make it feel like you’re holding a real pen. Although, I think Samsung may have considered that but that may add to the overall weight of the phone. Other than that, the S-Pen performs great just the way it should be and previous Note users will feel right at home with this device.

Multi-Window

The Galaxy Note series is well known for their true multi-tasking capabilities and the Note 3 has upped that with the newly improved Multi-window.

Multiwindow

There’s a non-intrusive button at the center that gives you access to 4 options. The first one let’s you cycle through the apps you’ve put on the multi-window. Pretty neat since from the previous multi-window version, once you drag an app on top of another app on the window, the previous app will be removed. This time you can now cycle through the previous apps you’ve put on the window. The second one lets you swap windows which is already a feature of the previous version. The third option is a cool feature. You can drag a picture or a text paragraph from one window to another. This is especally useful if you want to drag a picture from a browser to your note app such as Evernote or a chat app such as ChatOn or Viber. With a 5.7″ screen, you won’t feel the apps getting too cramped within their windows so it’s a great multi-tasking experience. Lastly, the 4th option will just close the multi-window.

Multimedia and Performance

When you stuff a smartphone will all those awesome features not to mention multi-tasking, you’d really need all the juice you can get to keep it ticking. So the Note 3 packed up a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset, quad-core 2.3GHz Krait 400 processor, an Adreno 330 graphics (which supports OpenGL ES 3.0) and 3GB of RAM. Pretty big specs we got here!

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Synthetic benchmarking tool Antutu gave us a whopping 35,031 score for the Galaxy Note 3.

Browsing through the net is super fast when zooming in or out and panning along the pages so that greatly helps a lot on the browsing experience. You could say the hardware is the Note 3’s pride and joy.

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Playing games and movies on the Note 3 is such an awesome feat. The 5.7″ screen of Super AMOLED quality is really to be desired. Top it of with 1080p resolution and you got yourself an entertainment system in your pocket. Also, the Note 3 comes in 32GB and 64GB variants with a micro-SD slot so there’s a HUGE space for all your photos, music and videos. Pretty useful if you’re into using your mobile device as a torrent downloader.

Samsung also claims that the Galaxy Note 3’s LTE works with all sorts of LTE bands available.

Camera

The camera is what I’m looking forward to. The primary camera at the back has a 13MP sensor with LED Flash while the secondary camera at the front is just 2MP (not that you’d like high-res selfies right?). It’s pretty snappy when taking pictures so you can repeatedly press on the shutter without lagging the phone. Here are our sample photos below.

Looking at the samples, the details were really sharp even when viewed on its actual size. The colors weren’t that punchy nor too washed out so it’s still desirable. Shooting at night, the camera is still able to capture sharp details without gaining too much noise. When viewed at 100% you’ll see that there’s some noise removal processing that the image went through but it’s tolerable. You won’t notice it really due to the large resolution of the image. Overall, it does a really good job in capturing high quality pictures which gets my vote on this one.

Battery Life

With all that muscle the Note 3 is flexing on the hardware, it would really require all the energy it could get to keep it performing. Fortunately, it comes equipped with a removable 3,200mAh battery that will power it for a full day. I wasn’t expecting this to last for more than a day though without scrambling for the charger.  Sadly, there’s no breakthrough yet when it comes to a smartphone battery that could last more than a day with constant use of data.

Verdict

The Galaxy Note 3 is still positioned to be a huge success for Samsung being the most powerful and feature-packed phablet around (for now) and for its multi-tasking prowess along with the very handy S-Pen. For the heavy Android user, you won’t be disappointed with this one. This will cater to anyone who is into business, in school, arts or for anyone who enjoys entertainment on the go. For the Galaxy Note 2 users, the Note 3 is somewhat of a good upgrade but not the type that will make your Note 2 feel aged. The 1.6Ghz quad core processor and 2 GB RAM of the Note 2 is still pretty fast and capable of running todays demanding apps. Also they both have Super AMOLED screen but if you are really after the improved multi-tasking features and the mammoth specs then by all means you will be happy with this one.

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If you’re thinking twice about getting the Note 3 due to the large screen, it will take some time getting accustomed to it. You’ll really need two hands in operating this one especially texting. Even with the one-handed keyboard mode, I still find it difficult to use with my fairly large hands. So expect to do some getting used to if you’re coming from a 4″ or lower screen-sized phone. Other than that, the Note 3 packs a whole lot of oomph that will surely delight its users.

There’s no local pricing for this one but expect this to be similarly priced at around Php32k-33k just like its predecessor when it was released.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Specs:
5.7-inch Full HD Super AMOLED display, 386 ppi
Qualcomm MSM8974 Snapdragon 800 2.3GHz quad-core
Adreno 330 Graphics
3GB RAM
32GB/64GB internal storage, up to 64GB microSD
13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
Video recording: [email protected], [email protected]
2-megapixel front camera
HSDPA, 42 Mbps; HSUPA; LTE, Cat4
Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP, LE, EDR, NFC, IR blaster
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot
S-Pen
Li-Ion 3200 mAh battery
151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm
168 g
SRP: TBA (late-September)
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  • Joodi

    13Mp not 16MP

  • Ayann

    The curved edges really is a reminiscent of the S2’s. A worthy upgrade to my ever so reliable S2. Too bad the rumored optical stabilization is not there but hey, not much moving around when doing selfie’s and must-insta-this-food-before-i-nom-it pictures 🙂

  • sinned

    overkilled.
    Note II is perfect enough.
    🙂

  • Jared

    sir, how was the audio microphone performing when doing video recordings? is it still to sensitive? (I’m kinda miffed up a bit about how almost all reviewers seem to miss this tiny tidbit of a detail but really; not much use for 2160p video capture if you can’t hear it properly yeah?).

    As for baseline, I consider the HTC one(which I had just last week. Pretty neat phone) on the android side to be an “above average” baseline in this regard.

    • Hi Jared, sorry to have overlooked this. Will be adding this next time to our future reviews. 🙂 So for the audio mic performance, I have to say it’s pretty stellar. I tried recording outdoors with rain as ambient noise and it’s still able to capture my voice very clearly.

      • Jared

        Well, glad to know its starting to improve on the Samsung side then 🙂

        I just might consider sammy’s again (still loving this new htc haha) if they can be used to actually record concerts; which up to this date I think was only possible with a nokia pureview 808 and the better lumias plus the iPhone of course.

        tl/dr; That’s great news, I really like video recording stuff (sometimes includes band practice on studios).

  • Nice review. The phone Meets all my needs. So in love with it.

    • bep

      are you having problem using torrent in note 3?