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Device Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 3

note3The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is the successor to the wildly popular Galaxy Note II. The Note II was a giant-sized phone with a 5.5” screen display, and the Note III is even bigger at 5.7”. The Note III was released to the international markets in September 2013. US release dates lagged a bit, depending on carrier. For this review, we will be looking at the T-Mobile variant in particular, which was released on October 22013.

The internal hardware of the US market Galaxy Note III is based on the Snapdragon 800 SoC, whereas the international model features the Exynos Octa 5420. Aside from carrier radio modifications and a few other minor branding details, the Note 3 is a powerhouse.


Here’s what’s in the box:

  • Phone
  • Battery 3200 Mah
  • USB 3.0 Sync and charge cable
  • Wall charger
  • S-pen and  replacement tips
  • Headphones and earbuds
  • Manuals

Box

HARDWARE

The phone packs the quad-core 2.30 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800. This is one of the most powerful processors on the market currently. The 5.7-inch device weighs in at 5.93 ounces and has a display resolution of 1920×1080 pixels, which equates to approximately 386 ppi. Pixel peepers will rejoice at the fact that the AMOLED panel on the Note 3 does not feature a PenTile array seen on the Galaxy S 4 earlier this year. The panel itself is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

The Main Device specifications are:

  • 2.30GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
  • 5.7” Screen 1080×1920
  • 5.95 x 3.12 x 0.32 inches
  • 5.93 ounces
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 32/64 GB storage options (also includes a Micro SD expansion slot up to 64GB)
  • 3200mAh battery is Replaceable
  • 13 MP Camera back / 2 MP Front
  • S Pen stylus
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with TouchWiz UI
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC
  • Wifi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
  • UMTS: Band IV (AWS);UMTS/HSPA+: AWS Band IV / 2100 / 1900 / 850;Band II (1900);Quad Band GSM;LTE

Over the course of a week of testing, the battery of the Note III demonstrated impressive longevity. On average, it lasted a solid day with heavy use, and could go to two days with light to moderate usage. Despite having similar materials as the Galaxy S 4 on the side, the back brings a premium look of leather to the device—well, plastic made to look like leather. The weight of the Note 3 makes it feel like a premium device in hand. The processor is very fast, especially for those coming from the US variants of the Galaxy S 4, which features the Snapdragon 600 processor. The S-Pen is even better than the original, with more sensitivity and streamlined size, combined with a new non-intrusive S-pen menu.

Overall, the phone is very well built and should provide a great experience when holding and using it on a daily basis.

Note3_DIM_Black

Interface

The phone runs Android 4.3 skinned with TouchWiz UI. The implementation is visible in every aspect of the phone’s interface. Because of this, if you are looking for a phone that provides the pure Google experience, the Note 3 is not for you. However, the options that are added are intended to help the user be more productive.

Multitasking is accessed with a long press of the home button rather than its own dedicated key. The apps and widgets are in the same position and work the same way as in stock Android. Folder creation is not the same as stock Android. You need to use the menu key to add a folder to the home screen, rather than hold two app icons on top of each other.

The camera was modified as well, adding surround shot, panorama, golf, and burst shot modes. Sadly, there’s no dedicated night mode. The Messaging app was made to work with the extra space on the phone when in landscape mode.

The multi-window interface has been updated as well to showcase the added RAM, and you can now run two instances of the same app and drag and drop items from one side to the other.

It’s likely that those who use the device for a few days will grow to enjoy the little changes, and added screen real estate. However, if you want a pure Google experience, get a Nexus 4, or wait a little and get the Nexus 5.

note 3 up

DESIGN

The Note 3 shows its Samsung lineage, with many design traits similar to those seen on the Galaxy S IV and the original Note. The one main change is the speaker is at the lower face rather than near the back, like on the GS4. NFC is built into the back battery like on the GS4.

The Phone’s dimensions are 5.95 x 3.12 x 0.32 inches, and it weighs in at 5.93 ounces (Note II was 6.46 oz). The S-pen fits inside the phone, and can be stored in the lower right side of the phone.

note 3 side

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Note III is a big phone in a line of Phablets. I came to this device from a Galaxy S 4/Xperia Z/Note2. I now see the Galaxy S 4 as a small phone next to the Note 3. I love the power under the hood of the Note 3, and wish Samsung would flow down some of the new features of the Note 3 to the S 4/S III/Note II when they get the 4.3 update later this year.

Make no mistake: The Note III is not made to be a one-handed phone, although Samsung includes quite a few one-handed use options under dialer and the calculator settings, and an all new one handed mode for easy access. Regardless, you will use both hands for the S-pen.

The Note 3 will be available from all major US carriers soon. I could not pass the opportunity to get one on launch day, and have not put the phone down since.

FULL LENGTH VIDEO REVIEW

Video Courtesy of TK Bay
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