Pros : Sharp, colorful HD display; Impressive 13-megapixel snapper; Great power; S-Pen plus apps.
Cons: Nothing new to shout about; Niche product.
Verdict: The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is not a whole new phone, but an upgrade, however its sharp 5.7in HD display, 13MP snapper and great performance all appeal – and the S-Pen and creativity options make it stand out from the crowd.
Here is this year’s version of the Note – now copied by many others including the Sony Xperia Z Ultra. The phablet is becoming ever more popular, but only the note offers the user the impressive S-Pen stylus, which lets you jot down notes or scribble creatively while you’re on the move. But if you already have a Galaxy Note II, is there enough here to persuade you to upgrade?
The Galaxy Note 3 has a slightly bigger screen – measuring 5.7 inches as opposed to the Note II’s 5.55in display. However, the handset manages to be only a tad wider than its predecessor, and is in fact slimmer, thanks to the narrower bezels. You’d be hard-pressed to use it with one hand, but it’s still fine to hold in one hand while you tap away with the other. It even managed to squeeze into our jeans pockets although its dimensions mean it is really more at home in a jacket pocket.
You’ll find both the volume and power buttons on the side of the handset – while the charging port sits at the bottom. This is a two-part USB 3.0 port, however it is possible to use a standard micro USB cable for swapping files with a computer and for charging. Good news, because who wants to cart round a load of extra cables?
Looks-wise, it is rather like its older brother, until you turn it over. Samsung is renowned for its plastic shiny handsets, but this time it has decided to pop a faux leather cover on the back of the Note 3. It is textured but doesn’t feel as soft as we had expected. However, despite the fact that it will still slide off a desk if knocked, it does look better than Samsung’s older, glossier models. The lens does stick out a little, but it is pretty minimal.
Take off the back plate and you’ll see the SIM card slot and removable battery. Also tucked in there is a memory card slot, which lets you expand the 32 or 64 GB of onboard storage.
Now we thought the Note II’s display was pretty massive, but Samsung has gone one better this time around, upping the measurements to 5.7 inches. The body isn’t that much bigger, as the bezels are pretty narrow – but now the display takes up pretty much all of the front of the handset.
Colour reproduction on the display is wonderful and vibrant, while the screen is bright enough to combat the glaring sun, and viewing angles are wide too.
HD films are amazing, thanks to that 1080x1900 pixel resolution, which offers 386ppi (the Note II’s display had 267ppi). The difference is clear. Not only did we enjoy sharper images, but zooming in to read text on web pages was also far easier.
Having all that space means that typing onscreen is a breeze – we hardly made any mistakes and were soon bashing out emails at top speed – and if you do go wrong, autocorrect is right on the ball. If you want to, you can opt to use the Swype method of typing, where you drag your digit from one letter to the next – and of course you can always use the S-Pen.
We thought that large, bright display would have a tremendous impact on battery life, and you won’t get any more than 24 hours out of it in regular use, scribbling notes, browsing the web and so on. However, that’s about the norm nowadays, and we managed to watch video for seven hours before the battery died, which is better than a lot of other handsets we’ve tested recently.
Pull out the S-Pen and you’ll see the Air Command tool appear on the display – this gives you quick access to a total of five features – just tap on one of your choice.
Want to make a note, or jot something down while on the phone? Then Action Memo is what you need – you can also save whatever you wrote and copy it into an app – save a name and number as a contact for example. It worked well – most of the time. It seemed to have a particular issue with web addresses – and it does depend on how neat your handwriting is too.
Use Screen Write and you can write whatever you want straight onto the desktop. We also like Scrap Booker, which allows you to save screenshots of apps, bits of websites or even videos from YouTube, in your own virtual collection.
Power is impressive, with a 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip under the hood, coupled with a massive 3GB of RAM. It means the handset handles multitasking with ease, using the drag-out menu on the left of the screen.
It is possible to run a pair of apps at the same time – and you can choose how much of the screen each one takes up, which is useful. It means you can surf the net while watching a video, or read emails and take notes – or send a message while you’re looking up a route on Google Maps.
Another neat feature is the ability to draw windows using the Pen Window feature. This lets you have several apps overlapping on the desktop and running at the same time – with no slowdown. Not all apps are able to do this though – you’re restricted to the likes of Google Hangouts, YouTube, browsing the web and some other basic phone features.
There’s a 13-megapixel snapper on board, which boasts a load of great features and different modes. It is possible to snap with both the front and back lenses at the same time – and you can use Burst Shot to get just the right shot, or get rid of annoying imposters in the background of your photos. Panorama mode and lots more are included, but even if you just stay in auto mode, you’ll be rewarded with very decent images.
Our outdoor photos were impressive whatever the weather and colours looked realistic – the greens in particular were really vibrant and lifelike. All our snaps came out sharp – and the quick shutter means you’ll never miss a moment. It’s simple to edit images on the phone and then share them online. You can also grab HD video for posting on YouTube.
This may be an upgrade of last year’s Note II, but it’s still incredibly impressive. There’s not really anything new to talk about, but it does have some impressive power lurking under the hood, and that large display and 13MP snapper make it a very appealing option for anyone who wants to get productive or creative on the move.
Dimensions : 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm
Screen size: 5.7 inch
Screen Resolution: 1920 *1080 pixels
Pixels Per Inch (PPI) : 387
Processor: 1.9 Ghz Octa-core processor (3G Model) / 2.3 GHz Quad-core processor (4G Model)
Battery capacity : 3200 mAh
Onboard Memory: 32GB / 64GB (microSD)
Camera : 13 megapixel / 2 mega-pixel (front-facing)
Operating system: Android 4.3
Ultrafast / 3G / 4G LTE : Yes / Yes / Yes
Bluetooth / NFC / Infrared LED : Yes / Yes / Yes
Colours : Black, White and Pink
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