When it comes to massive phones, nothing is more iconic than the Samsung Galaxy Note. It has gained popularity not only due to its size, but its additional features such as a stylus and a larger battery make it a more useful phone. Samsung released the third generation of the Galaxy Note in October, updating the phablet with a larger screen and improved hardware.
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Of course, other Android competitors haven’t let the $640 Galaxy Note 3 be the only player in the phablet market. There are others such as the Sony Xperia Z Ultra, the Samsung Galaxy Mega, and the other more common phones that are reaching 5″ screens such as the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One, and the Nexus 5.
Unlike the normal-sized top contenders, the Galaxy Note 3 has a bigger screen and larger battery. It also offers specific features (surrounding the S Pen stylus) that aren’t found on any other phablet competitor.
The specifications of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 are as follows:
- 5.7-inch (14.4 centimeter) FHD sAMOLED Display with 1920 x 1080 resolution (approximately 386 ppi)
- Exynos 5 Octa 5420 octa-core processor at 1.9 GHz for the Cortex-A15 cores and 1.3 GHz for the Cortext-A7 cores (comes with the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 at 2.3 GHz on other models)
- 4G LTE*, Dual-band WiFi, and Bluetooth
- Bluetooth 4.0 with PBAP, A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP, OPP, SAP, HID, PAN, DI, MAP
- Supported bands:
- GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
- CDMA 800* / 1900*
- HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
- CDMA2000 1xEV-DO*
- LTE 700* / 800* / 850* / 900* / 1900* / 2100* / 2600*
- (* represents a band supported on other models of the Note 3)
- 13 megapixel rear-facing camera; 2 megapixel front-facing camera
- 32 gigabytes of storage (64 gigabytes optional)
- 3 gigabytes of RAM
- 3200 mAh battery (talk time up to 20 hours, standby time up to 490 hours)
- Uses a Micro SIM card
- External MicroSD slot for expansion of up to 64 gigabytes
- Connects via USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 (MTP only)
- Dimensions: 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm
- Weight: 168 grams
There are various things that might stick out to you, but the two most important ones are the processor and supported bands. First off, the processor for this particular model is an octa-core developed by Samsung. This is the first phone or phablet to sport an octa-core processor, which in itself is downright insane.
Additionally, the bands supported vary wildly, so you should expect to use the Note 3 model provided by your carrier if you’re in the US to be able to correctly connect to the network. The N9000 doesn’t support any LTE connectivity at all, but instead you get an octa-core processor to play around with. It’s cool to brag that fact to your friends, but the Snapdragon 800 is also an exceptional processor.
There’s a handful of things you get in the box with the Galaxy Note 3 N9000. The list includes the phone, a manual, a power supply, a USB data/charging cable, and some adapters for the power supply. You’ll note that the USB connector is blue, and the other end is a bit bigger but based on a regular microUSB connector. It’s actually a specialized connector for the Note 3 which can utilize USB 3.0, benefiting from the increased data transfer rates as well as the faster charging rates. As you’ll see in a bit, however, this new connector is not mandatory — you can still plug a regular microUSB connector to the Galaxy Note 3 and it will behave normally.
Design and First Thoughts
It’s massive. Samsung increased the display size from 5.5 inches on the Note 2 to 5.7 inches on the Note 3, and it’s easily evident as soon as you pick it up with your hand. Otherwise, it looks very much like an enlarged Galaxy S4 from the front.
The backside received a makeover — the rear plastic cover that protects the battery, Micro SIM card, and MicroSD card now emulates stitched leather. Don’t think that Samsung treated its Note 3 owners to something fancy — while it looks like leather, it’s still just plastic. It feels a bit softer than a completely flat cover, but it’s still made from the same hard plastic. It just has a texture on it whereas the Galaxy S4’s cover, for example, has a glossy finish. But at least it looks nice after getting used to it for a little while.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 appears to be made primarily out of plastic, as you’d expect from Samsung phones. However, it does have a small built-in bumper that seems to be made out of metal, which should allow you to grip the phablet easier as well as protect from bumps on its sides. Despite the acceptable-at-best choice of materials, the phone is still solidly built. There’s no creaking when pressure is applied to multiple points on the phablet, and there aren’t any physical blemishes either.
Performance and Battery Life
Thanks to its high-performance processor (the model I tested came with the octa-core variant), everything behaves buttery smooth, even with the 1080p resolution. It’s certainly a step up from the Galaxy S4, which comes with a slower-clocked octa-core processor or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, depending on the model. Honestly, I haven’t seen a single stutter while testing out the Note 3, which is fantastic. Part of these performance improvements also stem from Android 4.3 — however, once the Note 3 gets updated to Android 4.4, it should run even smoother.
The battery life is pretty good. Because the octa-core only uses the four low-power cores when its idle or performing “light” tasks, the system only sips on power. The larger display does require a bit more power, but not nearly enough to use up all of the battery’s extra capacity. Therefore, while you won’t see a proportional improvement compared to the Galaxy S4, you’ll still end up with a slightly longer battery life. Expect at least 5 hours of screen-on time on WiFi, whereas the S4 would sometimes struggle to get to that value.
The screen is bright, sharp, and displays great colors — as to be expected from Samsung’s AMOLED display technology. Although the Galaxy Note 3 has a lower pixel density than the Galaxy S4 or the Nexus 5, I don’t really see a noticeable difference between the two pixel densities. I’m sure that things are theoretically sharper (including text) on the Galaxy S4 and Nexus 5, but I really think that the Note 3 is good enough.
The automatic brightness feature on the Note 3 can be controlled — another feature that I like about the phablet. While it still does its job automatically, you can set the automatic brightness to be a bit brighter or darker than it defaults to. This way, if your screen is normally a bit too dark when you have it set to automatic brightness, you can now change it so that it still adjusts accordingly but to a level you prefer. The setting can be changed in the drop-down panel, which value ranges from -5 to 5.
Not only is the display responsive, and also accepts input from an S Pen — the specialty feature of the Note 3. You can do plenty with the S Pen, including handwriting notes (with various actions such as automatic conversion into a contact if you wrote down someone’s info), writing onto pictures and screenshots, drawing, application windows, and all of the same functionality you can do with your finger. All of these functions appear in a little pie-style menu that pops up whenever you pull out the S Pen.
I especially like the application windows, which is another form of Samsung’s multitasking where you can essentially create new windows that run apps inside of them. These windows can also be resized from their original drawn-out dimensions. Otherwise, the drawing and writing functionality is pretty straightforward — they’re useful and fun, but not necessarily good at increasing your productivity on the device.
The camera uses a similar apparatus as found in the Galaxy S4, which means that you’ll still be able to take fantastic pictures with the Note 3. It also sports a 13 megapixel lens, but the capabilities vary slightly by model. You should be able to shoot 1080p videos, but some models offer 60 fps recording while others only offer 30 fps. In any case, the quality is fantastic, and is still better than the Nexus 5.
The Galaxy Note 3, despite its larger size, only sports a single speaker. Similarly to the Nexus 5, this speaker is now along the bottom edge of the phablet rather than the lower backside of the device. The speaker can also get pretty loud, and quality is acceptable. It’s just missing some bass to make it sound amazing. I’d say that it’s on par to the Nexus 5’s speaker (if not a tiny bit better), but the clear winner is still the HTC One with its two front-facing speakers and fuller sound with Beats Audio.
Similar to the Galaxy S4, the Note 3 contains a lot of additional Samsung apps such as the S Health app, ChatOn app, and more. Ultimately, as far as the software goes, there’s very little difference between it and the S4, with the exception of the S Pen software. And yes, that means that the TouchWiz UI is included, whether you like it or not.
Is the Galaxy Note 3 worth getting? If you’re accepting of the larger size (large enough to where it looks a little funny when you hold it up to your face for an actual call), and can justify the higher price compared to the Galaxy S4, then I’d say that you should absolutely get it!
While the S Pen is partly useful, and partly just a gimmick; the larger size of the screen, the larger capacity battery, and the better-performing processor make it a very capable phone. Just be sure to attempt to get the phone from your carrier, as the bands vary wildly between models. That’s the only way to make sure that it supports all of your carrier’s bands and network technologies (LTE). However, if you’re not a big fan of the super-sized screen, I’d recommend getting the Galaxy S4, or any phone that sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor such as the Nexus 5.
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