The Galaxy Note 3 is one of the most hotly anticipated phones of the year, and for good reason. With its massive 5.7-inch 1080p HD AMOLED display, larger battery, thinner body, and massive processing power, it appears to be a truly legitimate successor to the tried and true Galaxy Note 2. But is it enough to appease the power user segment as the real next big thing in the competitive smartphone market?
I personally have owned and used extensively devices like the Nexus 4, HTC One, and now the Moto X, so I was really excited to see what the Note 3 and its little companion could do. I’ll say this right now – I understand why the Note line is so popular. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s start with the basics.
In terms of design language employed in the Galaxy Note 3, Samsung appears to have iterated incrementally, and responded to critics of its much used glossy plastic material by furnishing the Note 3 with a new textured material.
With its attractively minimal bezels, the front of the Note 3 is a joy to behold, but turn it over, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The back cover, though still as thin and bendy as ever, is now of a textured material that mimics leather, especially in the black version. This back cover is removable, as it’s usually the case, giving access to the battery and card slots.
Move to the sides and you get the same classic Samsung button layout, but this time there is a line design that is supposed to mimic the pages of a notebook. Samsung seems to have pulled out all the stops to make the Note 3 pay homage to its namesake.
The bottom of the phone houses the speaker grill, the S Pen, and the microUSB 3.0 charging port that still takes the original plug, so you don’t have to worry about backwards compatibility.
Finally, we have the front and the 5.7 inch behemoth of a screen. The Note line was, arguably, the start of the oversized screen craze, and the trend continues with a 0.2-inch increase for the third iteration of the series.
There’s really no getting around it — though I especially love the black edition, the Galaxy Note 3 is pretty much the most attractive Samsung device I’ve ever come across. Even if it’s plastic, the idea of mimicking leather actually gets across and gives the Note 3 a look and feel that I can only describe as “executive”. You take this phone out of your pocket and you get a feeling of “it’s time to work.”
Flatter sides much like the Galaxy S4 make the phone easier to grip while the back rests nicely in your palm. And, while I’ll get into the S Pen later, I will say now that working with the stylus for selection, navigation, and writing feels very natural and adds to that executive feel. It’s eye-popping, stylish, almost surprisingly classy, and whether it shows its back with that textured material or its front with that attractively simple bezel, the Note 3 just looks great all around.
The screen is definitely one of the Note 3’s biggest pluses. Even though the Note line is definitely popular with people who need or just really want a larger display, it’s hard not to just generally appreciate the quality of this Super AMOLED Pentile display.
Taking the same great display from the S4 and making it bigger and better was a great move, lending to a viewing experience full of vivid, albeit sometimes oversaturated, colors. And with 1080p 386ppi capabilities, everything from playing games to reading news stories is very easy on the eyes. Websites render to an easy-to-read size automatically, and, if they didn’t, a quick zoom was the quick fix. I basically never felt like my eyes needed to do much adjustment.
Sure, this 5.7-inch screen is squarely outside the realm of one handed usage, but this is a phone that requires two hands anyway, considering the S Pen. Samsung does try to make life easier by making keyboards and various other elements shrink down to a side for better one handed usage. It’s a nice move, but just know that two handed operation will be part of your Note 3 life.
Let’s finally get into what’s underneath the surface. The Note 3 marks a first not just for Samsung but for the general Android space as well. In the case of sheer power, what we get here is the Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.3GHz. The Exynos octa-core package also appears in the Note 3 and, while we have been told that it will see a wider release than it did in the Galaxy S4, exactly where is still rather vague. Expect the Snapdragon 800 to be prevalent in the States, however.
Mine certainly has it and this is a European model. Backing up the CPU is the Adreno 330 and an a ground-breaking 3GB of RAM. Bleeding edge specifications are sure to please the spec-hungry out there, but for a phone that is supposed to don multiple hats – often many at once – this power is put to good use.
And in actual usage, the Note 3 flies through its elements in everything from the homescreen to loading apps to running those apps. More smooth transitions help get you nicely from one place to another and the only real instances of lag I saw came when things had to be pre-loaded as an app was opened. The main example of this was the new MyMagazine homescreen that had to load the news story and social media pictures as it initiated. Other than that, however, the Note 3 basically wins the spec war at the moment, with its powerful package made for intense multitasking.
In light of the controversy surrounding benchmarks on Samsung devices, we limited benchmark testing to a minimum. The Note 3 performs really well, but that may ultimately not matter.
In hardware, we do get the removable battery and 32/64GB of onboard storage. Call quality was adequate, though it didn’t blow me away. Calls came in clear when at full volume but could still easily be drowned out by enough outside noise. The speaker at the bottom of the Note 3 is pretty loud and complements media consumption, but it definitely isn’t a defining part of that experience.
After all this, the hardware department sees the Galaxy Note 3 take on what the Galaxy S4 introduced. Though the S Pen is the Note 3’s trump card, there are also the many sensor additions involved. These include all of the Air Gesture, Air View, Smart Scroll, and even S Health measuring tools needed for new ways of navigation. Just look at the dropdown shade – there are so many options.
You don’t even need to use the S Pen if you don’t want to, but now you have even more ways of getting around like waving your hand or hovering your finger. It’s up to you if you’re going to use these features, but they certainly don’t detract from the experience.
S Pen functionality continues and enhances the Note tradition – the actual pen itself gets the line design you see from the sides of the phone and even though its thinness might be a little hard to handle for larger hands, I found it came with a pretty gentle learning curve. Hovering over the screen with it gives you a small cursor that helps you reach contextual features and the button on the stylus itself brings you either to the new Air Command menu or it activates the quick clip function. The Air Command menu is the biggest addition to the Pen experience, but we’ll talk about it more in the software section.
Another popular feature of the Note series is its typically large battery unit. And in the Note 3, the 3200mAh performer doesn’t disappoint. My experience with this powerful phone was highlighted by a five hour span of time in which I used the phone for at least half of those hours straight for browsing the web, viewing local video files, making notes, downloading Humble Bundle games, handwriting my text messages, and viewing my social media networks.
By the end of the five hours, I was very pleased to see almost 70% battery life left. For moderate to somewhat heavy usage like this, the Note 3 will be able to handle a full work day, no problem. For real power users it should still do a good job, likely getting to bedtime with single digit percentages left. Nightly charging will be the reality for these users, but if you can grab yourself a spare battery, you should have no issues getting everything you need out of the Galaxy Note 3.
The optics in the Galaxy Note 3 are largely the same as those found in the Galaxy S4, with the addition of a digital Smart Stabilization that should help alleviate shaky hands and improve low light photography. The app is also very much the same, bringing pretty much all of the many features the S4 introduced. These include the Best modes like Face or Shot, Drama and Eraser modes, dual recording, and even a golf mode for all of you who want a nice dramatic shot of your swing. Picture quality is about as good as that of the S4, which is welcome.
The pictures below were taken in full Auto mode at 4:3 to ensure all 13 megapixels were utilized. Indoor shots looked detailed and nice, though they obviously had a little more grain to them. Low-light shots still suffer but the Smart Stabilization seems to improve them – you’ll probably still use the flash in most of these cases.
But in the daylight, the Note 3 brings the same great Samsung camera quality with vibrant color reproduction and very good detail. If you liked the Galaxy S4 camera, you’ll largely feel the same about the Note 3.
Finally, we get into the software, the section that centers around the S Pen. If you never touch the stylus, then what you’re getting baked into the Note 3 is essentially the same old TouchWiz updated to Android 4.3. This means better stability and smoother navigation, but, for many people, the look and general feel is starting to get old. I will say, however, that another highlight of the Note 3 experience is that this big screen doesn’t just scale or blow up the elements — it seems Touchwiz is very much catered to this 5.7-inch screen and thus lends itself to being really easy on the eyes. Everything is large, obviously, but not obnoxiously or weirdly so.
Call someone and the buttons for hang up or speaker are big but not bloated. Icons are easy to see from just about any normal distance, too.
Altogether, TouchWiz for the Note line makes a somewhat niche product incredibly accessible. There is the new MyMagazine, accessed through an upward swipe on the homescreen. It’s basically like BlinkFeed and Flipboard had a child. It’s a nice way of consolidating news and social media, but its news sources are predetermined, so you won’t be able to add in your own media outlets.
The biggest additions definitely have to do with the S Pen. There are plenty of people out there who don’t use the S Pen, but Samsung is encouraging all of them to do so by making it easier to use. Remove the S Pen and you immediately get the Air Command menu. This is a new 5 button menu that gives you access to the main functions of the S Pen.
I will get into much more detail on all of these in a Feature Focus post but I wanted to give you, in particular, my experience. As anyone can use any combination of features available in the Note 3, mine is just one example. I don’t really scrapbook, though the Scrapbooker saves much more information than just the thing you cut out; for example, it also saves the website metadata so you can always bounce back to where you originally saw it. The Screen Write is pretty much a screenshot that can be written on. And then the S Window allows you to outline a small area in which a small application can be put, further enhancing multitasking. There aren’t many apps you can use for this, however, especially when compared to MultiWindow.
Out of all five of these functions, I use the Action Memo most. This is the contextually aware part of the S Pen that opens up a pad for you to write anything you need in it – you can make quick notes that are stored for later or take what you wrote and plug it into a slew of different apps. Action memo “Android Authority” and easily search for it on the web, for example. Or make a few lines of what you need to do and quickly make a task list. It’s an incredibly useful tool to use when your S Pen is in hand and helps get a lot done quickly.
Speaking of when the S Pen is in hand, I generally end up writing out all of my correspondence using the handwriting pop up. Hover over any text box and a small icon comes up. Hit it and you can write in the box that comes up. The handwriting recognition is kind of scarily accurate and should work pretty well for even the worst chicken scratch writers. In the gallery below, you can see the progression from text box, to handwriting pop up, to writing the search term, to actually searching for it.
Speaking of searching, the S Finder works really well and utilizes the handwriting recognition – put just about any term in there and it can even find your written Action Memo notes. These are just the main ways I use the S Pen outside of general navigation; but even there the Note 3 excels, especially in multitasking.
MulitWindow has been enhanced to allow two of the same apps run at once – this is most useful for multiple chat windows, at least for me. You can even easily send info from one side to the other by selecting the dot right in the middle. Watch a YouTube video while messaging your friends? Yup. Browse the web while checking your mail? Yeah, it’s got that too. There is so much that the Galaxy Note 3 is capable of and you can use just about any combination of them to get what you need done.
And that’s what makes the Galaxy Note 3 one of the most attractive smartphones available today. You do have to pay for all this flexibility, however, as in the US the Note 3 will set you back an average of $299 on two-year contracts and well above the $750 mark when unlocked. If you’re already a Note loyalist, this step up is one I’m sure you’ll make. For everyone else, this kind of entrance fee is steep — but if you can swing it, I think you’ll like what you get.
And so, there you have it. Like I said before, I now get why the Galaxy Note line is so popular. Especially with the Note 3, I found that this is so much more than just a large phone. While some people will stray away from its size, that’s really its only main detractor, in my opinion. And these days the only people who really hate on large phones are the ones who haven’t yet made the leap. As far as the S Pen goes, plenty of people use the Note without even touching it. But with the added enhancements, I would highly recommend getting to know it well.
In its many different implementations, the Note 3 works and generally succeeds. As a phone, as a tiny tablet, as a media player, as a backup camera, as a personal assistant, as a bridge in the gap between analog writing and digital input, as a good looker, and ultimately as an overall tool for everyday use. And the beauty is when all of these things are put together – coupled with the power underneath, the Note 3 is capable of handling everything you throw at it.
If you haven’t gotten into the Note line yet, the third time is Samsung’s charm and the Note 3 is a wonderful place to start.
Next: Samsung Galaxy Note 2 vs Note 3
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been waiting for your review….thanks
the problem is in your sd card i think… this happens to me twice on my note 2
Got it & having trouble with MicroSD 64GB…
Everytime I restart the device it shows “Blank SD card or damage”.
So I need to reinsert the MicroSD everytime i’ve restart the device… SAD
try formatting the card on some other device first then insert it into the phone.
what brand/model SD card is it?
SanDisk MicroSDHC/XC Extreme 64GB.
Have tried to format it with a PC, it runs well with PC.
Then move it again to Note 3 and the symptom goes on again…
what filesystem did you format it in? Fat32 I suppose?
dont use ntfs, exfat or fat.
Specifically Android compatible cards have an Android on the package. With others it’s a shot in the dark if they work.
may be a dodgy card….REFUND !!!
i demand the links for the pictures in that specific album O.O
Yeah it looks awesome!
looks like a screen shot from the app icomania
Joshua shared this on Google Plus. Some awesome wallpapers in it. Here you go:
Thanks a lot bro :D , gonna use those on my note :3 , i personally have the phone , and it’s a great device all around , and for those concerned about the audio quality through the 3.5mm jack . i have the SD800 device “n9005″ and the SQ is pretty great !
Does multi window allow you to add apps, like INRIX for traffic, that aren’t there by default. The new LG only allows certain apps!
an app has to have the code in it to allow for partial screen or floating screen size., apk installer can be used to try those parts of code. Netflix and Skype work on my note 2.
Nice review, looking forward in picking the Note 3 later this month.
i have heard 2 things since release of the Note 3 – the first is the fact that the Gallery app is extremely slow to load up and the second is the major oversight of no Facebook feed in the My Magazine app, yet this is available in the standard Flipboard app – strange huh? Also, i understand there is no quick way to get into Google Now either, which is a real shame. I am really attracted to this phone, but I wish Samsung would work on developing killer alternatives to the standard Google choices BEFORE implementing them and making them the default option.
holding down the menu button opens Gnow
Facebook works in My Magazine licensed version of Flipboard. I have read it today. Google Now is very easy to get into. BTW – You can disable S Finder from being the hold down default for the Menu Key at the bottom. Chances are, if you don’t like something on the Note 3, it can be configured differently. There is an old saying, “You learn to use an iPhone, you decide how to use an Android.” Samsung takes that decision making to the head these days, and I LOVE IT.
Be kind to tell How to disable s finder please
“And these days the only people who really hate on large phones are the ones who haven’t yet made the leap.”
I made the leap. Then leapt back to an iPhone. I don’t like stretched pockets or two handed use only. Sometimes you don’t know till you try it.
I agree. I went to the android platform for a while with Nexus device. I had an okay experience. Android used mostly 3/4 of the available RAM and it froze and lagged at times. The biggest annoyance was when i rotated the device while playing music, it would freeze. Lastly, one hot day, i was holding it in my hand and it fell 5 inches from my hand to a pencil on my desk. It shattered my entire screen and only 40% of digitizer worked after. I changed back to iOS and I am happy. BUT, I know others like android devices and that’s fine. I like them too, it was great, but iOS just feels smoother for ME. I currently now use an iPhone 4 on iOS 6 (or 7 when I feel like testing stuff and then I downgrade back). But yeah, small phones aren’t bad. It’s great for me and I have large hands. Well, that’s my opinion. I know others differ in their opinion and that’s great. Android and iOS FTW!
Bad luck you had then, or maybe i had good luck, my Note 2 fell down twice, face down on rough concrete. A little high the first time, and no damage even if it slid 2 feet on its face, the second time only from knee height while sitting and there was one kinda deep scratch in the gorillaglass, thats all. I may add i never dropped it myself, friends using my phone both times, im not the type to drop phones.
2 handed use, u dont have to:
then set it on S Voice, pair it to bluetooth, and/or use your headset, watch, or a bluetooth enabled S PEN they sell on amazon to activate and access your phone. or just do it with your voice. I woke up a note 3 15 feet from me today to read the news and comment on a site. at work with people being busy around. I also sent a text message from my LG Tone+ while the note 3 was locked up in a cabinet. the message was “bring the keys over here and unlock this cabinet!”
I made the leap to Note 2 last year, and then down again this year. I never looked back at the Note2, i didnt miss it a second. I do however admit that my main problems with Note 2 was the low ppi and TouchWiz, not the size.
use a different launcher. Am I the only one who realizes Go, Nova, Apex, Smart Launcher and others can be set to default launcher?
So is the gallery app slow? I hane S4 and it is sooo slow, it annoys me loads! Can anyone with the device and more then 300 pics tell us please.
clear thumbnails in the gallery cache and it will usually pick up. clean master is a great app to do this. and free! (by K.S. Mobile)
really ?? i have an s4 for work and it has currently about 1100 pics on and is not slow at all , possibly something gumming up the works maybe you should so a factory reset,root and remove all unnecessary bloatware then it should fly..one thing i found sped up the gallery considerably was removing Google+ app from the phone and not synchronizing Picasa photos or Google photos.(or any cloud based photo apps)
and don’t forget to wipe the dalvik cache along with the app cache .
thanks for a wonderful review if you had a numerical grade for it what would it be? what can you say about the 4k recording? and do you know which markets sell the pink note 3?
Mannn, does any one read the verge? i can’t stand their blatant bias reviews for Samsung devices. I appreciate this review very much however at the same time i’m still left wondering if there is any bias opinions here too. As some one else mentioned, if you gave it a numerical rating, what would it be?
So far we’ve decided not to use numerical ratings in our reviews simply because they’re so subjective and they tend to change a lot. For example, what we’d rate as an 8 for a good display could change suddenly because for example, LG released a stunning display which was clearly head and shoulders above the rest meaning the rating we gave for all other phones ends up being meaningless.
There’s also the problem with most reviews ending up settling with the rating of every high-end device as a 4 star device.
to get an accurate read on any rating for a device that would of true use, it would have to be like 1-20 each on at least four metrics (social networking, productivity, media and entertainment, and ease of use) and then would need additional metrics for chassis style, efficiency, capacity, accessiblity and responsiveness, build quality, and if I had my way, environmental impact. to say nothing of intrinsic value (what the relative cost would be to the combination of these. And in android, your every decision on the phone could impact these, and some would be WAY more important to some users than others. So at that point, take your 20+ metrics, rated 1-20, and then prioritize say, the 5 most important to you, and build an average. That + or – 5 would be your “score” – but there would be serious variance based on your personal priority. I blame the world who rates cellular strength in 1-5 “bars” and restarants in 1-10 “stars”. This is why hardware and general experience is a better way to go.
will note 2 battery fit in note 3?
Sorry for the my question, and I may have missed it in some earlier
posts. Does anyone have this info: What’s the remaining available memory on the Note3 after the
bloatware (by Samsung and carrier) out of 32GB? Thanks.
Good question! It’d be good to know how’s RAM usage too.
Shouldn’t Joshua (the reviewer) have known the answer by now? It still puzzles me that no one has an answer for this, in particular after the angry reactions people had on their SG4. Strange!
you can disable it all. most bloatware or features you don’t use compress down to 1 meg or less. I disable almost all that verizon stuff on my phone and turn off features and disable them in the app manager.
I checked the display unit at T-Mobile and it said 21GB but there were A LOT of apps installed plus all the display software T-Mobile loads on it. I’m going to guess at least 26 available on the GSM version. With all the BS Verizon loads on their phones you’d probably end up with 20-22GB available. But with SD expansion it shouldn’t matter. Pop a 64GB SD in the slot and move everything you install to it.
hope AA writes about the new social app pen.up
also wondering if its true its preloaded with the note3
nope, but it is free on the play store. people would likely call it “bloatware.” This word “bloat ware” is overused these days. Any feature people don’t want is “bloatware” despite how popular it is with others. This is why if you want “Sketchbook mobile for Galaxy” you download it – but it is not pre-installed – it just comes with a link. ALOT of this is because new adopters to android need training wheels. If you don’t get rid of em. I disabled tons of stuff on my note 2, and I get over 20 hours of life from the battery, with over 12 of that being actually on my phone doing stuff. I did this on my motorola before this too. The challenge is android is personalizable, but the thing is this means everyone has their own priorities. if you want to maximize your value of the investment you make into a android device, it requires some guidance, assistance or research and trial and error. but some people do want that – so they do what they can to increase the chances of someone doing that. Check most “features” of android phones out and you see they are usually licensed versions of apps or plugins.
Does the note 3 have screen off voice commands similar to the moto x?
yes and you can set S Voice to wake up hands free while the phone is in standby – there is a battery drain, but it works. a lot more worth the batter use than gestures and smart features – or even screen rotation, in my opinion.
I don’t know if this was an intentional quick review. Maybe you didn’t have much time to do it, Joshua. But, you forgot to review, at last a little bit, about RAM usage.
This is the very first smartphone featuring 3GB of RAM, it’s kind of sad you didn’t put attention to this.
How much RAM is used by Samsung apps (cached)? How much for Samsung apps’ permanent services? How much remains free?
Multitasking is not that if we open an app and the system closes the other RAM shortage.
It’d be interesting that you could share about this so we know better what to expect, please :(
Thank you n.n
Article with all of these details coming soon! Stay tuned!
Those are great news! I’m very interested in this and the Z Ultra. I’m deciding. But I’ll buy in early January.
Thank you! n.n
This is what i want to know. Great question!
With most of my apps open and running custom widgets and graphic heavy launchers, I usually have around 800mb free
Samsung isn’t the only one cheating in benchmarks
It’s not cheating, it is efficiency. Your car does 120 mph – but are you always driving where you can do this no. The thing with a benchmark and the code is it is an open strip with no speedlimit and no regard for the engine needing to run long. So it is the balls-out speed test – a drag strip. Most of us do not drive like that and could not go most places pedal to the metal… and if your phone ran as hot as it could all the time – it would not live as long. DL zooperwidgets and it will let you have a cpu speed output on your screen at all times – and watch the faster the speed – higher the battery temperature so the less efficient the power supply is. SCIENCE!
people still believe in or rely on benchmarks these days? Actual experience varies
I look forward to trying Note 3, the word is that they are sold region unlocked in my current location. The display is the first thing i wanna test with my own eyes, as the Displaymate review confirmed my temporary calculation of red/blue subpixel PPI at only 274, or SPPI as they call it there. Now Note 2 has a SPPI of 265 for all colors, and the average SPPI of Note 3 at (388+274×2)/3 = 312. The average dont have me worried but the red and blue does, i had a note 2 for around half a year and the low PPI was a problem.
Thats just out of generic interest, for my eyes 1080p 5 inch display is the sweetspot, i need higher res to be tempted by bigger displays.
Does US version have 4K recording video?.
Yes, the US model (N9005) does have 4K recording video.
Its very Nice Phone, probably the best in the market I love it. In case Android Authority wants to give this phone for free, Please give to me, I never had a smartphone in my life and I seriously want one. :)
I actually got 35000 on my AnTuTu test, so there is obviously a difference between the phones
also, in S Voice you can set it up to wake up your galaxy from standby WITH YOUR VOICE. Hands free STOCK feature.
Went a got one love it still have to learn a lot about it
Amazing! I want this!
I want the note 3
Does note 3 screen protected by gorilla glass ??
Yes its better to… It fell of once from my hand in car and i got lots of scratches on it! You can never be sure that it might never fall, so better get its screen protected
From iPhone 4, to 4S, I’ve switch to Galaxy S3, then I realize it’s kinda boring so switch back to Apple’s iPhone 5. But then after 5 months I bought a Galaxy S4, then after 2 months I realize I don’t use it as much as my iPad 3, so I sold it and buy an iPhone 5. But seriously this GALAXY NOTE 3 seems to look so good! I want to try a Note Phone! I love to draw, I’m an aspiring artist, so yeah I want one! :(
It’s the Note version of the S4, I like it
Recently I was really, really low on cash and debts were eating me from all sides! That was UNTIL I decided to make money.. on the internet. I went to surveymoneymaker dot net, and started filling in surveys for cash, and surely I’ve been far more able to pay my bills! I’m so glad, I did this!! With all the financial stress these years, I really hope all of you will give it a chance. – laa3
You must know.. Samsung drop FLV Support and plug-ins
note 3 has no Flash support
Also must american packages do not include headset or Hdmi adaptor anymore
I agree that there is too many options that we don’t even use. It appears to me that Samsung would do good to use its hub to make those options available for download to each specific phone instead of preloading.