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Goophone Note 3 review: the clone wars

The Goophone N3 is a replica of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Although they look alike on the outside, on the inside they are very different beasts. So what is the N3 really like? I used the device for a few days and this is what I discovered.
December 18, 2013
goophone n3 - in hand 2
Following my time with the Goophone 5C I knew that Goophone’s aren’t just devices that look similar to their real counterparts, they are replicas and the Goophone N3 is no exception. Built as a clone of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the N3 is the same size and shape as the Note 3 and it even has its own faux leather back panel, complete with Samsung logo. Unlike the Goophone 5C which tries to turn Android into iOS, the N3 is Goophone’s customized Android mimicking Samsung’s customized Android and it does a much better job.
  • Colors: White or black
  • Processor: MTK6589, Cortex A7 quad core, 1.2GHz
  • GPU: PowerVR SGX 544MP
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Dimensions: 5.95 x 3.12 x 0.33 inches
  • OS: Android 4.2.1
  • Cameras: 13MP rear with LED flash / 5MP front facing
  • Display: 5.7 inch IPS, 1280 x 720
  • Storage: 8GB expandable by microSD
  • Connectivity:  Bluetooth, microUSB v3.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Networks: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900; HSDPA 850 / 2100
  • Battery: 2800mAh Li-ion, removable

There isn’t much that can be said about the design of this device other than it faithfully copies the Galaxy Note 3. If you like the size and feel of the Note 3 you will like the N3. The back cover on the real Note 3 has been described as “thin and bendy” and made of a “textured material that mimics leather,”  and the same is true for the N3. The back cover is easy enough to remove, but every time I did so I always checked the tabs to see if I had managed to rip one off. Once the back cover is off you gain access to the removable battery, two SIM card slots and the microSD card slot.

goophone n3 - back 2
The N3 continues to copy the Note 3 with regards to button layout with the volume rocker on the left and the power button the right. At the bottom of the phone there is a speaker grill, the fake S Pen, and the microUSB 3.0 charging port. What looks like a microUSB 3.0 cable is included with the phone but I have no way to tell it is a genuine (pin for pin) cable. However you can also use an original microUSB cable to charge the N3 and that works without any problems.

Turning to the front, the N3 has a 5.7 inch IPS display with a 1280 x 720 resolution. The resolution and quality aren’t the same as the Note 3, but in terms of appearance it certainly does looks like the Note 3. On the bottom bezel is the home button flanked by the two soft buttons, menu and back.

The device is very light in the hand and if I have one complaint is that it feels too light. Although it is physically big and it isn’t going to slip out of your hand easily, somehow its lightness makes it feel vulnerable.

goophone n3 - display

The screen size is definitely one of the N3’s highlights and if you like the large screen format, which the original Note series made so popular, you will like the N3. For an IPS display the screen is good, the resolution is high enough for daily usage and only those who have grown accustomed to full HD displays will find the N3 lacking. Having said that, the display is no match for the genuine Super AMOLED Pentile display of the Note 3 and like many smartphones it is likely to be hard to read in direct bright sunlight.

As with many large screen smartphones, the 5.7-inch screen format isn’t for one handed usage. The N3 is absolutely designed for use with two hands, especially when using the pen. However I did find that when typing the device can be used with just one hand by using my thumb to peck away at the letters, but it is slow.

goophone n3 and note 3 - which is which

The N3 isn’t going to muscle its way into the top rankings in terms of performance, however the device is fitted with a very reasonable processor package. The Mediatek MTK6589 has a quad-core CPU, based on the Cortex-A7 design, and a PowerVR SGX 544MP GPU. Together they provide enough power to make the user interface on the N3 fluid and smooth, while for gaming the device is able to handle games like Asphalt 8: Airborne.

goophone N3 - hardware graphic

In terms of benchmarks the N3 scored 13,737 on AnTuTu which is less than half of what the Note 3 scores. On Epic Citadel the device managed a respectable 46.5 frames per second (fps) in High Performance mode and 45.6 on High Quality mode.

Interestingly Epic Citadel initially refused to install and the Play Store kept giving me the “Couldn’t install on USB storage or SD card” error. To solve this I inserted a microSD card into the N3 and entered the Settings to change the phone’s default write location to be the SD card rather than the phone’s internal storage. I was then able to install the app without any problems.

goophone n3 - antutu

In hardware, we do get the removable battery and 8GB of onboard storage. The storage is divided into 2GB of internal storage and 5GB of phone storage. As I mentioned above once a microSD card is inserted the default write location can be changed and that did help when installing some apps.

Call quality was OK and the calls came in clear when at full volume. The speaker at the bottom of the Note 3 is reasonable and adequate for gaming and watching YouTube clips etc.

goophone n3 - bottom with pen

It is worth mentioning the connectivity options for this device. The phone has all the standard connectivity options like Wi-Fi ( 802.11 b/g/n), Bluetooth, 2G GSM and 3G. It doesn’t have NFC nor does it support LTE, two things which are supported by the real Note 3.

For 3G the phone only supports 850 and 2100MHz.  The latter number is the standard 3G frequency and should work in most places around the world (except the USA), however a lot of carriers also use a secondary 3G spectrum range. In Asia and South America the carriers often use 850MHz, as supported by the N3, while in Europe it tends to be 900MHz. You need to check with your carrier to ensure compatibility.

The Wi-Fi and GPS both work sufficiently well on this device. Wi-Fi reception was average and the GPS worked as expected. However the first ever GPS lock took about 6 minutes, but after that it seemed to get a position reading quite quickly.

goophone n3 - bottom half with pen on screen
goophone n3 - battery

The length to which the cloners go is staggering. Even the battery is made to look like a Samsung battery! Obviously it isn’t and the battery claims to be a 3200mAh unit which, again, it isn’t. However according to the specs from the online store where I bought it, the N3 has a 2800mAh battery.

I performed some battery tests and for 3D gaming the device will work for about 3.5 hours before needing a recharge. For those who listen to a lot of music (off the SD card), the N3 can probably pump up the volume for around 40 hours on one charge. If watching films is your thing then you will get about 5 hours of viewing pleasure before the battery hits zero. I also did a talk time test and using a 3G signal the phone will deliver around 7 hours of talk time.

The camera app looks like the standard open source Android app with features like face recognition, smile detection, HDR and panorama. The rear camera is a 13MP unit and it takes reasonable shots which, while not super sharp or particularly vibrant, are bright and have a good color range. Here are some samples shots.

goophone n3 - camera1


Finally, we get into the software. The software on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is all about the S Pen and while that isn’t quite true for the Goophone N3 its makers have certainly included some interesting pen functionality.

At the top level the N3 tries to mimic Samsung’s Touchwiz interface and in terms of look and feel it does a fairly good job. The launcher, the settings and the various special apps (like S Note) all feel very Touchwiz-esque.

Pull out the pen and a Air command wheel appears. From here you can launch S Note, visit the photo gallery, take a screenshot, search (via Google Now) or launch the Pen Window (which on the Note 3 allows you to draw a window and pop an app into it). Although these actions are similar to those on the Note 3 they are not exactly the same, but the first four options work as advertised. I will talk about the S Note app in a moment but first I wanted to mention the Pen Window.

After launching the Pen Window you need to draw freehand rectangle on the screen to show where you want your new windowed app to go. After drawing the rectangle the N3 offers you a list of apps to launch: Calculator, Clock, Phone, Messaging, Calendar, Settings, ChatON and Browser . The funny thing is that only the calculator and the S Note app can run as a windowed app. You can move the calculator around, use it and close it as you wish. But it completely ignores the rectangle you drew. The S Note app starts a new note in a semi-Windowed state, but you can’t move it around. On the Note 3 the freehand rectangle has a purpose but on the N3 it is just a long process to launch a floating calculator! All the other apps listed in the Pen Window menu just launch the normal full sized app.

S note is a fairly comprehensive note taking  app which allows you to draw with your finger (or the pen) and add text and photos to a note. You can draw with different brushes and colors and text is added in frames which can be later edited or deleted.

Some of the other features of the Note 3 including Air Gestures, Smart Scroll and Smart Pause are also mimicked on the N3. I have tried them all and although they are present they are very hard to actually get to function. I found myself waving my hands all over the place in an attempt to get the photo gallery to swipe from one photo to the next. When it did work, I couldn’t work out why and it wasn’t very repeatable. The same can be said for the Smart Pause. If I used the front facing camera to line up my face before watching a video and then turned my head dramatically away from the screen the video did pause, but for everyday use this feature isn’t very good. However the Smart Scroll did work when tilting the device. Although the UI talks about tracking your head movements in fact the scrolling is controlled by tilting the device. The more you tilt it the more it scrolls. The only app that seemed to support the Smart Scroll was the built-in web browser. Other apps like the BBC News app or Chrome didn’t work, which is a pity as it is a genuinely useful feature.

goophone n3 - price

This phone isn’t available from your carrier and you can’t get it on a contract. You can however buy it from China and maybe from some online auction sites for around $199 plus delivery and any import taxes.

And there you have it, a fairly good replica of a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Before closing there is one more thing worth mentioning, there seems to be several different models of the N3 available with different amounts of on-board storage. It also looks like there is an octa-core version coming that uses the new MT6592. So if you do buy one make sure you check the specs first.

If you are after a 5.7 inch phone and you are happy getting one from China then you could do a lot worse than this device. Overall I found it a pleasure to use. Ignoring the fact that it tries to copy the Note 3, this device has something to offer based on its own merits and this is doubly true when you consider the price.

Finally, kudos to my esteemed colleague Joshua Vergara whose Galaxy Note 3 review is well worth reading and was the inspiration for the review of this replica!