Samsung Galaxy Note 3 hands-on


Pounding the competition for nearly the first portion of the year, Sammy’s Galaxy S4 has been tearing up the scene with no end in sight. Following in close pursuit, however, the highly awaited third incarnation in the Galaxy Note smartphone series is about to embark on its own trip as establishing itself as the premier phablet/tabphone in the space. Today, we’re finally able to see the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in all of its glory, but the question that remains, is how much better this is than its predecessor?

Design


Did we expect anything drastic with the design? Seriously, this is Samsung we’re talking about! It’s distinctively a Samsung smartphone, as it follows the same design cues and characteristic found with the recent Galaxy S4. However, there’s one refreshing change – it’s now doused in this stitched leather-like tough material, something that’s new from Samsung. At its core, though, it’s still a plastic device at heart that’s super thin (8.3mm) and lightweight for its size, but it’s the size that continues to be a prominent element with the smartphone – it’s just, you know, so darn big. Needless to say, it’s a handful and it still requires two-handed operation, well, that’s unless you have extra-large sized hands, which means it’s going to be the perfect size for you. Oh yeah, did we mention that there’s also a slot for the S-Pen too? Not much of a surprise at this point.

Looking at what Sony is doing in the phablet space, the design in play with the Galaxy Note 3 is starting to lag behind – to the point that it’s becoming stale. Indeed, the subtle improvements are all there, like its smaller footprint than its predecessor and always slimming profile, but in the greater scheme of things, it’s lacking a sufficient amount of fresh elements to make it a stand out looker against some other prized smartphones in the same category. It’s not premium, which is evidenced by its continued choice of employing a plastic frame – nor does try to explore new elements to its design to shake things up. Then again, they’ll have it available in a blush pink color, on top of jet black and classic white colors.


S-Pen


Continuing to rely on an S-Pen, the one here with the Galaxy Note 3 boasts a few improvements that continue to deepen its functionality and worth – dot, circle, and box, that’s what you’ll need to remember. Hovering the tip of the S-Pen over the display, we simply press the dot/blip on-screen to get Air Command, which then allows us to access 5 S-Pen specific features at any time. Another new feature is Pen Window, which layers another app on top of another by essentially drawing a box with the S-Pen. Hardcore memo takers and avid business oriented users will no doubt appreciate the new features and all that are in tow with the new S-Pen, but it’s confusing trying to remember each and every function. It’s extensive needless to say, however, it’s deviating from the key aspect of being simple and intuitive. To tell you the truth, it’s rather overwhelming. And are people really going to remember and use all these new features?


Display


Okay, it’s not breaking new ground when it comes to display sizes, but at least the Galaxy Note 3 puts forth enough improvements with its display to continue making it one of its strongest highlights. To be exact, there isn’t a whole lot new here per se, since it’s flaunting a 5.7-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display, which not surprisingly, employs the same technology as its predecessor to enables us to use the new S-Pen to hover over certain elements. Additionally, they’ve improved upon its multi-window functionality – such as being able to have two ChatOn conversations windows happening simultaneously.

However, the nice subtle improvement seen with the display is in how Samsung is able to minimize the bezels surrounding the left and right sides of the panel. It’s one thing to stand out if it’s a true edge-to-edge display, but as we’ve seen countless times already, that’s not the case here. As a whole, it has all the same qualities we currently see with Samsung’s existing AMOLED panels – like is vibrant color reproduction, deep black color, and wide viewing angles. Naturally, it shines brightly in darkly lit areas, but overall, there’s nothing particularly innovative here.


Interface


Following in the same footstep as other recent Galaxy branded devices, the Note 3 is also running the same customized TouchWiz Nature UX experience found on the Galaxy S4 – albeit, it’s on top of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean from the onset. Visually, there’s nothing different whatsoever this time around, as the look, feel, operation, and general functionality of the experience are identical to the tooth. Yes, it’s still somewhat cartoony looking, but it still proves to be one of the most comprehensive offerings out there. Generally speaking, it shares many of the same features as its close sibling in the Galaxy S4, but it lacks the cool Air Gestures that are used by the Galaxy S4’s experience. Instead, Samsung continues to focus on the S-Pen related apps with the smartphone, which now features several new enhancements that seem to deepen the multi-tasking and organizational elements of the experience.

Seriously, the experience is rather tough to learn if you’re unfamiliar with Sammy’s custom Android experience – especially these new functions that are accessed by the S-Pen. In fact, there are so many features in tow that is feels a bit overwhelming at times, since there’s just so much to remember and master. On top of that, we feel as though the Note 3’s experience is targeting a specific demographic (think business-end users), as opposed to appealing to a broader audience that the Galaxy S4 so happens to focus on. When it comes down to it, you’ll need to have a bit of background knowledge to Samsung’s custom experience, seeing that newbies can easily get frustrated trying to pick up the handset from the beginning.


Processor and Memory


Unfortunately, Samsung didn’t talk too much about the handset’s internal hardware. Quite frankly, there’s nothing totally ground breaking in this particular section too, since its hardware was easily predictable before being officially outed. Depending on the market, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will be powered either by a quad-core or octa core processor. Specifically, the 4G LTE variant will be packing along a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset – while the 3G enabled one seems to benefit more with its 1.9GHz Exynos 5 Octa core processor. Stepping it up even more, the two version will pack on a whopping 3GB of RAM!

Now it’s hard to say which version of the handset we’re checking out, but regardless of that, we’re happy to report that the thing is running mighty fast. Even some live wallpapers don’t bog down the performance whatsoever! It’s fast, really fast, but it still somehow doesn’t feel as snappy as say the LG G2 – or to an extent, the Motorola Moto X. Then again, this is still a pre-production unit we’re checking out right now, so it’s bound to see some tweaks and enhancements to better its performance.

Samsung is going to make available the Note 3 in both 32GB and 64GB version, but as usual, we’re comforted to know that a handy dandy microSD card slot is available to supplement its capacity. Better yet, it simply means quick sharing between other devices and PCs.

Camera


Checking out the camera in the rear of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, it doesn’t pack along one that would seem imposing over other recent offerings. Just earlier today, we heard about the Sony Xperia Z1 and its jacked up 20.7-megapixel camera, but with the Note 3, it’s outfitted with a reserved 13-megapixel auto-focus camera, which features a backside illuminated sensor, smart stabilization, high CRI LED flash, and 1080p video recording at 60fps. Heck, there’s also a 120fps mode that delivers slow-motion videos as well. Looking more at the specs sheet of its camera, it’s not trying to outclass the Galaxy S4, but despite that, we’re certain it’ll produce shots that are equally as detailed and sharp – while also carrying along all those various shooting modes as well to give it a well-rounded offering.


Release Date, Price and Expectations


Currently, Samsung has given the Galaxy Note 3 a release date of September 25th, but it’s unclear if that’ll also be the time when it’ll go on sale here in the US. However, they’ve neglected to provide concrete details about its pricing. If history has shown us anything, we wouldn’t be surprised if this will boast the same $300 on-contract pricing of its predecessors – a steep price no doubt, but for something as massive and feature filled like this, we would totally agree that it’s justified. In the back of our minds, though, we feel there aren’t enough compelling elements to the Note 3, to make it a home run. Heck, as we look around the field right now, which is undoubtedly rich with some profound devices, the Note 3 seems to taking a casual approach of being complacent – allowing the competition to catch up. Overall, we see all the iterative improvements we’d normally expect to see, like in the specs department, but it doesn’t try to innovate further to continue widening itself in the playing field. It’ll be interesting to see how this device pans out in final form, and until then, we won’t be able to pass a final judgment.

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Related phones

Galaxy Note 3
  • Display 5.7" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 13 MP / 2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Quad-core, 2300 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDHC
  • Battery 3200 mAh(21h 3G talk time)

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100 Comments

1. cR203

Posts: 209; Member since: Jan 27, 2013

Can't wait to buy this.

4. SuperMaoriBro

Posts: 533; Member since: Jun 23, 2012

personally I'd would prefer their traditional plastic over the leather. maybe when I hold the device for the first time my mind might change.

16. Ant34

Posts: 193; Member since: Aug 10, 2013

It's plastic with a different texture. The S3 and S4 were too slippery and fingerprint magnets. The new back solves those problems.

23. fanboy1974

Posts: 1345; Member since: Nov 12, 2011

A cheap plastic rear panel will be under $10 on ebay; it's replaceable.

45. chocolaking

Posts: 495; Member since: May 22, 2012

Leather back just like the BerryBold 9000!! brilliant!! honestly.. i wasn't wowed at all.. But Sony Z1 is amazing for sure. sammy, i am worried about you :(

47. maccess

Posts: 742; Member since: Jan 16, 2013

i'm more worried about your brain actually.. to much hate and butthurt..

40. neutralguy

Posts: 1152; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

What really is intriguing me is where the h*ll is the loud speaker

44. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

It's located at the same exact positions of the iPhone.

46. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2475; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

It is located below the device right by where the USB charge port is.

8. special4u

Posts: 63; Member since: May 22, 2013

disappointement

28. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

well said. Nothing new here just improved specs that's it and Same Old UI boring..........!!! people better spend money on Note 2.

33. hellonerds

Posts: 334; Member since: Aug 27, 2013

no company has ever made a huge leap every year.. they dont fix something thats not broken.. look at apple for example.. i know you guys wanted a 4K Screen/1TB/hologram/cook you food/100mp camera ect..

38. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

iphone is different part dude. we need something new innovative in phone not common specs improving......!!!

69. meeaaoon

Posts: 25; Member since: Oct 02, 2012

How much Nokia change in 1020 from 920? only camera? same specs same UI same design. at least Samsung managed to improve everything..

81. shikroi

Posts: 187; Member since: Sep 24, 2012

Except the 1020 is not meant as an update to the 920. The 1020 represents an entirely new line of lumias, hence the number difference between 900 and 1000.

92. Trex95

Posts: 2383; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

Actually Samsung start follow Apple lead cause Apple it's Samsung GOD father.

62. Adithya7184 unregistered

butt-hurt haters

72. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

If I compare Nokia flagships like 920/925/1020, they don't even bother to upgrade the specs. Same SOC, same display, same storage, same design, same old UI for 3 years.

79. shikroi

Posts: 187; Member since: Sep 24, 2012

You mean the same specs for 1 year. The 920 got announced last September remember? Having the same specs for one year really isn't that big of a deal. Its the same situation with the iPhone. Also nokia has only been using wp for 2 years at best.

29. imkyle

Posts: 1116; Member since: Nov 18, 2010

I was hoping for a UI chance, but I'm guessing that will be with the S5.

48. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2475; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I'm not disappointed, but I am going to wait until I see what the HTC One Max offers. The one thing I was kind of hoping for was that Samsung would clean up their UI. The phone may have really great specifications, but running TouchWiz takes up a lot of the phone's resources. I'm also starting to get somewhat tired of the "S" naming on their applications. The device looks wonderful on paper, but I just can't get over the clunky UI at the moment. Maybe it will feel better in person, but I am a little hesitant at this point.

96. Long1

Posts: 399; Member since: May 18, 2013

if HTC One Max have same display size , it will be double size and weight than Note 3. Not to mention - no SD. no swappable battery, no multi-window, no S pen. TouchWiz is the best thing that happened to Android. Just disable the features you don't like. It's simple. Other ppl may like other features, though.

71. rihel_95

Posts: 305; Member since: Mar 21, 2012

so no fingerprint scanner afterall.

101. panda123

Posts: 27; Member since: Jan 18, 2013

lol, get the iPhone 5S if that's all what interests you in a phone, having your fingerprint stored in some database

19. phil2n

Posts: 519; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

Then People will praise these device because "Its the latest from Samsung". To tell you the truth I'm not impressed with this.

36. maccess

Posts: 742; Member since: Jan 16, 2013

that's fine if you're not impressed.. if everyone impressed then there will be no more competition..

88. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

I don't think anybody expected more than what this is?

26. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

Meh, why would you want to buy this? Haven't you heard? There's rumors of Galaxy Note IV already!!! I'm waiting for it...oh wait, maybe the Note V would be better, don't ya think?

30. maccess

Posts: 742; Member since: Jan 16, 2013

have you heard rumors about lumia 926 oh wait or 927 or better just wait for 1021 or 1022?? with the same ui and capability like other windows phone.. oh wait but it has pureview camera so it's enought to call it AWESOME!!

31. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

Nope...sorry.

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