Samsung isn't the first company that tried to come up with a device blending the functionality of a smartphone and a tablet into one. However, it deserves credit for delivering the first large-screened handset that was actually good, thus kickstarting a whole new category of devices. Of course, we're referring to the very first Samsung Galaxy Note – announced a little over two years ago. Thanks to the trend that Samsung built up with its innovative, globally successful product, we've arrived to a point in time where most smartphone manufacturers now have a phablet in the fight, or are in the process of developing one.

The latest phone in the company's series is the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Picking up where its predecessor left off, it comes with an S Pen stylus that is now more functional than ever. But that's far from all. In fact, Samsung's newest Note handset lands right into the high-end smartphone department, packing hardware that will easily get any tech geek excited. That includes a massive, 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display, a last-generation quad- or octa-core processor, and a 13MP camera, all of that complemented by software features and stylus functionality found on no other handset.

So yeah, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is shaping up as a beast of a smartphone, ranking among the best that have been announced so far. And now is the time to find out whether it has what it takes to become as successful as its predecessors.

Note: The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 unit used for this preview is running an early software build. Therefore, the appearance, performance, and operation of certain features might differ from what we may see on a retail Note 3 unit.

In the box:

  • In-ear stereo headphones
  • Extra earphone tips of various sizes
  • Wall charger
  • microUSB cable
  • Replacement S Pen tips
  • Quick start guide


Design


Samsung did mostly what was expected of it with the design of the Note 3, and it did it well, making the phone thinner and lighter than its predecessor. Even though the new model comes with a 5.7-inch screen – 0.2 inches larger in diagonal size than the display on last year's Note II – the newer model is tangibly more compact. The difference isn't vast, but we can definitely feel it when holding the two side by side.

And speaking of holding the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, we can confirm that operating it with a single hand is a chore compared to a regular-sized phone. But that's pretty much a given with handsets of this size so we wouldn't mind accepting Samsung's phablet as it is. Holding the Note 3 in one hand while navigating through its interface with the other, or using the S Pen, is the typical usage scenario for this device. There is an option, however, to shrink the keyboard or dialer right or left, so you can type a quick text reply or call a number with one hand only.

We were genuinely surprised to see Samsung taking a different approach to designing the exterior of the phone. The company has picked a faux leather back with stitching elements, meant to prompt the impression of a venerable notebook. Although the back of the Galaxy Note 3 is actually made of plastic, it looks fancy and sophisticated, while the soft touch finish does remind us of real leather as we run our fingers across its surface. As usual, Samsung has opted for a removable back cover, underneath which we find the user-replaceable battery, as well as the SIM and microSD card slots.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comes in white or black, and there is a pink exterior available as well for those who prefer a color that is less conservative. In addition, a bunch of colorful S View cover cases are to be launched alongside the device, meant to protect and augment its looks to your heart's desire.

The buttons present on the Note 3 are all easy to feel and press, with very good tactile feedback, and that goes for the trademark physical Home key underneath the display as well. The Menu and Back keys, placed alongside the Home key are of the capacitive kind.


S Pen


For those who aren't familiar with the matter, the S Pen is an advanced digital stylus and one of the prime stand-out features of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. By “advanced” we mean that it is much more precise than regular capacitive styli and capable of detecting minute variations of pressure, creating strokes of variable width as you write. Furthermore, the tip of the stylus can be picked up even if it is just hovering above the phone's screen, which results in more precise drawings and selections. By pressing a button located on the S Pen's side, the user is given access to extra features, which we are about to tell you more about in the next chapter. A clever addition is the option to have the phone sound an alert in case the S Pen isn't nearby. You know, just in case the accessory is misplaced.

The S Pen fits firmly in its dedicated slot. It is easier to take out and slide back in than before, but it doesn't blend seamlessly with the phone's design anymore as a little bit of it protrudes out of the housing. The accessory is light and long enough to be held and used comfortably, although lefties might find its placement on the right rather annoying.



Display


As we stated above, the display on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has grown a bit from what the second-gen Note had to offer. The front of the new model is graced by a gorgeous, 5.7-inch display, and it's a Full HD affair now. Punching the 1080x1920 pixels of resolution into a DPI calculator results in a pixel density of about 386ppi, which explains why everything shown on the display looks nice, smooth, and detailed. And besides, you'll likely be holding the gargantuan handset even further from your eyes than smaller phones, so you can rest assured no icon jaggies or letter edges will be visible, even when fully zoomed in during browsing, for instance.

Color representation is on the overly saturated side by default – something typical for Super AMOLED panels. And that's okay as some users do dig exaggerated colors on their smartphone's screen. We, however, find the so-called “Professional Photo” screen mode much more pleasing to the eye, with its much truer color reproduction. There are several of these modes to choose from, in addition to the Adapt Display regime, which automatically tweaks the screen's settings depending on what's being displayed.

The display is pretty bright for a Super AMOLED panel, though still far from the best LCD units in that respect. Nevertheless, outdoor visibility is aided by the very low reflectance ratio under direct sunlight, and the deep black levels make elements more distinct when plenty of diffused lighting is present outside. Even on a bright sunny day, we could use the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 without much effort, as long as the sunlight wasn't reflected straight at our eyes.

As usual, we have impressive viewing angles thanks to the OLED technology, with little color shifting and sufficient brightness retained even when the handset is tilted to the extremes.

Samsung has not forgotten to add some extra sensitivity to the touchscreen on the Note 3, thus making it usable even while the user is wearing gloves. Interestingly, the panel's sensitivity is adjusted automatically, meaning that there's no need for the user to set it manually.

FEATURED VIDEO

82 Comments

1. emadshiny

Posts: 1144; Member since: Dec 05, 2012

Waiting for YOU impatiently...

14. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

October 2nd can't happen any sooner. I'll skip my college classes and wait an hour before T-Mobile opens to get that phone if I have to.

26. LordDavon

Posts: 156; Member since: Sep 19, 2011

I'm still not sure. I've got to get it in my hand to decide. I've no upgrade, so I'd be paying full price, and then selling my Note II. Still on the fence. If I had the upgrade, I would probably jump at it without hesitation.

68. rizevnarastek

Posts: 349; Member since: Sep 06, 2012

Watch out for that camera protrusion. It's really a downer.

67. mbail18

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Not, to be rude, but, I say so, too Q?!

29. AnTuTu

Posts: 1613; Member since: Oct 14, 2012

Simply a Beast can't wait to get one :)

38. doejon

Posts: 411; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

you mean YOUM

41. rodneyej1

Posts: 3576; Member since: Jul 06, 2013

Waiting for the 1520 patiently... The 1520 has much better specs, and way better hardware overall... WP is such a joy to use❗❗

43. DukeX

Posts: 327; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

You seriously need mental help. I won't even continue man

47. SlimSoulja86

Posts: 660; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

LOL, u need help....

54. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

Much better specs? First, we don't even know what specs it will have officially. Second, even if we go based on rumors, the 1520 actually has the same chipset, same 1080p display (though bigger), and actually 1 GB less of RAM. It will have a better camera, but something that most Nokia fans I've talked to can't seem to understand that the camera isn't the only thing about the phone, and isn't a deciding factor, especially when the camera on the Note 3 is great by itself. Lastly, the 1520 will be running WP8, which we ALL know is less functional than Android, especially Android with Samsung's added features. Just because you might not use those features, doesn't mean it's just as functional.

61. almostdone

Posts: 448; Member since: Sep 25, 2012

Just to add most phablet competitors produce tablet sized phones which nobody wants. A tablet does not fit comfortably fit into pockets. Samsung produce phablets which are about the perfect size. Sony Z1 Ultra and Nokia 1520 are too big. Samsung could fit a 7" screen into those monster footprints.

69. Android4Ever

Posts: 89; Member since: Aug 12, 2013

Are you remedial?

70. mobilespecs.pk

Posts: 45; Member since: Dec 15, 2012

hahahaha

83. werthedroids

Posts: 60; Member since: Sep 15, 2013

I can recommend a good phycologist

66. mbail18

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 4 is WORTH THE WAIT.

2. McJobs

Posts: 107; Member since: Jul 08, 2012

i love faux leather back with stitching elements

5. LetsBeHonest

Posts: 1548; Member since: Jun 04, 2013

Mee toooooo..... It's kinda stylish and different....

16. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

I don't.

49. Long1

Posts: 399; Member since: May 18, 2013

I think it's most beautiful smartphone today. Looks classy. And this "leather" is not only leather pattern over the plastic , but also soft touch coating.

80. Jillxz

Posts: 149; Member since: Jun 04, 2012

I don't like that leather look either. It's a deal breaker for me.

28. WHoyton1

Posts: 1635; Member since: Feb 21, 2013

better than shiny plastic so stop complaining!

45. DONUT

Posts: 436; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

its actually plastic made to look like leather. you tried it

48. maccess

Posts: 742; Member since: Jan 16, 2013

off course he knows it's plastic.. he just said it's better than the shinny one like the note 2..

63. anglosaxonengland

Posts: 64; Member since: Sep 11, 2013

They should use HTC One X plastic

42. rodneyej1

Posts: 3576; Member since: Jul 06, 2013

I love that 1020 in your profile picture❗❗

3. greathero1

Posts: 584; Member since: Jun 13, 2008

I can't wait to hold it in my hand. It seems too large but I love the faux leather back and the stitching.

4. MrKoles

Posts: 368; Member since: Jan 20, 2013

Amazing phone! I can´t wait to hold it in my hands!

6. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

I'm throwing my debut card at the screen but nothing is happening. :(

11. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Debit*

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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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