Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Preview
Interface and functionality
Samsung's latest TouchWiz Nature UX is painted over Android 4.3 on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and at a glance, it looks exactly like what you'd see on other Samsung high-ends. We find nothing wrong with that, of course, as the company's interface comes loaded with plenty of cool tricks up its sleeve.
One of them, called Multi Window, takes great advantage of the phone's extra screen real estate. It allows one to have two apps open at the same time, each of them displayed in a window of its own. What's more is that on the Note 3, the same app can be opened twice, which means you are free to have two IM conversations open simultaneously.
Another feature we quite like is My Magazine, powered by Flipboard. Think of it as a smart RSS reader for your news feed, but integrated into the UI. And by integrated we mean you can launch it with an upward swipe from the bottom of the home screen, just like you would trigger Google Now on a stock Android device.
Some minor, yet noteworthy extras like Air View, Air Gestures, Smart Pause, and Smart Scroll are also present and you can learn more about them in our Samsung Galaxy S4 Review.
Since the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comes equipped with an IR blaster, it can be used to control various home appliances, such as your TV or home entertainment system, which is pretty awesome. Perhaps you'd also be able to shut down that annoying TV they have at the gym.
We find the Note 3's on-screen keyboard more comfortable to type on using two thumbs as it is pretty wide. Alternatively, there's the swiping method at your disposal as well, in addition to the hand-writing recognition mode, which is actually the slowest input method of all, in our opinion. Typos can be corrected automatically as you go, but if you don't want auto-correct messing with your texts, feel free to turn it off.
S Pen features
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comes with an enhanced S Pen stylus, which is now more feature-rich than ever. As before, the accessory will be recognized by the phone as you hover over the screen with it, rendering a small dot on the UI. What's new, however, is that pressing the button on the S Pen displays a menu with a list of several new S Pen-related features. Some of them we find more useful than the others, to tell you the truth, but let's go over all of them anyway. So here's what's new:
- Action Memo – think of this as an upgraded S Memo application. It is capable of reading your handwriting and, for example, if you scribble the name and phone of someone you just met, the app can intelligently create a new contact in your address book using that input. You may also shoot them an email or a text message instantly, assuming this information is provided in the note. Cool idea as a whole, but it requires you to give all your trust to the software's ability to recognize your handwriting accurately.
- Scrapbooker – much like the name implies, this feature is for collecting bits and pieces of imagery from various sources. You can crop content from the web browser, YouTube videos, even parts the phone's interface, and organize them in a single note. Text can be added to these notes as well. This can be useful for taking visual notes, or even starting your personal diary.
- Screen Write – this feature will take a snapshot of your screen and will allow you to add comments or simply scribble away on top of it. Simple as that.
- S Finder – yup, you use this to find stuff. Write down whatever you need and the feature will search through your hand-written content saved in your notes and memo apps, or it will match it to symbols and formulas. It lists search results through not only notes, but also in your music, gallery, or video library.
- Pen Window – now that's interesting. In a nutshell, this feature is for launching apps in a small window, such as the calculator, the address book, messaging app, and more. You draw a rectangle with the area where you'd like this app's window to appear. Strangely, the size of the window doesn't always match our specifications and the app's aspect ratio is off, but this could be just a software glitch that (hopefully) won't be present on a retail Galaxy Note 3 unit.
Processor and Memory
A smartphone of this class deserves to be powered by a top-of-the-line processor, isn't that so? In the Note 3's case, the silicon providing it with processing power will vary from one region to another. The LTE-capable version will get the Snapdragon 800 SoC and its 2.3GHz quad-core CPU, while the HSPA+-only model will sport a 1.9GHz octa-core Exynos 5 chip. We have the former on our hands and boy is this thing fast! To sum it all up, we have yet to witness a single hint of lag. The performance of the device is just flawless no matter how much we push it. Multitasking is also silky smooth, which comes as no surprise given the whopping 3GB of RAM tucked under the phone's hood.
There's plenty of storage on board the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – enough to store tons of music, photos, applications, and hours of high-definition video. 32- and 64-gigabyte models will be made available, with the option to add extra space using a microSD card of up to 64GB. And if that's not enough, Samsung is treating Note 3 buyers to 50GB of free Dropbox storage for 2 years – ideal for backing up important and not-so-important files on the cloud.
Internet and connectivity
Needless to say, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 excels when it comes to browsing the internet. It is not only fast, but its stock browser app reacts to our navigation and input very well, without any lag. That the web page goes into full-screen mode on its own, thus spanning across the entire screen, is a neat addition. We also like the so-called Reader mode, which clears all unnecessary content, leaving only the text and some images, for easier reading of lengthy articles. Whole web pages can be read without having to zoom in as the screen is detailed enough to display even the smallest of text. All in all, if you do a lot of browsing on your smartphone, then the Note 3 won't disappoint.
Samsung has several Galaxy Note 3 versions ready, each of them tailored to the needs of a specific market. The LTE model comes with a radio capable of reaching 150Mbps down, at least in theory, which is pretty neat, assuming your carrier can provide all that bandwidth. That very same model packs a 42Mbps HSPA+ radio as well. Some countries will get the non-LTE Galaxy Note 3 model, offering just 42Mbps HSPA+ connectivity. Of course, both these versions come with the regular set of connectivity features, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC. In addition, the GPS radio is backed by GLONASS support, improving location detection in tricky areas. Assuming you have a USB 3.0 port on your computer, you'll be able to transfer files from and onto your Note 3 at high speeds as the smartphone supports the new standard.