Introduction


Anyone who has already gone through our Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review knows that the smartphone ranks among the best ones money can buy. It is an embodiment of high-end technology, and even though it doesn’t come cheap, it offers quite a lot of bang for its buck, not to mention that the hardware tucked under its hood makes it quite future-proof. And yes, as you might guess, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is indeed better than its year-old predecessor, namely the Samsung Galaxy Note II. But what exactly makes it better and what has its maker improved upon in order to impress us this time around? And most importantly, is the Note II still worth holding on to now that its third iteration is out? Read on to find out.


Design


We can only commend Samsung for treating its phablet to a solid hardware upgrade without that having a negative effect on the device's proportions. The width and height of the Galaxy Note 3 come really close to those of the year-old Note II (151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm for the former vs 151 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm for the latter), with the new model being only slightly taller, yet a hair narrower and noticeably thinner. Moreover, at 168 grams, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is 14 grams lighter than the Note II, and is a tad easier to handle as a result.

Of course, one can simply forget about using the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 single-handedly as it is still as challenging to wield as its predecessor. But at the end of the day, that's a common trait for all phablets, so we can't complain, especially when we're compensated with that huge, gorgeous touchscreen. While the Samsung Galaxy Note II and Note 3 fit in larger pockets, they are quite bulky and some users will find them uncomfortable to carry around.

With its body made of glossy plastic, the Samsung Galaxy Note II looks and feels rather ordinary, especially now that we've grown tired of seeing the same design being rehashed over and over again. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 can't be described as a luxury device either, but it feels better to the touch with its leather-like back plate. Unlike its glossy counterpart, the Note 3 resists fingerprints well and has a lot more grip thanks to its textured surface.

Both the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the Samsung Galaxy Note II come with removable back covers, underneath which reside the slots for their SIM and microSD cards. Their batteries are also found there and are user-replaceable.

Physical buttons on both smartphones are arranged in an identical manner, with a physical “Home” key below the screen, accompanied by capacitive “Menu” and “Back” buttons. The power and volume buttons are placed on the right and left sides of these devices. We can gladly say that all buttons are easy to reach and operate. It is also nice that the capacitive keys on the Note 3 can be operated with the S Pen's tip. Speaking of which...


Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Dimensions

5.95 x 3.12 x 0.33 inches

151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm

Weight

5.93 oz (168 g)

Samsung GALAXY Note II

Samsung GALAXY Note II

Dimensions

5.94 x 3.17 x 0.37 inches

151 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm

Weight

6.44 oz (182 g)

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Dimensions

5.95 x 3.12 x 0.33 inches

151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm

Weight

5.93 oz (168 g)

Samsung GALAXY Note II

Samsung GALAXY Note II

Dimensions

5.94 x 3.17 x 0.37 inches

151 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm

Weight

6.44 oz (182 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page




S Pen


The S Pen is a pressure-sensitive digital stylus included with both the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Note II. It is one of the perks you get with any Note device, allowing you to draw on a virtual canvas or to take down hand-written notes, as well as to navigate through the interface and take advantage of the implemented S Pen features. While a recent teardown revealed that the Note 3 comes with a newer model Wacom digitizer (that is the component turning analog S Pen input into digital signals the phone can interpret), we find the S Pen on the Note II pretty much as precise and responsive as the one on its successor.


Display


Samsung has outfitted the Galaxy Note 3 with its best Super AMOLED screen to date. The panel, measuring 5.7 inches in diagonal, has a resolution of 1080 by 1920 pixels, as is now the norm for all high-end smartphones. Thanks to this high pixel count (386 ppi), graphics and text are represented clearly, in high detail. Colors are adjusted to appear slightly oversaturated by default – something typical for AMOLED tech – but an option in the display settings allows one to have them set at a much more natural level.

The slightly smaller, 5.5-inch Super AMOLED screen on the Samsung Galaxy Note II sure looked great when we first saw it in person. But with a resolution of 720 by 1280 pixels (resulting in a density of just 265 ppi), it is unable to deliver the same level of smoothness and detail achieved by the Note 3's display. Color representation is, again, a bit exaggerated and somewhat less accurate, but it can be adjusted to a more natural setting via the options menu.

One more thing that sets these two smartphones' screens apart is their brightness output. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is relatively easy to use outdoors since its display shines quite brightly, while the Note II looks much dimmer when exposed to the sun's rays. Viewing angles are also better on the Note 3 as there's little color degradation when it is looked at from the side. The display on the Note II, on the other hand, turns blue even at moderate angles – not a deal breaker, but a flaw nonetheless.



Samsung Galaxy Note 3 360-Degrees View



Samsung GALAXY Note II 360-Degrees View



FEATURED VIDEO

61 Comments

1. _Bone_

Posts: 2155; Member since: Oct 29, 2012

Yo Nick, the Note 3 still has the brightest mobile screen ever at 660 cd/m2 (auto mode). Movie mode is also very color-accurate.

2. TheStanleyFTW

Posts: 252; Member since: Feb 20, 2013

Have you ever heard of Sony Xperia P? 900-1000cd/m2 :)

4. taikucing unregistered

he's a samsung worshiper

6. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Samsung don't need any worshipper. If they continue to provide top end spec and timely software update many will continue to buy Samsung phone.

7. GTR722

Posts: 270; Member since: Oct 20, 2012

And hype, marketing, fake benchmarks...

15. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Every OEM is guilty of "boosting" benchmarks. Comment invalidated.

32. ZPM101

Posts: 36; Member since: Apr 12, 2010

The only thing invalidated is your use of the word "guilty" in this context. Would it not make logical sense to to maximize performance based tests using all available resources?! Manufacturers are not guilty (in the negative connotation you express), but rather, being honest by showing the consumer what the performance expectations we can expect.

17. MistB

Posts: 581; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

BS here, HTC/LG and Asus along with others have done it.

57. usrhlp

Posts: 3; Member since: Jul 23, 2014

Why did you mention apple in a discussion about samsung?

14. _Bone_

Posts: 2155; Member since: Oct 29, 2012

Fair enough, phonearena is still off by 100%.

3. ph00ny

Posts: 2033; Member since: May 26, 2011

It looks like he left the screen in whichever mode he received it. At least other reviewers tested various screen modes

5. papss unregistered

I hate the way the note 2 looks with its round edges.. but the note 3 looks and feels pretty nice.

8. JDogg5281

Posts: 74; Member since: Aug 09, 2012

Right now im thinking about sticking with my Note II. And just waiting til the Note 4 to upgrade. I just dont think it is really worth it in my opinion.

10. Jeradiah3

Posts: 1149; Member since: Feb 11, 2010

Thats what I said when I thought about upgrading to the Note 2 last year. I ended up upgrading to the S3 because I knew that the Note 3 would be better than the Note 2 when it came out. Cell phones advance every 6-12 months so I think that your comment is normal among us

19. Slammer

Posts: 1515; Member since: Jun 03, 2010

If you choose to wait for the next best thing in technology, you'll always be waiting. John B.

20. Razrman

Posts: 100; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

I have rooted my Note 2 and can wait another year to get an updated one. I'm running 4.3 on it and it is great, like having a new device.

21. Larry_ThaGr81

Posts: 592; Member since: May 26, 2011

Yeah I'm waiting for the Note IV because the improvements for the Note III vs the Note II are minor. Hopefully the Note IV will have a fingerprint scanner onboard.

24. saffant

Posts: 274; Member since: Jul 04, 2011

Nope. Improvements are fairly big, but I guess you're looking for something else.

22. Larry_ThaGr81

Posts: 592; Member since: May 26, 2011

AOSP or Touchwiz???

28. Razrman

Posts: 100; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

AOSP, Paranoid Android, features are pretty good, you should check it out.

38. bohannibal

Posts: 27; Member since: Aug 17, 2009

My note 2 is just fine so im going stick with it plus the next big phone from Samsung might just be the youm flex screen technology like in that commercial

9. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Well done Sammy...

11. tedkord

Posts: 17358; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Come on, phonearena. This is the second article that got the max brightness of the Note 3 wrong by half. The sad part is, you reported the story where it actually was over 600nits max before these two.

12. mobigeek

Posts: 11; Member since: Jul 10, 2013

My note 3 is having battery and heat issues. Can someone help?

13. twens

Posts: 1177; Member since: Feb 25, 2012

If you are having issues with your note 3 it's probable a faulty model. I will advice you to return it for another one. Mine was freezing and heating and I returned it and got a new one. Haven't faced any issues since. Excellent device, by the way phonearena stop reporting wrong hardware specs of the note 3. It has a maximum of 660nits brightness not 310. Shame on you guys

16. rallyguy

Posts: 620; Member since: Mar 13, 2012

I'm loving my note 3. I upgraded a week ago from a Galaxy Nexus. Wow! You can't knock it for being a two handed device most of the time. You know that. Fits in my cargo/pant pockets just fine. Good article Nick. I enjoy reading articles by you and Michael H. Fair and reasonable without any extreme and obvious bias.

18. Blazers

Posts: 746; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

What Note 2 model comes with a FM radio? I have the AT&T version SGH-i317 and it doesn't have one....

23. JoePhoto

Posts: 49; Member since: Feb 27, 2012

I appreciate it may be brighter in sun, but only slightly and still does not seem to approach the Xperia. I am VERY disappointed it does not have FRONT speaker(s), ala HTC. Worse it seems specked at a lower volume. This comparason does not mention that speaker is now on "bottom", but that does not compare to HTC's (dual) front speakers. I am still not sure I will upgrade (probably NOT), and will instead consider the HTC-MAX.

25. Andrewtst

Posts: 696; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

PhoneArena - if you not going to fixed it, stop commenting/reviewing on Note 3. it is big misleading, everyone know it. The brightness is around 650, not as low as yours one 310. What a shame such big site can't proper do measurement and keep given false alarm.

26. BabylonShine

Posts: 25; Member since: Feb 08, 2013

sony xperia Z1 honami is the best in all compare, buy it and enjoy the real mobile phone , its cheaper than Note III and camera is far better Its much faster than Note III and GS IV It has better look then all samy brands Its made in Japan the only disadvantage of Z1 that its batery is unexchangable END OF THE STORY

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