Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review: The Phablet Refined

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Whether you’re a fan of oversized smartphones or not, it’s clear that they are here to stay. When Samsung initially released the first Galaxy Note, many of us in the industry looked at it a little sideways and wondered what the designers at Samsung were thinking. The original Galaxy Note seemed simply gargantuan next to virtually every other device available at the time and it was somewhat comical to see such a large device perched next to someone’s ear when they were making a call.

The Note had a transformative effect on the smartphone industry, however. Yes, it was large. But once you've experienced the benefits of a larger screen, it's difficult to turn back, and Samsung sold millions of them. I was originally dismissive of the Note, but after living with the second-gen Note II for a while during the lead-up to our review, I grew accustomed to its size and features and now everything else just seems too small. Since reviewing the Note 2, I’ve had access to a number of other newer devices, but I keep going back to the Note 2. Take that for what it's worth.


Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with White Flip Cover. Other Colors Also Available.

As much as we liked the Note 2, technology inevitably marches on, and its successor is now available. The recently released Galaxy Note 3 builds upon the success of the Note and Note II, but with significantly updated hardware, a larger screen, fresh software, and a host of additional features. Take a look at the Galaxy Note 3 in the video below and then make your way through the rest of our review for the full scoop. If you’re considering on of the latest crop of “phablets” for your next phone, you’ll be happy you stuck around...


Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Specifications & Features
OS
OS Android 4.3, Jelly Bean
Size
Weight 5.93 oz
Product Dimensions (inches) Height, width and depth of the phone, measured in inches (in.). 5.95" x 3.12" x 0.33"
Camera
Camera resolution (Front) 2MP
Camera resolution (Rear) Number of pixels across and down that are used to capture an image. More pixels, the sharper the photo. 13MP
Battery
Battery Type and Size 3,200 mAh
Memory
Internal Memory 3GB RAM; 32GB ROM
Network
Frequencies and Data Type LTE
Connectivity
Wi-Fi Connection that allows streaming audio, video, and other computer data across wireless networks. Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (HT80), GPS/GLONASS, NFC
USB Universal Serial Bus. Common hardware interface standard for connecting peripherals to a computer. USB 3.0 & USB 2.0 compatible, IR LED (Remote Control), MHL 2.0
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0 (Low Energy)
CPU
Processor Speed, Type 2.3GHz Quad-Core
Display
Main Display Resolution 1920 x 1080
Main Display Size
Price
5.7" Full HD Super AMOLED
Around $169 on contract


Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Accessory Bundle

As you can see in the chart above, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3's main features and specifications are quite impressive in light of competing devices currently on the market. We’re going to cover many aspects of the Note 3 on the pages ahead, but we’ll quickly summarize a few of the improvements over the Galaxy Note 2 here as well. You’ll notice this new device has a 5.7” screen with a full HD 1080p resolution. The screen is also covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 3, and features Samsung’s HD Super AMOLED technology.

U.S. variants of the Galaxy Note 3 are powered by a fast, 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core SoC. The Snapdragon 800 features Qualcomm’s updated Krait 400 CPU core architecture, which improves performance and efficiency over its predecessors. The Snapdragon 800 is also outfitted with a more powerful Adreno 330 GPU, which supports the OpenGL ES 3.0, DirectX, OpenCL, Renderscript Compute and FlexRender APIs.

The SoC is paired to 3GB of LP-DDR3 memory, the device features 4G LTE, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi connectivity (including 802.11ac), a 13MP rear camera, and everything is powered by a beefy 3200 mAh battery. The Galaxy Note 3 also sports a wider array of sensors, which include an accelerometer, and RGB light, Geomagnetic, Proximity, Gyro, Barometric, Temperature and Humidity, and Gesture sensors. The gesture sensor is carried over from the Galaxy S 4 and allows users to control a number of the phone's features without touching the screen—make sure you watch the video above to see that in action. It’s pretty cool and others are sure to copy it ASAP.

In addition to all of the updated or upgraded hardware components, Samsung has implemented plenty of new features within the software on the Galaxy Note 3 as well. We’re going to talk about some new enhancements and improvements to TouchWiz on the pages ahead, and will cover a number of camera modes and S-Apps later too.

We should also draw some attention to the Note 3’s KNOX feature. KNOX is a play off of “Fort Knox”, and is a feature that partitions the phone into personal and work-related spaces. If you’d like to carry only one device for personal and professional use, with KNOX, you can keep all of your personal data completely separate from any professional files. It’s not something general consumers are likely to take advantage of, but IT departments will appreciate KNOX’s capabilities, especially with more and more companies allowing employees to use their own devices for work.
 

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Still dislike the word "phablet". On a more serious note(pun may have been intended) I really liked the review. Although benchmarks aren't really good indicators anymore I still like the deep dive into them. I felt that there were 2 things that you guys glossed over that should have gotten more attention. The first thing is micro USB 3.0 port. It have been nice to see some benchmarks on the actual transfer speeds to see how much of a difference there was and how much faster it charged. Second thing was that it can shoot in 4k video. I know on most monitors and cell phones wouldn't have been able to see much of a difference but some commentary from you guys would have been nice. Other than that very nice and concise review.

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@AJM - Will try to run a USB 3.0 vs. 2.0 transfer test now. Good point. As for the 4K video, it does not appear to be an option on the sample device I have here. Will dig a bit.

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So, here are some quick transfer tests using USB 3.0 and 2.0, with both the Note II and Note 3. I created a 750MB ZIP file from a group of RAR’ed files, so the data is highly compressed.

USB 3.0 Tests:

Note 3 – From Desktop PC to Phone: 23.2 seconds (32.3MB/s)

Note II – From Desktop PC to Phone: 37.9 seconds (19.8MB/s)

Note 3 – From Phone to Desktop PC: 23.9 seconds (31.4MB/s)

Note II – From Phone to Desktop PC: 25.3 seconds (29.6MB/s)

I also performed the exact same tests with the phones connected via USB 2.0.

USB 2.0 Tests:

Note 3 – From Desktop PC to Phone: 28.3 seconds (26.5MB/s)

Note II – From Desktop PC to Phone: 40.8 seconds (18.4MB/s)

Note 3 – From Phone to Desktop PC: 26.2 seconds (28.6MB/s)

Note II – From Phone to Desktop PC: 27 seconds (27.7MB/s)

In terms of transfer speeds to the phones’ internal storage, the differences are pretty stark in the USB 3.0 tests.

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4K video sample going now.  Had to clear cache/data on the camera app to access the settings. Strange.

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4K video sample is up, but YT is taking excruciatingly long to process...

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Wow thanks that's awesome. I really appreciate that. So while not mind blowingly better it's quite a step up when transferring to internal. Also Even the standard USB 2.0 seems faster. I imagine that might be due to the higher end specs like its crazy 3 gigs of ram and such. For you personally does it make any difference from say 1080p shooting?

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Doesn't seem to behave differently when shooting video. In addition to the faster interface, the internal storage is a bit faster than the other smartphone's we've tested, which also helps. (Though SHIELD and the Intel reference tablet had better storage perf.)

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Ugh, the word "phablet" needs to go phuck itphelph.

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Awesome review my man. I will be making the move this week!

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I love my Note II but will not be getting a Note III

Samsung has been making some consumer unfriendly moves recently now that it got to the top.

It takes forever to get Android updates.

I'm going to give a Nexus 5 a go when I can get my hands on it for my next purchase.

Never owned a Nexus so it will be my 1st.

I don't use a lot of the Note 2 bells and whistles so I doubt I'd use the ones added to the Note 3 although i do like the notes screen and size.

I actually thought about a Nexus 7 LTE

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