Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review: The Phablet Refined

Camera Performance and Battery Life

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 ships with a 13MP rear facing camera with auto-focus and a built in LED flash, and a front facing 2MP camera for video-chat and 2-in-1 shot purposes. The main camera also features 4K30 / 1080p / 720p video recording capabilities and a multitude of different shooting modes.


Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Sample Photos

We found the Note 3’s camera to be good, but not great. There is minimal shutter lag (the Note 3 is capable of multi-shot burst like many other recent smartphones) and the resolution is very high. We found most of the images to be somewhat under-saturated, however, and focus wasn't always great in artificial light. In natural light or indoors, when the flash is not used, images look very good, but as you can see in the samples above, they are not very vibrant. When the flash is used though, especially with relatively close objects, the images can look over-saturated. We’d speculate that Samsung tuned the cameras to produce images that look optimal on the Galaxy Note 3’s HD Super AMOLED screen, but once they’re shared from the phone, the slight deficiencies become evident.

The Galaxy Note 3's Camera Offers A Number Of Different Shooting Modes

The Galaxy Note 3’s camera isn’t just about higher-resolutions, however. Samsung has also added a number of the features and capabilities that debuted on the Galaxy S 4. First, we should point out that the phone’s power button and volume rocker can be configured to act as shutter and zoom buttons, which can come in handy. Samsung has also incorporated a number of shooting modes, a few of which are new to the Note series. Best face, Best photo, Panorama, and a few others have been around for a while in one form or another, but Sound & Shot, Drama, Animated Photo and Eraser are new. As the name suggests, Sound & Shot gives users the ability to attach sound clips to photos. Drama mode sets the phone to capture a 100 shot burst of images, and then it takes the best images in which the subject is not overlapping, and inserts the subject into multiple positions within a single photo. Animated photo allows you to take a burst of photos of a subject in motion and produce a short animated GIF, and Eraser mode gives users the ability to erase objects from the background of an image. For example, with Eraser mode, if someone walks behind the subject, that person can be removed to reveal the complete background. Samsung also offers the ability to use the front and rear cameras simultaneously, which allows users to insert themselves into photos. The person taking the shot can be imprinted in a stamp or any one of a number of other styles, which can be moved around the screen, resized, etc.

We also captured some quick video with the Galaxy Note 3.  As you can see, focus is pretty good, especially considering the number of moving subjects (and that they're behind glass and in water!), and color saturation appears to be decent as well, but you won't be replacing your HD camcorder with a smartphone just in our opinion.
We've also got a 4K video sample recorded with the Galaxy Note 3, but we're not quite sure what YouTube is going to do to the ultimate quality. When played back on the device, the 4K video seems to have more noise than lower resolution video recordings, but in the right light and with a steady hand, the Note 3 will be capable of capturing some excellent video.

HotHardware Battery Life Test
How Long Does It Last?

As is the case with any 4G smartphone with a large, high-res screen and quad-core SoC, battery life can sometimes be an issue. Samsung claims the Note 3’s 3200 mAh Lithium Ion battery can last for up to 420 hours in 4G standby (530 hours using 3G), with up to 25 hours of talk time. To take the Galaxy Note 3's battery to task, we first tried to fire up our standard HotHardware battery test. In this test, we set up a webpage with a mix of graphics and text and the page automatically refreshes itself every three minutes. We set the Note 3's display to 50% brightness and turned off Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, Samsung's browser seemed to be caching data and the latest versions of Android no longer display Flash animations, which were part of this test.  So, since our original test was out, we instead opted for a controlled "worst case scenario" battery test with AnTuTu Tester.

According to this benchmark, the Note 3's battery life didn't fare very well. We need to point out, however, this this test whacks the CPU with 100% load from start to finish, which is a worst case scenario and not indicative of how most owners will use their phone.

In real-world use, we were actually able to use the Note 3 for close to two days without recharging the device. With light to moderate use a full day (or more) is absolutely no problem for the Note 3.  If you play lots of games, however, or run apps that may tax the SoC constantly, the fast 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 can sap the life out of the battery faster than low-performing SoCs.

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