There is no mistaking the Galaxy Note series, larger than a phone yet smaller than even the most condensed of tablet offerings, it’s one of Samsung’s signature lines. The Note series has proven to be widely popular in the past as both a functioning tool around the office, and as a second-screen entertainment device at home. This is the third installment to the Galaxy Note series, and the company has made a few adjustments to the popular line since we last checked in with the Note 2.
It was no surprise that the Galaxy Note 3 hit all four of the top US carriers, each of them hoping to capitalize on the eager customer-base that Samsung has created. For our review we went with the Verizon model, available in-store and online for $299.99 with a new contract. Right away there are obvious upgrades to the new device over the previous Galaxy Note 2, but inside the changes are much more subtle.
Depending on which carrier that you choose, you’ll find no shortage of large-screened phones this year, though no other device can match Samsung’s stranglehold on the phone-tablet market. There is good reason for that, Samsung basically pioneered the hybrid-model, and few manufacturers have been able to keep up with the Galaxy Note’s increasing software capabilities and hardware design choices.
The third installment matches the original design of the Note series more than it does the Note 2. The design concept is a blend of the popular Galaxy Note series, and the Galaxy S4 (an extremely popular model for Samsung). Taking a page from the Galaxy S4, the Note 3 has the same ‘chromed’ appeal along the edge, though it’s plastic not a metal, underneath the large screen you will find the three primary navigational buttons (menu, home, back). Flip your device over and you now have a black textured finished, a bold yet incredibly functional design choice. The phone is large, that’s obvious, but the textured back almost feels like a synthetic leather, it makes the phone easier to hold in one hand, and was a very welcomed change from shiny plastics or glass backings that you might find on other brands.
If you’re interested in the Note series, than odds are you attracted to the large screen it has offered in the past, this installment won’t let you down in that category. Brighting your life will be a large 5.7″ screen. It’s gigantic, and one of the most pleasing large-screen phones that I’ve worked with this year. I say ‘brighten’ because it be challenging to find any complaints about the screen. The new Note 3 boasts a 1080p Super AMOLED panel, it dwarfs most smartphones’ screens in size, and offers a wonderful presentation for movies, working, or reading.
If taking pictures or filming movies is more your style than watching them, you shouldn’t have any complaints with the designer’s choices. Offered with the Note 3 is a 13-megapixel camera and with it there are a dozen or so features that come with the phone, You have your AF with Flash, a “zero shutter Lag”, Auto Focus with “Smart Stabilizer” on the rear camera and a 2MP front camera capable of HD recording. The camera left me without complaints, and performed on-par with any other camera it’s class. For most of my camera-shots I stuck with the standard ‘auto’ settings and there is a reason for that. I have always felt that with the general use of smartphones as a primary camera, the true value of the camera was the spontaneity they offered, because of this a camera should be optimal when you need it, not when you set it. The Note 3 did an amazing job as a quick fire camera, and if you share my love of digital photography than there are a host of apps and tools that will let you capture planned moments when you have the time to get creative (or even afterwards when just have the time to edit). If you are more the 1080p film crowd (like the majority of America) then you will be able to shoot in the native resolution with just a few clicks. The camera worked well in multiple lighting situations, has a lot of interesting tricks to tinker with, and most of all works well straight form the hip.
On the design front again, a convenient choice in this year’s model is that the Note 3 is thinner than the Note 2, the developers also narrowed the width (taking a page from Apple) making the phone much more comfortable when held in one hand. That being said, this isn’t a ‘work with one hand’ phone. You will need two hands to operate this device, or at least one hand and a stylus.
If you use a Galaxy S4 then the User Interface (UI) will be second nature, it’s almost a direct copy of the popular system; if you are coming from iOS then you might be overwhelmed by the sheer alien-landscape that awaits you past the opening animation. There’s a reason that Android users tend to stick to Android phones though, and the UI is easily mastered in a day or two. New users will be welcomed to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, the OS comes stock on the Android Device and has proven itself to be a reliable and easily managed OS. The UI features a few of Samsung’s finer marvels like eye-tracking, air-gestures with the stylus, and other useful navigation tricks that were introduced with the Galaxy S4.
Those are secondhand features though, interesting but not enough to really sell the device on their own. What really makes the Note 3 stand out is the device’s performance when multitasking, and taking on a workload in real-life situations. A lot of devices try and market themselves as ‘multitaskers’ though unless you are talking about a tablet, only the Note offers the screen-size to make multi-window support truly functional. With the Note 3 you can work with two window’s side-by-side, and work well I must add. Reading an article online and opening a link in a separate window just to verify a source or see a funny picture was truly a function that became useful immediately. All of that pales in comparison to the S Pen stylus of course.
The stylus is one of the trademark features of the Note 3, and almost all of the phone’s critical elements are designed to work well it (as well as without it). Air Command is an entirely new feature and one that warrants a lot of praise. You activate the feature just by pulling out the stylus, the phone recognizing that you will be using the pen and preparing itself before you even start. A small fan-window appears on the screen as the S Pen hovers above the screen. This will give you (Action Memo, Scrap Booker, Screen Write, S Finder, and Pen Window) to choose from. The best part is that it goes away in just a moment, so if launching those apps wasn’t your intention, you won’t be bothered by it. You can also bring the options back with just a click.
I mentioned earlier that the phone is functional in the office, and in more ways that I could rattle off in a review. Obviously the introduction of a stylus and a large screen will allow you take simple notes or jot-down a doodle or quick sketch, that is covered in folds with multiple apps and templates at your disposal. What is more impressive is Samsung’s grasp on handwriting recognition software, easily some of the best on the market for smartphones, and the Note 3 improves on the Notes 2’s capabilities.
I’ve read a lot of reviews on this subject and most editors state the same phrase, “I was faster typing on the keyboard than I was writing down my ideas with the S Pen”. A valid point, and I found I was faster too, but only with the S Pen could I write notes while not looking at the screen. I think that’s the real advantage, you of course need some practice so you’re not just making slashes and dots everywhere, but once I knew I had a handle on the matter, I was able to take notes and write-down ideas or quotes without looking away from the speaker, or form a friend that was explain something to me, and that is something I found to be very useful.
Away from the features and apps for a moment, it be a crime not to talk about the Note 3’s performance. The size of the Note series allows a lot of room for top-shelf hardware. Underneath the hood is a 2.3 GHz Quad Core processor, it easily handled every app I could throw at it. You should have more than enough headroom with the 32GB on board memory and ample 3GB RAM. If you need more room you can add a 64GB microSD card thanks to the added microSD slot.
It’s also a phone! It may be hard to remember at times while you’re watching the ‘IT Crowd’ on Netflix, but this device can actually still make calls and texts. Running on Verizon’s LTE network I had zero problems with my call quality, and supporting an 802.11a/c Wi-Fi connection, I could redline my home network in mere moments. The extra space that comes with a large device allows manufacturers a lot of breathing room to pick a substantial battery, and if you need a device that can burn the midnight oil, then the Note 3 might be the perfect choice. The Note 3 supports a 3,200mAh battery, it lasted about three days when I was using it for simple internet, texting and emails, and two-days when I was putting it through the ringer watching late-night ‘Archer’ episodes. Oh and should you need a new battery, this phone has one that’s replaceable.
Working with the Note 3 for a week or so I’ve decided that Samsung still rules the marketplace on the hybrid designed tablet-phone. The Note 2 was already a success, and when something is successful it should be improved and not redesigned if it doesn’t need it. The Samsung Note 3 offers marginal design aesthetics over the Note 2, but all of the improvements proved to be for the better in the long run. It’s easily the best large-screen option I’ve encountered to date, and although not everyone may be ready to convert to a larger option, if you are, the Note 3 should be the benchmark you judge the competition by.
more info on the device: verizonwireless
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