Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean

This super-fast device is Samsung's lightest and thinnest Note so far. While its design lets the Galaxy Note 3 down, the device is loaded with plenty of business features, and is great for multitasking and heavy workloads.
Powerful, very fast, lots of storage, bursting with features, decent cameras, useful S Pen
Mostly aesthetic: frustrating and clumsy Touchwiz user interface, ugly faux leather backplate, cheap-looking design
Overall Rating:
4 Star Rating: Recommended
Price: £619
Manufacturer: Samsung
Display: 5.7in Super AMOLED 1080x1920 resolution touchscreen
Processor: Quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 processor
Operating System: Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
Storage: 32GB or 64GB storage expandable via micro SD card
Camera: 13MP rear-facing and 2MP front-facing cameras
Connectivity: GSM/EDGE/HSPA+, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, micro USB port, headphone jack
Size: 151x79x8.3mm
Weight: 168g
Battery: Up to 11 hours of online use over 3G, up to 13 hours over WiFi


Samsung has somehow managed to increase the size of its flagship phone-tablet, or 'phablet', the Galaxy Note, with every annual iteration. It's hard to believe that the South Korean gadget maker could maintain this growth with each generation, especially considering the smartphone's already enormous size. But it does, and as a result, we find ourselves yet again faced with breaking away from our modestly sized smartphone to review a large phablet – in this case the Galaxy Note 3, which like all phablets requires more than one hand to use.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 overall
The Galaxy Note 3 held few specification surprises when Samsung launched it at IFA last month, thanks to the months of leaks ahead of its unveiling. It follows the success of the Galaxy Note 2, which managed to notch an impressive three million sales worldwide in just over a month after its release almost a year ago. It brings a few improvements, being lighter and thinner than its predecessor while it has an even larger 5.7in display.

Since the launch of the Note 3, Samsung has admitted to region locking the Note 3, so if you travel internationally (outside of Europe) and insert a local SIM card when in that country, you won't be able to use the local network - you will only be able to roam from the SIM card from your country of origin. Apparently, the Note 3 will lose all mobile connectivity with the exception of emergency calls if you try to use a local SIM.

Samsung said the decision to put a region SIM lock on the Note 3 is "to provide customers with the optimal mobile experience in each region including customer care services", though we we think it's more likely that the firm is looking to crack down on cheap imports.

Design and build

The one thing that Samsung probably should have changed when upgrading the Galaxy Note and releasing its third model was the material used. But, like the Galaxy Note 2, the device is still made of a cheap-feeling plastic material and, considering its price of £620, we were disappointed that Samsung didn't learn from its earlier mistake.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 back
This time Samsung added a faux leather backplate to the Galaxy Note 3, which makes the £600-plus phablet look not only like a budget device but ugly as well. But Samsung claims that this can be changed by buying a different backplate, which is sold separately.

One good thing about the plastic casing is that it makes the device really light and thin, weighing just 168g and measuring only 8.3mm thick, 15g lighter and 1.1mm thinner than the Galaxy Note 2's 9.4mm and 183g. On the top of the deivce is a headphone jack, on the left-hand side is the volume control and on the right is the power switch. Below the bottom of the screen is a physical Home button that sits between Back and Options buttons that work via haptic technology.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 top
Ergonomically, the Galaxy Note 3 just about fits in the hand, and considering its ridiculously large size it doesn't feel so big that use is restricted. People with larger hands will have an advantage when using the device, though, because they'll be able to reach more areas of the screen with their thumbs if using one hand, without having to stretch as far. Those with smaller hands will need to use both to operate the Galaxy Note 3.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 side view
As with the Galaxy Note 2, we still felt a bit silly holding the phone up to our head to chat, as it looks like you're talking into a tablet.
To help operation, Samsung has maintained the presence of an S Pen stylus, which is housed in the device on the right-hand side. The stylus has the same build as the phone, feeling cheap and plastic, but it is light and easy to hold.
Samsung has made the Galaxy Note 3 available in black, white and pink.

The Galaxy Note 3's 5.7in Super AMOLED display has seen a minor size increase of 0.2in, and like the Galaxy Note 2 it's great for watching high-resolution videos. In this case, bigger is better. Its size is great for jotting down quick notes in a meeting, for example, as you don't feel restricted. However, there's one thing we find really irritating about it, and that's how Samsung hasn't taken full advantage of the screen's real estate.

For some reason text appears huge on the Galaxy Note 3's screen, even when set to the smallest font size. This not only means that you'll have to scroll up and down more often, but we think it makes it appear less premium and more childish looking.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 display
Another aspect that frustrated us was how only four apps appear in a row on the home screen despite the Galaxy Note 3's full HD 1080x1920 resolution. They are be spaced too far apart and you will find yourself having to tap on the apps page to then scroll through those that don't fit on the home screen.

On the other hand, pixels are almost invisible when inspecting the display close up. This means watching movies on the Galaxy Note 2 is a delight, as they appear brilliantly crisp, and colour representation is excellent. The display is very bright and clear, and watching videos in full HD is very enjoyable. The 16:9 aspect ratio ensures that widescreen films are also great to watch.

Unlike Sony's recent flagship 5in smartphone, the Xperia Z1, viewing angles on the Galaxy Note 3 are very wide, which we liked.
It seems that Samsung has also fixed the issue seen on the Galaxy Note 2 where text occasionally appeared blurred when in the lock screen, as we encountered no such problem with the Galaxy Note 3.

The Galaxy Note 3's 13MP camera worked the same way as the camera on the Galaxy S4, only with a much bigger screen that makes taking photos a more pleasurable experience. Shots are vibrant, though nowhere near as vibrant as on the Nokia Lumia 1020, but they are detailed and are taken instantly when the shutter button is pressed. Everything works quickly on the Galaxy Note 3.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 camera
A downside to the Galaxy Note 3's camera is the lack of a physical shutter button, meaning that you have to press the on-screen camera icon to take a photo. However, with the Galaxy Note 3 being as big as it is, it probably would be too difficult to hold the device and press a physical shutter button anyway.

Despite this, we were pleased to see that the Galaxy Note 3 has a decent 2MP front-facing camera for video chat purposes, as many smartphones on the market have lower-quality VGA cameras on the front.
In the daytime, all camera features worked smoothly, were easy to use and generally offered brilliant results. Here's a shot of V3's Mike looking pleased with himself while hard at work in the office.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 camera image
There is also a good choice of camera shooting modes on the device, such as Best Photos, which takes multiple photos in a burst and allows you to select the best one. There are some strange ones too, such as Golf Swing, which detects when a golf club is being swung, and once you take a picture it lets you play it back in slow motion. Very niche indeed.

One particular favourite, however, is Beauty Face, which detects your face in a shot and air brushes it so you look like you've the skin of a baby's bottom.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 beauty selfie
All in all the camera fared well, taking some great quality shots, but it failed to blow us away.

Next: S Pen and operating system

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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

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