************** Expert Review ***************
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has probably had far less fanfare than the Galaxy S4. This is for good reason as no one was expecting even half the amount of innovation in the former as the latter, and honestly, with devices like the Sony Xperia Z Ultra and Samsung Galaxy Mega, how much bigger could these phablets possibly get? Now that the Galaxy Note 3 has finally released, Samsung has confirmed once more than it’s not about the size or the technology – it’s about what you do with it.
When the Galaxy Note first launched, many balked at the idea of such an oversized “smartphone”. Of course, 5 inches is now being considered as the bare minimum for most premium mobiles. Phablets have evolved into their own market, each device bringing its own set of features to fold. Does the Galaxy Note 3 do anything different and is it worth the commanding price which rivals even most upper mid-tier notebooks? And what is up with that optional Galaxy Gear smart watch?
One thing no one can fault Samsung for is trying to upgrade the overall look and feel of the series with the Galaxy Note 3. Though the front is very cleanly the same plastic we’ve come to know and love (or loathe, depending on the user), the back panel has been replaced with a stitched, faux-leather cover. This helps in gripping the device, all the more essential considering how difficult it’s been to control the device with one hand. It also helps avoid smudges and smears while reinforcing the build quality. The design is still in keeping with Samsung’s curvaceous approach. You’ll need to compare a Note 2 and Note 3 side-by-side to find any real difference between their aesthetics.
Another interesting comparison is how despite the larger screen size, the Note 2 and Note 3 actually occupy the same amount of space. This similarity in footprints is possible by increasing the screen real-estate of the Note 3. Is 5.7 inches really that big a change over 5.5 inches? Not as such, but this design helps keep the device manageable for those accustomed to handling the Note 2. Keep in mind that it’s still a two handed device, and you’ll be nudging the capacitative buttons more than you’d like if you attempt one-handed use.
Despite the stronger and weightier build, the Galaxy Note 3 actually weighs 168 grams and measures 0.33 inches. Compared to the Note 2’s 180 gram weight and 0.37 inch thickness, the Note 3 comes off as fairly sleek and more premium thanks to its materials.
Forget what you know about other devices: The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is arguably the fastest device yet. Yes, even faster than the Sony Xperia Z1 and LG G2. However – and you knew this was coming – it depends on which iteration you pick up. While the global release features a blazing 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 800 quad-core CPU, the Indian model comes with an Exynos 5 Octa 5420. This means a quad-core 1.9 GHz Cortex A15 for performance and a quad-core 1.3 GHz Cortex A7 for battery saving purposes. The Note 3 also has 32 to 64 GB internal storage, 3 GB of RAM and a microSD slot for up to 64 GB of RAM.
The performance, like the Galaxy S4, compares favourably to the most premium handsets currently available. While the Octa 5 model of the Note 3 may not be the fastest, you’ll still be amazed by the complete and utter lack of slowdown on the device. No matter if you’re gaming, or viewing tons of webpages or multi-tasking endlessly, nothing seems to faze the Note 3. Thankfully, it also has a lot more to back it up then just a lot of RAM.
The full HD display, taking advantage of Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology, measures 5.7 inches and looks as crisp, clear and blinding as you’d imagine. While it suffers from a tad too much saturation, the 386 ppi pixel density, amazing viewing angles and overall picture quality make it one of the best displays yet. Will it beat HTC’s SuperLCD3 technology any time soon? Perhaps not, but the difference in quality is nearly hair-thin at this point.
The Galaxy Note 3 features a 3200 mAh battery, which promises a fairly good 9.5 to 10 hours of heavy performance. This number may pale in comparison to Snapdragon 800 devices like the LG G2 and Moto X, both which can easily last upwards of 10 hours. But when you consider that it can easily go for more than a day, even two, with average usage – and neither of those devices have a stylus – it’s just fine.
If you’ve used the Galaxy S4, then you’re already aware of what to expect with the Note 3. Of course, the Octa 5 version has its fair share of differences from the global version, such as the lack of 4K recording (which is negligible considering the lack of 4K displays in living rooms across the country). Night Mode is gone, Golf and Surround Shot have been added, and Smart Stabilization is in but essentially functions as your night-recording option. Golf Shot is interesting because it is meant specifically for taking golf shots (so practice your swing), while Surround Shot is essentially Samsung’s version of Photosphere. It leaves a bit to be desired, especially in how it stitches images together. Overall, the colour quality of images is fairly good, especially in well-lit conditions.
However, it doesn’t quite compare to the Nokia Lumia 1020 and its optical image stabilization or 41 megapixel sensor. It will still accommodate all your picture taking needs however, with the reliable Best Shot, Eraser, Drama Shot, Animated Photo and full HD recording present and accounted for.
Of course, the Galaxy Note 3’s main claim to fame is the S-Pen and the features that Samsung has implemented this time around. Users should be happy to observe that removing the S-Pen now brings up a circular dial with options for Action Memo, S Finder, Scrap Booker and more. Action Memo lets you write down phone numbers and contacts, with the Note 3 automatically associating it with the required function; S Finder functions as an advanced search tool to help you locate notes, memos, and just about any smidgeon of information you might have shared over your usage time; while Scrap Booker lets you circle items, be they web-pages, images and such, and save them to your own personal scrap book. You can also use an interesting one-handed mode that shrinks pages down and allows you to access them without the need of both hands. This takes a bit of time to get used to, but is useful for those who want it. Why does it need a two handed gesture to activate? That is indeed the question.
Android 4.3 has its own uses but Samsung has decorated it with TouchWiz. The usual apps such as LifeCare, Samsung Hub and even the Note 8.0’s Reading Mode all make a return. You can use the S-Pen to tap the capacitative buttons, a welcome addition from the Note 8.0, but one of the bigger additions is My Magazine. Partnering with Flipboard, Samsung has introduced its own content aggregation screen which gathers news and articles from various sources. Unlike HTC’s BlinkFeed, you can gather your own feeds and pretty much decide which social channels and websites you want to receive information from. You can customize your own Personal channel to include videos, documents, email and much more, presented in an appealing format with animations.
Unlike BlinkFeed again, it’s not a permanent fixture of the interface – you swipe up or keep the Home button held down to access it. You can opt to make it a default starter page or access it quickly via shortcuts on the upper right of the display. Why you can’t add Facebook to your social feeds is a little odd, but chances are this will be addressed in an update sooner than later. Email notifications on the main home screen aren’t as great either, oddly enough, but with Android there’s always a way to fix this. More than anything, Samsung has proven that it has a handle over useful apps that actually benefit the device’s functionality.
The Galaxy Gear really requires a review of its own. In short, it’s nifty but probably won’t catch on as well as Samsung would like.
If the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 didn’t cost Rs. 47,900, then it would be an easy recommendation. Granted, other premium devices are in the same range and don’t feature half as much functionality as the Note 3 does, but that price point is still extremely discomforting. Nonetheless, if you’ve been looking for the definitive follow-up to the Note, you can rest assured that this is it. Whether it’s incredible performance, an eye-popping display, strong battery life or an excellent range of features, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is well worth it.