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Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a great display, a slim build and fast software, making it the clear leader of oversized smartphones

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a great display, a slim build and fast software, making it the clear leader of oversized smartphones.

Design & display

The Galaxy Note 3 has a "serration pattern" on the sides that give it a metallic look, and provide better grip. The soft, textured back cover is also a nice upgrade from the company's usual glossy, slippery plastic.

The faux-leather finish on the back is the clear highlight, even if the fake stitching around the edges won't be to everyone's taste. The grippy surface means it doesn't easily slip out of your hands, especially when holding the device single-handedly.

The back cover is still removable, so the Galaxy Note 3 once again has a replaceable battery and microSD card slot for extra storage.

Despite the slight increase in screen size, Samsung has actually managed to make the Galaxy Note 3 thinner (8.3mm) and lighter (168g) than the Galaxy Note II.

The Galaxy Note 3 has a micro-USB 3 connector on the bottom. The port is much wider than a regular micro-USB connection and means the Galaxy Note 3 will offer much faster file transfers if you have a USB 3.0 port on your PC or Mac.

The new port is backwards compatible with regular micro-USB cables, so there's no need to throw out all your old cables.

The Galaxy Note 3 has a 5.7in Super AMOLED display with a full HD resolution of 1920x1080. The screen is in line with the best on the market today, offering a bright and vivid image, excellent viewing angles and good sunlight legibility.

S Pen

The S Pen is now symmetrical. This means it can be stored back in the Galaxy Note 3 without having to sit the correct way up like the previous model.

The key software feature on the Galaxy Note 3 is Air Command, a circular menu that pops up every time you remove the S Pen from the phone, or when you hover the S Pen over the screen and press the command button on the pen.

From this Air Command menu, you can access four new S Pen features including Action Memos, Pen Window, S Finder and Scrapbook.

We found most of these typical Samsung gimmicks that you won't end up using very often, though the Action Memo feature is somewhat usable. It allows you to immediately handwrite a note and convert it into formatted content.

Screen Write, which immediately takes a screenshot and opens an editing tool to draw on it with the S Pen, and Scrap Booker, which allows you to draw an area over a variety of content and save in Samsung's Scrapbook application are moderately useful, but both attempt to provide solutions to problems that don't exist.

Pen Window is the biggest gimmick, requiring users to draw a box of any size on the screen, and open another app inside the window as an overlay on the current screen. The app inside the box often appears squashed and out of proportion.

Samsung's S Note app has upgraded from the Galaxy Note II and now synchronises with popular note taking application Evernote.

Samsung also pre-loads the Autodesk SketchBook for Galaxy app on the Note 3 for drawing, and it works well with the S Pen.

Software & performance

The basic interface of the Galaxy Note 3 is almost the same as the Galaxy S4.

The Galaxy Note 3 unfortunately carries over one of the Galaxy S4's most annoying "features" — not being able to edit the four home screen dock shortcuts.

Two of the most notable software features are multi-window and a new feature called "My Magazine".

Multi-Window allows you to run two apps on the screen simultaneously, though it only works with a selected range of apps.

"My Magazine" is basically a Flipboard-style news and content aggregator. It's accessible by swiping up from the bottom of the home screen, or by pressing the home button when on the home screen.

The Galaxy Note 3 is one of the fastest and most responsive Android phones we've ever used. General use, like swiping through home screens, opening apps, and using the camera, is also fast and efficient, though Samsung's Gallery app often lags.

Camera & battery life

The Galaxy Note 3 has a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, the same one used on the Galaxy S4. In our experience, it's one of the best cameras on any Android phone we've ever reviewed.

The weakest aspect of the Galaxy Note 3's camera is its performance in low light. In these situations, the iPhone 5s, the HTC One, and the Lumia 1020 take better quality photographs with far less image noise.

The Galaxy Note 3's camera can also record 4K video, as well as 1080p video at 60fps. 4K video is captured at a resolution of 3840x2160, with a 16:9 aspect ratio, though the lack of 4K devices to play this back on makes it a future proof feature more than anything else.

The sheer size of the Galaxy Note 3 allows Samsung to include a large 3200mAh battery and it doesn't disappoint. The device will easily power most users through a full day of use without needing a charge.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is available now in Jet Black and Classic White colour variants and is sold in Australia through Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile.


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