Hey gang, Valkor here. 2013 started out a little rough for TOV, but we're ending things on a much higher note, and I couldn't be happier for all the newcomers as well as the usual staples that've frequented the site. Speaking of the usual suspects, it would be a shame to leave 2013 behind without having one company pay a visit – I'm talking about the gang over at Samsung and Samsung Mobile. TOV got its start in product reviews with Samsung oh so many moons ago; and last year we finished out 2012 with the Galaxy Note II. And now as 2013 is nearly at an end, we bring you their lastest smartphone or phablet, the successor to the Galaxy Note 2 – the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.
From the outset, the Note 3 is more angular than the oval shape of the Note 2; it's more of a similar design to the Galaxy S4. The Note 3 measures in at 3.1" (W) x 0.3" (D) x 5.9" (H), weighing in at just under 6 oz (5.9oz to be precise) with a Super AMOLED display checking in at 5.7" and 1920 X 1080 resolution. The Note 3 is no different in terms of outer features than the previous phones; the main screen area starting from the top and to the left is your indicator light, earpiece, front-facing 2MP camera and a proximity sensor. At the bottom is your physical home button along with two touch screen buttons for "back" and "options". The rear of the device diverts from the typical plastic removable plate, in favor of a faux leather covering. And from the top you have your 13MP camera and at the bottom is the S Pen stylus. Around the sides, starting from the top is your headphones port and next to that is the IR LED sensor, on the left side is the volume control, to the right is the power/standby button and at the bottom is the speaker and micro USB port for charging/syncing the device.
Internally, the Note 3 runs on Android OS Jellybean 4.3 (the current OS update is Kitkat 4.4) powered by the latest Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.3GHz processor with 3GB of RAM and 32 GB storage and the graphics engine runs on Andreno 330 processor. Finally, to round out all the physical items, the Note 3 has a 3200 mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0/2.0 compatible and Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac ready.
The S Pen has always been the Note's biggest selling point, and with each iteration of the device the pen has improved. With the Note 2, I rarely used the S Pen for much of anything, so before I truly dove into the phone's features, I went straight for the pen to see what was revamped. From the jump, the new S Pen is thinner and lighter than its older brother; this version features a black tip as opposed to a white one. Once you sheath the pen, you're greeted with a radial dial with five options to choose from – Action Memo, Scrap booker, Screen Write, S Finder, and Pen Window.
Action Memo – allows you to create short memos with a little extra bite to it. For instance you can write down a phone number and set it to dial. Type in a website and set it to browse. It's perfect when you need to jot down something quick and rather than fumble with trying to say, dial a number, you can let the app do it for you.
Scrap Booker – Building your own virtual scrapbook just got a whole lot easier. You can snag any image from anywhere on your phone and build your own personal scrapbook (app included).
Screen Write – switching to this option, it'll do a screengrab of whatever is on display and from there you can jot down notes, doodles, whatever your creative heart desires.
S Finder – Does a universal search either on your phone or on the web, it can even look up symbols and solutions to formulas. Because you know… you never know when you'll need to find out what Ax + By = Cz is.
Pen Window – allows you to access a specific set of apps by simply drawing a window anywhere on the screen. A small window will appear allowing you to choose from different apps such as a messenger, contacts, browser, etc.
You can still perform Air View (either with the pen or with your finger), where you can hover the pen over a specific object to get more info from it such as an email, without having to open it. There are also other S Pen specific apps such as Sketchbook for Galaxy and Pen.Up (it's something like an artist social network).
The camera is the next big deal about the Note 3 and if you're familiar with the camera from the S4, then you're in good company. The Note 3's camera includes the same, robust features as the S4 including Sound and Shot, Surround Shot, Best Face and Panorama among others to bring out the best in your photos. But the kicker is the phone's ability to record in 4K 3840x2160 (16:9) resolution. It's sad I don't have a 4K TV to test out this feature… yet, but it's good to know that I'll have a camera ready for it. And hey you can still shoot in 1080p, so no love lost right?
With the Note 3, it's not just about the new stuff as you'll get some popular (or not so popular, depending on who you talk to) features such as Smart Scroll, Smart Pause, S Beam, Smart Stay, S Translator, and Group play among others. Again we've covered those features before and you can click on any link within this article to view them. But let's get down to business; after spending some quality time with the Note 3, is it worth the purchase price?
The short answer is an absolute yes, particularly if you're in line for an upgrade, then I'd say invest, especially if you're looking for a smartphone with a little class. The long answer, the Galaxy Note 3 is a beautiful phone with the perfect, professional design. You get a larger screen size yet a thinner and lighter chassis than the Note 2 and I have to say I totally dig Samsung replacing the backplate from plastic to faux leather; not only does it look great, the texture feels right plus it gives you a firmer grip on the phone. Moving on, sifting between apps, browsers, messages, etc., is swift and smooth as silk; that extra horsepower beneath the hood really gives Android's OS a nice kick, which helps especially if you're into gaming on your phone. I tested out Dead Trigger 2, Hello Hero, and a couple of other casual games and while there were some issues with heating, gameplay was solid and smooth. When it comes to display, Samsung does it right as their big screen phablet boast some beautiful colors with a sharp, crystal clear image that will make anything you do – from watching movies, taking/viewing pics, or reading an article, look damn good. The revamped S Pen and its tools might make a convert out of me yet; I can see myself getting the most use of out Action Memo more than any other app associated with the pen. Next up, the better the phone, the better the battery and with each new Samsung smartphone the battery always improves. With the Note 3, you can really go the distance without worrying about running for an outlet to recharge; I'd spend the day browsing, talking, emailing, messaging, facebook updating and by the end of the day I still have enough battery to get me home. The camera has always been topnotch in any Galaxy phone, and with the many tools at your disposal, you can be look like a professional without having to be one. So many features to choose from, ensures that you'll take the right photo on any given situation. The Galaxy Note 3 is thinner, lighter and way more versatile than the previous model and at the end of the day, Samsung has taken everything they've learned throughout the years and brought it all together to create one amazing smartphone.
My only gripe is the placement of the speaker; because it's at the very bottom of the device where I and most people like to hold when viewing media, audio can get muffled. I know, headphones, but when I'm home I can usually do without. And it's something I can get over.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is available now and while the price may be a bit steep, I think its well worth the investment for a very sensible, versatile, and professional looking phablet. Maybe if you've been good this year, Santa will have one for you this Christmas? And out of TOV 5 stars the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 gets a 5 star perfect.