When I first read about the Samsung Galaxy Note I scoffed at the idea of such a large phone but that was until I spent some time with one and eventually I bought a Note and used it as my main phone and only stopped using it when I got my Nexus 4 earlier this year. Since I was using my Note Samsung have release the Note 2 and the Note 3 and it’s the Note 3 that I am reviewing in this video.
First the specs: The screen is a 5.7 inch Super AMOLED display running at 1920×1080 which I have to say is extremely clear. It’s a very impressive screen which personally is my favourite feature of the phone, I know it has many other features but I really like the screen. If you need to put on glasses when using the phone you may not need to with this device as it is so clear. In the 3G edition there is a 1.9Ghz Octa core processor and in the LTE version there is a 2.3GHz Quad core chip. The processors have plenty of power and there is no sign of any lag on the phone which the Galalxy Note was a little prone to.
Samsung have put a 13 mega pixel camera in the phone with a 2MP front camera. The camera is pretty impressive and can shoot 60fps video and there is a ton of camera options, but more on that when we look at the software. There is NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, a microSD card slot and it has a USB 3 port on it which means you should be able to transfer data to and from the phone much faster when you use it with a USB3 PC. A standard USB 2 cable will still work but USB 3 will come in very handy transferring videos of the phone.
There is also an IR Port built into it so you can control IR devices with the phone, this works with an IR app which will control TVs and set top boxes, I configured it to control two different TVs and my Sky+ box. While I think you can’t beat a traditional remote it is a nice feature and works very well.
Despite the big screen size the phone its self doesn’t really feel that big, its 8.3mm thick and weights 168 grams. It comes with a case built in to the phone and by the time I have added a slip case to my Nexus 4 there is not much difference between the Note 3 with its built in case. So the phone doesn’t feel that much bigger than the Nexus 4 when in my pocket.
One of the main features of the Note is the pen and the Note 3 comes with a pen that slides out from the device and can be used for handwriting notes, controlling the phone and there is a hover mode called Air Command where you can quickly launch tasks. The pen is handy for writing notes but I have to admit I hardly ever used the pen with my original note.
Samsung pack the phone with extra features over standard Android (the phone comes with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean) and the Note 3 is really packed, whether it’s a good thing is dependent on what feature you find useful. There is multi-window mode where you can have apps running side by side and they are launched by a sidebar app launcher. The big screen means running apps side by side a good option, so you can have gmail open in the lower part of the screen and Youtube in the top part or any combination of apps. They do have to be multi-window enabled and not all apps support it, some of the Google apps do as do some of the Samsung apps.
There is a nice app called My Magazine which looks like a re-branded version of Flipboard which is one of my favourite apps, you swipe up to launch it and can personalise the content. Other apps are KNOX which is a secure digital locker, Story Album, S Voice , S translator and Samsung’s own app and media store.
The camera app has a mode for every eventuality, there are sports modes, surround modes, panorama, golf modes, drama and many, many more. You could say there are too many modes and it can be confusing. Some are more useful like the Best Face mode which will helps put together group shots by picking the best face of each person and Auto mode which does all the work for you. Some like Beauty face are a bit odd, it stretches the face, enlarges the eyes and applies softening to the image which give it a bit of an strange look.
There are also a lot of “modes” to play with, Reading mode, blocking mode, hands-free mode and there are some handy features like screen mirroring via DLNA and Air gestures where can wave you hand over the phone to control it.
Personally I prefer the stock Android experience and find some of the apps a bit gimmicky but Samsung certainly throw plenty of features in. If you want a phone with a handwriting features then this is a great device (the only one with a pen as far as I know). It is also a great device even if you don’t care about the pen, the screen is really good and I would recommend the Note 3 just for the screen. As I said before the built in case makes stops it from being too bulky. Out of all the devices in the Galaxy range this is my favourite.
The 16GB Samsung Galaxy Note 3 cost £516 for the unlocked version which makes it considerably more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy S4 at £388 on Amazon.
In this video I take a look at the hardware and some of the software features that Samsung pack into the phone.