Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Impressions: Quick and Dirty Edition

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Samsung’s latest phablet, the Galaxy Note 3, has more or less released to the world this week, and so far it’s proving to be a gadget-lover’s dream device. The super-sized screen (5.7″ 1080p) and new chassis design (metal band inlay) give it a solid feel and bold presentation, and while it still doesn’t feel as well crafted as the iPhone 5S; Samsung has done its due diligence to make it feel structurally sound. It’s massive size may put off smartphone users with smaller hands, but it’s still the ultimate phone meets tablet hybrid on the market today. Besides, Samsung has implemented one handed user modes to alleviate the size-to-hand ratio issue, so don’t write it off just because it looks like a small TV.

A full review with pics and video will be provided within the next two weeks, but in the mean time we still wanted to provide a quick and dirty list of impressions after spending a little over 24 hours with the device. In short, it’s pretty amazing and full of robust features, and it’s well worth the investment for users wanting more screen real estate on their smartphone.

Hardware

  • 5.7″ Super HD AMOLED touch screen
  • 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor
  • 13.0MP rear-facing camera
  • 4.5 ounces total weight
  • 3GB RAM
  • S Pen

Based on the list above it’s hard not to see that the Note 3 is a beast when it comes to hardware. The snappy CPU combined with the hefty RAM allotment make executing functions on the phone a breeze. Multi-tasking is accomplished without a hitch, navigating the various home screens and apps is fluid, and launching CPU heavy apps like high-end video games happen at break neck speeds.

The camera is also packed full of features and speed thanks to the beefy guts of the Note 3. The amount of features and customizations in the camera app is staggering, not to mention the fact that this bad boy device can record 4K video and take ultra-high resolution photos like a champ. The clarity in recorded video is frighteningly clear in the 60 FPS mode, which produces video quality and speed that matches real life.

For as large as the phone itself is it’s still quite comfortable to hold and use, and also store in a pocket. The larger size allows for super fast keyboard inputs thanks to the ability to use both thumbs, which almost creates a standard keyboard feel as if you were typing on a traditional PC. At only 4.5 ounces the Note 3 feels light as a feather and will not fatigue your wrists or hands while using it for extended sessions.

The included S Pen is also a great input tool for navigating the device, taking digital notes, or even expressing your artistic side via the plethora of drawing apps that it can be used with. The thought of using a stylus may sound archaic, but thanks to some of the built-in software the S Pen is definitely a welcome edition for hardcore mobile device users.

One would think that all of the power under the hood of the Note 3 would kill its battery, but so far that hasn’t been the case. In testing the phone can be used for hours at a time and still make it through an entire day without a charge. During our initial phase of toying around the phone was on almost constantly and still had 10% power left at 4AM after being off its charger since 10AM the previous day.

Software

  • Android 4.3
  • Samsung TouchWiz

If you haven’t used the Android OS for the past two years then you’ll be in for a nice surprise with 4.3, aka Jelly Bean. The OS is packed full of useful features making it one of the best iterations of Google’s OS to date. When used with the Note 3’s impressive internal hardware it makes navigating the phone’s menus, apps, and feature sets a breeze. The settings menu is still quite crowded, but to be expected on an open source OS that allows deep customization to nearly every setting on the device.

Samsung overlays its TouchWiz UI on top of the stock Android OS, and while purists may dislike this practice; it does offer some great functionality that will make your gadget loving friends jealous. The most notable features are rooted in the S Pen and its software. Some of the more impressive abilities revolving around this pairing include annotated screenshots, active memos, scrapbooks, search utility, and the pen window.

The most impressive of those features are the active memos and the pen window. Active memos allow you to capture handwritten text and transform it into digital information. You can scribble down someone’s name and number and then have the active memo transformed into a new contact entry in your address book, and that’s just scratching the surface of active memo’s feature set. The pen window on the other hand allows you to open a select set of apps on top of any other running apps or your active screen. For example, if you need to do some quick number crunching you can draw a pen window, select the calculator app, and then use it regardless of what app or screen your on. It can then be minimized and stored in a section of the large than life screen for later use.

For multi-tasking gurus the Note 3 offers the best options for using multiple apps at once. With the multi-app feature enabled you can effectively launch two apps running in the same window. One runs in the top part of the screen, while the other runs in the bottom. If two apps at a time are’t enough you can also launch multiple apps in both the top and bottom windows, which can then be cycled through in a tabbed browsing format. Depending on what apps you have open you can also drag and drop content from each window to use in the next. Simply put it’s a multi-taskers dream come true.

Final Thoughts

Samsung has seemingly hit another home run in the phablet market. The Note 3’s extra large size may not be for everyone, but for users looking for a tablet inspired phone there’s really no better offering on the market today. The impressive hardware specs keep the Note 3 humming along no matter what gets thrown at it, which is surprising considering how robust some of the Android 4.3 and TouchWiz features can be. While this isn’t our firm and final review, at this point we’d still be comfortable recommending the Note 3 to anyone looking for a change in their smartphone-centric life.

Make sure to check out the snappy Samsung Galaxy Note 3 unboxing video after the break!

 

 

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