Amidst accusations of benchmark cheating, which among others would likely overturn the pecking order in our epic comparisons and smackdowns, region-locking scandals and intensifying rumors of a Galaxy Note 3 “Active” variant with curved display being in the works, you might have actually missed the biggest event of the fall as far as the Android landscape is concerned.
It’s here at last
That’s right, the GNote 3 went up for sale… in a number of markets, with all the rest set to follow suit over the next couple of weeks or so. Stateside, the spectacular 5.7-inch phablet can be scored at the time of this writing via T-Mobile and AT&T (both on and off-contracts), while Sprint and Verizon continue to sit on the sidelines (not for long though).
With the rolling out of the first commercial units to everyday users, the reviews have started popping up all over the interwebs, including those of the tech-focused online publications we all read, love and/or respect.
So after months and months of waiting, speculating and waiting some more, it’s finally time to see whether Samsung has yet another hit on its hands or the first flop in… a while. Is the Note 3 in reality as spectacular as it looks on paper? Is it worth upgrading from the Note 2? How about from the Galaxy S4? And last but not least, how does it handle the increasing Sony and LG competition? Well, let’s see, shall we?
Quick side note: As the Exynos flavor of the Note 3 is bound to be once again limited to a small number of markets, we’ve only taken into consideration reviews of the Qualcomm model, packing a quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU.
- Samsung’s designing team has worked its “voodoo magic” splendidly once again, managing to fit the 5.7-inch Note 3 into a more compact body than the 5.5-inch Note 2;
- The display looks great, with bright and vibrant colors, brightness and contracts that make images “pop” and wide viewing angles;
- There’s a bevy of Samsung-specific apps that add to the overall productivity of the device, squeezing every drop of S Pen functionality and making the user feel special;
- The overall performance “has to be applauded”, even if you ignore the cold, raw numbers of benchmark tests (wink, wink).
- An overly saturated screen at times;
- Some of the software perks don’t add real value or simply don’t work as advertised, making the system a little bloated;
- Disappointing speaker quality;
- Slightly overpriced.
Bottom line: This is Samsung’s best Note yet and “if you’re thinking about making the step up, we say get it while it’s hot”.
- Raw power isn’t everything, but there’s plenty of raw power here;
- In spite of the vibrant display and always power-demanding CPU and GPU, the battery can likely last for 48 hours or more for most day-to-day users;
- Though still plasticky, it has a much more premium and comfortable overall look and feel;
- Improved S Pen productivity and oodles of software optimizations, tweaks and perks.
- It may be compact, but it continues to be uncomfortably large for some, especially due to a “squarer, less ergonomic shape”;
- The TouchWiz UI is bloated, gimmicky and often downright annoying;
- The bright and colorful screen is inferior to those on the LG G2 or HTC One.
Verdict: Samsung’s opponents in the phablet arena are still forced to play catch up to the Galaxy Note, even if the spanking new 5.7-incher doesn’t “reinvent the wheel”.
- Ultra-compact body and much more elegant and sophisticated overall look compared to predecessors;
- Gorgeous screen that really makes use of both the extra real estate and Full HD resolution;
- Wickedly fast and extremely capable 13 MP rear-facing camera;
- Excellent call quality, with no distortions whatsoever;
- 15-hour battery in continuous HD video playing.
- Too expensive, going for $300 with most two-year American contracts;
- It still feels cheap, as the back cover remains plasticky and fragile, despite not looking the part anymore;
- It’s compact… for a phablet, but otherwise it’s huge and hard to handle.
Conclusion: Third time’s the charm for Samsung’s Galaxy Note family, which finally reaches maturity, although it can’t yet break into the mainstream as, say, the Galaxy S line.
- More advanced and deeper S Pen integration, with improved accessibility and productivity;
- Marvelous display, especially when pitted against GNote 2’s screen;
- It’s not for everyone, but TouchWiz has plenty of neat tricks up its sleeve;
- Explosive battery, capable of running for a full 24 hours in heavy usage and close to two days in “normal usage”.
- Despite not being technically overpriced in that it’s worth every penny you cough up for it, its on-contract $300 price tag is borderline insane;
- Sub-par built-in mono loudspeaker, even if it produces clear tones and no significant distortions;
- Gimmicks, gimmicks and more gimmicks, as unique features like Air View and Gestures are not sufficiently well executed to be fully productive and useful.
First of all, I know. Four reviews may not seem like a representative sample of what the whole internet thinks about the Galaxy Note 3. But they come from websites that are as reliable as they are diverse, so, with a few minor exceptions, you can bet your asses everyone out and about will come to the same conclusions as these four guys.
What are the conclusions? In a nutshell, that the Note 3 improves greatly on the legacy of its forefathers and fits the profile of the most qualified candidate for the title of best phablet large phone this year.
Is it groundbreaking? Hardly. Is it worth the upgrade from the Note 2 or S4? Most definitely. Will it be left in the dust in a matter of six or nine months? Probably. But that’s how mobile technology works nowadays.