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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review Roundup: Trendsetter or Trend Follower? Or Maybe Both…

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.

galaxy-note-3

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.

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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.

Engadget

The good:

  • 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).

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The bad:

  • 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.

galaxy-note-3-5

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”.

The Verge

Pros:

  • 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.

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Cons:

  • 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.

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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”.

CNet

Solid points:

  • 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Weak points:

  • 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.

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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.

Phone Arena

The good:

  • 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”.

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The bad:

  • 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.

galaxy-note-3-10

Final wrap-up

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.

Motorola Moto X Review Roundup

A lot of (virtual) ink is currently being spilled by the online media in regards to the Motorola Moto X, the newly unveiled smartphone that some consider to be the start of a new era for Android, while others, and I quote, “the underwhelming cure that Apple may have been looking for”.

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As usual, I like to take the cautious route when talking about a device that I’ve yet to handle or personally make the acquaintance of. In theory, I don’t think the Moto X has what it takes to challenge the Android big guys of today and tomorrow.

But just to be on the safe side and make sure I come off as objective as I’d like, I’ll give the floor to people who’ve actually gotten to test the thing out. Namely, people from reputable online publications such as Engadget, CNet or The Verge.

They’ve thoroughly reviewed the Moto X, and, because I know very well time is of the essence for most of you, here are their conclusions and impressions in short:

Engadget

The good:

  • Stellar battery life (over 11 hours of continuous use in video reproduction test and probably more than 24 hours in real-life);
  • Silky smooth software, sans a lot of pre-loaded junk, but with plenty of killer Android features like Active Display;
  • Excellently optimized hardware to take advantage of software features such as Active Display, Quick Capture or Touchless Control;
  • Solid overall performance, in spite of the custom processor’s running of just two cores (18,000 AnTuTu score, close to 9,000 points in Quadrant, roughly 2,500 in Vellamo).

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The bad:

  • Price is too damn high ($200 with two-year contracts);
  • Moto Maker restricted only to AT&T version for starters;
  • Obvious speed disadvantage compared with similarly priced phones like Samsung’s Galaxy S4 or the HTC One, not to mention the expected oomph of the upcoming LG G2 or Galaxy Note 3.

Motorola_Moto_X_colors

Bottom line: “It’s the smartest smart object” around, but it can’t compete with devices rocking higher-res displays and faster processors. Not when it doesn’t offer customization options to all its potential buyers.

Cnet

Pros:

  • Well-crafted design, with softly rounded curves, Kevlar backing and a screen that’s decently sized, but not colossal;
  • Surprisingly capable 10 MP rear camera, both indoor and outdoor, in direct sunlight or in more challenging lighting conditions;
  • Close to stock Jelly Bean interface, but with neat added goodies like voice command capabilities;
  • Endless variety of customized designs;
  • Solid battery life: 10 hours and 9 minutes of continuous use when playing HD movies (more than the HTC One and just 20 minutes less than the Galaxy S4).

Moto-X-camera

Cons:

  • Fast enough for a dual-core device, but not screaming fast: 8,500 points in Quadrant, roughly 3,500 less than the HTC One and down almost 3,000 points compared with the GS4;
  • No expandable storage;
  • The 720p OLED display, while crisp and vivid, is not as sharp as Full HD screens used by Samsung or HTC on their latest flagships.

MotoX

Verdict: It’s a definite contender, especially in respect to design, battery and software, but it’s obviously short of perfection.

The Verge

Strong points:

  • Moto X’s build quality is great, despite not rocking a metal chassis, and is as good-looking as it is comfortable to hold and use;
  • It’s one of the first ever “clean” Android devices that will hit all major US carriers in that form;
  • Aside from being pure and neat, the software includes enough exclusive features and functions to make the users feel special for choosing it;
  • Day to day performance in gaming, multimedia or browsing shouldn’t be a problem, in spite of the using of mostly mid-range specs;
  • It ran for more than 7 hours on a single charge in the website’s traditional battery test, which puts it clearly ahead of the HTC One and Galaxy S4 and it also lasted 15 hours of heavy real-life use.

Moto-X-marketing

Weak points:

  • A middling 720p screen with over-saturated colors makes the Moto X look far from premium in this particular department.
  • Despite being zippy and delivering crisp pics in no time, the phone’s “Clear Pixel” shooter suffers from severe post-processing issues;
  • It feels underwhelming compared with direct opponents in its price range, lacking a certain “wow” factor.

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Bottom line: “It’s not a perfect phone, but it’s pretty damn good”. The design and customization are what really make it stand out from the crowd, though they still don’t make it any better than the GS4 or HTC One.

SlashGear

The good:

  • It’s sturdy, solid and, while it doesn’t breath elegance from each pore, it sits somewhere in the middle of the whole “metal or plastic” controversy, with build materials that don’t feel cheap in any way;
  • More hand-friendly than the norm in terms of size;
  • Runs almost pure Android, but it’s the “thoughtful” tweaks and special features that actually make it better;
  •  The battery lasted for over 21 hours of “typical use”.

moto-x-wood

The bad:

  • The camera, while overall pretty capable, has a couple of subtle flaws;
  • It’s pricey;
  • The speaker is often loud and suffers from distortions.

Moto Maker

Verdict: The Moto X “deserves a chance to convince”, being in almost every way as impressive as its rivals, even if on paper that may not seem the case.

Final wrap-up

Four reviews are hardly enough to convince me the Moto X is this way or that way, worth its money or not, but a few things seem clear-cut nevertheless.

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A. The battery life is stellar, B. The Moto X sports an award-winning design, even sans all the color options and so on, and C. If it would get a price cut tomorrow, it should skyrocket to the top of each and every one of your shopping lists. The rest is still up for discussion.