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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean

This super-fast device is Samsung's lightest and thinnest Note so far. While its design lets the Galaxy Note 3 down, the device is loaded with plenty of business features, and is great for multitasking and heavy workloads.


Powerful, very fast, lots of storage, bursting with features, decent cameras, useful S Pen


Mostly aesthetic: frustrating and clumsy Touchwiz user interface, ugly faux leather backplate, cheap-looking design

Overall Rating:

4 Star Rating: Recommended

Price: £619

Manufacturer: Samsung

Samsung has somehow managed to increase the size of its flagship phone-tablet, or 'phablet', the Galaxy Note, with every annual iteration. It's hard to believe that the South Korean gadget maker could maintain this growth with each generation, especially considering the smartphone's already enormous size. But it does, and as a result, we find ourselves yet again faced with breaking away from our modestly sized smartphone to review a large phablet – in this case the Galaxy Note 3, which like all phablets requires more than one hand to use.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 overall

The Galaxy Note 3 held few specification surprises when Samsung launched it at IFA last month, thanks to the months of leaks ahead of its unveiling. It follows the success of the Galaxy Note 2, which managed to notch an impressive three million sales worldwide in just over a month after its release almost a year ago. It brings a few improvements, being lighter and thinner than its predecessor while it has an even larger 5.7in display.

Since the launch of the Note 3, Samsung has admitted to region locking the Note 3, so if you travel internationally (outside of Europe) and insert a local SIM card when in that country, you won't be able to use the local network - you will only be able to roam from the SIM card from your country of origin. Apparently, the Note 3 will lose all mobile connectivity with the exception of emergency calls if you try to use a local SIM.

Samsung said the decision to put a region SIM lock on the Note 3 is "to provide customers with the optimal mobile experience in each region including customer care services", though we we think it's more likely that the firm is looking to crack down on cheap imports.

Design and build
The one thing that Samsung probably should have changed when upgrading the Galaxy Note and releasing its third model was the material used. But, like the Galaxy Note 2, the device is still made of a cheap-feeling plastic material and, considering its price of £620, we were disappointed that Samsung didn't learn from its earlier mistake.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 back

This time Samsung added a faux leather backplate to the Galaxy Note 3, which makes the £600-plus phablet look not only like a budget device but ugly as well. But Samsung claims that this can be changed by buying a different backplate, which is sold separately.

One good thing about the plastic casing is that it makes the device really light and thin, weighing just 168g and measuring only 8.3mm thick, 15g lighter and 1.1mm thinner than the Galaxy Note 2's 9.4mm and 183g. On the top of the deivce is a headphone jack, on the left-hand side is the volume control and on the right is the power switch. Below the bottom of the screen is a physical Home button that sits between Back and Options buttons that work via haptic technology.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 top

Ergonomically, the Galaxy Note 3 just about fits in the hand, and considering its ridiculously large size it doesn't feel so big that use is restricted. People with larger hands will have an advantage when using the device, though, because they'll be able to reach more areas of the screen with their thumbs if using one hand, without having to stretch as far. Those with smaller hands will need to use both to operate the Galaxy Note 3.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 side view

As with the Galaxy Note 2, we still felt a bit silly holding the phone up to our head to chat, as it looks like you're talking into a tablet.

To help operation, Samsung has maintained the presence of an S Pen stylus, which is housed in the device on the right-hand side. The stylus has the same build as the phone, feeling cheap and plastic, but it is light and easy to hold.

Samsung has made the Galaxy Note 3 available in black, white and pink.

Next: Display and camera

Display: 5.7in Super AMOLED 1080x1920 resolution touchscreen
Processor: Quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 processor
Operating System: Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
Storage: 32GB or 64GB storage expandable via micro SD card
Camera: 13MP rear-facing and 2MP front-facing cameras
Connectivity: GSM/EDGE/HSPA+, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, micro USB port, headphone jack
Size: 151x79x8.3mm
Weight: 168g
Battery: Up to 11 hours of online use over 3G, up to 13 hours over WiFi

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Lee Bell

Lee joined as a reporter on The INQUIRER in April 2012.

Prior to working at The INQUIRER, Lee was sponsored by the NCTJ to do a multimedia journalism course in London. After completing placements at local magazines and newspapers in both print and online he wrote for an online gaming news website, and it was here where his love for technology grew.

Lee's main coverage areas include processors, internet security, PCs, laptops and tablet news and reviews.

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