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.
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.
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.
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.
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