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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review

 Review: October 2013  

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: A monster screen and monster specs make the Galaxy Note 3 perfect for power users. The ugly fake leather on the back and its sheer bulk must count against it, but overall it scores 4.5 out of 5.

Today's best buy: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 32GB from Laptops Direct (£109.97)


Superphone, super-sized!

Each year the new version of the Galaxy Note pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a smartphone. This year's model - the Note III - has a slightly bigger screen than the Note 2, at 5.8 inches, but more excitingly it's a full HD 1080p screen instead of 720p. This means that the screen is capable of displaying 1080p video in its native format, and makes even tiny text and graphical details pin-sharp. Being one of Samsung's Super AMOLED displays, it's very bright and vibrant with the kinds of colours that will brighten even the dullest day.

Despite the slightly increased screen size, Samsung has managed to shave a couple of millimetres off the surrounding bezel, meaning that the Note 3 is no larger than the Note 2 and is a millimetre thinner. It doesn't really feel thin though. It feels bulky. We much prefer the feel of the Sony Xperia Z Ultra, even though that has an even larger screen and is heavier. The Note 3 can just about be operated single-handedly, if you have big hands, but it's easier to hold it with one hand and use the other hand to operate it.

The Note 3 is made from plastic, but it has a solid metal frame that provides strength and rigidity and the back is made of a durable, synthetic leather (plastic) that adds a lot of protection and some grip. We'd be pushed to describe the phone as a great looker, though. It's practical and serviceable rather than fashionable. It's available in a choice of Black, White or Pink.

Controls on the Note 3 are conventional, with power and volume buttons along the edge and a physical home key below the screen. Virtual touch-sensitive buttons are positioned to the left and right of this. The Note 3 also comes with a stylus, or S Pen (more on this later.)

Super-spec inside

A phone with a screen this big is just crying out for the fastest processor you can throw at it. Samsung heard those cries and responded a turbocharged 2.3GHz quad-core processor that makes the Note 3 as  fast as any other Android device out there.

It also comes with a bountiful 32GB of onboard memory (a 64GB version is also available) and you can add a microSD card up to 64GB, giving an absolutely huge amount of storage capacity.

User interface

The Note 3 runs Android Jelly Bean 4.3 layered with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface. It has full support for multitasking to take advantage of that huge screen.

One of the features that makes the Galaxy Note series special is the inclusion of the S-Pen digital stylus. The S-Pen is pressure-sensitive, so it can tell how hard you're pressing. It also has a clickable button that gives additional functionality. This new version of the S-Pen includes an Air Command feature, where you hover the pen over the screen and click its embedded button to access a range of instant shortcuts.

The Note 3 includes special apps optimised for the S-Pen, including a calendar-based organiser called S-Planner. The S-Pen can be used for making handwritten notes during a meeting or lecture, and the device can convert your handwriting into text, even recognising mathematical symbols and formulae. But we think that the greatest use of the S-Pen is probably in day to day tasks that could be done with the finger, but are actually just easier with the S-Pen. Navigating menus, tapping at the keyboard, moving around documents - if you use your Note seriously as a productivity tool, then the S-Pen certainly adds to the experience.

Dual cameras

You can't be a superphone these days without a super camera, so Samsung has upgraded the performance of the Note 3's camera compared with its predecessor. The main rear-facing camera uses an impressive 13 megapixel BSI sensor that captures plenty of detail and performs well even in low lighting. It also has a power LED flash and plenty of camera gadgets like panorama, beauty face, best face, etc that we've come to expect. It can record video at 1080p resolution, including a slow-motion option, but only for 720p definition.

The front camera has a 2 megapixel sensor, making it 1080p capable, and you can use it for video chatting or in dual camera mode if you want to include yourself in a photo.

The overall performance of the cameras is very similar to the Samsung Galaxy S4 - in other words, excellent.


The Note 3 is fully connected, with 4G, HSPA@ and GSM coverage. Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0 and USB are present, in addition to NFC, DLNA and MHL support.

You'll find a huge array of sensors on board too. As well as the usual accelerometer, proximity, gyro and light sensors, there's also temperature, barometer and humidity sensors.

Extended battery life

The Note 3 sees a very slightly increased battery size - up to 3,200mAh. This is absolutely the biggest battery we've seen in a smartphone, which is of course just what the Note 3 needs. This will deliver around 12 hours of continuous usage, which in the real world means that you'll easily get through a whole day of intensive use.

Conclusion - a lot of phone for your money!

This review has seriously over-used the words "big", "huge" and "monster". The Galaxy Note 3 isn't for everyone. You'll need big pockets, or better still a bag, and if you have large hands that will help too. It's not a cheap phone either, but it's cheaper than some rival smartphones, which is surprising when you consider what you get for the money.

You have to experience a phone this big and powerful to really appreciate what it can do for you. It's perfect for games, movies, web browsing, organising your life and work and a thousand other things too. Can it change your life? Perhaps.

We'd definitely choose the Note 3 over the Note 2, despite the fact that the price of the Note 2 has dropped since it was released a year ago. The Note series is all about maximum productivity and capability and the Note 3 delivers that in bucketloads. It really is the ultimate smartphone in terms of its raw specs, and it follows through with a well thought out user interface and handy S-Pen. The fake leather effect on the back is a bit yucky and the sheer bulkiness and weight of the thing must score against it, but overall we'd rate it at 4.5 out of 5. Rounding up, that gives the Note 3 five stars. Yay!

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 features include:

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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 user reviews

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Average rating from 19 reviews:

Reviewed by Shalini from India on 17th Dec 2014
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is offering something unique and really a compelling device. Samsung again has proved its innovation capability and impresses consumers with awesome device in the market.I bought this after checking all features at Samsung India site and now I love this phone.

Reviewed by roger.stark from israel. on 1st Oct 2014
had note 2 for year. really nice phone. i was offered note 3 very cheap. what a really good phone. easy to use.
a.very.good.phone. no.problems.at.all. five.stars

Reviewed by Elias Magere from Tanzania on 3rd Sep 2014
Is my first time to use Samsung galaxy note 3, When I wanted to buy a new phone I asked for the best one and the seller show me Samsung galaxy note 3, it is the early August, 2014 I pay for it and now realising that it I'd the best ever, I like because just tray it you will love it, thanks.

Reviewed by Pedro Ramos from Portugal on 19th Jun 2014
It's the best smartphone on the market. Fast, useful, well built and with a battery lifetime that allows to make an intensive use of the phone, and be able to have it operational the entire day. I love this phone and I'll only replace it when it's obsolete... of course, for a Galaxy Note 6 or 7...

Reviewed by Mr Ed from NZ on 19th Feb 2014
It has the WOW FACTOR.....

Reviewed by John from UK on 2nd Feb 2014
Without a doubt the best phone I've ever owned. It does feel stupidly big for the first hour or so of use but you soon get used to it and every other phone seems tiny in comparison. Super-fast - no lagging, ultra-responsive and the best battery life I've ever experienced in a smartphone. This one's a keeper. Well worth investing in an official flip case to protect the screen and rid yourself of the slightly naff leather effect back cover.

Reviewed by bobby from uk on 8th Jan 2014
ive had the note 3 now for a couple of months and to sum it up in one word, "wow". ive upgraded from an s3 which was an excellent phone itself. the note 3 is big but it is just the right size, any bigger and you'll struggle with it in jeans pockets. the screen is crystal clear and there is no lag on any apps on my phone at all. if you like using a mobile for everything in your daily life then you will love the note 3, if you get a cover for it the best one is the samsung s view cover,it works great with the phone and you can take calls without opening the cover at all. samsung will have to come up with something pretty special to top this device. all in all it must be the best mobile device out today. great screen, excellent battery life and quick at anything you throw at it.

Reviewed by Marsha from USA on 5th Jan 2014
The note 3 is so much better than the note 2. It has made life better from the dictionary to reaching loved ones without trouble. We love the big screen and the back of it being leather. We keep figuring new things about it as we use it. Thank you Samsung.

Reviewed by Andy from UK on 23rd Dec 2013
Had this phone now for a week or so and as I'm upgrading from the Note 2 I pretty much know my was around the Note 3 already. Its a great upgrade, one which I said I wouldn't do as the Note 2 was so good, but its definitely worth it. The screen is amazing and the speed of it is a breeze to work with, the new S-Pen features are great once you start using them and the camera is very good also.
One thing I noticed in the review from S21 was "The fake leather effect on the back is a bit yucky and the sheer bulkiness and weight of the thing must score against it, but overall we'd rate it at 4.5 out of 5" ..... well first the fake leather back is less slippery than the Note 2 and the phone it self is thinner, slightly smaller and lighter than the Note 2, for me this can only be better, but the Note 2 is no slouch either.
Very happy with my purchase and there is lots of competition out there at the minute, so well done Samsung!

Reviewed by OILTEC from Fordingbridge, UK on 14th Dec 2013
Best mobile on the market to date, Pros, screen big and bright, battery 2days use no problem,easy to use, ultra fast loading, custom cases ect ect, cons none so far after 2 months of use. i have used the Sony Xperia Z1for a week and what a disappointment, cons, dull screen, not as easy to navigate than the note 3,just a days battery life, very slow charge time, pros, great camera.

Reply by Cris from Uk on 21st Dec 2013
I'm thinking of getting one. What colour did you go for?

Reviewed by shaz66 from England on 2nd Dec 2013
Had iPhone for the last 4 years never thought I could possibly move from it to android, but time the has come to upgrade and although the 5s looks gud it just didn't offer enough for me. So time to change & really pleased I did Note 3 amazing takes a little time getting to know the ins & outs & still not there but really enjoying the experience. Really cannot c me going back to apple anytime in the near future

Reply by S.Rogers from England on 14th Dec 2013
I've done exactly the same, had iPhone since 2008 & never ever thought I'd go to the dark side! I hated the note 3 at first but after a little while (after comparing it to iPhone) I absolutely love it!!!

Reviewed by Arun from KSA on 29th Nov 2013
@S21, the ugly fake leather comment was little harsh. Is it your whole team's opinion or one reviewer's immature view? It is fake, but ugly or not is totally up to each individual. For me, I find it good looking and this new back cover make it looks much better than its predecessor's plastic looks. I wish it was real leather though.

Reply by S21 from UK on 30th Nov 2013
Arun, thanks for your review, but we must warn you that everyone in our team is immature! And of course all of our reviews are just opinions.

Reviewed by Tony from UK on 18th Nov 2013
Got this phone after using the S4, All i can say is WOW. The screen is amazing, the processor is fast & i can use it with one hand. To be honest tho there is not much of a upgrade from the S4, Same camera, same features (bar the Spen). My wife still has her S4 and after holding the Note3 for over a week i picked up her phone and it felt tiny. Yes the phone is big (not too big) but battery is amazing im getting over a day at heavy use. The camera is amazing (as it was on the S4). The Spen works a treat and is fun to use. I would recommend this phone to everyone.. Grab yourself a bargin as i got mine with either a free samsung tab or Galaxy gear (i got the gear) all for 36.99 a month.

!!! Best phone out at the moment !!!

Reviewed by rachel from tel.aviv on 6th Nov 2013
what a beautiful phone. very fast areal phone. movies are really nice to see. buy this phone its a steal

Reviewed by Ali from UK on 2nd Nov 2013
Absolutely amazing phone! Really fast and full of features.

Build quality is much better then previous models, battery last over a day with moderate/high usage. Camera really clear and great in low light (much brighter then some other phones!)

Size is bigger then the norm, but for browsing and movies is perfect!

Highly recommended and being the most high spec phone out there (3gb ram/usb3 etc) is definitely the phone to get for the best of both tablet/phone world.

Reviewed by Ronnie from UK on 22nd Oct 2013
I've just bought a note 3 and have a sg4 and an iPhone 5s as well.I'm away to sell the sg4 and keep the others, one is for work the other is a personal phone.
I can't praise the note 3 enough the screen is fantastic and the battery life is superb. I've had more than a day with over 7 hours of screen on time and it still had 20 % left which is magic.
The s pen has improved a lot and I do find myself using it more than I thought.
I don't find the size a problem even when you put it next to the iPhone.I'm still undecided which one to use as my personal phone they are both so good in different situations. I carry both most days without any issues.
The main thing I prefer on the iPhone is the camera it seems easier and quicker to use and the slo motion is a work of art compared to the Samsung slow motion but it's ok when you get used to it.

Reviewed by rob from uk on 15th Oct 2013
its a super fast phone slightly laggy at times but very slight the speaker is at the bottom right and can easily be covered by the hand auto focus on the camera is a bit hit and miss. auto brightness isnt great and jumps all over the place. screen outside is hard to see. back covers looks cheap but not to bad. loads of software features if you have the note 2 i wouldnt bother upgradeing to the note 3 in my opiniom the note 2 looks better.

Reviewed by Aldo from uk on 13th Oct 2013
Had the note 3 for a few days now, upgrade from a s3, love the larger screen size and the fact it still fits in the front pockets of jeans or trousers comfortably. I would have this handset for no other reason than batttery life, but there are so many cool features compared to the s3, which I thought was the best phone ever. phone seems quicker and More fluid than s3 and the s pen is very useful although I doubt I will use it as much when the novelty wears off.

In summary, I would not let the size of this phone put you off, 2 years ago I had a desire s and I thought an s3 was too big (how wrong was I) This is a fabulous phone!!!

Reviewed by Daddy mac from Uk on 12th Oct 2013
Recently upgraded from Note 1 to Note 3... What a difference and what a phone....! Totally happy with it and all it's long list of specs and its super fast speed.... But i have One question which hopefully you can help with...?
On watching video reviews etc users activate an option for lock screen apps.....On looking further to enable this option within the menu on my Uk handset it isn't there, is this an option not available on UK Note 3s....?????

FInally the phone is superb and I'm more than happy with it.....

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