Some may call it a super smartphone, others a mini tablet, but with its colorful 5.7 inch screen, the latest offering from Samsung, the Galaxy Note 3, falls squarely within the phablet concept. It wasn’t long ago when people were carrying flip phones with a screen size of perhaps 3 inches across.

Over the past few weeks I have been reviewing and using the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 that was generously provided by Samsung. Having one of the largest displays I have ever seen on a smart phone, the Note 3 offers up a world of new and innovative features that are astonishing.

Throughout my review I will be giving an overview about many subjects such as the unboxing, features, S-Pen, specifications, design, and my overall thoughts of the Note 3.

Figure 1 – What’s included.

Unboxing the Note 3

Sent to me was an AT&T branded Note 3 which included the expected add-ins from most carriers. Underneath the gorgeous Note 3 you’ll find the user documentation, user manual, 2A wall charging port, a Micro USB 3.0 transfer/charging cable, and extra S-Pen plastic tips with a removal tool. Depending on your carrier you may also receive headphones; however, my unit was lacking them.

Amazing to me was the thought that Samsung had to provide extra pen tips for their S-Pen, because the plastic tip that you use to draw, scroll, select, etc. tends to wear down. To make sure your Note 3 lasts you at least two years, Samsung has your back covered. I will discuss more about the S-Pen further down.

Another surprise during the unboxing was the included Micro USB 3.0 cable. As the world moves on from the current USB 2.0, the Note 3, to my knowledge, is the only US smartphone to currently support USB 3.0 capability. The plug may be an odd shape but the clever Samsung engineers designed the connector to work with a standard USB 2.0 plug as well.

Figure 2 – A notepad indeed.


Available to you on any major carrier, the Note 3 is offered for $300 with a two year wireless contract or approximately $799.99 off contract.

To be completely honest, what this phone falls down on is its features. With the exclusion of the S-Pen, the Note 3 is really just a supersized Galaxy S3 and while it has a few new add-ons like an IR-Blaster that allows you to take control of a TV, Projectors, etc., and the 1080p display, what you really have is a Galaxy S3 in terms of features.

Not yet running the newest version of Android, the Note 3 is shipped with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and is enhanced with Samsung’s TouchWiz. Being a brand new smartphone, I would almost guarantee that Samsung will be pushing the new Android 4.4 update to Note 3 users soon. Unlike many other Android overlays, I find Samsung's overlay, TouchWiz, to be delightful to use and with the included Samsung apps, such as Samsung Hub/Apps, ChatON, S-Fitness, and S-Draw, it really adds more for you to do with the phone.

As mentioned previously, my review unit from Samsung is an AT&T model so installed on the device were some bloatware applications. Typically this is expected as most carriers want their customers to use their apps and it’s so common that I hardly mention it. However, I need to say that I felt the amount of installed bloatware from AT&T was not only annoying but overwhelming. Personally, I would like to see Samsung prohibit carriers from installing additional software in the same way that Apple does.

Something you’ll never find on an iPhone, the Note 3 has an expandable MicroSD card slot which takes the stock 32GB of memory and allows users to hold an additional 64GB of storage. Also, let’s not forget about the removable back cover allowing you to replace a dead battery with a fresh one.

Unfortunately for customers, I have been seeing quite a number of newer phones coming with fewer and fewer features, yet the prices remain the same. IPhones are a great example in that the design and features stay mostly the same; same goes for some LG phone models.

Aside from the S-Pen that’s about it for the Note’s features. As I did not get the chance to review this, there is the option for Note 3 owners to purchase the Note 3 with Samsung's new Galaxy Gear watch. Seeing if the next trends are "smart watches" Samsung is looking to expand their smart watch to work with more Galaxy devices.

Figure 3 – Air Command


A major feature, the S-Pen is what really sets this phone apart from the competition. While using the S-Pen users can do a world of things such as air preview, pop-up window, draw, handwriting to text recognition, and much more.

While using the Note 3, I found that I preferred to use the S-Pen over my own finger. The S-Pen offers a more precise selection when web browsing and with air hover the phone can enable a magnifying glass to read small text.

As Samsung users know, most Galaxy devices have the option of running two applications simultaneously on the same screen. Well, with the Note 3, not only can you run two apps at once but you can also draw a resizable box using the S-Pen to have a “popup window” show a few selected apps such as YouTube, Calculator, and Notepad.

As shown in Figure 3, when you take out the S-Pen the phone launches Air Command, which in my option is a great improvement over the Note 2. Air Command allows you to quickly launch S-Pen tools like Action Memo for quick notes, Multi Window, S Finder, and crop a screenshot to share via text message or email.

Finally, you won't ever leave the S-Pen behind again as, when enabled, the Note 3 will warn you if you are moving too far away from the S-Pen.


Just like the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4 smartphones I have previously reviewed, the Note 3 is jam packed with performance specifications. With its 5.7” Full HD Super AMOLED 1920 x 1080 resolution display, colors, pictures and mobile games pop out at you offering an even better picture than I saw on the Galaxy S4. With its 5.7” display customers may think “Oh, that phone is too big!” However, it’s quite the opposite; Samsung has done an excellent job at creating an easy to hold and thin phone that fits well in your pocket. In fact I enjoy the large display. Also the front glass is Gorilla Glass 3 to protect the phone against scratches and drops.

Powering this beast of a phone is a new QUALCOMM 2.3GHz Quad-Core processor backed up with 3GB of RAM. The Note 3 offers up some of the best specifications available on the mobile market and not many phones can compete with the raw power in this phone. I would provide some benchmarking statistics, but Samsung devices are known for overclocking components when they notice benchmarking tests being performed.

Now, with a large display and Quad-Core CPU, the phone is going to require some hefty battery power. Included in the Note 3 is a replaceable 3,200mAh that ought to last you all day long and sometimes even longer depending on your usage.

Finally, there are the typical connectivity options like Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac as well as the standard features of any smartphone such as GPS, Enterprise security, NFC, Noise cancellation, and the 4G LTE wireless band.

Figure 4 – Samsung designed colored cases.


Being as light as a feather and feeling nice and solid while holding it, the design and build quality of this phone is like no other.

There is an outstanding pleather backing and stitching that could fool anybody into believing it was real leather, making the aesthetic design of the Note 3 by far one of my favorites. I have seen in other Note 3 reviews that people complain that the replaceable back cover is still plastic and not this outstanding leather that Samsung shows it to be. Personally I find it to be a premium design and enjoy the feel very much.

Weighing in at 6 ounces and having dimensions of 5.95” x 3.12” x 0.33” the size and weight is ideal for most people. I will say that people with small hands will not be able to reach all four corners easily,but generally you shouldn’t have an issue with one-handed usage.

The S-View case that is shown in Figure 4 is one that I would recommend buying. It allows you to get a quick preview of the time and view any notifications you may have. You can also use the touch screen through the case’s window.

Figure 5 – The Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Final Thoughts

For a $300 smartphone on a wireless contract you’re getting quite an amazing phone for the price point. It may not suit everybody’s needs or people may not like the size, but I encourage you to take the next step and try the Note 3. Compared to the Note 2, Samsung really stepped up their game in every aspect. As I said above, the S-Pen is what really sets this phablet apart from other Android devices.

Buy it Now:

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