Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review

The Note 3 is still an outstanding phone, but the price gap between it and the Note 4 has narrowed

2 Apr 2015
Our Rating 
5/5
Price when reviewed 
620
inc VAT
Buy it now for 

Specifications

Processor: Quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Screen Size: 5.7in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Rear camera: 13-megapixel, Storage: 32GB / 64GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 151x79x8.3mm, Weight: 168g, Operating system: Android 4.3

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 may have been superceded by the excellent Galaxy Note 4, but last year's top phablet is now cheaper than ever, making it a great value alternative if you don't want to shell out for its newer, shinier cousin. At time of writing, SIM-free handsets now cost around £350, with contracts starting from around £35 a month with nothing to pay upfront for unlimited calls and texts and 4GB of 4G data. This is  cheaper than the currently £469 SIM-free Note 4, although the gap has narrowed considerably between the two. If you you can push your budget slightly further, the Note 4 is no longer completely out of reach.

Those wanting to save even more money should consider the cheaper HTC Desire 816, but if you're set on buying a large phone and want the stylus to go with it, the Note 3 is the giant smartphone to buy for anyone looking to keep costs down. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

There's no question that the Galaxy smartphone range has a shared design lineage, but the Note 3 still manages to stand out from the Samsung Galaxy S4 thanks to a more pronounced silver trim and a leather-effect backplate, complete with faux stitching.

It's still made from polycarbonate plastic, but the art deco-style ribbed chrome edges gives the phone a unique appearance. It's refreshingly different, unlike the slew of new handsets that are content to play it safe with only the bare minimum of changes. At 8.2mm thick you won't struggle to slip it in a pocket, despite the huge display.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

That screen dominates the front of the phone, with just a Samsung logo above it and home, back and menu buttons below. At 5.7in the Note series continues to grow in screen size, but the slimmer horizontal screen bezels mean it's practically the same size as the Note 2. We could hold it quite comfortably, but needed to use our other hand to reach the far edges of the screen. You can perform many functions, like making a call or text one-handed, but it's really designed to be used with both hands at once.

You can find a one-handed mode in the Settings area, too, so if you need a hand free to open doors or carry bags, this mode shrinks the screen down to a more manageable size. Once enabled, all you need to do is swipe in from the edge of the screen to enable it

The 1,920x1,080 resolution AMOLED display is simply gorgeous, with vibrant colours, intense brightness and incredible contrast. At 386 pixels per inch, tiny text looks pin-sharp, even when sat side-by-side with the Galaxy S4 and its 441ppi display. This is despite Samsung's continuing use of PenTile subpixel arrangements, which use two colours per pixel rather than three, meaning actual resolution is less than an equivalent LCD display. Of course, the followup Galaxy Note 4's display trumps them all, with a 2,560x1,440 pixel panel that blows most large handsets out of the water. The brand-new Galaxy S6 also has a higher resolution screen in a 5.1in form factor, too. You pay the premium for this extra sharpness, and frankly if you're looking to save money, the Full HD panel on the Note 3 is still a great piece of kit if you're upgrading from pretty much any other phone on the market.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The abundance of screen space is an ideal match for the S-Pen, which naturally for a Note device is still a major highlight of using the Note 3. The stylus slips into the bottom of the handset when not in use and an icon appears in the notification bar when it's removed. There's also a reminder alert that vibrates if you take more than a few steps without the pen attached, so you shouldn't misplace it. It still uses digitiser technology from Wacom, meaning it detects varying pressure levels, great for sketching.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Samsung has refined the software from the previous iteration, adding several new features such as Pen Window. With this you can create a window of any size by simply drawing a box on the screen and then choosing an app (from a limited but useful selection) to run within it. The scrapbook tool is much improved too, organising your cut-outs and clippings in a sensible order that's a lot easier to navigate through. The addition of tags, which can be searched system-wide, means you can categorise your notes into web links, photos, addresses and videos without worrying about losing them to the pile.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

You still get plenty of pre-installed apps designed to work with the S-Pen, including S-Note for taking down scribbles and Sketchbook for Galaxy, which is a fairly comprehensive artist's tool with over a hundred different brushes, pencils and pens to make drawings and designs with. Apps that first appeared on the Galaxy S4, such as the S Health fitness tracker, S Translate, S Voice personal assistant and WatchOn remote control all make appearance too.

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