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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £620
inc VAT

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


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

Throughout our testing, the Note 3 had incredible longevity. A huge 3,200mAh battery keeps the phone juiced up for an incredible length of time, helping it last an unprecedented 15 hours in our video playback test. It’s the first phone we’ve seen to include a USB3 port, which means faster charging from a PC with USB3 ports and faster data transfers to boot. Thankfully regular Micro USB cables still work fine, although the phone won’t charge quite as rapidly.

We tested the 32GB Note 3, and although there’s also a 64GB version available, Samsung hasn’t made a 16GB model. This means paying more initially for the handset, but should mean you won’t run out of storage space in a hurry. A microSD card slot underneath the rear faceplate is a welcome addition, letting you add up to 64GB at a later date if required.

The Qualcomm chipset has several unique features beyond raw speed. It is able to record 4K video clips using the 13-megapixel rear camera, and play back high-quality 24-bit, 192 KHz audio files. The latter will only appeal to the small group of audiophiles that actually have such high bit rate music, but the former is far more useful if you want to capture a moment at the highest possible detail.

Never mind that there’s very few screens capable of playing back 4K content, that you can only record up to five minutes of footage at a time or that you can’t edit your clips on the phone. The amount of recorded detail is startling at times, but it depends on having well-lit subjects – we noticed some odd banding effects when filming our still life in low light.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Samsung has opted to pair the same 13-megapixel, backside illuminated (BSI) camera sensor found in the Galaxy S4 with the Note 3, along with an LED flash and digital image stabilisation. Several new auto modes have been added, including ones for capture a golf swing and the Google PhotoSphere-mimicking Surround Shot, but the interface is basically the same. You still get a 20-shot burst mode, Dual Shot, which captures your face in a postage stamp-sized window while you’re taking pictures with the rear camera, Animated Photo to create short looping video clips and Sound & Shot, which records seven seconds of audio to accompany your images.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Picture quality is essentially on par with the Galaxy S4, with only slight variations in noise but almost identical colour accuracy between both phones. Outdoors, it coped well with the autumn sunshine, creating realistic colours and capturing plenty of detail. Activating image stabilisation tends to wash out the colours slightly, but it certainly makes for clearer images.

image test 2 image test

Moving inside to our still life scene, there was plenty of small detail captured from our stuffed animals. Exposures were consistently accurate across the varying light levels, and the high-resolution helps when it comes to cropping down images later without resulting in too much pixilation. However, there’s no dedicated night mode like there was on the S4, meaning you’re forced to use the flash to avoid blurry, noisy images when shooting in very low light.

camera quality test - good light

camera quality test - bad light

Samsung typically fills its smartphones with a huge number of features, but it has outdone itself with the Galaxy Note 3. The S-Pen, gesture controls, eye-tracking to keep the screen awake, menus that swipe in from all sides, proper multitasking and a whole host of pre-installed apps arguably mean the Note 3 is brimming over with extras. Most are welcome additions but arguably this may not be the handset for those coming to Android for the first time.

As a piece of hardware, the Galaxy Note 3 not only improves on its predecessor but manages to stand on its own as a top class smartphone. Taking its S-Pen functions into consideration, it could be a digital artists’ best friend, but even without it’s a blazingly fast, long-lasting handset with an above average camera and gorgeous display.

There’s no denying the Galaxy Note 4 is the superior phablet, but now the Note 3’s price has dropped to around £350 SIM-free or £35.50 per month on contract, it’s still a great choice if you’re don’t want to pay for the Note 4’s high contract prices. If you can stump up that much cash per month for the full length of a 24-month contract then this is an outstanding piece of technology. The Note 4, though, has now fallen in price, which makes the decision considerably more difficult. The 2014 model has better specifications is practically every area, and choosing that over the Note 3 will mean your phone is relevant for longer. If not, though, the Note 3 is still an great buy; if you find one second-hand or on a cheap contract, you won’t be making a mistake. 

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Main display size5.7in
Native resolution1,920×1,080
CCD effective megapixels13-megapixel
Internal memory32768MB
Memory card supportmicroSD
Memory card included0MB
Operating frequenciesGSM 850/900/1800/1900, 3G 850/900/1900/2100, LTE 800/850/900/1800/2100/2600


Operating systemAndroid 4.3
Microsoft Office compatibilityWord, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF viewers
FM Radiono
AccessoriesS-Pen stylus, stereo headphones, USB charging cable, wall adaptor
Talk time21 hours
Standby time17.5 days

Buying Information

SIM-free price£620
Price on contract37

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