Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Smartphone - General Usage

Article Index
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Smartphone
Features and Specifications
General Usage
Camera and Video Testing
Battery Life, Calling and More
Final Thoughts

Using The Note 3:

I'm not new to Android devices at all, nor am I a Samsung rookie. My wife owns a Samsung Galaxy S3 and I've used both Note Smartphones from Samsung over the last couple of years. I was not surprised by the user interface and overall, it works very well. I'm still not a huge fan of the "Touchwiz" interface, but overall the experience was pretty fluid. The fast processor in this device makes the animations, transitions and other eye-candy flow smoothly, and with the large 3200mAh battery, there is plenty of power to do this without crippling your battery life.

One thing I do like is the suite of applications that Samsung includes - for the most part. As with many of these phone companies, there are a lot of extra applications pre-installed that do take space, run active threads and don't offer any value or usefulness to some users. All that aside, the S Pen apps are very handy and will have you grabbing for your pen more often that you'd think. Some of the applications are a bit excessive, and the S Planner, while geared toward the S Pen could be a little more generic for standard touchscreen use. This makes the device feel a bit fragmented in and of itself as you sometimes feel that you need to grab the S Pen when you shouldn't have to.

Pen Commands
Pen Commands

Scrapbook
Scrapbook

I was surprised at how much I used the pen on the original Galaxy Note, so it shouldn't have been a surprise that I quickly fell in love with it on the Note 3. The S Pen was in my hand much of the time while on service calls, taking notes at meetings and more. It really combines the best of a real notepad and a phone - all in one device. I have a printer at home that I can print to from my Android device, so these notes were easily saved and used elsewhere.

For reviewing and other technical stuff, the ability to quickly "screen write" is a thing of beauty. What makes it even better is the fact that you can write on the screen precisely - instead of awkwardly with your finger as you would with a tablet or other smartphone. While not everyone will embrace this stylus idea, there is a definite purpose and use for it. I have discovered this again and again.

As we discussed in previous reviews of Samsung products that include an S Pen, it's not merely a stylus - it's a pressure sensitive input device that functions much like a Waccom stylus in many respects. While it certainly doesn't have the same range of pressure sensitivity, it is decent and the button on it allows you to launch apps, take screenshots and perform a whole host of functions. In fact, the way the S Pen works on this model, you don't always have to touch the screen with it. The Note 3 accurately detects the position of the pen when held above the screen. There are so many nifty things you can do with the S Pen that you'll have to spend a fair bit of time learning them all. Once mastered, you'll wonder how on earth you ever got along without it.

HomeScreen HomeScreen HomeScreen

 

One of our complaints with the original Note and its dual-core 1.5GHz processor is that it felt sluggish at times. This complaint is no more, as things have been optimized a bit better and the CPU has improved as well. As previously mentioned, the Note 3 has a quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 processor. The Nexus 5 (just released) has a 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800, and both of these devices are very snappy. I'm glad to see that the phone is very responsive and even when pumping out video on the 1920x1080 screen, things are very fluid and smooth.

The upgraded screen resolution is a very welcome addition, and while the resolution at 1280x800 on early note products was not bad, moving to a higher pixel density is a very nice thing indeed.  The web experience on this device is great. With a 5.7" screen, viewing and reading any content is great. The web looks fantastic as do games. With a screen resolution hitting 1080p, you've got a lot more resolution on this device than most notebook computers. It still drives me nuts that many laptops are still crippled at 1366x768 - about half of the resolution of the Galaxy Note 3.

Profile

Samsung has one-upped the All Share features with Screen Mirroring, and this works amazingly well. On TVs that support Screen Mirroring, displaying the content of your screen; at all times - not just with certain applications, is super simple. Once you select Screen Mirroring on your device and change the input of your TV to match, it just works. I love this for showing videos that I’ve shot on the phone and it works great for images, demonstrations and any other multimedia content. As there is some lag, watching the TV screen while playing a game, or typing would be a pain.

While mobile devices used to be able to play some basic casual games, things have changed in the past couple of years. NVIDIA paved the way with the Tegra processor and then companies have been stepping up their game ever since. The Galaxy Note 3 is about as good of a gaming device as you can get on the Android platform. It's a fast processor and combined with the Andreno 330 graphics processor, it’s very decent. It rocked every game we threw at it for the weeks that we had it and it helped my plants destroy zombies as well as hacked enemy resonators when fighting for the Resistance. All in all, it was a great Android gaming experience.

It's hard to believe that this screen is a mere 0.3" smaller than my Kindle Keyboard, and as such I did spend some time reading books both on the Kindle App as well as a title from the Kobo store. I also purchased a book through Google Play and used Google Books as well. As a reading device, it's not bad and if you turn down the brightness, it's pretty easy on the eyes with the excellent resolution and clear vivid screen.

Speaking of brightness, the screen shines like the sun when you turn it up manually to full brightness. I never had any issues seeing the screen clearly when outside - even on a bright day. When maxed out, it will shorten battery life for sure, but it is a relief that you can turn it up and read clearly. It's also nice that Samsung has included a 3200 mAh battery - while the Nexus 5 (same screen resolution & CPU) has only a 2300 mAh battery. I have a feeling that this battery will make the Note 3 a bit more appealing to some if they decide they need a 5" or larger device with a full 1080p screen.

Back Off

Back Removed

Battery Removed

All Apart

 

One thing that absolutely blows me away with the Galaxy Note 3, is the inclusion of USB 3.0. It uses the new micro USB 3.0 cable standard that is also used on USB 3.0 external storage devices. This is great as if you lose the cable, you don't have to buy a Samsung-specific cable. Thankfully you can use a standard micro USB cable if you lose the USB 3.0 version. Of course this will limit your data transfer speeds, but at least you can connect to charge and transfer files to and from your device. Data transfer speeds via the USB 3.0 cable are blistering fast for a smartphone and I was very impressed with how little time it took to transfer large video files. This is a great thing as 1080p videos are large and 4K videos are insanely huge.

USB 3.0 Disclaimer
USB 3.0 Disclaimer

On the next page we'll take a look at the camera quality, functions and features as well as do some video recording on the Note 3.