Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Smartphone - Final Thoughts

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

Final Thoughts:

If you haven't got the idea by now, the Galaxy Note 3 is a nice device. It's not without its flaws of course, and the way that Samsung sets things up on it is a little weird, but overall it's a solid product. One thing that I love and yet the default setting bugs me is the S Pen Keeper. This will alert you if you walk away with the S Pen laying around. It'’s an awesome idea and a great feature. What bugs me is that it is turned off by default. A feature like this should be enabled by default in my opinion.

The way Android has matured makes the Galaxy Note 3 able to double as a small personal computer. The features and power of this device make it much handier than many tablets and the size is a great trade-off between a small 7" tablet and a phone. After using it for a few weeks, I can see that this unit is pretty much the perfect size for the job it is intended for. The S Pen and KNOX give it extra appeal to professionals or those that are creative in a personal or business environment.

KNOX is Samsung's solution to the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend that is happening in large companies. This software/hardware encryption layer and application helps you keep your personal stuff personal and your work items, applications and data filed away in a vault. In this way if you get malware or something on the personal part of the device, your business stuff remains unaffected and safe. Because of the DRM and encryption of the KNOX software, I was unable to capture screenshots. Regardless, this feature has limited application for general consumers, but it is great that Samsung included it on this device. The Note 3 is powerful enough that you never know you're in a hardware/software encrypted layer and it launches and exits the KNOX software about as fast as you can load any other application on the phone.

The screen is amazing. There is not much else to say about the screen than that. It is covered in Gorilla Glass 3 and has the amazing resolution of 1920x1080 with a pixel density ~386 ppi. The brightness is more than adequate and the auto brightness works well, although in a dark environment (like reading in bed) it still is a little too bright. You can dim it down further with the manual setting however.

Overall durability of the Note 3 seems pretty solid. As we are supposed to return this device in one piece, I didn't do any major durability testing, but I didn't take it too easy on the Note 3 either. It made trips to meetings, the range, work and some play in my pocket or on the seat of my vehicle. It slid off the seat or off the couch more than once and it is still ticking. There are no scratches on it as I was pretty gentle on it, but the glass screen should stand up to keys, coins or other everyday objects that might also find their home in your pocket.

The overall volume and quality of the audio - both into the microphone and out of the earpiece and speaker are adequate. The call quality is great, but the overall speaker audio quality is still a bit weak when compared to some newer Apple products. Thankfully the speaker has been moved to the bottom of the Note 3 beside the USB 3.0 port and this makes music and movie playback much better than with the original Galaxy Note. The speaker on that device was located on the back and when placed on a desk, the audio was quite muffled.

LTE is much better here in Alberta than it was few years back, and this once again is both a blessing and a curse. While coverage areas are much better, so is the adoption of LTE devices. All of these additional LTE devices make the network slower, but still we reached download speeds of over 27Mbps and upload speeds at some points over 12Mbps. This is crazy fast for a wireless device and it always makes me wish I still had an "unlimited" data plan.

LTE Speed

My few complaints with the device do not include the large size this time around. Instead, they are more software and how the software is implemented on the device itself. True, it is large, but you can move the dialer for right or left-handed users. Instead, we'll start with the QWERTY keyboard. The stock keyboard doesn't offer much in the way of predictive typing and although "Swype" is listed as a feature, it's turned off by default. The other thing that is turned off by default - and shouldn't be is the S Pen keeper. That is just silly. Another useless piece of software that integrates deeply with the phone is the Samsung News Hub. This is a replacement for Flipboard - which comes installed by the way - and the News Hub is activated when you swipe up from the bottom of your screen. Each day, I launched this hub several times without meaning to.  It's a pain.

There are some other bits of Samsung specific software that are unnecessary or just plain poorly deployed and set up, but it's not a deal breaker. Overall, it's a pretty positive experience.

Clearly a device this size isn't for everyone but if you're considering a 7" tablet in the near future and maybe you're due for a new phone, take a good long look at the Galaxy Note 3 as it can easily kill two birds with one proverbial stone. I do caution you that if you're switching from a ~4" device, that you make sure to try out a Note 3 in the store before you buy one. The size may be a turn-off for some, but most people I've talked to love the large format and the extra screen real estate that it offers.

In Canada, this 32GB device will set you back $299 on a two-year contract while a 32GB iPhone 5S will cost you about $329. Feature for feature the Galaxy Note 3 takes the cake, but the size may make some people move to another Android or Apple device. What I do love about the Note 3 is that for another $25 you can buy a 32GB microSD card and have a 64GB phone. For the price of a 32GB iPhone 5S, you get an extra 32GB of storage.

Pros:
  • Large
  • Super fast LTE-capable 
  • Super AMOLED HD 1920x1080 screen
  • S Pen is much more than a Stylus
  • Gorilla Glass 3 = rugged X3
  • Quad Core Snapdragon 800 2.3GHz CPU with 3GB of RAM
  • MicroSD slot
  • Great battery life
  • Robust camera
  • Good call quality
  • Shoots 4K Video and does 240fps (120fps) at 720p
  • USB 3.0 transfer speeds are amazing

 

Cons:
  • S Pen keeper is disabled by default
  • Some included software is bulky and redundant
  • Average speaker sound quality

BCCRating

Gold

In the end, I really, REALLY wish I could keep this device, but alas, it has to go back to Samsung. For the $299 on-contract price, it's not a steal of the deal when compared to an off-contract Nexus 5 for a mere $100 more. That being said, the Galaxy Note 3 offers a lot more features, tweaks and value in many ways than the Nexus 5. They are spec’d similar, but the S Pen, 900 mAh larger battery and Samsung Apps like Screen Mirroring and more just might be enough to get you to sign up for a contract. I'm seriously debating on taking this road for my next purchase.

I'd like to thank Samsung for dropping this phone off for us to review and for showing us all the awesome KNOX stuff a while back. If you have any questions, comments or general feedback regarding the Note 3, please feel free to drop it in the forum at the link below.