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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review

Verdict

A stupendous smartphone – Samsung’s huge, 5.7in handset supplies oodles of features and a refined all-round performance

Review Date: 18 Oct 2013

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: Free, on a £34.00 per month, 24 months contract.

Buy it now for: £379
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

When the original Samsung Galaxy Note first appeared, we weren’t sure big-screened smartphones would take off; three years on, with the release of the third-generation Samsung Galaxy Note 3, it would seem the giant-sized smartphone has finally come of age.

As with the previous version, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 initially looks much like its smaller sibling, the Galaxy S4, with its chrome trim and slender bezel. Overall, though, we prefer the design of the Note 3, and this is largely due to the soft, fake-leather rear; it sounds naff, but it actually gives the Note a noticeably less cheap feel than the S4. Plus, it’s easier to grip than glossy plastic – something that comes in useful in a smartphone this big.

Stick them side by side, though, and you’ll instantly see the big difference: the Note sports a much larger, 5.7in display than the S4; in fact it’s also larger than its predecessor, the Note II, by 0.2in. And in a feat that would make the TARDIS proud, the Note 3’s physical dimensions have actually shrunk: it’s a millimetre thinner, ever-so-slightly narrower across its waist, and 15g lighter than the previous model.

That’s a remarkable feat of engineering, made even more amazing when you realise that, in almost every department, the Note 3 is a significant advance on its predecessor. The larger Super AMOLED display, for instance, is now a Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 unit; it’s fully 4G-compatible; the rear camera has been upgraded from 8 megapixels to 13 megapixels with the ability to shoot 4K video; and the upgraded quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU is accompanied by 3GB of RAM.

Plus, there’s a host of other niceties on offer, including a USB 3 host socket on the bottom edge for quicker transfer of those large, 4K video clips, an infrared port for controlling your TV or set-top box with, and three extra sensors for temperature, humidity and gesture recognition. The Note 3 also sports a removable battery and microSD slot for storage expansion. That’s not forgetting Samsung’s active stylus technology: the S Pen stows away in the bottom-right edge of the device, and adds pressure-sensitive sketching and painting, note jotting and handwriting recognition.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Despite the Note 3’s smaller dimensions, battery capacity hasn’t suffered. Samsung has managed to cram in a slightly higher-capacity 3,200mAh unit, and this retained 70% capacity after our 24-hour rundown test – an impressive result, but a notch down on the previous model. In our experience this was enough to deliver one-and-a-half days’ worth of use reliably – sometimes even more, with moderate use. Even if we used the phone heavily for games, shooting video and downloading large amounts of data, we were able to rely on it making it through a full day.

It all adds up to what is a fabulous, luxurious-feeling smartphone. It’s ridiculously fast in general use, super smooth when browsing the web and swats demanding games aside with ease. We ran our usual set of mobile benchmarks, and the results backed up our initial impressions: the Note 3 dispatched the SunSpider benchmark in a mere 591ms; racked up a score of 4,002 in Geekbench and 916 in the Peacekeeper HTML test; and achieved a smooth average of 26fps in the demanding GFXBench T-Rex HD test.

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User comments

size matters?

Not sure why the size is always brought up as a criticism. It's like say the problem with a 15" laptop is that it's not a 13" one. If someone wants a small phone they're not buy this, if they want a big one they won't buy an iPhone. It's not an inherent weakness. PS I had a Note 2 and never had any issue with it fitting in my pocket, maybe you need to give up on the skinny jeans.

By sebmcm on 18 Oct 2013

£585 is a serious amount of money.....

when what you end up with is an Android 'phone. I just can't get excited about phones as cameras; I have a camera; and for £585 I could have a really nice camera that does everything this phone does, except call people. And I'd buy a phone for that. Anyone reading this who would like to explain how dense I am, feel free! For me, the camera in my phone will always be okay for zapping something up to facebook, but it's always going to be a secondary device.

By pike_by_nature on 18 Oct 2013

£585 is a serious amount of money.....

when what you end up with is an Android 'phone. I just can't get excited about phones as cameras; I have a camera; and for £585 I could have a really nice camera that does everything this phone does, except call people. And I'd buy a phone for that. Anyone reading this who would like to explain how dense I am, feel free! For me, the camera in my phone will always be okay for zapping something up to facebook, but it's always going to be a secondary device.

By pike_by_nature on 18 Oct 2013

pike

You can say that again!

By Zippy204 on 18 Oct 2013

Zippy

I swear to God - I only pressed submit once!

By pike_by_nature on 18 Oct 2013

Zippy

I swear to God - I only pressed submit once!

By pike_by_nature on 18 Oct 2013

Zippy

I swear to God - I only pressed submit once!

By pike_by_nature on 18 Oct 2013

4K video

“The Note 3 will shoot 4K video … you’ll need a Retina-style display to make the most of all those pixels”

What on earth is a “Retina-style display”? Surely you mean 4K or UHD?

By TheHonestTruth on 18 Oct 2013

I'm not sure ...

... we should pay much attention to the technical expertise of an allegedly 'pro' computing magazine whose web site cannot even manage to de-duplicate character-for-character identical posts in a posting-delayed comment thread!

Seriously guys, who makes your CMS? Microsoft?

By JohnAHind on 18 Oct 2013

"when what you end up with is an Android 'phone"

I guess paying that much for an Apple phone is OK?

I wonder how much a 5.7 inch iPhone would cost? I doubt it'll be anywhere near £585.

By Alfresco on 18 Oct 2013

Android is a free OS though Alfresco. Apple include the price of their OS in the cost of the hardware. Android relies on advertising to pay for their OS like the Kit-Kat deal.

By TimoGunt on 18 Oct 2013

I wouldn't wish a Samsung on my Bank Manager.

Having had three samsungs,2 * GSII, GSNote2 in a triumph of hope over experience, I have finally ditched this poor construction, substandard software, offensively moronic customer-service, arrogant, Apple wannabe.
They gushed about Note II as well and frankly it was a pile of steaming samsung. full of worthless gimmicks and unreliable "features".

By thefarhad on 20 Oct 2013

Beware Region Locking

I was thinking this would be my next new phone, once the prices have come back to the land of reality, until I read about the Region Locking. It appears that if you a buy a phone in one country, you can only use SIM cards from that country, even if the phone is unlocked. Outragous. Vote with your wallets - vote no!

By GrahamE on 20 Oct 2013

Nothing wrong with Samsung.

I have no brand loyalty but some people are just Samsung haters.

I have a note 2 and think it's the best device I have ever used. I have previously owned HTC, LG and Motorola Android phones.

I do think that once you go large you tend not to back to anything smaller. I have found Samsung Note series has the best fit with very little bezel. They fit perfectly in the pocket and fairly light.

With regards to the comment on region lock. This is misinformation. Once you have inserted a sim card from the region you bought the phone you can insert any foreign sim card on an unlocked Samsung phone. It just needs the "activated" with a sim card from the same region. This prevents people from importing a Samsung phone but does not stop you using the phone abroad with a foreign sim card.

By diamondmailbox on 20 Oct 2013

Note 3 WiFi problems

Superb phone apart from wifi speed and dropout problems. Finding 4G much faster that my fibre broadband wifi which on this phone is virtually useless. A quick Google shows I'm not the only one with this problem. C'mon Samsung, come clean.

By GenghisMcSchroot on 25 Oct 2013

Note 3 WiFi problems

Superb phone apart from wifi speed and dropout problems. Finding 4G much faster that my fibre broadband wifi which on this phone is virtually useless. A quick Google shows I'm not the only one with this problem. C'mon Samsung, come clean.

By GenghisMcSchroot on 25 Oct 2013

Region locked - the truth?

@diamondmailbox:
"With regards to the comment on region lock. This is misinformation. Once you have inserted a sim card from the region you bought the phone you can insert any foreign sim card on an unlocked Samsung phone. It just needs the "activated" with a sim card from the same region."

Well, it depends who you trust. Personally I find it easier to trust a well known and respected UK authorised retailer, Clove. They did actually try themselves, instead of just believing what Samsung are 'reported' to have said (i.e. you won't find anything about "activating" in the user manual or any press release published on a Samsung site).

Clove tried using some brand new UK Note s's in the UK with a UK SIM before posting them abroad. They DID NOT WORK on the foreign SIMS.

Given that, as a retailer with international customers, Clove has much to lose from this finding, I'll trust their word.

By martindaler on 27 Oct 2013

Note 3 compatible with Note 2 Smart Dock!

Nice review, the best thing about the Note 3 is that it works with the Note 2 smart dock; here are the demos on youtube if you are interested:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCPCY9PSfSk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWN43pnkg0s

By KacAll on 3 Nov 2013

Note 3 compatible with Note 2 Smart Dock!

Nice review, the best thing about the Note 3 is that it works with the Note 2 smart dock; here are the demos on youtube if you are interested:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCPCY9PSfSk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWN43pnkg0s

By KacAll on 3 Nov 2013

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