My first impression of Samsung's followup in the Note series.
Thanks to the cheekiness of Verizon, they past up on Samsung's first Note product 3 years ago. After receiving a petition with over 600,000 signatures, Verizon didn't pass up on the Note II and now they are keeping with the Note series this year by offering the Note 3.
Pulling the Note out the box, you instantly see the family resemblance to the Galaxy family, but know its the Note branch-off by its oh so obviously stylus. After reading other reviews, the first thing I panned was the back cover. The Faux Leather back is okay, but what we have is plastic pretending to be leather, but make no mistake it is still plastic. I like the texture, I like the look, what would be cool is to have the exact back in other colors or maybe even one made of stainless steel.
Design/Appearance - I am so happy Verizon didn't ruin the home button with their logo again like with the Note II. The overall look of the device is good. Even though the metal-looking rim is plastic, the chrome finish looks better vs the matte look on the Galaxy S III and Note II. The ridges on the side which are suppose to mimic the pages of a book, are suppose to help in gripping the device. When holding the device, I actually don't feel the ridges with my fingers. The volume rocker and power button, I felt could have all been on one side, or directly opposite of each other. Having to reach high for the volume rocker and lower for the power button seems strange. I find myself accidently hitting power mistaking it for the volume.
Glancing the new USB 3.0 charging port and you can see you can still use your old USB MicroUSB changring cables. This is a nice plus compared to Apple who left no backwards compatibility for those with the old 30 pin port on iDevices. Forcing everyone to buy new accessories and cables IMO was poor judgement for such a large fanbase. So Samsung actually forward thinking here is really good. After a couple of tests with using USB3 vs the standard cable with USB 2, I shaved off 40% waiting time in copying very large files.
The frontal appearance of the device with the textured look is very nice compared to the plain look of the Note II. It actually looks like a texture book cover. Even though I didn't get to own the original Note, you can see the Note III carries it signature throughout. The wide squarish look vs the angle curvy look of the Note II is surely missing. I would have preferred a mix of both, so that the device didn't look solely like one model, but have its own style and look. Samsung's logo on the front is nice and clean and small compared to Verizon's badging on the back.
Speaking of the back,I gave a brief on the faux leather and the fake stitching. I have mixed feelings. It does look better than the gloss Samsung used on other Galaxy devices. Its nice to not have that slippery overlay, as APple has done with the iPhone 5C which mimics the earkier Galaxy line. Premium feel? Not really! Less cheap feeling? Definitely! Looks? Pretty good. But for the cash price of the Note, Pleather or even a lower costing grade of real leather would have really been a much nicer touch. Even suede would have been nicer.
Verizon's badging i snot terrible this time. The Logo isn't oversized like it was before. I wish Samsung didn;t leave using the roman numerals for the numbers. A Note III looks better than Note 3. Opening the back cove you see the huge 3200Mah battery. It 2x's as big as the iPhon's battery and for the power this device has, it needs it. Consider the display is full hd and uses almost 79% of the power. More on the display later.
Inside the Note 3 rear casing, the layout is clean. I am glad they chose to make it black vs color-matching. Inverse is nice. stacking the microUSB with the SIM slot in this case was a bad idea. Problem 1 - The SIM tray is no long spring loaded. So to get the SIM out, you actually need a fingernail or something to remove it. Its a pain to say the least. The microSD card slot is not spring loaded either, but being on top it is a bit easier to remove. You must remove the battery to remove either, which is backwards from the Note II where you could remove the SDcard without taking out the battery. The modlar design of 3 pieces which the S3, S4 and Note II follow, is perfect for self repairs. Example, if you drop the phone and damage the chrome RIM, you can purchase this piece of eBay for roughly $20. Remove the 12 screws on the back and the mid section snaps right off and you can easily replace the mid-section.
One of the things I notice about the battery door, id the NFC chip is not integrated into the door, it is actually in the phone. This is great if you want to buy a lower costing battery door, which will be cheaper without the NFC chip glued to it. That was a nice plus. The door maye feel cheaper inside, but I was abe to been it so that both end touch and the door didn't break or snap. It simply had a bend mark which is expected from ploy-carbonate. That is very resiliant. Try that with a metal phone. Unibody vs composites? Composites have always won on durability factors. Looks? I don't argue looks. Looks are tangible things because beauty as they say is in the eye of the beholder.
Display - Unlike Apple, Samsung at least did upgrade the display from its sibling. The Full HD 1920x1080 display is beautiful. Other reviews have shown it is still Pentile and is basically a larger version of the Galaxy S 4's display. Hwoever, because the screen is .7" larger vs the GS4, the Pentile pattern has less of an effect on what you see. Further reviews have shown that with the naked eye, it is impossible to tell it from a RGB LCD. You have to get really close to the screen to see any fuzziness and I do mean close. The display is beautiful. My wife has the GS4 and she is even jealous of my screen as it simply looks better. As per usual, the saturation of color is high which is typical with Samsung AMOLED displays. Hower, a quick change in the display settings and you canmake the colors look more natural, which also saves on some battery-life. There is also a display tuning tool so you can taylor the colors to your personal tastes.
Comparing this display to any other phones sporting a Full HD panel, this display is it the top with the other with awesome viewing angles and more. The fact the screen can be used with gloves on is a huge plus for a capacitive panel. Also, you have to consider this display has an extra layer for its usage with the S-Pen, which is why capacitive pens don't work.
Using the display with typical tasks like games and internet, is really awesome. I find myself smiling everytime I turn on the display because it looks that good. Movies in full HD look awesome as expected, and now that the charging port supports MHL 2, you don;t longer have to provide power when using MHL adapters to HDMI. Just plug and go.
Power - The power in this device is unmatched. Yes there are other devices rocking the Snapdragon 800. None of them however are pushing the CPU to its limits with the same multi-tasking capabilities. I had to chaton apps on the split screen and I drew as many as 10 windows just to see if I could bog the device down. It did finally lag when typing some text, but the over motion and fluid movement was pretty much unchanged. The TouchWiz UI has remain pretty much unchanged from the previous Note, so that means there is very little to no adjustment in doing what you are use too. In the settings I am glad Samsung opted not to duplicate the 4 tabs likk the GS4 has. But I would like some options for tailoring how I use my device. Like clocking down the CPU until I am ready to game hard.
Could this device have to much power? When plahying some of my favorite games like Need for Speed Most Wanted, the device near the camera gts really hot. I read this is normal, and I am use to phones getting hot, but not in this area. Next to the camera seems to be a bad place, as I am guessing if it gets to hot it could damage the sensor for the camera. I certainly hope not though.
2.3Ghz of raw COU power, 3GB of RAM to handle all that multi-tasking with S-Pen and other apps, 32GB of flash storage and 64GB mIcroSF card support along with full HD and you have a machine that has raised the bar as to what power is.
Camera - The main thing I love about Android, is use of the camera. As an old photographer (not professional), it is nice to have the options you find with fancier stand-alone shooters. Even though the Note 3 possess' the same camera as the S4, the processing here is better which could be due to the device having power. Side by side shots of pics take with the GS4 vs the Note 3, shows Note 3 pics are a bit more clearer. In low light, other smartphone shooters still hold a slight upperhand. However, I take most of my pics in broad daylight, so this is of no benefit to me. The options in the camera's software give you the feel of using a more expensive camera. There are several presets that will simply get you that perfect shot when you want it. The default settings are ok, but when you have time, sit and play with the camera settings and fine tune them to your liking.
Samsung has continued to provide features from the siblings' like slow-motion video but in this case you get to choose 3 speeds of slow, burst shots, panoramic, and so much more.
S-Pen/Features - The S-Pen and the features that go with it are very nice this time around. Pulling the pen bring you Air Command, which is a nice toolset for some common things done with the pen. My 2 favorites are Pen Windows and Scrapbook. Pen Window allows you to draw a box of a size you choose and have it fill in with a choice of an app you can run in a window. When you are done you can completely close it, or minimize it to a bubble which you can push to the size and have ready for when you need it again. Very useful. Scrapbook, offers the benefit of grabbing info right off the screen and saving it in an easy to reach location for later viewing or sharing. If you save a webpage, it not only saves the page, but the address as well. You can use the default categories or make your own. The other typical S-Pen apps like S-Note are their. I honestly never liked S-Note, but this time around it has some nice additions I have yet to explore.
Samsung has partnered with several devs and has this time around provides some apps for free. My favorite is Sketchbook Mobile which I bought and is now free with the Note 3. Sketchbook for Galaxy isn;t that much different than the stock paid app. Hwoever the new menu's make it a bit easier to use and faster. The new S-Pen is evenmore accurate vs the previous. But with a little adjustment, you can make it 99.9% accurate to a pixel.
The S-Pen for my hands is simply still to small. Since the new Note is much taller, the pen could have been made longer. The new shape so you can slide it in, on either side is a plus.Overall usage of the pen is great and the new Air Command really drives using it. If you dont like to use a stylus, you should skip on buying a Note, because 50% of it susage is best with a stylus.
UI - There isn't much to say about the UI, its basically unchanged from the Galaxy Note II. The Nature UX however has taken a turn towards the Galaxy S 4 UI vs the Note II. The sounds are less nature driven and more subtle and nice. The widgets are unchanged from the GS4 as well. This video will show you 30 very nice tips for making better use of the note III -
As far as the many gimmicky features like eye scroll and smart pause, it seems these are just as bad as they were on the GS4. They do work, they are just not consistant. I did fine Air Gestures like swiping to answer or reject a call or swiping to move pics in the gallery to be just something to show off vs practical usage. But, that's just me.
The IR blaster so you can control the TV and screen mirroring I do use as I have a Samsung Smart TV. The device can work with other TV's, DVR and cable boxes. It is nice to control all the componenets of my entertainment center with my one phone. A huge plus as fiddling with 3 large remotes is a pain sometimes.
Audio - Even though this is not a selling point of a phone, they really need to do something to make this better. This is for all phone makers. HTC IMO had something going in choosing Beats Audio. Sure, you can download and install an EQ, but having one that is already done and has a chip to go with it is a huge plus. Again, using that as a selling point isn't good the way HTC did it. Sasung this time around did included Adaptive Audio. Since all headphones have different qualities, Samsung has made a way for you to adapt the sound to the headphones you use. I have mine set up for my cars stereo, but it sounds equally as good with my headphones without even changing it. On a sad note, for a phone that cost over $700 retail, not including headphones is sad. Having to buy the Samsung headphones online is lame.
Lastly I will hit up on the Gear
Gear - When I watched the release live online, was so excited about the Gear. The first turn-off was the price. When it comes to accessories, they should not cost equal or more than what you're buying it for. At 299.99 which is the contract price of the Note III, that was a huge disappointement. Especially since the Gear can't even be set up without the phone. I did purchase the Gear and I kept it a week and then sold it on eBay. I do plan to buy it again. The main reason I dumped it, was I had the Wild Orange one and then right after, they made this copper colored one with a white strap which looked better. However, the limitations of the Gear was the other reason. It can old hold 15 apps. Right now, all the apps avail have to do with running and clock faces. Even though, there is a way to get some Android apps on it, on such a small screen it wasn't worth it. I did get Candy Crush on it and ither than being small, it does work. I did however, like the quality of the watch. It was fairly light, very sporty in style and had a nice appeal. I am a guy who use top wear big watches like the Casio Databank in the 90's abd I have a Swatch with dials that is very big.
But the apps are way to limited. The camera for 1.9MP was very good. In fact shoot looked no different than if they were taken with the 2.0MP front facing camera on the phone. I love taking shots with my voice and without people knowing it. Many complained about one day usage on one full charge. I hate when people speak of what they don;t know. I manage to get 5 days on a single charge after I spent the irst half a day playing with it non-stop. I honestly got board. Other than answering the phone, and using S-Voice to send a message, it does nothing really that I can't do with a headset. Beiunbg able to see the time and weather and answering the phone without pulling it out, especially here in Chicago where snatching a phone is all to common, the watch does provide a measure of safety. But since I drive everyday and don;t ride public transportation, I have no worries about that.
I have yet to really try Samsung Knox. I opened it and took a peak, I see how it can be useful as Knox mode basically turns everything off and dummies the UI to what looks like a Windows Safe Mode appearance. Like Windows Safe Mode, you are very limited to hat you can access or do. This is a huge plus over a biometric sensor.
Overall - I am absolutely satified with the Note III over my Note II. Its bigger without being bigger, its faster, more customizable and just a joy to use. The handwriting tools and recognotion is surely better this time around thansk to more CPU speed, more RAM and a bigger better screen. The left/right hand options for single hand usage of such a big device has gone a step further and can be used in other apps, not just Samsung apps. Hopefully devs will use that to the devices advatange. WHich was a downside of previous Notes. The devs really didn't jump on using the penas much as I hoped. For drawing which is the main reaosn I bought the Note at first, is awesome and you can really make some very detailed ones.
Some of the free included apps are not all that good. One in partucular, Pen.UP is a nice idea, but its slow and the UI is not all that great. S-Voice is still not as fast as Google Now, but it is quite accurate compared to Siri.
There are other tradeoffs to consider when getting a Note. Size is first an foremost. I personally wouldnt say its size is something you must get use too, fact is you will get use to it over a few days and I can tell you, you won't even look at a smaller device again. Unlike some devices sequals or in this case the three-quel, the Note III is a very huge step above the Note II. The hardware wasn't just a spec bump, but a truly enhanced all the way around pgrade. The Note III is a much more significant upgrade vs the iPhone 5S to the 5. Samsung really was looking at some major comsumer details about build quality and usability. In all honesty as the guy said in the release video, "we listen to you". The device is bigger, faster, moedurable, more premium looking/feeling and overall a joy to use. I would give it a 9 of 10 star rating. For the Note, I think a unibdy design would be very nice. Not particularly metal, but a more premium material like Carbon Fiber or similar composite material.
If you are considering the Note III, as a consumer, then as an unbiased reviewer, I would say consider ohet phones with similar specs and capabilities. Unlike other OEM's with 5" phones, the Note is in a class by itself, do to having a stylus. The LG G2 and even the LG Optimus Pro and the latest from Motorola, should be alternatives that bring some awesome specs and features to the table. None of them are as feature rich as the Note III, but this could be a good thing. If you don't want a stylus, then you've lost 50% of the function of the device, as it is tailored for us with the S-Pen.
If you are a businessman/woman and you are looking for a qualified device that is an AIO, that gives you real multi-tasking, real power, a pen for making notes, a device with very good voice controls when your hands can't be free, a device that is multi-taslented as well as a goof value for its cost and fits in with your business savy style and look, then the Note III is the device for you.
Just check out Samsung Mobile page on Facebook and see how everyone who has ever owned a Note or any other Samsung Galaxy device has been utterly happy, have no plans to buy any other device at present and is prasing Samsung. Avoid biased reviews where reviewers don't have an open mind and simply look for any quirk in blasting a phone they don't like.
The Note stands out as a very sophiticated device based on its intriguing software. It is not a consumer oriented phone like many, particularly the iPhone. It is a tool for a specific demographic of users who have a very business-like approach to using this device. However, for a tyoical comsumer, the phone is still very easy to use, but if you don't have use for its more advanced capabilities, then the value of the money spent will be lost.
I love my Note 3. If you are considering it, try before you buy and I hope I gave a fairly nice overview of the benefits of this device.