What are the advantages and disadvantages of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3?
Samsung is now on the third iteration of its Galaxy Note range, whereas other manufacturers such as Sony and HTC have this year released their first large screened devices. Since the release of the first Galaxy Note, Samsung has had a form factor that it knows to be successful. It’s since had the chance to refine and improve – no need to experiment with concepts that are too different – and this advantage is embodied in the Galaxy Note 3, which is undoubtedly the best in its class.
Best in class does not mean perfect, though; no device is without its foibles. In this post we’ll have a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Note 3 to help you decide if it’s the right device for you. Some of these points are discussed in more detail in other posts on the Clove Blog, such as our Galaxy Note 3 review, which are linked to where appropriate. If you’ve got any questions or your own experience to add, please let us know in the comments.
Before we get started in detail, here’s a bulleted overview of the good and bad:
Note 3 Pros
- Large, Full HD Display
- Outstanding battery life
- Fast charging and file transfer speeds
- Very powerful
- Great camera and 4K video recording
- Evernote integration and free Evernote Premium
- Samsung Knox is good for security
- TouchWiz has some very nice features
- New S Pen Stylus features
- 32GB internal storage and 64GB microSD expansion
- Not that heavy despite its size
- Very slim
Note 3 Cons
- SIM limitations
- Overall size may be too big for some
- Number of features can be overwhelming at times
- S Notes from the Note 2 are not compatible
- Home button is a bit wonky
- Price tag
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Pros
Battery life is undoubtedly one of the biggest advantages of the Note 3. Its large size means there’s plenty of space for a nice big battery, which brings it to a level whereby you can use it solidly without having to keep an eye on how much power you have left.
A single charge, which takes only about 90 minutes thanks to USB 3.0 compatibility, can easily provide 48 hours of normal usage. For heavy users, you would really need to hammer the device for it to run out of battery inside of 16 hours, so in the majority cases it’ll be getting you through the day with power to spare. Without the concern of your battery dying half way through the day, the way in which you use your device really can be transformed.
Another great thing about the Note 3 is that it has a removable battery. This means that you can always carry a spare battery should you have a schedule that prevents you from charging the handset every day. Samsung offers a spare battery kit, which also doubles up as a desk stand. We have it available to order here on the Clove website.
The 5.7″ display of the Note 3 is stunning. It uses Samsung’s Super AMOLED Full HD technology with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. Due to its larger display, it has a lower pixel density than the Samsung Galaxy S4 (386 PPI compared to 440 PPI), but in reality this makes little difference; both displays are extremely sharp.
All the usual luxuries of a larger display – watching movies, playing games, reviewing photos – are very much enhanced by Samsung’s superb display technology. It removes the tedium from the aforementioned activities that one may experience with a smaller screened device, making it the perfect companion for a long commute or extended period of travel.
Another USP of the Note 3 compared to the majority of other devices is the advanced Wacom Digitizer that it utilises. Its extra sensitivity enables it to better recognize varying levels of pressure – perfect for use with the S Pen stylus – and also means that the display can be used with gloves on.
S Pen Stylus
The S Pen Stylus is another big selling point of the Note range and Samsung has once again improved its design and feature set for the release of the Note 3. Removing the stylus from its housing brings up the Air Command menu, which is a set of five functions: S Finder, Action Memo, Screen Write, Scrapbooker and Pen Window. We found S Finder and Screen Write to be our favourites, but naturally each user will have their own work flow and may prefer some of the others as a result.
As mentioned the new Wacom digitizer in the Note 3 means that the display is more sensitive than ever and this makes it great for activities such as digital art and handwriting input. The handwriting recognition is very good and the Note 3 will be able to pick up on many styles of handwriting.
Another feature of the S Pen that must be mentioned is Air Preview, which enables you to preview the content of files and folders by hovering over their shortcuts with the stylus.
With 3GB RAM and a 2.3GHz quad-core processor, the Note 3 is a powerhouse of a device. There is also an octa-core version of the Note 3, but it’s not as readily available as the quad-core. Regardless of which one you purchase, the Note 3 has one of the strongest specifications on the market.
This amount of power translates to a smooth, lag-free user experience. In the past Samsung’s custom skin, TouchWiz, has perhaps been more of a pain point for users due to the occasional slow down that it could cause, but with so much power in the Note 3 it’s not a problem this time around.
With its 13MP camera the Note 3 can take stunning photos. Samsung now has a huge range of features built into its interface and while some are a bit gimmicky, there ar
e others that enhance your photos nicely, such as drama and HDR. The video camera can now record in 4K, which does look great but also takes up a fair bit of storage space.
While Samsung has advertised larger memory variants for previous handset releases, it’s been the 16GB variant that has been most readily available. This time the lowest available memory variant of the Note 3 is 32GB, which has around 26GB accessible to the user. Combine this with the 64GB microSD slot (card sold separately) and overall you have 90GB. While there are some that would prefer more – particularly for internal storage – this will be ample storage for many.
Samsung’s custom Android skin, TouchWiz, has been (and still is amongst some) a cause of discontent from users. Samsung has now had several handset releases to improve it though and thanks to some great features, it really shows its worth on the Note 3; the user experience wouldn’t be the same without it.
There are now so many features built into TouchWiz that Samsung has included the means to search for them with keywords. This is useful as it can be tricky to remember where certain settings appear under the various menus. You’ll probably need to watch a few demo videos a few times over before you remember what all the features are, and it’s unlikely that you’ll use all of them on a regular basis, but there will undoubtedly be a few that streamline the way in which you use your smartphone.
The Galaxy Note 3 is also Samsung’s first device to ship with Android 4.3, which at the time of writing is the latest version of Android available. This will soon be outdated by the release of 4.4 KitKat, but as the Note range is one of Samsung’s best sellers, the Note 3 will likely be one of the first devices that it updates.
Not only does USB 3.0 make for super quick charging of the Note 3 battery, but it also means that files transfer to the device in seconds (provided that you use a microUSB 3.0 enabled port). In practice, this means that a large movie file takes under a minute to transfer and music tracks take seconds. The one disadvantage about MicroUSB 3.0 is that it uses a different connector to the previous specification of the standard, so you will not be able to use your Note 3 charger with devices that have a microUSB 2.0 port. The Note 3 is backwards compatible though, so you could use a microUSB 2.0 cable with it, it’ll just take longer to charge and transfer files.
The Note 3 comes with Evernote integration and users receive a free subscription of between 3 and 12 months to use with Evernote Premium. The integration means that S Notes can be saved directly to an Evernote account, which seeing as S Notes from the Note 2 are not compatible with the Note 3, is better than the alternative of saving to a Samsung account.
Knox is a new security feature that Samsung is including with its handsets. We explain it in more detail here, but it essentially a password protected app that securely stores sensitive data and separates it from personal data. Knox is a good solution if you need to store important work data on your device or if you would like to keep your personal and professional lives separate. It’s easy to install and configure, and can be uninstalled if you don’t need it.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Cons
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Note 3 is a big device. That being said, it’s smaller than its predecessor and despite having a much larger battery and a bigger display than the original Note, it’s 10g lighter. It doesn’t feel as heavy in the hand as you would expect for a device of its size and is also very thin. Nonetheless, it will still be too big for some and whether or not you find it cumbersome will really come down to how you transport your device most of the time. For shallow or tight pockets it’s not great, but if you’re carrying it in jeans, suit pockets or a bag it’s not such a problem.
The SIM lock is an unfortunate frustration created by Samsung and as yet it is not clear how the situation will progress. We discuss the problem in more detail in this post, but in a nutshell the Note 3 is region locked which means that it may be difficult for you to use it outside of the continent from which you purchase it. In the case of the units that we sell at Clove, they are locked for use within Europe. That being said, there are both official an unofficial ways to successfully remove the lock. The former is the simplest, but the implications (if any) that it has on the warranty are unknown at this stage.
While TouchWiz does have some great features to offer, it can feel a little over the top at times. Visually you can remove its presence fairly easily by using a launcher (Nova probably gives the closest experience to stock) and renaming apps (e.g S Planner to Calendar). If you’re using a Note device for the first time it will take a while to get used to the way the settings are laid out and to discover all the features that are on offer, but by the time you’ve got the Note 3 to use this is a nice problem to have!
Samsung has done a good job of making the Note 3 look and feel like a more premium device than previous releases. It has disguised the use of plastic well with faux leather and metal, which adds to the ‘notebook’ style that the range portrays. One blemish on its otherwise impressive visage is the power button, which has a slight wonk to it at times, but it doesn’t cause any technical hinderance so overall it’s not something that you’ll notice too much.
The Note 3’s feature set is pushing for the best that’s currently available in an Android handset. If you find its size to be acceptable then you have the opportunity to take advantages of outstanding battery life and large display. The LG G2 is another device that has been praised recently for its battery life, so if you do want a smaller handset with good battery then this could be an option. It does have other compromise, though, such as no microSD slot and only 10GB user-accessible internal storage.
Overall there’s a lot to like about the Note 3 and few drawbacks. One of those drawbacks, the SIM limitation, could be a problem for some but is an issue that can be resolved.