Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review
Was someone betting a euro on that first Note? I certainly did not, but at the sight is that Samsung has ended up getting away with it. From ugly duckling - or rather giant - of the sector to creator of a trend and a category that little by little the rest of the manufacturers are entering.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 remains faithful to its predecessors: large-screen format, with the latest hardware and betting on the pencil as a hallmark of the Note range. In 2013 the competition between the phablets is much greater - to the point that we have given it a category at the Xataka Awards - and for this reason we wanted to put the gauntlet on the most expected to test whether, as its predecessor already did, it gives size.
Does Samsung continue to set the trend in phablets with the third iteration of its Note? Let's see
Galaxy Note 3, technical characteristics
In the technical characteristics it is worth stopping at the striking three gigs of RAM that the new beast of Samsung boasts. Do they really need to move Android? Experience with this year's smartphones - even mid-range ones - indicates that it is not necessary for the system to run smoothly.
The reason that Samsung has loaded the Note 3 in this aspect is Knox, the system that separates the professional's personal environment allowing us to switch between them with a click and which we will talk about later. The fact of having two active profiles at the same time is what requires a minimum of 1.5 Gb, which added to the rest of the environment and space for applications is what causes Note 3 to have broken its memory record on a phone.
Also striking is the microUSB 3.0 connector that gives that unusual appearance to the base, in fact it seems that it is the input for two different connectors when it is only one backward compatible with the micro USB 2.0 that we are more used to. The advantages that the use of 3.0 should give are a faster load (compared to Galaxy S4 it actually loads faster, but it is not a brutal change either) and a higher speed in file transfer (which effectively does, although one has only managed to obtain USB 3.0 speed with Windows, not Mac)
In the guts there is a new element, the microSD card is inserted on top of the micro SIM, allowing Samsung to have more available space and reach a 3,200mAh battery, which as we will see goes a long way despite the huge screen of the device.
The Note 3 has not grown in size compared to the previous version (in fact it is 0.1 mm higher, but at the same time it is narrower and thinner), but it has done so on screen thanks to a narrowing of the frames. In this way we have 5.7 inches without increasing the size of the device (in fact it is thinner and lighter), which denotes the good work of Samsung engineers and designers in this section.
In hand the feeling is very good. Samsung has introduced improvements in the finishes that result in better grip, while size remains at 79.2 × 151.2 × 8.3 mm while the weight goes to 168 grams, a mark more than notable for a 5.7-inch team.
The design of this phablet does not deviate excessively from what Samsung has been doing in recent years. The Note 3 is presented as a continuation of what we have seen in the S4 and Note 2: industrial cut design, its classic button layout (one side lit, the other volume, audio output up, physical button down) with the speakers and the microUSB connector on the bottom.
In fact, in some points it has reminded me of the best phone in the history of Samsung, the S2 (understood as the most differential compared to the state of the market in its time), with less curvature in the corners and a more "square" finish. On the side we see another change, wrought metal employs plastic with the appearance of wrought metal that gives it a better grip point compared to the smooth plastic side of other Galaxys.
But it is in the back where there is an important change in the Galaxy Note 3. If in previous top of the range of the brand we had attended numerous criticisms for the plastic finish, in the Note 3 we find a surface that simulates quite successfully the leather ... although it is an emulation developed by Samsung from plastics.
Both touch and sight Note 3 gains a lot with this back. More grip, better quality feeling, less risk of scratches and maintenance of the possibility of opening the phone to change the battery. For Samsung, a great move as long as it maintains the plastic material and contains the costs compared to moving to an aluminum finish while minimizing criticism on this front. The evocation of a quality notebook is present in Note 3 from the first contact.
The design is crowned by two microphones (one at the top, one at the bottom) and the already typical hole for the sPen, which as we will see very well detects the exit and entry of the pencil.
In short, Samsung has made a bet partly continuous with its hallmarks in general lines, partly groundbreaking with the finish that simulates the skin with which neither have abounded in plastic (with which two terminals have certainly appeared like the iPhone 5c and especially Nokia 1020)
Note 3 is still a large device, it will remain closed to those who think that its ideal smartphone size is 4.3 inches or less; For those of us who have been accepting in good taste the increase in screen size to five inches we find a very attractive proposal to take the next leap; Those that were already in phablet size little more should be added, Note 3 is the Note that offers the best grip and best hand feeling of the entire series.
Those with a Note 2 will see the screen as one of the biggest leaps in the product. Not only because of the 0.2-inch increase in diagonal, but above all because of the jump in resolution: Note 3 reaches 1,920 x 1,080 due to the 1280 x 720 of its predecessor, which takes it to a not inconsiderable density 386ppi. That is not all, the improvement in brightness is even more marked.
Following tradition, Samsung continues to bet on Super AMOLED, which, as we saw in the analysis of the Samsung Galaxy S4, had managed to mature to the point of solving some of the moles that dragged as it was the "blue" or lose fidelity to colors in some situations .
Note 3 next to the Galaxy S4
If with the Samsung S4, this debate was settled with a phenomenal screen, with Note 3 the challenge was to correct the only aspect in which the IPS screens of others (especially those mounted by LG, HTC and Apple) paled: the experience under the sunlight. After testing Note 3 for quite a few days - some blessed by an unexpected autumn sun - we can conclude that this is another subject surpassed by Super AMOLED screens.
The Note 3 screen experience is fabulous. Even in the sun the contrast is good and anything that passes through it is perfectly readable. At this point the note for Samsung is remarkable - it is not 10 yet in bright sunshine but the improvement is evident - as it is also outstanding in viewing angle.
As with S4, the tendency of Samsung with some screen modes (and with the image that the default lock screen brings is very marked) is to excessively saturate the style "I am a TV in a shopping center and I want to call attention. " Once the call effect is over, my recommendation is the film mode that saturates much less and, being less striking, is much more faithful to the original image. It is true that the dynamic mode improves the experience in dark places, but in medium performance I still keep the movie mode as it happened in Galaxy s4.
At this point of excellence in OLED screens (it is remembering the Nexus One and all its limitations on the screen and not being able to believe how much they have evolved) my impression is that the improvement will come, if anything, due to a better operation in automatic: brightness, tone and so that they adapt perfectly to the ambient light at all times without the need to adjust them to have the best experience. In Note 3 the automatic brightness goes quite well, worse in the mode the choice remains ours in each case.
Samsung continues to show that it is the fastest manufacturer to update the version of the operating system with the exception of the Nexus range. Note 3 comes with Android 4.3 as standard, so there are several new features to which it gives us access, one of which is the existence of limited profiles.
Above it we have the well-known Samsung layer, Touchwiz, as well as a multitude of applications and services with which Koreans seek to differentiate their terminals. When we discussed this aspect in the S4, my conclusion (and that of many others with whom I have commented later) is that in that one Samsung stacked a multitude of gimmicky applications but with very uneven value for the average user. With the Note 3 we are in a somewhat different scenario since a large part of the functionalities are linked to the S-Pen.
In this analysis we will not be able to analyze everything that the Note 3 brings, but we will try to weigh the true value of the software added by Samsung. Since we will have a section dedicated entirely to the S Pen, here we will review some of the additional features to those of the pen.
Something that was already a success in s4 and remains in Note 3 is the possibility of configuring the lock screen in detail, from the image and the way of unlocking to the messages, information and widgets present in it. The option to unlock and go directly to the application of your choice is still a very good shortcut for productivity, while partially alleviating the absence of a direct button for photography.
Along with the notification bar we still have the section to access the activation and deactivation of connections and functions, from Wi-Fi, bluetooth or mobile data to reading mode or multi-screen. At a first glance we will have the most used and with one more click we can enter a complete menu with 22 activation / deactivation possibilities.
Of the many options that Samsung offers, the Note 3 especially improves "Air view", which is used with a finger held on the S4 and shines when using the stylus on the phablet. The idea is that when we approach it to a button from different applications, we will skip an explanatory dialogue about what it does before pressing it. Another interesting option is the multi window; Although the value of it is movable on mobile, the truth is that at 5.7 inches we are on the border, although with the ease that it integrates thanks to the pencil (we draw on the screen the space where we want it to appear, we select the app and we have it ) makes me go for the option in a use case that I love: the one with the video plus notes as I reflected in the Note 8 analysis.
Another novelty is the integrated newsreader, half created with Flipboard. We immediately remember Blinkfeed by HTC, although in this case there is less prominence and to access the news reader we will have to make a gesture from the bottom to the top of the screen to make it appear. It is well resolved - the Flipboard people are a guarantee - although the integration with the famous application is confusing, on the one hand we access the reader, on the other we have our personal Flipboard and it is not always clear when we are in one or the other.
One-handed mode on Note 3
Surprises do not stop there, Note 3 expands the "use with one hand" mode that previously applied to the keyboard and calculator and allows you to take it to the entire interface. With this we have the system confined to the inches we want (four by default, can be modified), with the rest of the screen in black. It seems complicated to me that someone who buys the Note 3 looks for this type of functionality (perhaps some context that escapes me that requires using only one hand), in addition to the effect is somewhat disconcerting ... but if someone did want, there it is.
Regarding Touchwiz and Samsung customization, there is little news. By default Note 3 brings giant dedicated widgets to its ecosystem (the hub for example) occupying a large part of the initial panels. We can remove them, of course, but touchwiz is still present and that is something to keep in mind for those who do not see it favorably. My impression is that it is a customization that works well in some small details, but overall it has lagged behind somewhat aesthetically and needs an intense update by Samsung.
Touchwiz with a "minimized window", the native browser
Exclusive section deserves Knox, the spearhead of Samsung's attempt to enter the corporate market by way of having the blessing of IT administrators. In the case of Note 3 it comes "installable", we must execute it, accept the conditions, supply a password and an additional PIN and only later can we start using it.
From that moment we can be in the personal mode (the same as always, that we have nothing to turn on the mobile) and the "professional" mode in which all applications disappear, we have nothing configured a priori and we can only install selected applications from Samsung Apps. Both environments are isolated and do not share data, switching between them is easy as long as we enter the password when accessing the professional.
The idea is that if we are in an organization the administrator can decide what we can use from the professional area, which will be the one with which we can access the company's mail and applications. In Note 3 it is installed to suit the consumer, but it already shows that the terminal can move with perfect ease even having those two profiles in memory at the same time.
Last software aspect that we discussed before passing the pen: the "Kids Mode". Having different profiles is something that Android 4.3 allows and that in this Note is articulated with the Zoodles system. There is an application for parents to configure which applications are accessible for children (you can have as many users as you like) and when you give them the mobile, another application must be run (the so-called "children mode") from which they can only exit putting the year of birth of the father or mother.
It works as promised, although there is a broad horizon for improvement, both in usability and in understanding what the child can see (in the application there is a market of its own, there are videos that we have not selected a priori) and in the detail that when the situation is confusing because the system expects us to choose a launcher.
It is undoubtedly the star of the Note 3 and what differentiates it the most from the rest of phablets and tablets on the market. That is why the focus with which Samsung integrates it throughout the range is maintained: Wacom technology that works with remarkable precision and sensitivity, detection when we extract it from its hollow and when we support the wrist to draw or write so as not to interfere and a lot of software to take advantage of it.
In this last section there are interesting news from the usability point of view. As soon as the S Pen is taken out, the Note 3 vibrates and the "Air Command" menu appears with five options to use it directly without the need for any further steps. This handy ring-shaped menu can also be brought back to the foreground by bringing the pen close to the screen and pressing the button on it.
What does Note offer us through this "Commando Air"? It is about access to various functionalities - this time five and not fifty as Samsung sometimes does - which we will summarize below:
- Action note. It is an applet that allows us to apply recognition and quick action with what we write. An example would be to put a phone number and call in one click, another is an email and go on to write it and send it, another is a name and / or any of the above. It works surprisingly well, but it is still a function for pencil addicts: in almost any case using fingers and a touch screen allows us to execute the action just as fast or more.
Scrapbook user. The idea is to capture what we have on screen but giving more value than it means to capture part or all of the screen. For example, if we do it in the browser and capture a headline with an image, in the scrapbook there will be a link to the original URL, something that it also achieves with the YouTube application. To the captured we can add notes with the pencil, tag it, classify it ... a priori useful but only in some very marked contexts of "collection of web things that I want to save more visually than with favorites or I say"
Screen writing. The simplest and, for my use, the most useful. Capture the screen and add notes. Perfect for quiet work on design mockups, to superimpose your own elements on a map, send explanations by chat about anything ...
S Finder, as its name indicates, is used to search in Note 3. It integrates local search (files that we have on our mobile phones, applications) together with web search. It is well executed and if it weren't for the Samsung's text recognition being pretty good I would say almost better to use it without writing with the stylus.
Pencil window. A very good solution to activate the multi-window. We select the rectangle in which we want to open a new application, we select one of the supported ones (unfortunately not all, but there is the native browser, YouTube, WhatsApp, Hangouts ...) and voila, we already have the multi-window armed in two steps. You can have several, but due to the size of the screen, we will hardly be able to enjoy more than two, although it is possible to minimize one, open new ones ...
Something that does not change is that writing with the pen is integrated into the Note's keyboard, so that from any place where we can write it is possible to activate the use of the pen along with handwriting recognition in case we prefer to use it.
That's not all, Samsung's native notes app keeps growing and improving, from how it makes it easy to create simple graphics (eg from bars where you recognize handwriting very well) to integration with Evernote.
For those who like to use the pencil, the Note 3 is a joy. It allows what any other mobile or tablet to which we add a device of this type with the difference that the experience is assured and there is a deep software and hardware integration to take advantage of it. What Samsung seems to have failed is that third parties support the S Pen in their applications. This time they give us a version of Sketchbook,
Performance and autonomy
With the Note 3 we have witnessed a new controversy about the optimization for benchmarks (1, 2, something that seems widespread in the industry already) that we have tried to save using Antutu X that at least takes into account the manufacturers' attempts to "exit well in the photo "
From the outset, it should be emphasized that the Note 3 does not run, but directly flies. The "Snapdragon 800 + three gigabytes of RAM" combo turns you into a brown beast capable of moving two environments at the same time with Knox, having multiple windows open, multiple applications and being fluid as usual. In any case, in Antutu X it has found tough competition with the LG G2 and Xperia Z1, which win in some respects and globally, while Samsung is victorious in others.
With autonomy we have more good news. Certainly the 3200 mAh is noted for good, although the 5.7 inches consuming are not far behind. An "intense" user, such as a server, has managed to get the Note 3 to endure the type for a whole day (and I am very intensive in the use of mobile phones), so it falls into the category of mobile phones with which we can start to trust us regarding this aspect.
This section is usually one of the stars of our analyzes ... but this time it will be less so. The reason is that Samsung repeats almost everything that it put on the table with the S4 and its analysis we refer. The balance is that of a very good camera, with great performance outdoors, a good interface, but not at the level of the best in photography such as the 1020 or the Z1
Stabilization is software, something that the top of the range for 2014 is likely to leave behind as LG has done with its G2, for example.
We meet again the 13 megapixels without growth in the size of the sensor and almost with the same modes as in the latest Samsung franchise. A new "surround" appears to take 360º photographs of the "Street view" and another dedicated exclusively to golf photos?
Another change that Samsung introduces is the disappearance of "night mode", which is embedded in the automatic and the mobile launches it when it detects that the light conditions are not good. The performance here is still acceptable and although it is below the best in the sector, it is not far away. Let's see an example
Low light, automatic mode
Good in auto for low light scene
My conclusion is that the mobile behaves much better in automatic, since the possibilities in manual are half: we can play with the ISO but not with aperture or exposure speed. When raising the ISO we gain in light but also in noise, while the automatic mode allows you to keep it low and play more with the exposure speed to have more light, which leads us to have a good pulse so that it does not come out blurred or better we use some support or tripod for the mobile (as I did in the test of these photographs).
In the mobile / photography convergence battle it seems to be the option that is gaining strength, encouraging the user to the automatic mode simplifying the experience instead of growing in more versatility in manual for those who control.
Another novelty is the possibility of 4K recording at 2160p, which offers great quality when recording video (the best I have ever tried on a smartphone) at the cost of eating up the card space (10 seconds 65 megabytes, do the math). The problem, of course, is where and how to play in 4K to take advantage of it. If you are the lucky owner of a television with the new definition, great; otherwise it can be recorded in fullhd to save card space or in 4K with future playback in mind
In any case we have recorded a small video to be able to compare. Starting with YouTube broadcasting in 1080p at most, the idea was to check if the 4K recording gave us a higher level of detail. Honestly, even putting the original files on the big screen we discovered a lot of difference in this case, although in others we have noticed some improvement in the definition (for example, in texts of posters that are far away).
Xataka's opinion on the Note 3
I started this analysis by confessing my skepticism about the Note range, I end by affirming that Samsung's true number 1 this year is the Note 3. Those who are open to their size of device will find a magnificent, powerful, well-designed terminal with a great experience in hand and taking great advantage of the S Pen.
If we add a very good autonomy, a delicious screen and a more than solvent camera that shines in the video, we undoubtedly have the king of phablets and, I dare say, one of the most complete teams that have passed through our hands this year. It is not exactly cheap (Samsung announced it above 700, on Amazon you can find around 620), but hardly anyone who tries it will be disappointed.
8.9Design8.5 screen Performance9.5 Camera8.25 Software8.5 Autonomy9
- Big screen in size and quality
- S-Pen Experience
- Quality finish
- Touchwiz is running out of date
- Some application is still immature
- High starting price
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 N9005 - Free Android Smartphone, WhiteToday in amazon for € 399.99