Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Australian Review: Mightier Than Ever

They say the pen is mightier than the sword. For the Galaxy Note line of handsets from Samsung, they're hoping that the S-Pen is mighty enough to sway you into buying the new Galaxy Note 3. Thanks to a few little tweaks and changes, this is the first handset where a stylus actually makes sense.

What Is It?

The Galaxy Note 3 is a huge uppercut to the competition. It packs a huge hardware punch with a 2.3GHz quad-core processor, 3GB of RAM, super-fast Category 4 LTE/4G capabilities, all hiding beneath a beautiful 5.7-inch Full-HD Super-AMOLED display. The battery is more juiced than ever with 3200mAh taking you from pillar to post, as well as a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera to shoot your life along the way.

All this power and beauty has been packed into a smaller footprint than ever, with the device measuring in at a svelte 8.3mm case, weighing just 168 grams.

What's Good?

The Note-line of handsets is starting to inform the design language for the rest of the Galaxy products Samsung makes. If you look at the Galaxy S4 for example, you'll see the same minimal bezel, oval-shaped home button, sensor placement and grille/pattern design found on the Galaxy Note II. This is great news, because the Galaxy Note 3 has a more premium feel than any Samsung handset that has come before it.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review: Biggerer and Betterer

(Left-to-right: Galaxy Mega, Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy S4)

Cheap plastic covers have been replaced by a stitched leather back, bright accents, grooved edges and an S-Pen that feels textured like a beautiful watch might be. The changes to the S-Pen really go beyond just a new look, however.

Samsung has overhauled the S-Pen to take it from a novelty gadget into something you’re probably going to use all the time now, In fact, the new Air Command feature paired with the S-Pen will turn the Samsung-branded stylus into something you need, rather than something you use in meetings to impress your boss.

The Air Command feature refers to a a radial menu that anchors in new apps designed to leverage the Note 3′s giant screen and handy power: Scrapbook for web clipping, Action Note for powerful handwriting tools, S-Finder for looking around your device, Screen Write for doodling on screenshots and Pen Window for putting hovering apps over any screen.

Air Command is fast, fluid and incredibly functional. Pen Window allows you to drop funky widgets on your existing multi-window layouts, bringing the power of three tasks at once onto the single, 5.7-inch screen. You don’t notice any slow-down the more you throw at the device: it welcomes the challenge and excels.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review: Biggerer and Betterer

Likewise with Scrapbook, Action Memo and S-Finder. These are three incredibly useful features that can only be accessed with the S-Pen. It’s now something you need everyday.

Scrapbook is a fun little feature that lets you circle just about anything you can find on the Galaxy Note 3 from either the web or inside another app. Whatever you put in your selected area gets clipped, Evernote-style, into a centralised Scrapbook for you to access later.

Scrapbook also pulls out the contents of said webpages, for example, and embeds the content in a new page so you can watch that YouTube video or listen to that SoundCloud track inside the app without having to bounce out to your browser.

Action Memo is the natural evolution of the S-Note app that Galaxy Note users know and have come to love, only this time Samsung has done a great deal to make your handwriting meaningful and useful this time around. You can now create "Actions" from your handwriting, which uses optical character recognition-style software to encircle your text and turn it into something that other apps can use.

Got an address written down? Open it up in Maps with an Action to see where you need to go rather than writing it out again. Need to call that girl who left her number in your phone because you're the smoothest dude around picking up chicks with your Note 3? Just Action her number into your phone and ask her out to dinner. Sadly, the Note 3 can't help you with that unironed shirt hanging in your wardrobe you need to wear.

That OCR-style software comes in handy with the new global device search feature known as S-Finer, too. Not only can you now search for stuff on your handset better than ever before, S-Finder also looks at handwriting as well so that note you scribbled in a meeting won't be lost forever. You can also add filters for time-specific searches and even location specific searches. If you were in London recently for a meeting and took a few photos, too, you can look for those specifically by your geotag.

All these features turn the Galaxy Note 3 into a really different handset than we've ever seen before. The previous generations of Notes were just big Galaxy S handsets with a pen attached. This one is the first productivity partner you could actually see yourself living with everyday.

Tap your home button from the main screen and you'll find a clever HTC Blinkfeed-style feed that displays all your news and social content. When we first saw it, we thought that Blinkfeed and Flipboard had a baby on a Galaxy Note 3, but it's actually a clever repackaging of the Flipboard app built specifically for the new Godzilla handset. It's nice, but there's no real way to curate the feeds you want, and it's missing Facebook integration which is a bit of a shame.

Meanwhile, on the hardware side, the Galaxy Note 3 is also packed to the gills.

The power is turns this handset into an ego-bruiser, and the new most-powerful handset we've had through the labs. That didn't last long for the poor iPhone 5s, did it? The Note 3 is packing ,ore RAM than in any other Android handset -- 3GB worth to be precise -- and a 2.3GHz quad-core processor so powerful you might just hear it growl under the soft leather backing of the handset itself.

In our Geekbench 3 tests, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 scored 2875. To put that into perspective, the Galaxy note II was impressive when it came out at 1403*, as was the Nexus 4 at 1537*. Earlier, we dubbed the iPhone 5s the most powerful device on the market with a score of 2530, but that crown was quickly usurped by the Note 3, with its impressive total. It's worth pointing out that benchmarks aren't always all they seem when it comes to Samsung's top-tier handsets, but hopefully it wouldn't make that error in judgment again.

It's worth noting that Samsung only scored a few hundred above the iPhone 5s, which is still packing a 1.7GHz dual-core A7 processor and only 1GB of RAM. All that power on the Galaxy Note 3 saw off the iOS competition on the test bench, but it's amazing to see what can be squeezed out of a comparatively-small processor and meagre amounts of RAM compared to just throwing more system resources at the platform.

Also on hardware, the 13-megapixel shooter on the back of the Note 3 is hella-impressive in daylight, but still leaves a bit to be desired in low-light areas compared to the Lumia range and even the new iPhone 5s.

Click to enlarge

iPhone 5s

iPhone 5c

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Nokia Lumia 1020

Download the uncropped versions from Dropbox here.

Still, it's an impressive camera for most circumstances, and it's still packing a great deal of customisability on the software side thanks to the inclusion of the Galaxy Camera style Camera app. (It's worth noting these photos were all taken on their respective handset's "Auto" setting)

The camera can also record at what might as well be 4K resolutions, too, with a resolution of 3840x2160, as well as slow-motion at 1080p.

It's also worth mentioning that the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is, for the foreseeable future, the only handset compatible with the Galaxy Gear smart watch. The Galaxy Gear is a clever little gadget that acts as a fancy remote to your Galaxy Note, all the while making you feel like Maxwell Smart.

It connects via Bluetooth and gives you access to some nifty remote features like the weather, a pedometer, Find My Phone proximity alarms, S-Voice compatibility and different clock faces.

The Gear runs an 800MHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal memory, a 1.9-megapixel camera with autofocus, all concealed underneath a 1.63-inch SuperAMOLED (320×320 pixel) face.

It also packs a bunch of remote features for your smartphone, like pushing notifications to your wrist from various apps and allowing you to start, stop and skip music tracks from your watch.

The remote features also work in tandem with your phone, so for example, if you’re looking at a notification on your wrist, you can tap it or even just pull your phone out of your pocket and it will take you straight to the information you were looking at on the big screen so you don’t have to go digging for it again.

These are all clever features, but the real power comes from the calling, camera and app functionality.

The Gear also comes with a 1.9-megapixel camera mounted in the middle of the strap between the face and the buckle, designed for grabbing quick snaps when something happens that you don’t have time to get your phone out for. It’s a feature called Memographer, and feeds nicely into the Galaxy Note 3′s ideology of taking quick snaps and grabbing information fast for access later.

All of the faces, apps and other managed from an app on your Note 3.

We'll bring you our full review of the Galaxy Gear soon.

The beautiful screen on the Galaxy Note 3 trumps the massive panel on the old model, touting a 1080p panel (1080 x 1920, 386ppi). Just look at the difference between the two side-by-side.

Left: Galaxy Note II. Right: Galaxy Note 3

The phone also has a smaller bezel, less rounded edges and an all-round better design than its predecessor. It's a coming of age for the Note.

What's Bad?

The Note 3 is a fantastic handset, and probably the best thing to come out of Samsung Mobile in the history of ever, but no gadget is without fault.

We praised Sammy for ditching the scratchy, horrible plastic on the Note 3, but it's not all single-malt scotch and fine suits with the leather case: it still has that underlying feel of plastic, almost with a faux feeling to it.

The Note 3's size bump from 5.5-inches to 5.7-inches is starting to push the planet-sized flagship into the "too big to hold" category. If the Note gets any larger we'll have to relegate it there, but it's worth noting that this phone isn't for the tiny-handed (read: your feeble yet fearless reviewer).

Samsung has actually changed the charging port on the Note 3 from USB 2.0 to the speedy USB 3.0 standard. That's actually a good thing, but what the hell am I meant to do with the 50 USB 2.0 cables I have on my desk now?! Update: I was wrong, and didn't realise it is actually backwards compatible with all my USB 2.0 cables. Splendid!

The Worst Part

It was our least-favourite part of the Samsung Galaxy S4, and it seems to be one with no end. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is still running that goddamn Australia-specific version of Touchwiz where you can't change anything in the dock and you have to push a bunch of keys just to move stuff around on the homescreen. God. F**king. Dammit.

Exact your revenge by flashing it off as soon as possible if you're someone who likes Android because it's, ya know, customisable.

Should You Buy It?

Centre of your digital life straight out of the box and impressively powerful and impossibly pretty as far as Samsung is concerned.

This is the phone for devout Samsung users and productivity junkies alike.

*Scores adjusted for Geekbench 3 tests according to Primate Labs' multi-core test scores.


    50 usb 2.0 cables, that will still work...

    What happened to the promise of 4K video recording? I know a lot of people were saying that it would be pointless, but shooting with the extra resolution and downsampling to 1080p might have made it an interesting possibility for videographers looking to shoot b-roll on the fly...

      That is 4k video recording! 3840x2160 is 4k...3840 is near 4000 hence the term 4k

        Pretty sure that was added to the original review... There was no mention of it when I first commented...

        3840 × 2160 is actually considered 4K and is the resolutions the new 4K TV's run at!

        Think of it this way the current TV's are 1920 x 1080 right? now if you put 4x 1080P pannels together you would have 2 across and 2 below and this would give you essentially 4x the resolution of the current 1080P resolution right? you can calculate it as follows:

        1920 x 2 (panels besides each other) = 3840
        1080 x 2 (panels below each other) = 2160

        This is 4x the resolution of the current 1080P panels being 3840 x 2160

        Essentially it's allot more pixels:
        1920 x 1080 = 2,073,600 pixels (Times this by 4 and you get the below pixel count)
        3840 x 2160 = 8,294,400 pixels

        Last edited 24/09/13 10:35 pm

          Everything you said is spot on, but its worth clarifying that the "4K" name itself is not due to the resolution being 4x the resolution of 1080p. Rather its a carry-over from the very similar cinema resolution of 4096x2160p, where 4K is referring to horizontal resolution, rather than vertical resolution, which all previous consumer HD formats have been labelled by (720p, 1080p etc).

          The correct term for 3860p is technically UltraHD or UHD, but the 4K name has stuck, so nowadays 4K can refer to "anything with a horizontal resolution of around 4000 pixels".

            Yes I agree 100% and understand what you are saying, technically 4K is referring to the horizontal resolution of an image this is why I said 3840 × 2160 is actually "considered" 4K and is the resolutions the new "4K TV's" run at! although it's not really 4K as you have correctly pointed out and I did not make clear :-)

            Cheers and all the best!

      Hmm the trouble with that is the 4K resolution footage comes in at about 45MB / Frame, say run it at 30 / Frames a second, thats 1350MB a second of footage, so for a minute of footage at said resolution it would come to roughly 81GB, so the storage capacity probably just isnt there.

        I think you'll find it'll actually be more around 50MB/s in most cases.

        The phone will not record at 1,350MB/s (45MB per frame) for a a 4K video... no consumer device will!

        There is always compression applied and quality can be set as well.

        I'm not sure what format the Galaxy Note 3 uses as I don't have one to check or play with yet, I would guess the Samsung 4K video would be between the 4.5 - 8MB/s range but not knowing the compression used or quality settings available (bit rates) it's hard to say however I expect it to be around that range per second of footage (eg, 30 frames)

          Oh I completely understand that It wouldn't, but what would be the point of 4K recording if you are just going to compress it down it will loose the quality and point of 4K res.

          And at the moment consumer devices dont record at that rate, but the Tech is there, and it will eventually filter down to the consumer level.

    Im pretty much sold on this device, will see how the next couple weeks after release go, but without any major flaws this is shaping up to be my next handset.

    until you lose the stylus.

      there is an alarm that you can set so that it warns you when the phone is too far away from the stylus (well, there is in the Note 2, so i assume its in the Note 3)

        I left mine somewhere at work and the phone only told me when I pulled into my place.

        I thought that feature had my back.

      I honestly don't see how that's possible unless you're not looking at the screen at all. Whenever the pen is detached there's a permanent notification icon plus the optional alarm. The pen doesn't just fall out of the phone.

      They're easy enough to buy... And the styluses for old Note models and tablet computers are compatible too.

        I have owned an N7000 for two years and I've never lost the stylus, the only time it ever went astray was because I left it on a desk, but it certainly has never fallen out which was my primary fear with the device when I first got it.

          Same. I still have the originals for my Note 2 and Note 10.1 - I bought an extra one anyway because it has an eraser on the other end which make artwork a lot quicker and more intuitive.

      I had a Palm Treo and a few Sharp devices.
      Yep, I lost Styli.

      Now I have a Note 2 - Stylus is very useful indeed.
      Never lost one. It's engineered to make that difficult.
      You save all work by REPLACING the stylus.

      I have mine configured to pop up a note taking app when the pen is removed. Voila! an endless piece of paper - always there. Being so darned USEFUL makes it hard to look at a NON-PEN device as a replacement ... they are simply deficient.

    This is a much better review than the first one we had for the Note, and much better than most of the iphone reviews- some good balance and considered thought here.
    I may indeed get one to replace my battered Note 2. The first thing I'll do is install a launcher- Touchwhiz is Samsung's attempt at self sabotage.

    Great to see a review of the N9005 in Australia. Very excited, have pre-ordered and should have mine next week. I will miss my Xperia Z Ultra, but looking forward to the convenience of my Note 3.
    With all of the features of drag and drop and multi window. The N9005 does support 4K video.

    your old usb cables still work its backwards compatible

    Maxwell Smart had a shoe phone, not a two way wrist watch radio. That was Dick Tracey

    hmmm...I read that the MicroUSB 3.0 port is backwards compatible with MicroUSB 2.0, including charging and file transfers.

    is it as powerful as the Galaxy S4 and does it have a IR emitter?

      Dunno about IR but according to the performance tests Gizmodo have done the Note 3 scored 2875 and the S 4 2077 using Geekbench 3 ( Whether that translates to real life or not I don't know but assuming the Note 3 software isn't much more intensive, it should be more 'powerful' for most purposes. Plus, the extra gig of ram would be very useful.

      Yes... Is does have all the functions of the S4 and much more !

        the note 3 eats the s4 for breakfast, faster, bigger, newer..i mean the technologies on this thing are world leading! usb micro 3.0, world first! did you guys know the snapdragon 800 uses Qualcomms Smart Charge 2.0, so at 1.5A youll go from flat to full in 2 and a half hours! beat that vs 5 hours on conventional, also 4k recording! 3GB of ram! fastest quad core CPU in the world, bigger battery, faster, lighter..i mean this phone is the cutting edge of what human kind can produce, it destroys every other phone out there ( even thought some of the newer ones like G2 and Sony Experia Ultra Z have the same CPU, they lack in specs, 2GB ram, or no flash on camera (Sony) or no removable battery (all Google Nexus Phones) or SD expandability, the note 3 is just perfect) it's going to be an amazing feeling when I escape from work to go down to the tmobile store at 10 am when they open oct.

          ".... no removable battery (all Google Nexus Phones)"
          I hold in my hand a galaxy nexus google phone which i can remove the back cover and swap batteries... i must have bought a faulty one :-|

    This doesn't look like a review describing each part in detail. You didn't even test the battery life.
    Improve your skills for your next review

      Condescending, non-constructive, only pointed out one area you felt could be improved, and you missed a full stop at the end of your sentence. Perhaps you should improve your own skills before worrying about others.

        Attacking the commenter because their comments are not to your liking. Perhaps you should improve your social skills before worrying about others.

    Yes, there is a small IR Blaster located on the top of the phone. It has all the functionality of the 4 with or without the S Pen, and yes, backwards compatible for the USB port. You have a choice of using the micro USB charger or the one out of the box. Be sure when purchasing to get the n9005 as opposed to the N9000 which is 3G and has the octa core and does not support 4K video, as the 800 chipset has that power only.

    I can't work out whether the 64GB version is going to be released at the same time? I don't see it on MobiCity/Optus etc.

      Ahh, I found out. 64GB version not available at launch, will be available sometime in the near future.

    Somewhat Incomplete and lacking...

    Any idea about SD capacity? How large can I go with SD memory in the card slot?

      64gb on the memory card slot

    How about call quality and volume of calls in and out? After all it is a phone firstly, right?

    There is a pretty good reason why the "leather" has "that underlying feel of plastic, almost with a faux feeling to it"... ;-)

    "The Note 3′s size bump from 5.5-inches to 5.7-inches is starting to push the planet-sized flagship into the “too big to hold” category..." really?
    Size 152.4 x 78.7 x 8.4 (mm) for the note 3 and 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4 (mm) for note 2. its seems to me that its actually slightly smaller. not sure what sort of review you did, the screen got bigger thanks to a smaller bezel but the phone actually got a little smaller.

      You are correct the Note 3 is no bigger than the previous generation Note 2, I think Samsung know they have found a great 'size' that is still able to fit in my pocket yet large enough to actually do 'work' on which I found very difficult to do on smaller phones... very happy the size has stayed the same, I think it's perfect.

    I thought the whole draw of modern smartphones was that you didn't have to use a stylus anymore.

      This is a massive misconception with the Note devices- You do not have to use a stylus with them at all.
      What you have with them is extra functionality that other devices do not have. It's like having a modern car that comes with 4WD and one that doesn't.

    That god damn Australian version of Touchwiz!!!!!!!! Why Samsung, why!!!!!!???????????

    It's just awful!!!!!!!!!!

    Why is this review up again?
    Aren't we expecting the note 4 in the next few months.

    Getting a bit sick of these reposted reviews

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