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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review

Andrew Williams



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Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3


Our Score:



  • Great screen
  • Lots of stylus functionality
  • Expandable memory


  • Expensive
  • Poor low-light camera performance
  • Complicated to use

Key Features

  • 5.7-inch 1080p Super AMOLED screen
  • 32GB internal memory with microSD slot
  • Snapdragon 800 2.3GHz CPU
  • Android 4.3 with TouchWiz
  • 13-megapixel main camera with LED flash
  • Manufacturer: Samsung
  • Review Price: £619.99

First reviewed September 2013

What is the Samsung Galaxy Note 3?

The Galaxy Note 3 is a slightly large-screened Android phone equipped with a Wacom digitiser stylus. The bigger brother to the Galaxy S5 it’s also arguably a lot more interesting, although at £600 SIM-free the additional benefits come at a price. There are quite a few aspects of the phone we're not totally enamoured with, particulry regarding some of Samsung's design decisions, but this is a great phone for gadget lovers and geeks alike.

See also: Galaxy Note 3 Tips and Tricks

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 - Video Review

We've created a video review of all the Galaxy Note 3's most important features, give it a watch below.

See also: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 release date, news and rumours

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – Design

There's no hiding it, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a very large phone. Saying that, it's still not quite in the same league as huge mobiles like the Galaxy Mega 6.3 and Xperia Z Ultra. You won’t feel entirely ridiculous putting it to your ear, and holding it in one hand is not too much of a struggle. Samsung has actually managed to make the Galaxy Note 3 narrower than the Galaxy Note 2, even though the new phone has a larger 5.7-inch display.

Galaxy Note 3 3

While this is an impressive feat by Samsung we should not forget that the phone is still 8cm wide. If you crave a phone that you can easily use one-handed, then this is not it. For a bit of context, the iPhone 5S is just 5.8cm wide.

The Note 3 is also among the first Galaxy phones not to use a glossy rear plastic cover. Samsung has tried to fool us into thinking the Note 3 has a leather rear. It looks like leather, from a distance, and the battery cover has fake stitching around its outer edges. But make no mistake – this is not leather.

Galaxy Note 3 17So what is it? It’s rubberised plastic with a leather-effect grain to give it a frictional quality of the real thing.

Take the battery cover off and you’ll see quite how similar it actually is to the back of the Galaxy S4 and Note 2. It’s thin, bendy and plastic. And while it doesn’t feel bad as such, we prefer the aluminium of the HTC One M8 and the matt plastic of the Nokia Lumia 925.

This is not a deal-breaker, but don’t approach the Galaxy Note 3 thinking Samsung has revolutionised its approach to hardware design – it hasn’t.

If anything, the new style is more likely to polarise opinion than the safer old phones.

As well as a leather-effect rear, the sides of the phone are ribbed chrome effect plastic, clearly intended to make it look like metal. The overall effect means it ends up looking a bit naff. Moreover, the white version has a less convincing feeling than the black.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Note 2

Galaxy Note 3 2

This ribbed plastic is also seen on the S Pen, which slots into the bottom edge of the phone. There is at least some consistency, even if the surface-level generational upgrades feel like changes for change’s sake.

One such change – but also something that tech geeks will lap up – is the new connector socket on the bottom. It looks like a microUSB with a partially developed conjoined twin attached. It’s not graceful, but it does come with benefits.

The Galaxy Note 3 has the first USB 3.0-compliant socket we’ve seen on a phone. This hugely increases the rate at which the phone can leech data from a computer (when using a USB 3.0 port), and will increase the rate of recharging when doing so over USB (again when using a 3.0 port). With just 32GB of internal memory in a Note 3, we’re not hugely excited about faster file transfers. But faster charging from a work laptop sounds good to us.

Galaxy Note 3 16

You don’t have to use the supplied extra-large cable, either. The Galaxy Note 3 is happy to charge, and transfer data, using a standard microUSB cable. Like previous Galaxy-series phones, the port is also MHL-compliant, meaning you’ll be able to output video and audio to a TV with the right cable. You don’t get one in the box, though.

Like every other Note phone, the Note 3 offers expandable memory through a microSD memory card slot. The UK version of the phone has 32GB of memory, and while Samsung does make a 64GB edition, it's unlikely to get particularly wide distribution here.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy Note 3

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – Screen Quality

The Note series has seen a gradual increase in screen size across its three generations. The first had a 5.3-inch screen, the Note 2 has a 5.5-inch screen and the Galaxy Note 3 has a 5.7-inch screen. These small increments have been made without any negative effects on the bodywork. The Note is less wide and less heavy than either of the former Notes.

The Note 3’s core screen technology is similar, though. It uses a Super AMOLED display of 1080p resolution.

Galaxy Note 3 11

Like Galaxy S4, the Galaxy Note 3 uses a PenTile ‘diamond’ display, where the sub-pixels are arranged into a diamond shape. In a lower-resolution screen, using a PenTile display would result in fuzzy text, but here the 396ppi pixel density is high enough to make it a non-issue. This is a super-sharp screen despite being oversized.

And as comes with any good OLED-type screen, contrast and black levels are excellent in the Galaxy Note 3. Colours are a little more problematic. Fresh out of the box, they are a little hot, but Samsung gives you some control over the character of the display.

In the Settings menu you can pick between Dynamic, Standard, Professional Photo and Movie screen modes. Dynamic is as ugly as a TV in a Curry’s high street store (i.e. oversaturated), but the Photo and Movie modes get pretty close to giving an impression of accuracy.

As we saw with the Galaxy S4, top brightness is excellent for an AMOLED panel, although whites aren’t quite as searing as you’d see on a top-end IPS screen. This is a great display.

The most interesting part of the Galaxy Note 3’s screen, though, is the digitiser layer. You can’t see, it, but it’s what lets the S Pen stylus work. Wacom makes the digitiser in the Note 3 – it’s the company behind the ‘industry standard’ Intuos graphics tablets, used by professionals across the world. We’ll get onto what it’s capable of later.


September 5, 2013, 8:34 am

Hmmm can anyone help me decide whether to purchase this to replace my old winpho7 HTC HD7, or upgrade to a Nokia Lumia 1020 and get the Note 10.1 (2013) edition as a combo? This phone may be a little large, and I can get my app "fix" with the tablet (considering how many apps aren't on WP8). I do want the 1020 for its camera though. Advice?


September 5, 2013, 9:16 am

I have the original Note phone. I find it a great all rounder, and use it for web browsing at home when I can't be bothered to fire up the PC, or around the house. I don't have a tablet, but the problem I would have with a tablet is that it would sit on a coffee table and so not be to hand. It is quite possible to read the BBC news site in desktop view un-zoomed, but more comfortable if zoomed a bit (double tap screen). e-Books are also very readable, and it's a great screen size for sat-nav. For me the Note really does manage the feat of combining the purpose of tablet and mobile phone into one device.
I've also found I take pictures with it, not something I ever anticipated doing. But it is always in the pocket, the regular camera isn't. So I do regret that the camera isn't better - I'd love the camera of the Lumia 1020.

However, my offspring has a WP7.5 phone, and unless WP8 is lightyears improved then the Lumia's OS would drive me bananas. I was very pro-WP when it was mooted, but found it a serious disappointment. SImple things like setting different volumes for ringtone than for games, not possible. Mute the games and the phone won't ring. Maybe they fixed that? Or the byzantine notification system - it is still a mystery to me how to discover if/how you have been messaged or contacted. You have obviously lived with WP for some time, so maybe you would find the reverse to be the case, and be bamboozled by Android?


September 5, 2013, 2:18 pm

I heard in India 3G version of Samsung Note 3 will be available with exynos octa core processor. Can anyone please answer my following questions.
1. If I purchase LTE Qualcomm 800 version from US will it work smoothly in India, if and when 4g is available?
2. Does processor make a lot of difference?
3. Is it true that 4K video recording is not possible with exynos version?
4. What other major differences will be there in two versions?
5. Lastly why two versions at all?


September 5, 2013, 3:10 pm

There is nothing unusual about the leathery back. The blackberry bold had it years ago. And it's nice. I don't understand what's so "old" about leather. Old MONEY maybe lol


September 6, 2013, 1:36 pm

You say "This one's been approved by the Pentagon so it must be good."

Are you being deliberately naive?

Perhaps this "approved" software has a back door for NSA "monitoring" purposes?


September 6, 2013, 2:47 pm

Haha! You're right. Suddenly "Government" grade encryption has lost its aura.

Cat Astrophy

September 7, 2013, 12:36 am

Why does the URL say review and it links to a preview?


September 7, 2013, 6:59 am

There's no mystery about the price. It's on the Samsung website and you can pre-order one there as well - £649.


September 7, 2013, 7:11 am

There's no mystery about the price. There are these things called websites. Samsung has one. The phone can be pre-ordered there for £649.


September 7, 2013, 8:37 am

Hey I'm on AT&T and pre-ordered last night. The final page states that your card will not be charged until the phone is ready to ship. (On or around Oct 1) So I hit submit and completed my order. I noticed today that AT&T has already charged my card. I call in to see why I was charged so early and was told my expected ship date is between Sept 11- Sept 13. Nice. Did anyone else have this happen?

Steve Malone

September 8, 2013, 8:46 pm

Samsung phones are very buggy I'm not a big fan.

Steve Malone

September 8, 2013, 8:47 pm

Sorry Samsung not for me anymore they are just too buggy.


September 8, 2013, 8:52 pm

Check out LG G2 Amazing phone!!


September 9, 2013, 1:04 am

I got the same email, and I preordered mine on Friday . So I called AT&T and I was told the same thing. S I guess we will have our devices by Friday .


September 9, 2013, 9:44 pm

Not interested in the LG phone.


September 9, 2013, 10:13 pm

Yeah, I'm gonna guess the real culprit is user error by the guy who double posts lol.


September 9, 2013, 11:22 pm

I have a Note 1 and am quite happy with it. Its still going strong and whilst 1 poster indicates samsungs are buggy - Ive found it pretty good and reliable. (as I have the other samsungs Ive bought for the rest of the extended family over the last few years). HOWEVER due to my travel - FM radio IS a requirement. Without it - I will need to look elsewhere. once I would have said a changeable battery was as important - but as long as there is a battery cover available - I just swap that.... So the FM radio is a show stopper (and no - you CANT stream when there is no network - and the cost of straming multimedia data when travelling overseas - would break many national budgets.. SO did they bring back the radio ??

Richard Yarrell

September 15, 2013, 1:47 pm

Yeah this dude doesn't have a clue what so ever. Nothing beats Samsung period.

Richard Yarrell

September 15, 2013, 1:50 pm

Lg is the copy cat version. Nobody wanys copy cat stuff when you can have the industry leader in the android space. Samsung rules period..


September 15, 2013, 7:19 pm

These past 2 years, Apple has copied tons of stuff from Android, Windows Phone, and even BB10. And yet they still sell tens of millions of devices every quarter.
Not to mention, the original Galaxy S looked quite a lot like the iPhone, and it sold pretty well too. Stupid hypocritical moron.


September 16, 2013, 3:16 pm

which is a better processor on galaxy note 3 octa or quad?


September 16, 2013, 3:17 pm

wre you able to get some answers?


September 22, 2013, 5:06 am

Most phones you were able to use the FM-reciever on actually had the receiver in the headphones. Maybe there's a similar solution to buy somewhere? Apparently people are supposed to be willing to waste their precious megabytes on something that previously didn't need an internet connection :)


September 23, 2013, 7:37 pm

I don't know everything but I'll try to help
1. Not sure :(
2. The snapdragon is more powerful but I don't think it will make much of a difference power wise.
3. 4k works only on the Snapdragon
4. Again, I don't think there will be much of a difference.
5. My opinion is that Samsung is easing itself into making its own chips popular, but maybe they don't trust the U.S. market with those chips? Maybe the US market it too big to risk it.

Hope that helps! Either way I'm sure you will be just as satisfied!


September 24, 2013, 12:02 pm

I've always had an FM radio on my phone since my first feature-phone, and the headphones always did double duty as an aerial, but never did the headphones house the actual FM receiver itself. I guess it would be neat if they did, for phones without a biult in FM radio.

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