When Samsung announced the first Galaxy Note, it WOWed the world with its 5 inch display and the reuse of a stylus, during that time, everyone was skeptical about it like the first generation iPhone. Even Apple mocked at Samsung for releasing such an unpractical screen size which doesn’t allow one hand usability. The original Note later proved to be a successful product with its great software features and S-Pen, which creates a new category between a smartphone and tablet – Phablet.
Enter the Galaxy Note 3, the successor of the already popular Note 2, which is a true flagship model of this year from Samsung. Check out the full review video below.

Welcome to Malaysia, Galaxy Note 3

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The Note 3 was announced one week earlier than Apple’s iPhone 5S and 5C, along with the Galaxy Gear which we have not received one for review. It was received with mixed feelings and many would’ve expected Samsung to come out with such kind of hardware specifications.
Samsung has changed the design language of the Note 3, it no longer has such a rounded shape like its predecessor, the bezel has been reduced that a 5.7 inch Super AMOLED HD display is able to fit in to a compact body. Addtionally, the back cover of the phone is no longer the slippery hyperglaze coating (it’s still plastic!) and stitched with faux leather, which makes the Galaxy Note 3 looks expensive and disguised like an executive notebook, it also makes the phone less slippery. The new S-Pen also looks less plasticky this time although its still made of plastic, it requires some effort to be taken out and you need to have nails to do that.
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“Don’t be fooled, it’s actually plastic!”

The Galaxy Note 3 has the most monstrous specifications that you can find among all other Android smartphones today. We have to give credits to Samsung Malaysia for bringing in the device that early. Welcome to Malaysia, Galaxy Note 3.

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Here are the specifications.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.27GHz Quad Core processor

3GB RAM

32GB Internal Storage with expandable microSDXC storage up to 64GB

5.7″ Super AMOLED HD Display at Full HD resolution

13 Megapixel Autofocus Main Camera with 4K video shooting

2 Megapixel Front Facing Camera

WiFi B/G/N/AC, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC, GPS, Barometer

LTE Band 4 150mbps DL/50mbps UL

S-Pen

HSPA+/GSM

3200mah Battery

Display

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The Galaxy Note 3’s display is one of the best that we’ve seen on a mobile device, the Super AMOLED HD display demonstrates vibrant colors, good viewing angles and great visibility under direct sunlight. Touch sensitivity is perfect, we love typing on Samsung’s software keyboard and using the S-Pen to scribble notes is just a pleasure as we face no lags or stutters.

Android 4.3 – New Apps and S-Pen features

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The Note 3 is probably the first non-Nexus smartphone to run on Android 4.3 out of the box. As usual, TouchWiz runs on top of it and we aren’t a big fan of the TouchWiz skin, however we have to report that the Note 3 has the best TouchWiz experience ever, it is smooth and reliable, we no longer face that infamous lag in many iterations of TouchWiz, thanks to the powerful Snapdragon 800 processor and generous amount of RAM.

The Note 3 has some new features and tricks in its built-in apps and S-Pen this time, and we are just going to list down the notable ones here.

S-Note

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Probably the most popular note taking app found on Galaxy smartphones that allows you to draw, write, and type. S-Note now supports adding a few new stuffs – Charts, Idea Sketches, and Maps. These new features are cool and can be very useful at times when you just want to note down some important stuffs. Sadly, the Notes can only be exported to an image or PDF file.

My Magazine

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This is a pretty hidden feature, and can be refreshing if you’re bored of the widget based home screen. Slide your fingers up from the bottom of the screen and you will get My Magazine, a HTC Blinkfeed like home screen powered by Flipboard, it has three sections. News, to show what’s happening to the world. Personal, to see your recent activities on the phone. Social, to see all your social media updates. It also has easy access to phone functions such as the Dialer, Contacts, Messages, Email, Google Search, Browser and App drawer.

Samsung Knox

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A notebook keeps all of your private stuffs that you do not want anybody to see, and a typical smartphone isn’t secure even with a passcode on the lock screen. Samsung Knox takes users into an isolated secure environment that doesn’t have access to any Google services and content outside of the Knox environment, connecting the phone to your PC will not reveal files stored in the Knox environment as well. Samsung includes a Knox app store which includes a few enterprise apps, which we think it will improve overtime should developers support it.

S-Pen Features

Taking the S-Pen out of the device activates Air Command, which has five features that we really love, check out the video below to see how the features work.

Action Memo – Instead of just taking notes down, it converts your notes into action, very practical as most users will use it for taking down phone numbers, locations and reminders. Action Memo allows you to convert those notes to a contact, location, phone call and etc.

Scrap Booker – The most interesting feature of all five, it allows you to capture a selected area on your screen and save it into the Scrapbook app. You will be able to capture YouTube videos, web images, screenshots of webpages and locally stored media content, and you will be able to get a link to those content, not just only storing the screenshot.

Screen Write – A standard feature which lets you capture the screenshot of your phone and edit it.

S-Finder – A universal search tool that helps finding content in your phone, be it on the web, contacts, handwriting, pictures, message etc. S-Finder will be able to help you to dig stuffs that you’ve forgot.

Pen Window – Allows you to draw an area of the screen to create a window and execute apps, pretty limited apps supported at the moment however it is good enough.

Camera and Video Recording

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The Note 3 shares the same 13 Megapixel optics as the Galaxy S4, what’s different this time is that the camera app on the Note 3 supports 4K video shooting, which we find it an overkill for screens at this point of writing as many consumers do not possess a 4K resolution TV at home. We are glad to report that the camera takes wonderful pictures with great detail in good lighting condition, low light shots are also acceptable. Check out sample pictures and 4K video recording samples down below.

Camera Sample Shots

4K Video Recording Sample Part 1

4K Video Recording Sample Part 2

4K Video Recording Sample Part 3 – Indoors

Performance, Battery Life and Call Quality

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The Snapdragon 800 processor is the best SoC that you can find today, and Samsung has opted this chipset for the LTE version of its Galaxy Note 3 and paired with 3GB of RAM. The Note 3 is a multitasking power house, applications launched and switched without hesitation, we have to mention over here that Apps2SD is finally back on the Note 3, which allows you to move big apps to your SD card instead of the built-in storage, of course we would still prefer to store some apps in the internal storage for faster access. Benchmarks on the Galaxy Note 3 shows awesome results, despite of the recent ‘BenchmarkBooster’ issue, we believe in the Note 3 scoring such high scores – 36147 and 21622 points in Antutu and Quadrant respectively. Due to OpenGL ES 3.0 support in Android 4.3, the Adreno 320 GPU unleashes its true graphics capability by having fantastic effects, detail and anti-aliasing in games such as Asphalt 8.

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Battery life on the Note 3 is reasonable, with mid to heavy usage on the S-Pen most of the time to do messaging, e-mail and web browsing, 1 hour of Spotify streaming, synchronizing 4 e-mail accounts, 80% of the time on LTE/HSPA, the Note 3 manage to last for 1 working day before requiring a charge. If you do find battery life an issue, fear not as the battery is user replaceable.

Call quality on the Note 3 is fantastic, the three noise cancellation microphones do a good job in effectively reducing background noise and our callers reported no issues on listening to us even in noisy environments. The loudspeaker of the Note 3 outputs reasonable call volume as well.

Verdict – The best smartphone you can buy now

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The Galaxy Note 3 is the best Android smartphone that you can get your hands on in the market, it has everything that anybody would want – lightning fast performance, user expandable memory, huge internal storage, removable battery, great camera, good build quality. The Note 3 is a huge leap from the original Galaxy Note which people think its ugly, gimmicky and slow, with the new redesign of the Note 3, we would assume Samsung using the same type of design language for its future Galaxy flagships. The Note 3 is now available in Black, White and Pink at a recommended retail pricing of RM2399, and available in telco contracts as well. Here’s a summary on what we think it’s good and bad.

The Good:
+ Android 4.3
+ Gorgeous display and touch sensitivity
+ Fantastic multitasking and processing performance
+ Great call quality with three noise cancellation microphones
+ Decent build quality (can we use the term ‘unapologetically plastic’?)
+ Practical built-in apps
+ Knox is a fantastic secure environment
+ Apps2SD is back
+ Removable storage and battery

The Bad:
– Gimmicks such as Air Gestures still exists with no improvements
– Screen may be too big for some
– Unable to export S-Note and Scrapbook content into Office file format
– 4K video recording takes up storage easily
– Mediocre loudspeaker quality on music playback
– S-Pen requires some effort to be taken out
– Heats up on the top when fully loaded, affecting the earpiece
As the bad part doesn’t really affect the overall phone’s performance and usability, we decide to give the Galaxy Note 3 a full 5 star rating for the best all rounder in features and performance.