REVIEW:Note 3 Is The Best There Is In Phablet Smartphones

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Written by David Richards     24/10/2013 | 12:18 | Category name i.e.REVIEWS

If you are one of those people who love technology but struggle to manage the hundreds of apps and the endless capabilities that today's smartphones are capable of delivering then the new Samsung Note 3 is not for you.


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This new large screen phablet is the device to own if you are smartphone savvy and want the latest in technology and smart user friendly applications. At $999 this device is not cheap but the technology is up there with any $1,000 Ultrabooks, it is smaller than most Ultrabooks and it packs a lot more features than a lot of the Windows 8 based devices. 

Yes it has a stunning 5.7-inch full-HD display and a screamingly fast Snapdragon 800 processor as well as a hefty 3450mAh that actually does deliver over 10 hours of battery life which a lot of Ultrabooks struggle to deliver because they have significantly larger screens.

What sets this device apart is the thought that has gone into the software and the way in which Samsung have significantly improved their S Pen capability along with several other simple features that make this device a very desirable communication tool.

I got my review version of the Note 3 hours before I was running out the door to the USA. 
This was ideal as I got to use the device in a real time practical environment, I was able to easily pick up the pages of a book I had been reading on my Samsung tablet at home and because of the screens quality reading was a breeze. 
The real fun started when I pulled the stylus pen out and I had to navigate my way around several new features including Samsung's new Air Command feature.


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If you do buy one of these devices I seriously recommend that you take time out to train yourself in how to get the best from the capabilities that Samsung has built into this device, especially those linked with their new Air Command feature.
The Note 3's lightweight, 0.1-ounce stylus was easy to grip between two fingers, and it was clear from the outset that Samsung has improved the pen's functionality from Note 2.0.

The new pen has flexible tip and when you rub it up and down the glass screen it feels like you have a genuine ballpoint pen in your hand and you are writing on paper.
The new Air Command menu, delivers five different pen-friendly utilities: Action Memo, Scrapbooker, Screen Write, S Finder and Pen Window.


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At first I felt intimidated but the more I practiced the more I got to like the benefits that this technology delivered from a simple action memo function that allows you to creates virtual notes that can be stored or minimized so that they stay on the screen wherever you go to the Scrapbooker feature that allows you to draw a box around any content you see on the screen.
You can draw a lasso or circle around the text in an action memo and search the web for additional information and because of the new Snapdragon processor the search was very quick on both a 3G and 4G network.

How the application works is that the software very quickly interprets your handwriting and gives you the option of dialing what you've written (if it's a phone number), mapping it (if it's an address), adding it to contacts, emailing it, sending it as an SMS message or adding it to your task menu. You can also whack the text into Google for an instant search.  
When I wrote a phone number quickly on a memo the app converted all the numbers correctly and allowed me to add the number to a contact list.

I am not going to bore you with inane performance and specification numbers re this device they are all listed out below. What I would like to help you with is understanding why this device is worth $999 or $2,100 on a 24 month Telstra plan.
A key feature of this device is the MultiWindow capability that allows you to place two apps side by side. 

With the Note 3, Samsung has added the ability to place two windows from the same app next to each other, which was particularly useful when I went look at two Web pages at the same time. 
A new context menu that appears as a blue dot between the two windows, this allows you to easily drag-and-drop content from one page to another

I was able to drag an image from my gallery and drop it into the Samsung Email app, where it became an attachment in a message I was sending back to my office.

Using the new Pen Window function, which allows you to open one of a few select apps in a floating window, we were able to place a third window on top of the split screen. Among the eight apps that support this feature are Calculator, Clock, YouTube and Internet.

Another big improvement was the virtual keyboard which works brilliantly on the 5.7-inch screen. The keys are widely spaced keys which is a big improvement as in the past I often found myself hitting adjacent letters by accident. You actually feel as if you are hitting a keyboard on a notebook.

What really impressed me was the way in which the keyboard learns the way that you type text, offering really strong next-word predictions, though it did struggle with some words. 
The highly accurate handwriting mode let me draw words with the stylus and watch as they were instantly turned into text. 
With the Screen Write function you can take a shot of the entire screen doodle on top of that shot and then save or share it in an email.


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Another big improvement was the SearchS Finder using this function I was able to search all of my recent activities. From video's watched to web sites I had visited. 
The new search engine even searched through handwriting in notes without the content being translated to text. You can see a list of all your activities from today, to the next 30 days. 

As a journalist I am often scribble notes with the updated S Note, so for me to have in my hand a device where I can record a conversation and scribble notes is brilliant as it allows me to walk into a press conference, record an interview, write a note, shoot a picture and leave using only one device. 
Samsung has also built in the ability to sync with Evernote.


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Easy Chart, is another feature that allows you to create bar, line or pie charts just by sketching however accuracy is not 100%. 
My grandchildren loved the new SketchBook feature especially when we were in a restaurant waiting for a meal to be served.

This new advanced drawing app allows you to choose from dozens of different brushes, add text to your drawings, use gradients or include clip-art symbols, one great party trick is shoot a picture and then get the kids to draw on their own image adding new hair colours, moustache etc.

A lot of people who have never owned a phablet often complain about the size, in fact the size of the Note 3 is one great reason to buy it. 

The Note 3 is easy to grip in one hand and fits easily in a trouser pocket or for ladies a side pocket of a handbag.
Designed for the 'Power User' this device is designed for two hand use, but if you want a one handed device go and buy a Samsung Galaxy S4.

The one thing I did not like was the plastic case with the indented ridge. I would have preferred a smoother more rounded edge. But the upside of a plastic case is that you do get to remove the cover and what you discover under the bonnet is a neat new way to insert a SIM and an SD card back to back in the same holder, this was simple but clever design.

The Note 3 uses a microUSB 3.0 port for charging and data transfer. When I plugged the device into a USB 3.0 port on a PC, the phone prompted me to choose between USB 3.0 mode and USB 2.0 mode, with USB 3.0 mode requiring the phone to drop all wireless connections and go into Airplane Mode. 

Transferring files with our PC was lightning fast. I was also able to charge the phone with a standard microUSB 2.0 cable.
The display on the Note 3 is brilliant. The 5.7-inch, 1920 x 1080 display is one of the brightest and most vibrant I have ever seen on a smartphone or even a tablet.

At 555 lux the AMOLED panel is easily ahead of 396-lux category average, the 460-lux Galaxy S4, the 439-lux HTC One and the 500-lux iPhone 5s. Videos played on the device were vivid and sharp. At one stage I watched a movie I had downloaded on an airplane and the screen was great when used with good headphones. 

Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is an Award winner, it clearly demonstrates that Samsung is as much a software Company today as they are a great hardware Company. 
Where this phablet stands out is that Samsung has delivered functionality that delivers when one needs it most, functions that easily work together like taking a hand written note or phone number and in two clicks being able to add the written text to a digital contacts list or message. 
Being able to pull out a pen draw something and then store the image takes is aided by the processing power that the Note 3 delivers.
By combining software that is way and beyond what a Windows 8 device delivers Samsung is seriously taking it up to both Apple and Microsoft and this could prove interesting in future devices. 


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Pros & Cons

Pros:

I have to applaud the lengths to which Samsung has gone to in order to try and make the thing feel useful. This is not a device for people who struggle with applications but for those who love cool devices, great functionality and apps to kill for this is the device for you.

Cons:

The ridiculous number of features and the $999 price tag mean this is a serious invest and what I would have liked is a free cover to hide the plastic back.