Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

The latest iteration of Samsung’s Note handset features new S Pen apps and a unique new back cover

When the Samsung Galaxy Note first emerged a couple of years ago, few suspected it would go on to become a cornerstone of Samsung’s Android device lineup. Yet here we are in 2013 witnessing the launch of the Galaxy Note 3, the third iteration of a highly successful device family.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 formula is a familiar one — combine a big screen with stylus input, a powerful CPU and a ton of software features. On the hardware side, the Note 3 is more or less the same size and shape as its predecessor, although it’s sporting a larger screen (5.7 inches), a larger battery (3200mAh) and a lighter weight. It’s entirely more squared-off than many recent Samsung devices, indicating a departure from the nature-inspired design language of old. If anything, the new Note resembles an old-style paper notepad — that’s mostly due to its bold new back cover design.

In a somewhat skeuomorphic turn, the plastic back has a faux leather effect to it, complete with faux-stitched trim. It’s a dramatic change from the glossy plastic of old, and feels better in the hand than earlier Notes, but it does look just a little odd — especially on the white version of the device. On the black version, it’s a bit more palatable.

As usual, Samsung’s new Note sports top-level hardware. Depending on market, you’ll get a Snapdragon 800 quad-core chip (LTE) or Exynos 5 Octa (3G), complete with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage as standard — though a 64GB version also will be offered.

The Note’s display is a massive 5.7-inch Full HD 1080p SuperAMOLED panel, which is extremely bright and bold, even more so than the Galaxy S4’s screen. Despite stretching the same number of pixels over a larger area, it’s still plenty sharp. Thanks to reduced bezels, the Note 3’s 5.7-inch display fits in much the same footprint as the Note 2’s 5.5-incher.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Around the back — in the middle of that textured battery cover — is a 13-megapixel unit with Samsung’s own “smart stabilization” technology. Video recording is also supported at up to 4K (UHD). And beneath the back cover lurks a beastly 3,200mAh battery, which should provide ample juice.

But the Note 3’s software is where it really gets interesting. Samsung’s going to great lengths to ensure more users make the most of its S Pen stylus. Unsheath the S Pen and you’ll get an “Air Command” radial menu on-screen, showing you a selection of main stylus-based capabilities. These include basic stuff like “screen writing” — essentially a screenshot function — to more advanced capabilities like windowed apps.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Scrapbook is a new feature that expands on the image-clipping features offered by earlier Note products. As well as capturing the area you draw around with the S Pen, Scrapbook “harvests” metadata from the app in use — for example, URLs and page data from the browser. Clippings can then be placed in various categories to create a digital collage of “favorite stuff” from both apps and the web.

Your Scrapbook, among other things, is searchable through the new S Finder app. Unlike Google Search, Samsung’s search app is focused on sorting through the mess of content that you often find on your smartphone — stuff like pictures, notes and contacts. As well as keyword search it’s possible to narrow your searches by time period or tags — including location data. Samsung says it’s using optical character recognition to properly recognize the written notes, allowing them to be searchable, and this seemed to work pretty well on the demo units pre-loaded with sample content. We’ll have to wait and see how well it performs in the real world, however.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Similarly, this central repository of stuff on your phone can be turned into a magazine of sorts, through the new “My Magazine” app. This looks and functions a lot like Flipboard, only with a little less set-up.

Multitasking has also been switched up a little on the Note 3. The multi-window feature, which allows two apps to be run simultaneously by splitting the screen, returns with a neat new trick that lets you save combinations of apps to the sidebar. If, for example, you’re always running YouTube and the browser at the same time, well, now you can access that combination with just one tap.

But there’s yet another neat multitasking trick involving the S Pen. From the “Air Command” radial menu you can select “Pen Window,” which lets you draw a window on-screen and then populate it with an app. Like multi-window, not all apps are supported, but the core Samsung and Google apps will work just fine. Just like on a desktop OS, windowed apps can be dragged around, resized and made fullscreen, as well as minimized. Minimizing an app through Pen Window turns it into a little icon — sort of like chat heads in Facebook Home — which you can then drag around the screen.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Multitasking on a smartphone is still something many major players are working out how to do right. And Samsung’s approach is an innovative one, but with only limited app support it’s appeal will be limited.

So as usual with a new Samsung product, we’re dealing with incrementally upgraded hardware and a slew of new software features. But the new tricks on the Note 3 aren’t nearly as arbitrary as some of the Galaxy S4’s software features seem. They’re focused on highlighting the Note’s two headline features — the giant screen and the stylus — and making them easier for consumers to use.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will launch around the world and on five U.S. carriers later this year.

More: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Forum

 

Reader comments

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 hands-on

332 Comments

Awesome specs, unoptimized software.
What's the point of adding a CPU that's really effin' beefy and tons of RAM available when the phone will still lag because of it's bloat-filled software and un-optimized UI?

The phone makes the HTC One and iPhone 5 look fast by comparison...

Yes, that sounds exaggerating, but Samsung should just cut back on the bloat and give consumers a choice of installing it or not, NOT shoving down crapware down the consumers' throats.

This is the best phone of 2013-2014. Has it all, everything from plenty of int storage, ext sd-card and bumped up every spec on the phone from the Note 2. Battery, battery battery. As far as the back is concerned, doesn't bother me there are tons of after market accessories for this phone including back doors. Even the camera is going to be great. It has any Nexus device beat hands down. Samsung is the only manufacturer who actually gives their customers what they want. What other manufacturer gives you that kind of int storage with sd-card support, sure as hell isn't the Nexus phones. I want a phone I can load up with great apps and not slow down, this is the phone. Put my #10 64gb sd-card into my 64gb internal storage Note 3 and hot damn Sam, I'm all set. Love it. This is my new phone and I am very fussy. Thank You Samsung.

Not a fan of the faux leather back cover.

Nice specs improvement but not enough for me to leave my Note 2 to purchase. I will wait for the Note 4.

Posted via Android Central App

Note 3 looks great! Not here to discuss which manufacturer makes better phones cause that is a never ending debate. Ya like it to or ya don't. Good bye(;

Posted via Android Central App

Too many menus and 'features'. A fan menu on top of other menus? Really makes it beyond complicated.

I wish the next Nexus would have handwriting recognition with a clean and simple design to the UI.

The design changes look nice, specs better than what I have on my Note 2. Looking forward to having this device.

Posted via Android Central App by means of Proxy Anomaly GN2

If you look at the design languages of the new phones coming out now,you will see they are going back to the squarer flatter designs ...the g2 although a nice looking phone is already out of date .
The note 3 is actually on the money design wise ...some won't like it ...but hey you don't have to buy it ..personally for me it's the perfect size ...yes the software isn't optimised yet ,but it will get better after a few updates ..
I have the ..note2,s4,HTC one ...each one offers something different..it makes me chuckle when I hear people moaning ..you just can't please everyone ..
I now have a big decision to make ..note 3 or HTC one max..
Anyone know when the max is being released?

Posted via Android Central App

Sorry to hear its shape is more squared-off. Does the phone feel chunkier / more awkward because of the squared-off shape?

Don't bother answering because AC still hasn't added a notification system in its comments, apparently -- I won't know you replied. Come on, AC. :-|

Really? All this bashing over the material/design of the back cover of a phone. Wow, that's amazing.

Looks like a few nice upgrades to the hardware and a few new added features. I'm a very big fan/user of the s pen, and use the Note 2 for its productivity. This seems to add to the production factor.

If your not a fan of TW, why not install a launcher? That's one reason we like Android, options. I'll be installing my Go launcher.

Definitely going to be my next phone.

Posted via Android Central App

Who else wants to see a google play edition of the note 3 besides me?

Posted via Android Central App

@Alex Dobie

Thanks for the post.

At least Samsung started Samsung Galaxy Note3 from 32 GB internal storage.

Samsung Galaxy Note3 is cool, but Samsung didn't make it as a surprise. the screen ppi is 386 ppi pixel density whereas upcoming LG G2 has 423 ppi, Samsung yet not able to make their Octa processor with LTE, outlook design is not surprisingly cool and different from previous model, front camera or rear has not surprisingly upgraded. but the note 3 is good.

Thanks in Advance

I have always been a fan of the Note, and had the first iteration. The Note 2 is an excellent phone, and arguably better than the S4. The Note 3, rather like the S4, looks like they ran out of ideas in many ways. That window feature - sorry, but WTF? How can you say that is a seriously useful feature? It's ridiculous. And the multi-screen thing - I have never used it on my S3, 4 multi screens? Hmn. Not bothered about the fake leather plastic back either way, but I am a little disappointed by Samsung's recent modifications to android and new feature lists, and that now includes the Note 3.

I think it's safe to say that some of you aren't impressed with Sammie.... If they made a Nexus with the same screen real estate, I would own it and not this lovely Note 2. I love my Note but I like pure android much better! I dislike touch wiz and sense! Both totally suck!! Sammie gets my money because of battery and sd card. I think I will wait for the Note 4!

Posted via Galaxy Note 2

This looks better than the previous Note 2 but they're going back to their previous design, the one which Apple sued them for. Lol.

my classmate's half-sister makes $74 hourly on the internet. She has been without work for nine months but last month her paycheck was $19892 just working on the internet for a few hours. go to this site BAM%32%31%2E%63om

i was going to get it until i saw the off contract price of $700+. might have to pass unless i can sell my note 2 for $400. also going to wait to see what the nexus 5 is about and yes...gulp.. the new iphone.

People complained about the shiny finger print magnet plastic. They switched it to a soft leather-like material and they still complain. What should they have used? Wood like the coming Moto X material? Aluminum like the HTC One? Kevlar like the Droids? You design geniuses should realize it's not easy to please everybody. If the pleather is a deal breaker for you on the best spec'd phone available right now, buy something else or just put a cover with the material of your choice on it.

i don't care about how it looks and the only thing i like about HTC one is the front facing stereo speakers. whats important for me is what can i do with the phone in my daily life and the battery life. i like the multi-window drag and drop feature and i think i will be using it alot. USB 3.0 is also nice to have. there will be a software feature which is like blinkfeed which i don't remember its name. touchwiz is OK for me with novalauncher.

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