Samsung Galaxy Note 3 - S Pen Refocused

Launch SRP: S$1048

Overview, Design & Accessories


The first eight months of 2013 saw the introduction of more 'phablets' by ASUS, Huawei, LG, and Sony, such as the 6.1-inch Huawei Ascend Mate at CES 2013, the 5.5-inch LG Optimus G Pro at MWC 2013, the 6.44-inch Sony Xperia Z Ultra at Mobile Asia Expo, and the 6-inch ASUS Fonepad Note 6 at IFA 2013.

Samsung's only response was the 6.3-inch Galaxy Mega with LTE in April, which isn't exactly a flagship device to hold the fort against the competition. It has a big screen, yes, but the internals don't scream high-end. Up until September, it seemed as though everybody had a jump on Samsung and its one-year-old Galaxy Note II. But like clockwork, the Galaxy Note 3 did arrive and the company that invented the phablet category is now on the offensive.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 

  Key Highlights of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (SM-N9005)

  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.3GHz processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 64GB
  • 13-megapixel rear autofocus camera with BSI, Smart Stabilization and LED flash
  • 2-megapixel front-facing camera with BSI and Smart Stabilization
  • NFC support
  • 4G LTE
  • micro-SIM
  • 3,200mAh battery
  • Dimensions: 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm
  • Weight: 168g
  • Price and Availability: Pre-order collection on September 27, official launch on September 28
  • Colors: Black, white, pink (to be available at a later date)


The Three Generations of Samsung Galaxy Note
  Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (32GB) Samsung Galaxy Note II (16GB) Samsung Galaxy Note
Launch SRP
  • From S$1048
  • From S$998
  • From S$998
Operating system
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (at launch)
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean (current)
  • Android 2.3 Gingerbread (at launch)
  • Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean (current)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.3GHz
  • Exynos 4412 Quad quad-core 1.6GHz
  • ARM Cortex-A9 processor dual-core 1.4GHz
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
  • 1GB RAM
  • 5.7-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / Super AMOLED
  • 5.5-inch / 1,280 x 720 pixels / Super AMOLED
  • 5.3-inch / 1,280 x 800 pixels / Super AMOLED
  • Rear: 13-megapixel with BSI sensor, autofocus and LED flash
  • Front: 2-megapixel with BSI sensor
  • Rear: 8-megapixel with BSI sensor, autofocus and LED flash
  • Front: 1.9-megapixel with BSI sensor
  • Rear: 8-megapixel with LED flash
  • Front: 2-megapixel
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/nac (HT80), GPS/GLONASS, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 (LE), IR LED, MHL 2.0
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n HT40, Bluetooth 4.0 (LE), NFC, MHL
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth v3.0+HS, A-GPS, microUSB, 3.5mm jack
Storage Type
  • 32GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 64GB
  • 16GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 64GB
  • 16GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 32GB
  • 3,200mAh
  • 3,100mAh
  • 2,500mAh
  • 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm
  • 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4mm
  • 146.85 x 82.95 x 9.65mm
  • 168g
  • 180g
  • 178g

 The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is available in black and white at launch. The availability of the pink model will be announced at a later date.



(Note: We've done a hands-on article with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, so we'll summarize the key points here instead of going into great length again.)

Generally, the Galaxy Note 3 sports improvements in two key aspects: the feel and size. After sticking to using plastic for its mobile devices for the longest time, Samsung departed from its usual practice and slapped on a leather-like material for the removable back cover. As noted during our hands-on, the base is still plastic, but your fingers aren't feeling plastic.

While the leather-like material feels and looks good, we wonder how long it would take before the rear cover picks up dirt and stains. This is especially problematic for consumers who are planning to get the white Galaxy Note 3. As you can see from the photos, our review unit is white and we took every possible precaution during the past few days to make sure the rear remains pristine.

Perhaps a casing like the S View cover and Flip Wallet will help address this problem, but then you can't show off the beauty of the design. Alternatively, you can place the phone face down as the 5.7-inch display is reinforced with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which has improved durability against deep scratches and cracks. This should ease your concerns on the display getting scratched easily and the rear getting dirtied.

Despite coming with a larger display, the Galaxy Note 3 is thinner and lighter than the Galaxy Note 2. Similar to how LG managed to squeeze a 5.2-inch display in a chassis of the G2 that is no bigger than its 5-inch counterparts, Samsung also made a somewhat similar strategy.

A snapshot of the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 (center) beside the 5.5-inch Note II and the LG Optimus G Pro. Notice the Note 3's bezel is thinner than the Note II's.

According to a spokesperson from Samsung Mobile Singapore, the company is able to achieve it through the use of thinner bezel, Corning Gorilla Glass 3, and optimization of the mechanical design and hardware circuit placement in the device. After using the Galaxy Note 3 for the past few days, we felt that the Galaxy Note 3 provides a better handling than its predecessor. Somehow, the less rounded corners also look better to us. In addition, the metallic-looking sides add a premium touch to the Galaxy Note 3 and help in having a firm grip of the device. That said, these chrome edges seem to be treated the same as the Galaxy S4, and we can't help but wonder if there would be any chipping of the paint.

Samsung refines the sides of the Galaxy Note 3 (top) to make them look more premium compared to the Galaxy Note 2 (bottom).

The layout of the buttons also remain the same; the Power button and volume controls are located on the right and left side of the device respectively. We feet that the volume controls are situated a little too high on the left side for easy access by right-handed users, while the placement of the Power button feels just right for both right and left-handed users.

You can find the 3.5mm audio output jack on the top left side corner and a microphone on the opposite side. The loudspeaker grille is housed at the bottom right corner beside the S Pen slot (because it's a travesty to punch holes on the leather-like back), which in our trials, sounded loud and clear. 

Typical of Samsung's mobile phones, the Galaxy Note 3 sports a removable battery. We had no problems removing the rear cover. Located at the bottom right corner of the camera module and its LED flash are the micro-SIM and microSD card slots. The Galaxy Note 3 supports microSD cards up to 64GB, which complements the 32GB internal storage.

A removable battery cover? You know what this means, right? Tons of third-party, high-capacity battery add-ons in the near future, that's what.  

Though the Galaxy Note 3 comes with 32GB internal storage, actual available storage space is 25.11GB after updating all the preloaded apps on the device.


First Phone to Sport new Micro-USB 3.0

A little yet important aspect of the Galaxy Note 3 is its use of the micro-USB 3.0 port. It is currently the first and only phone to use such a port.

One of the key benefits of micro-USB 3.0 is faster transfer rates. With USB 3.0, it has the potential to transfer a 10GB file from a computer/laptop to an external storage device in about 25 seconds. In comparison, USB 2.0 takes more than five minutes.

Why do we use the word "potential"? Well, not all devices are able to maximize the increased speed provided by USB 3.0. Spinning hard drives, for example, are limited by their RPM and the read/write speed. What this means is that we have to wait for computing devices to be equipped with newer and faster hardware like solid-state drives to be able to enjoy the highest speeds possible offered by USB 3.0.

Another benefit is the faster charging of the device if plugged into a PC or Mac. While USB 2.0 generally provides up to 500mA current, USB 3.0 provides up to 900mA which is about 80% faster. If you've a micro-USB 2.0 charging cable, fret not, it'll still work just fine.

The bundled micro-USB 3.0 cable may look weird, but it has the potential to offer faster data transfer and charging speeds. Just be careful not to jam a micro-USB 2.0 connector into the wrong section of the micro-USB 3.0 port on the phone, like we did a couple of times.


Accessories for the Samsung Galaxy Note 3

If you are planning to get official accessories for the Galaxy Note 3, Samsung Mobile Singapore has stated that it will have the Flip Wallet, the S View cover, the desktop dock, and the extra battery kit (which includes an extra battery and a charger kit) available at launch.

The Flip Wallet is available in four colors at launch: Jet Black, Classic White, Wild Orange and Indigo Blue. It is priced at $68.

The Flip Wallet has a compartment on the left for you to put your business card, credit card or EZ-Link card. It also has the sleep/wake function.

The S View cover is available in black and white at launch, and costs $88.

Some of the key features of the S View cover include: 

  • Receiving calls and notifications without opening the cover.
  • Swipe the screen and use the S Pen on the S View cover window to access shortcuts to Action Memo for you to jot down notes without opening the cover.
  • Activate the camera and control/play music.
  • Change the background colors of the screen that shows on the S View cover window.
  • Sleep/wake function

You can set the S View cover to unlock the screen when secure lock is disabled, choose the window color and decide whether to show weather information and/or Walking Mate information on the S View cover.

When there is a notification (e.g. unread SMS), the S View cover window will display the missed call and message icons on the left. Otherwise, you can just swipe to access the camera, action memo and music playback control.

The S View cover gives you a preview of any unread messages.

You can launch straight into the camera, Action Memo or control music playback on the S View cover window.

The S View cover adds a little bulk to the Galaxy Note 3. We also feel that the handling of the device with the S View cover is not as satisfactory as it is without the cover.

After a few minutes of handling the S View cover, we found dirt marks on its rear. We foresee the white cover getting dirtied easily, especially when you have to whip it out from your bag, purse or jeans' pocket.

 This is the S View Cover Wireless for the Galaxy Note 3.

The pictures you've seen so far in this review are taken of the S View Cover Wireless. As the name suggests, it is different from the standard S View cover as it allows you to charge the Galaxy Note 3 wirelessly. The voltage output is 650mA. At point of publication, Samsung Mobile Singapore has no information on its availability and pricing. We reckon that the S View Cover Wireless will cost a little more than S$88 S View cover.

The Good
Class-leading performance
Smooth TouchWiz UX
Long battery life
Useful S Pen features
Vibrant display
The Bad
Chrome edges don't instill confidence
One-handed operation can be difficult for some
Some gimmicky software features
Micro-USB 3.0 connector is unwieldy
Editor's Choice