Mobile Phones Guide

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (32GB) review

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 - S Pen Refocused

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Launch SRP S$1048
Latest Price From S$645 (Check Latest Prices)

Overall rating 9/10
Design:
8.5
Features:
9.5
User-Friendliness:
8.5
Performance:
9.5
Value:
8.5
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
More Awards:
Editor's Choice


Camera, Performance & Conclusion

Performance Benchmarks

The Galaxy Note 3 that Singapore is getting is equipped with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.3GHz processor with 3GB RAM, and is capable of LTE. There's also a 3G version that's powered by an Exynos 5 Octa processor (quad-core 1.9GHz + quad-core 1.3GHz), but we won't be testing this version.

The Snapdragon 800 processor consists of the upgraded Krait 400 CPU architecture (vs. Krait 300 CPU on the Snapdragon 600 processor) and the latest Adreno 330 GPU. Each core is able to support higher clock speeds of up to 2.3GHz and the Adreno 330 delivers up to 50% increase in graphics performance compared to Adreno 320 (found in Snapdragon 600 and S4 processors).

We will be pitting the Galaxy Note 3 up against other 5.5-inch and above rivals such as the LG Optimus G Pro, Huawei Ascend Mate and Sony Xperia Z Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs. The Competition
  Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (32GB) LG Optimus G Pro Huawei Ascend Mate Sony Xperia Z Ultra
Launch SRP
  • From S$1048
  • From S$868
  • From S$638
  • From S$1038
Latest Price
  • From S$645
  • From S$520
  • From S$540
Operating system
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.3GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.7GHz
  • Hi-Silicon K3V2 quad-core 1.5GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.2GHz
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
  • 1GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
Display
  • 5.7-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / Super AMOLED
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 resolution / IPS
  • 6.1-inch / 1,280 x 720 resolution / HD IPS+ with Corning Gorilla glass
  • 6.44-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 resolution / TFT
Camera
  • Rear: 13-megapixel with BSI sensor, autofocus and LED flash
  • Front: 2-megapixel with BSI sensor
  • Rear: 13-megapixel
  • Front: 2.1-megapixel
  • Rear: 8-megapixels, autofocus with HDR
  • Front: 1-megapixel
  • Rear: 8-megapixel, autofocus, Sony Exmor RS for mobile
  • Front: 2-megapixel
Connectivity
  • 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, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v4.0 LE EDR, DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, DLNA, Bluetooth v4.0, NFC, micro-USB 2.0 (MHL), 3.5mm headphone jack
Storage Type
  • 32GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 64GB
  • 16GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 64GB
  • 8GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 32GB
  • 16GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 64GB
Battery
  • 3,200mAh
  • 3,140mAh
  • 4,050mAh
  • 3,000mAh
Dimensions
  • 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm
  • 150.2 x 76.1 x 9.4mm
  • 163.5 x 85.7 x 9.9mm
  • 179.4 x 92.2 x 6.5mm
Weight
  • 168g
  • 172g
  • 198g
  • 212g

 

Quadrant

Quadrant evaluates a device's CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performance. As expected of a Samsung flagship device, the Galaxy Note 3 thrashed the competition in the Quadrant benchmark with the highest score of 22,348. As points of reference, the Snapdragon 800-powered LG G2 and Sony Xperia Z1 scored 19,372 and 20,474 respectively. The Xperia Z Ultra only managed a mere 16,148.

 

3DMark (2013)

Originally developed as a PC benchmarking tool, 3DMark is now expanded to support multiple platforms including Android OS. The Ice Storm benchmark is designed for smartphones, mobile devices and ARM architecture computers.

For an in-depth understanding of 3DMark for Android, do head over to our article, "3DMark - Android Device GPU Performance Review." In a nutshell, 3DMark consists of three test sections:

  • 3DMark Ice Storm is an OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark test that uses fixed off-screen rendering at 720p then scales the output to fit the native display resolution of your device. Ice Storm includes two graphics tests designed to stress the GPU performance of your device and a physics test to stress its CPU performance.
     
  • 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme raises the off-screen rendering resolution to 1080p and uses higher quality textures and post-processing effects to create a more demanding load for the latest smartphones and tablets.
     
  • 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited is used to make chip-to-chip comparisons of different chipsets, CPUs and GPUs without vertical sync, display resolution scaling and other operating system factors affecting the result.

Note: We will just be reporting the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited scores as the Galaxy Note 3 maxed out the score limit of the 3DMark Ice Storm and Ice Storm Extreme after a recent update to the app.

 

Both the Snapdragon 800-powered Galaxy Note 3 and Xperia Z Ultra take the lead in the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited chart, with the latter edging just ahead by a small margin.

  

SunSpider JavaScript

SunSpider JavaScript measures the browsing performance of a device. It not only takes into consideration the underlying hardware performance, but also assesses how optimized a particular platform is at delivering a high-speed web browsing experience.

The Galaxy Note 3 had the best performance of all Android devices to date in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark with a score of 585ms. The G2, Z1 and Z Ultra scored 1138.1, 780.9, and 766.8ms respectively. However, the Galaxy Note 3 stops short of toppling Apple's iPhone 5S, which currently tops the chart at 414.8ms!

Synthetic benchmarks aside, the Galaxy Note 3 performed as expected during day-to-day usage. Being powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor doesn't mean that the user experience is better; during the past three days of using the Galaxy Note 3, the phone operated smoothly with no lags or hiccups. Web browsing is fluid and pinch to zoom is effortless.

 

Camera Performance

Like the Galaxy S4 and most Android flagship devices, the Galaxy Note 3 is equipped with a 13-megapixel rear BSI sensor. New features such as Smart Stabilization and LED flash (High CRI) are added onto the Galaxy Note 3 for better image quality with true-to-life colors. 

However, the Galaxy Note 3 lacks built-in optical image stabilization (OIS), a feature that is present in the LG G2, Nokia Lumia 1020 and HTC One. To (sorta of) make up for the absence of OIS, the Snapdragon version of the Galaxy Note 3 is among the first phones to be able to capture 4K videos.

As 4K videos are captured at higher resolution, they are going to take up a lot of storage space. We took two 10-second video clips using 4K and 1080p, and realized that the former takes up 61.6MB of storage space while the latter only takes up 21.3MB.

In addition, the Galaxy Note 3 limits 4K video recording to a maximum of 5 minutes per clip. For now, we feel that 4K video recording is just part of a marketing gimmick as you can't view 4K videos in their original resolution on the device, or on any other screens you have at the moment. But hey, we certainly don't mind that it can record in 4K, that's for sure.

 

Battery Performance

Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

The Galaxy Note 3 exceeded our expectations by lasting 13 hours and 23 minutes in our battery test, which is almost an hour longer than the Galaxy Note II. As a point of comparison, the Galaxy Note 3's battery mileage is just an hour shy of the champ, Motorola Razr Maxx.

Its excellent battery mileage can be attributed to the power-efficient Super AMOLED display and a slightly larger battery (compared to the Note II). To be honest, we were caught off-guard by the better-than-expected results of the Galaxy Note 3. It seems that the Galaxy Note 3 is the first device to buck the trend of Full-HD devices registering lower battery mileage than its HD counterparts. 

Power consumption of the Galaxy Note 3 is slightly higher at 0.91W compared to the Galaxy Note II (0.89W). It also has the lowest power consumption of the phones compared, with the other phones registering more than double that of the Galaxy Note 3.

In the Portability Index where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage with its size and portability, it is almost certain that Galaxy Note 3 emerged top due to its excellent battery mileage, thinner and lighter form factor.

To give you a more realistic understanding on how the Galaxy Note 3 fared under real world usage conditions, we included screenshots of the usage and history graphs which are available on Android 4.0 and later devices.

 

As seen from the graph above, the Galaxy Note 3 could last about 27 hours. 5 hours screen-on time (in our use case) isn't a problem. Some notes:

  • The device logged onto a 3G network as the SIM card used does not support 4G LTE.
  • The device logged onto Wi-Fi connections from time to time.
  • Power saving mode was not enabled throughout the day.

Our typical usage scenarios include making some voice calls, texting via WhatsApp, taking some photos and sharing them on social networking sites (Facebook and Instagram), the occasional web browsing via Pulse News Reader and emailing. Do note that battery mileage varies depending on usage patterns.
 

Conclusion

Despite coming into the market space brimming with rival offerings, there is beyond a shadow of doubt that the Galaxy Note 3 will outsell the other phablets.

Having created the product category in 2011, Samsung has the time and experience to develop and refine its software and hardware while none of its competitors has. The S Pen, once thought to be just another conventional stylus, has become the differentiating feature of the Galaxy Note 3. The competition has yet to offer a compelling alternative to the S Pen, although Sony comes close with its Xperia Z Ultra which can work with any stylus, pen or pencil.

As gimmicky as the S Pen-related software may seem, Air Command does have practical applications in everyday life, especially for creative professionals, students and consumers who are into digital drawings or want to do more on their mobile devices. We feel that Air Command has more practical value compared to the its other features such as Air Gesture and Air Glance, which do not work all the time. More importantly, out of the gate, it doesn't lag (if at all) as much as the Galaxy S4 did when it first launched.

The design and appearance of the Galaxy Note 3 may have remain largely unchanged, but Samsung took the effort to make its offering more ergonomic by slimming the Galaxy Note 3 and offering a different take on the one-handed operation.

Overall, the Galaxy Note 3 feels more complete as a phablet compared to its rivals. If you do not need the S Pen or any of its productivity features, there are some really good alternatives in the market such as the LG Optimus G Pro, Sony Xperia Z Ultra, or even Samsung's own Galaxy Mega.