First Impressions – Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Last updated: October 13, 2013

I picked up a new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 the first day they were available and thought I would share my first impressions here. I was surprised I had to wait an hour before I could get help in my neighborhood Verizon store. The store was very full for a weeknight. There were at least four others picked up the same phone while I was there and one of them said he had been waiting all year for this phone.

Transferring everything, from my old Samsung Galaxy S4 was relatively easy, once I removed the factory-installed SIM, which was buried under the MicroSD card slot. The person in the store had to use a razor knife to slide it out. After that, inserted my old SIM (containing all of my music and other stuff) and logged into my Google account. Now I was ready to give the new phone a test drive.

The Galaxy Note 3 is a monster

The Galaxy Note 3 is a monster



Is This Phone Too Big?

Most reviewers can’t get past the size of the Galaxy Note 3, but for anyone stepping up from a Galaxy S4, the transition isn’t a big deal. The phone is big, but still was easy to insert and remove from my front pocket. However, someone who wears very tight jeans might have a problem. The phone feels good when held with your hand. It’s thinner than the HTC One and Nexus 5. Although it’s 38 grams heavier than the Galaxy S4, the weight isn’t a problem. The advantages of the 5.7” screen are significant. Everything is better on a large screen (games, email, movies, Facebook, etc). Samsung’s split screen feature, which lets you run two different apps at once, is even more useful on this device. The one downside of the large screen is the fact that it’s hard to do everything with your thumb when holding the phone in one hand. Samsung has added some special one-hand commands, but I haven’t tried those yet.


The Display

The next thing you notice after the size of the phone is it’s display. The Galaxy Note 3 has the best looking mobile display I’ve ever seen. Although Galaxy S4 has a much higher pixel density (441 vs. 386). To my eyes, and those of some reviewers, the display on the Galaxy Note 3 looks noticeably better. Maybe that’s because it has the newest gen OLED display. I’m not sure, but in the store, it looked better than everything else — even the 469ppi display on the HTC One. The display on the Galaxy Note 3 incredibly sharp, and both black levels and contrast are outstanding. Although colors on the Galaxy Note 3 appear to be over-saturated DisplayMate says color accuracy is still good. If you want even better color calibration and accuracy, you can change the screen to “Movie Mode” under Settings. The screen on the Galaxy Note 3 is also extremely bright. In fact, DisplayMate says it’s the brightest mobile display they have ever tested.

The screen on the Note 3 performs well in display tests

The screen on the Note 3 performs well in display tests


The Hardware

Of course the Galaxy Note 3 is very fast. Its Snapdragon 800 processor seems to eliminate the Android lag I’ve experienced on other Android devices.

Build-quality on the Galaxy Note 3 is better than the Galaxy Note II. I like the faux leather back, but am not a fan of the ridged chrome sides. Although its build quality pales in comparison to an HTC One or iPhone 5, I’d rate it good overall. The speaker on the Galaxy Note has been moved from the back to the bottom on the phone. That was a smart decision. Although Samsung isn’t known for their speaker quality, I was surprised to find its one speaker sounds good and has some bottom as well. It also gets surprisingly loud.

I like the new wider USB 3.0 cable, it is easier to insert and feels more solid. I was surprised to find that Samsung ships the same AC adapter with the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S4. Both are rated for 2A. I expected a higher current charger, because USB 3.0 supports that.

The Galaxy Note 3 comes with a generous 32GB, which can be inexpensively expanded to 64GB (or more)

The Galaxy Note 3 comes with 32GB, but can be inexpensively expanded to 64GB (or more)



Battery Life

Battery life is good — considering Verizon is shipping this phone with the screen brightness turned up almost all of the way. Even with the screen brightness at 95%, I was still able to go 7.5 hours under moderate use and had about 30% of battery remaining.

The decision to ship this phone with at least 32GB of storage was a smart. Samsung was dinged for using up so much of the storage on the 16GB Galaxy S4 (only 9.5GB of space was left for users). Android uses up 6.73GB of the available 32GB on the Galaxy Note 3. Even after installing 100+ apps and photos, I still have over 23GB of internal storage available. When you first launch the camera, it asks if you want to store your photos on the MicroSD card (like the Galaxy S4), however I’ve stopped doing that because I’ve found some apps have problems with this.


The Software

As far as software goes, there are several new pen apps. So far I haven’t found any killer application for the pen, but it’s too soon to say it isn’t useful. There are now folders in the App Locker for Verizon, Google and other categories, which makes it look like there isn’t so much bloatware on this device. Although you can no longer hide apps in the App Locker, you can now disable apps by dragging them from the locker to the trash can. The default keyboard is much improved over the one in the Galaxy S4. It’s even better than SwiftKey in some ways (has a .com key and wider key spacing). On the downside, Samsung has completely changed the Settings screen again, which makes it harder to find things.

The camera on the Note 3 is good, but not the best

The camera on the Note 3 is good



The Camera

The camera on the Galaxy Note 3 seems good so far in my limited testing. I tried recording some Ultra HD video and that looks really good as well. I was pleased you can watch those videos on the Galaxy Note 3’s 1920×1080 screen — even though they are 3840×2160. The video stabilization features seems to work pretty well, although it’s not available on Ultra HD video. It’s worth mentioning that I was able to crash the Camera app once or twice.


The Bottom Line

So the bottom line is, I really like the Galaxy Note 3 so far, the screen size hasn't been a problem for me and the display is wonderful. I wish it didn't have so many carrier-installed apps and almost went with he Nexus 5 for that reason, but it has enough storage that it doesn't seem to be too much of a problem. There are enough differences between the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy S4 that I would recommend this phone to Galaxy S4 users. Make sure you play with this phone before you buy it to make sure it's size isn't a problem for you. I think the large screen is nice, but it's not for everyone.

– Rick

Copyright 2013 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.


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About Rick E. Schwartz
Rick Schwartz is successful mobile blogger from San Diego. He is currently working on next-generation mobile hardware and software. You can learn more about Rick by clicking on the "About" tab at the top of this page.

One Response to First Impressions – Samsung Galaxy Note 3

  1. panduari21 says:

    Transferring everything, from my old Samsung Galaxy S4 was relatively easy, once I removed the factory-installed SIM, which was buried under the MicroSD card slot. The person in the store had to use a razor knife to slide it out. After that, inserted my old SIM (containing all of my music and other stuff) and logged into my Google account. Now I was ready to give the new phone a test drive.

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