Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Reviewby Brian Klug on October 1, 2013 9:00 AM EST
The Note 3 is an iterative product, that’s absolutely true, but the improvements in the Note 3 are pretty dramatic. It really does feel better, thinner, lighter all while having a bigger, more usable display. The silicon inside is incredibly quick, easily the fastest in the Android camp. It's also good to see Samsung on the forefront of RF technology here, implementing an envelope power tracker alongside Qualcomm's 3rd generation LTE modem. The combination results in a fairly robust, very high-end platform that is modern on both compute and modem/RF fronts. Given my affinity for the latter, I'm happy.
Battery life benefits from the large chassis and associated battery, as well as Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 platform which seems to manage power a lot better than the outgoing Snapdragon 600. I was also impressed by the Galaxy Note 3's IO performance. Although it didn't beat the Moto X in random write IO performance, it came extremely close and absolutely destroyed everything else in sequential write speed. Samsung clearly went all out with the Note 3 and pretty much tried to win all of our tests. The beauty of that approach is it should lend itself to an awesome user experience.
The S Pen experience continues to improve and I don't really have any major complaints about it on the Note 3. It's a novel addition that I can see resonating very well with the right type of user. Approximating pen/paper is tough and no one has really done a perfect job there, but the S Pen can be good enough in the right situations. The good news is that even if you don't use the S Pen much, it hides away quite unobtrusively and you can go about using the Note 3 just like a large Android device.
There are only three issues I'd like to see addressed with the Note 3. The move to USB 3.0 is interesting and could be a big benefit when it comes to getting large files off of the device (the NAND/eMMC isn't quick enough to make USB 3 any faster at putting data on the phone), but the hardware or software implementation of USB 3 on the Note 3 doesn't actually deliver any performance advantage (Update: In OS X, in Windows you can actually get USB 3.0 working). For whatever reason 802.11ac performance on the Note 3 wasn't as good as it was on the SGS4 or other 802.11ac devices we've tested. It's not a huge deal but for an otherwise very well executed device I don't like to see regressions. And finally, I would like to see Android OEMs stop with manual DVFS control upon benchmark detect, but that seems to be an industry wide problem at this point and not something exclusive to the Galaxy Note 3.
Whereas previous Notes felt like a strange alternative to the Galaxy S line, the Galaxy Note 3 feels more like Samsung's actual flagship. It equals the Galaxy S 4 in camera performance, but exceeds it pretty much everywhere else. There's a better SoC, better cellular/RF and even better industrial design. I suppose next year we'll see the Galaxy S 5 play catch up in these areas, but until then it's clear that the Note 3 is the new flagship from Samsung. Although you could argue that the improvements within are incremental, the Note 3 really defines what incremental should be.