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Galaxy Note 3 deep-dive: A plus-sized phone with perks and quirks

JR Raphael | Oct. 9, 2013
Samsung's new big-screen phone has a lot of great qualities, but a handful of issues keep it from reaching its full potential. So is it the Android device for you?

At about 386 pixels per inch, the Note 3's 1080p Super AMOLED display looks fantastic: Details are sharp and colors appear rich and brilliant. Display aficionados may note that the display looks somewhat oversaturated — as Samsung devices often do — but for the vast majority of smartphone users, this thing's gonna be a treat for the eyes.

AMOLED screens in general tend to suffer in sunlight more than their LCD counterparts, but Samsung has made some significant strides with the Note 3's display: Thanks in part to ramped-up brightness capacity, the Note 3's screen remains perfectly viewable even in the glariest of conditions. To my eyes, it doesn't quite match the outstanding outdoor visibility of a top-of-the-line LCD-packing phone like the HTC One, but it's not at all bad and marks a massive leap forward from past Samsung products.

The Galaxy Note 3 has a silver plastic trim that's made to look like metal around its perimeter. A volume rocker lives on the left side, while a power button sits on the right. On the phone's top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and on the bottom is a special USB 3.0 charging port that doubles as an HDMI out-port with the use of an MHL adapter.

The inclusion of USB 3.0 is a nice touch: The phone charges ridiculously fast when you use the included USB 3.0 cable and wall adapter, and the port can provide extra-speedy data transfers if your computer supports USB 3.0. The Note works with regular micro-USB cables, too — you just plug them into the right side of the port — though you obviously won't get the faster charging and data-transfer speeds when you go that route.

The Note 3 has one small speaker on its bottom edge, to the right of the charging port. The sound quality is decently loud and clear by smartphone standards, though nothing to write home about.

Next to the speaker is the slot for the phone's S Pen stylus — a highlight of the device that I'll get to in a minute.

Design and build quality
First, let's talk design, shall we? Samsung has long suffered the wrath of many a reviewer (myself included) for its cheap-feeling plasticky constructions. With the Note 3, the company is clearly trying to step things up and provide a phone with a more premium body.

In some regards, it's succeeded: The Note 3 ditches Samsung's long-favored glossy plastic back for one with a textured faux-leather finish. The material feels softer and more pleasant to the touch and has a less toy-like (and fingerprint smudge-attracting) appearance than what I'm used to from Samsung. It's still a bit on the chintzy side — thanks mainly to the somewhat tacky fake stitching around the panel's perimeter — but it's definitely an improvement over past Samsung products.

 

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