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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?

The Note 3 does perform admirably in the realm of battery life: The phone's 3200mAh battery — which, in a move that'll delight hardcore power-drainers, is removable and replaceable — always managed get me safely from morning to night. Even on days when I had moderate to heavy use — as much as four hours of screen-on time with half an hour of phone calls, half an hour of video streaming, and a few hours of scattered Web browsing, camera use and social media activity — the Note 3 consistently had around 30% of its charge left by bedtime.

All U.S. models of the Galaxy Note 3 ship with 32GB of internal storage, which leaves you with about 23GB of usable space once you factor in the operating system and various preinstalled software. The phone also has a microSD card slot that lets you add up to 64GB of external storage.

The Note 3 supports near-field communication (NFC) for contact-free payments and data transfers. It also has an IR blaster for controlling your TV and other remote-based electronics. The Note doesn't support wireless charging, though it appears Samsung will sell a separate Qi-enabled case that'll provide that functionality.

While the Galaxy Note has full LTE support, the model I tested was connected to Sprint's network — which has pretty spotty coverage in my area — so data speeds weren't great for me. Voice calls sounded fine, though; I was able to hear people with zero distortion and the lucky souls with whom I spoke reported being able to hear me A-OK.

Cameras
The Galaxy Note 3 comes with a 13-megapixel main camera that's capable of capturing great-looking images. I did notice a fair amount of noise in some shots that were zoomed in at full resolution, but for most common uses of smartphone photos — like online sharing and standard-size printing — the Note 3's camera should more than meet your needs.

The exception is in low-light conditions, where the Note 3 — like most smartphones —struggles, especially compared to a low-light-optimized device like the HTC One.

The Note 3's camera interface is easy enough to use, if a little bloated with silly and gimmicky features. All in all, it's quite similar to what we saw on the Galaxy S4.

There are, however, a few Note 3-specific camera qualities worth noting:

The Note often seems to stick on a "Processing" message for a few seconds after capturing a photo. This can be annoying when you're trying to capture photos fast.

The phone's "burst" mode, in which you can capture multiple shots rapid-fire by holding down the shutter button, was also a bit finicky in my experience and sometimes wouldn't activate.

 

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