The display of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is the highlight feature alongside the S Pen support. The diagonal has been bumped by 0.2" (from 5.5" to 5.7"), while the resolution has more than doubled (1080 x 1920, up from 720 x 1280) resulting in a pixel density of 386ppi, which effectively (for the first time in Note history) crosses the Retina 300ppi threshold.
The display technology is, again, Super AMOLED but Samsung has abandoned the RGB design from the Note II and gone for a diamond-shaped PenTile matrix instead. However, at these insane pixel density levels there's no visible pixilation whatsoever, even if you have 20/20 vision.
Here's how what those layouts look under a microscope. The diamond PenTile matrix uses OLED sub-pixels of different sizes as each color has different levels of power efficiency and longevity. Sub-pixel rendering is employed to properly distribute each of the primary colors.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 display matrix compared to the Note II
The different sub-pixel sizes and PenTile arrangements of a typical AMOLED throw its white balance off, but if you set the Galaxy Note 3 screen on Movie mode it sticks faithfully to sRGB - this includes not only white balance, but also color saturation. Professional Photo Mode uses the wider Adobe RGB instead.
The screen on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is among the best we've seen. It has practically infinite contrast, impeccable viewing angles and colors that pop out of the frame like nothing else. Samsung has even made sure the wallpapers available are playing the color saturation up, but in a good way.
Despite some excellent LCDs in top-tier smartphones these days, it's hard to match the Super AMOLED's amazing imagery and deep blacks. The innate lower reflectivity of AMOLED translates in superior sunlight legibility but more on that a little later.
First off, let's look at the numbers. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3, as we said, has a practically unlimited contrast ratio, as individual pixels don't get lit up - AMOLEDs light up only the parts of the screen that display a different color beside black.
The Super AMOLED panel on the Galaxy Note 3 isn't the brightest we've seen, it's actually inferior to the Galaxy S4. However in most cases you won't notice this in practice unless you put the Note 3 side by side with an HTC One or iPhone 5. Note that Auto Brightness mode can set the brightness higher than you can with the brightness slider.
|Display test||50% brightness||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
|Samsung Galaxy Note 3||0||149||∞||0||379||∞|
|Sony Xperia Z1||-||-||-||0.38||580||1513|
|Sony Xperia Z Ultra||-||-||-||0.47||467||1001|
|Sony Xperia Z||-||-||-||0.70||492||705|
|Huawei Ascend Mate||0.23||222||982||0.67||711||1053|
|Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3||0.12||160||1364||0.32||440||1379|
|Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4||0||201||∞||0||404||∞|
|HTC Butterfly S||0.15||165||1117||0.43||451||1044|
|Oppo Find 5||0.17||176||1123||0.51||565||1107|
|Apple iPhone 5||0.13||200||1490||0.48||640||1320|
Under direct sunlight the Galaxy Note 3 is able to retain excellent contrast and stay legible even in the most brightly lit environments. The Galaxy Note 3 was able to match the Apple iPhone 5 and retain the third spot.
You can find all about our display testing routines here.
The S Pen can be placed back into its compartment either side up, the button facing up or down. The stylus is made of matte plastic, with a finely grooved top part that matches the sides of the Note 3.
The new S Pen is about the same size as the Note II's S Pen - only no longer round but flattened instead. The flat sides of the stylus actually allow an even more comfortable grip. The button is positioned on one of those flat sides and is easy to reach.
We also received one of the S View Covers for the Note 3 (note that these are not part of the retail package, but are sold separately). It's even more rectangular than the phablet and looks a lot like a leather-bound notebook except for the window. That window measures around 60 x 60mm (2.36"), much bigger than the window on Galaxy S4's S View Covers.
You can use this window with your fingers or with the S Pen - you can jot down a quick Action Memo, launch the camera and take a photo or control the music player all without opening the cover. When you do open the cover, the screen unlocks automatically (unless you have enabled one of the security lockscreen features).
The S View Cover replaces the cover on the back of the Galaxy Note 3 to minimize the impact on thickness and weight. The window on this cover (as well as the S4 covers) has a thin plastic film that protects the screen underneath, unlike LG's QuickView covers where the window is just a cutout that exposes a portion of the actual screen.
You can also go for the Wallet Flip Cover, which is the same but without the window. This cover earns its name because of a small slot where you can put a credit card or some cash.
The modest increase in battery capacity was a bit of a question mark hanging over the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, considering the screen resolution has more than doubled. Yet, the 3,200mAh battery powering the whole thing (up from 3,100 in the Note II) did quite well. The power-efficient Super AMOLED screen was made to count in video-playback and helped the Note 3 achieve an excellent score despite the huge estate to light up. Talk time is great too, web browsing the only element where the Note 3 failed to show a meaningful improvement over its predecessor.
Anyway, with an overall rating of 75 hours, the Note 3 is well ahead of the other phablets we've tested so far. What this number means is that the Note 3 should manage three full days on a single charge if used for one hour each of calls, web browsing and video playback daily.