The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comes in a box not much taller or wider than the phablet itself. It's Samsung's usual green box - as in eco-friendly, not the color. The color is brownish, which Samsung makes look attractive with a subtle wood texture pattern printed in soy-based ink. The manuals are recycled paper and soy ink too.
Other than that, the box holds the regular accessories - a powerful 2A charger, a cable and a headset. The cable looks unusual because it's a microUSB 3.0. Common microUSB 2.0 cables will work too.
The headset is an in-ear design, the remote has three buttons (answer and volume controls) and flat, tangle-free cables.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 measures 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm - surprisingly, it's smaller than its predecessor whose dimensions were 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4mm. Slimming down the bezels has allowed Samsung to stretch the screen an extra 0.2", the 5.7" is around 7% bigger than the old 5.5" screen.
The more slender body is lighter too, at 168g the Note 3 is fairly close to the weight of a much smaller phone (and some regular phones are heavier).
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comes in a more refined finish than last year's Note. The shape is more angular while the body has almost entirely lost its glossy hyperglazed finish. Samsung has opted instead for plastic that emulates leather and metal. With Note 3's business aspirations, this more mature look is quite welcome.
All of the Note 3 is plastic even if most of it doesn't feel like it. The plastic around the screen is matte and has a brushed metal texture to it and comes in the standard Jet Black, Classic White and Blush Pink colors (don't worry, if you want more hues there are plenty of back covers to choose from). The sides have what looks like a grooved metal strip, but that's plastic too. The grooves are not only an attractive design accent, but they also positively improve grip.
The back is the biggest change in the Note design and one we heartily approve of. Faux-leather with faux-stitches sounds like a tacky idea, but the execution feels close enough to real leather that it's one of the best backs on a mobile device. And unlike aluminum or glass, this plastic will still handle - and hide - damage very well.
Compared to the Galaxy Note II, the Note 3 is over a millimeter thinner (8.3mm vs. 9.4mm) and it's lighter too - 168g (down from 183g). We've handled phones that weigh more than this. The Note 3 is also over a millimeter narrower and virtually the same height as the Note II - room was made for the bigger screen at the expense of bezel.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 feels big in the hand but by no means too big or too heavy. If you're using a Note II, the third-gen model will actually feel smaller. The jump from a 5" screen to the Note 3 is smaller than you would imagine too.
Sure, one handed operation is almost impossible for people with small hands but for regular phablet users the Note 3 is just the right size. There are also a number of options to resize UI elements and improve one-handed use.
The S Pen has had a nice update as well, making it usable with the capacitive buttons so now you can navigate the Galaxy Note 3 using the stylus only. The new S Pen enables several great shortcuts, so using the stylus might actually be faster for certain tasks.
Above the 5.7" display you'll find the earpiece, a 2 MP front-facing camera capable of 1080p video recording, the proximity sensor, ambient light sensor and the motion sensor, which is responsible for all the air gestures (aside from Quick Glance, which relies on the proximity sensor).
Under the display, we find the typical Samsung three button layout consisting of a physical Home button with capacitive Back and Menu keys each side. As usual the home button has an aluminum frame for a subtle accent.
The sides of the Galaxy Note 3 are nothing out of the ordinary in terms of controls. There's the power/lock button on the right hand side on which the thumb nicely rests and the volume rocker on the left. The volume rocker could have been lowered a little bit so as to be more easily accessible.
The Galaxy Note 3 is the first mobile device to feature USB 3.0 using the micro version of the port. The connection consists of two parts - one that is compatible with microUSB 2.0 and one that adds additional pins for faster data transfers. Also at the bottom is one of the mics, the loudspeaker grille and the S Pen compartment.
The top features another mic and the 3.5mm audio jack, plus the IR blaster that Samsung has been putting on some Galaxy devices lately.
Then we get to the back, which (and we're not exaggerating here) is a massive improvement over the Note II. With the Galaxy Note 3, Samsung is sticking to plastic, but this time around it has a great-looking leather texture. Best of all it feels similar to actual leather rather than a tacky imitation, and the faux-stitching is a great touch, too.
Another thing we like about the leather texture is that unlike the glossy hyperglazed plastic, it doesn't become a smudgy, slippery mess as soon as you touch the device. We hope Samsung releases a similar cover for the Galaxy S4 as well.
You can pop the back cover open to reveal the 3,200mAh battery (we were hoping for a bigger bump in capacity) along with the microSIM and microSD card slots. The slots are stacked on top of each other like they were on the Galaxy Mega 6.3.
The bottom slot holds the microSIM card, which is blocked by the battery, while the top slot is for the microSD card, which can be removed even with the battery in place. The Note 3 comes in 32GB and 64GB versions, but with a microSD card slot we doubt many people will go for the 64GB option.