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The Samsung Galaxy Note family gets credit for convincing millions of people that large phones are actually pretty awesome. People even started calling them by a new name - phablets.
When it comes to phablets it's all about the screen and the one on the Note 3 is even bigger, measuring 5.7" which at 1080p resolution works out to 388ppi pixel density. It's Samsung's own Super AMOLED and it looks stunning as usual.
One uncommon characteristic of the screens of Galaxy Notes is the extra digitizer, which detects the defining feature of the line, the S Pen. We'll get back to the S Pen later on as it really is such an important part of the Galaxy Note 3 experience, especially with the latest custom features that Samsung has developed.
The Note 3 is more rectangular than its predecessor and its bezels have been slimmed down and the height and width of the device is virtually the same, despite the screen size increase. It also helps that the new Note 3 is over a millimeter thinner than the previous Note (8.3mm vs. 9.4mm) and it's lighter too - 168g (down from 183g). We've handled phones that weigh more than this.
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 (don't worry, if you want more hues there are a ton of back covers, more on that later).
The Galaxy Note 3 will come in Jet Black, Classic White and Blush Pink at launch
Actually, all of the Note 3 is plastic even if most of it doesn't feel like it. The sides have what looks like a grooved metal strip, but that's plastic too. The grooves are not only an attractive design element, but they also improve grip.
A detailed look at the Galaxy Note 3 in Pink
The bottom side of the phablet is quite busy - 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 backwards 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 housing.
microUSB 3.0 port, loudspeaker and mic • The S Pen follows the phablet's color scheme
The top features another mic and the 3.5mm audio jack, plus the IR blaster that Samsung has been putting on some Galaxy devices this generation. The left side features the volume rocker and the right the power button with yet another mic.
IR blaster on top • grooved metal-looking strip on the sides
Then we get to the back, which (and we're not exaggerating here) is a massive improvement over the Note II back. With the Galaxy Note 3, Samsung has stuck to using plastic again, 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.
A close-up of the faux stitching
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 such covers for the Galaxy S4 as well.
The 13MP camera on the back is joined by an LED flash. While the 16MP rumors didn't pan out, the 4K video recording rumors did but it's important to note that only the Snapdragon 800 version of the Note 3 will have that option - the Exynos 5 Octa edition will not.
13MP camera with 4K video capture
The Snapdragon 800 version will be the only one with LTE support too, which makes us wonder why Samsung even bother making an Exynos version.
Anyway, 4K video is captured at 30 frames per second, requiring extra processing power. Instead of the higher resolution, though, you can use that to get higher framerate - 1080p @ 60fps or 720p @ 120fps.
You can pop off the back cover 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.
Battery compartment and card slots
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.
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 (or even an original Note) you won't bat an eye at the size of the Note 3. It feels sturdy and well put-together despite its primarily plastic build.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in the hand
While we quite liked the leather back cover (we preferred the white one over the black one), you're not stuck with it - Samsung showed off a number of alternative covers.
For one, there are leather back covers in a whole range of colors. And if you don't like faux leather textures, there also matte plastic back covers in pastel colors, which are pretty nice too.
Colorful back panels with and without a leather texture
Keep in mind that the Galaxy Note 3 itself will come in Black, White and Pink only at launch - that determines the color of the front, which cannot be changed. Knowing Samsung, there will be at least a Red version of the Note 3 before long.
Flip (made of actual leather) are available in two versions - with and without a window on the front. S View covers are the ones with a window, which allows the phablet to display notifications. The other covers, Flip Wallets, look more like a leather-bound notebook, which might appeal to some people more than at-a-glance notifications. That's what the Galaxy Gear is for, right?
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