Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review: Samsung Galaxy Note 3

That said, only the most stylus-obsessed user will find a way to use all of the S Pen's features. For most of us, it'll be the note-taking and scrapbook functions that get the biggest work-out.

Multitasking

A bigger screen means more room for movies and games. That's all very well, but previous Notes came up with a next-level use for a big screen: simultaneous multitasking. When you've got all that leg room, why stop at one app when you can use two at the same time?

With Multi Window, you can divide the screen in half between two apps. On the Note 3, more apps support Multi Window. You can even drag and drop stuff between two apps -- no more cumbersome copying text, switching apps, pasting in, switching back, copying the next bit and so on and so on.

Instead, you can just use the S Pen to select what you want -- some text, a link, a phone number or whatever -- and slide it neatly to the other app.

You can grab the dividing line between the two apps and slide it around to choose how much space each app takes up. And you can even split one app in half to use the same app in two windows.

For example, why not have two separate browser windows open at the same time to compare information? Or two separate chat windows to chat with different people behind each others' backs?

If there's a pair of apps that you often need to bring together, you can save them for quick access in the future. And there's no limit to how many of these combinations the Note 3 remembers.

But why stop at two apps? Sometimes you want to use an app very quickly without disturbing your main app. So selected apps can be called up to quickly float over your main app, then be pushed to one side just as quickly, waiting to be called on again. The clever part is, you can have as many of these quick apps open or minimised at one time as you'd like.

These quick-access apps include the calculator, phone dialler and YouTube app. Grab your S Pen, call up the Air Command wheel and select the option to call up one of the quick apps. Then draw a box or just a line where you want the app to appear -- any size, and anywhere on the screen.

Say you're browsing the web and you see some numbers you need to crunch. Draw a box to open the calculator or phone app, and do a quick sum or make a quick call from the numbers in your main app. If you're done with the quick app but think you may need it again, just minimise it.

It then becomes a small, round icon floating above the screen, ready to be moved around and opened again for more speedy calculations.

Performance

Inside the Note 3, you'll find a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. With the microSD slot, you can bump that up by another 64GB.

It all makes for a very zippy device. While the SunSpider results don't compare to the 64-bit iPhone 5s (around 399ms), at 976.8ms, the Note 3 is beating out its stablemate: the Galaxy S4 (around 1100ms).

The AnTuTu benchmarking software threw back a score of 32,627 compared to 26,004 for the Galaxy S4 (a higher score is preferred in AnTuTu).

Speedtest results.(Screenshot by Nic Healey/CNET Australia)

But ignoring the often meaningless raw numbers, the experience of using the Note 3 is extremely pleasurable. It's a very fast phone, with apps opening rapidly, web pages performing quickly and everything feeling deft and responsive.

We tested speeds on Telstra's 4G network across the Sydney CBD and out into the Inner West region. As the Note 3 is a Category 4 device, we expected solid results, and we weren't disappointed.

The top speed observed for download was a blistering 88.73Mpbs, while the best upload speed was 33.07Mbps.

On average, download speeds sat around the 40Mbps-50Mbps mark, a little higher than what we've come to expect from the network. Average upload speed was 25Mbps-30Mbps, which was mightily impressive to us.

There were also no issues with call quality -- everyone was clean and crisp, with no obvious distortion. The speaker phone was loud, but also bright, avoiding the muddy quality that some hands-free speaker calls can suffer from.

The battery performance was an interesting one. Despite the 3200mAh battery, our first day of testing saw us barely make it through 12 hours of life -- but that was with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and pretty much everything else turned on. Turning down the screen brightness from full to auto and disabling a few of the less useful Samsung functions such as Smart Scroll and Air Gesture got us back to the kind of insanely long battery life you want from a Note. We imagine that with an S View cover, the power savings would be even better.

The Note 3's new USB 3.0 port.
(Credit: Seamus Byrne/CNET Australia)

Verdict

There were a few niggles, of course. Double tapping with the stylus while holding the S Pen's button down can sometimes be frustrating. The Note 3 is also USB 3.0 enabled, but that requires a special port at the bottom. While technically, this can still take a normal micro-USB plug, we found a few of our cables a little tricky to insert.

More than anything, Samsung's TouchWiz UI is starting to feel a little dated, and we're really sick of the fact that the app dock across the bottom of the interface can't be customised. That's a little inexcusable these days.

According to Samsung, people buy the Galaxy Note for the big screen, but stick around for the multitasking and S Pen features. We're not sure whether this is totally true, but even if you're not using the S Pen features to their fullest extent, you're still getting a powerful, well-designed phone -- albeit at a slightly higher price than we'd like.

If you're a Note user, then getting the Note 3 is a no-brainer -- it's the best of the series and well worth the upgrade.

But even if you're just in the market for a big-screen Android phone, the Galaxy Note 3 is hard to walk past. This is a powerful and feature-rich smartphone that doesn't fail to impress.

What you'll pay

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    Samsung Galaxy Note 3

    Part Number: 6880631
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    Quick Specifications See All

    • Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
    • Service Provider not specified
    • Weight 168 g
    • Diagonal Size 5.7 in
    • Sensor Resolution 13 pixels
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