Luddite Article - Taking Note with Samsung


The Samsung galaxy Note 3 is one of the biggest phone launches of the year, both literally and figuratively speaking. The idea of a ‘phablet’ is one which Samsung introduced to the smartphone market.

 By Sam Richardson

 The device has a huge 5.7 inch screen, which is even bigger than last year’s 5.5 inch Note 2. Yet somehow, Samsung have managed to make the device both thinner and lighter. It really is a huge phone. A huge portion of people will think it’s too large- It will barely fit in a normal trouser pocket and is almost impossible to use one handed.

 As with all of Samsung’s phones, the Note 3 is predominately plastic. The glossy plastic back of the Note 2 has been replaced with a leather effect cover, which while still plastic, looks far better than the glossy incarnation of the previous model. Having a removable cover allows you to do something that has been taken away from us in recent years- being able to access the battery and microSD card slot. This means that you can hugely expand the memory and also if you really need to, carry a spare battery for in case yours runs out (not likely- but more of that later).

 The huge screen is incredible to look at, boasting 1,920x1,080 pixel resolution. That is the same resolution as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and given that the Note 3 has the larger screen you supposedly lose some of the sharpness, although you’d never notice. High definition videos look fantastic and with the huge screen size it really is perfect for watching video on the go.

 Built in is Android Jellybean 4.3. This version looks near enough the same as before as Samsung has given it the same skin as the S4 and with no major features in Jelly Bean to speak of, there's little to set the versions apart. It still has the multiple home screens for you to fill up with app icons, and apps and widgets not on the home screen are stored in a dedicated app menu.

 One of the main differences you will see is the addition of the Play Games app. It's effectively the same as Apple's Game Center, providing a hub for all your games as well as showing online leaderboards and achievements. Better yet, it also syncs with your Google account to let you save your progress in games into the cloud -- switch to a different Android device and you can pick up where you left off.

 As with all of its current models, Samsung has thrown in a fair few apps as standard. The likes of S Health, S Translation, Watch On TV guide and Group Play, all debuted on the S4 and are all included in the Note 3. Of course we also have the Mail and Calendar apps, both of which work great.

 The Air Gesture feature introduced in the S4 is also on board here, allowing you to swipe a centre metre or so above the screen to scroll through images without touching. It also has eye tracking technology that lets you scroll through without using your hands. Both of these features are fun, but fairly useless.

 Talking of fairly useless, we have the S Pen, which is a stylus that is tucked into the bottom of the Note 3. The stylus is 110mm long yet very thin and lightweight which makes it a bit uncomfortable to use. Samsung has included plenty of features for use with the S Pen, such as being able to draw instead of type messages. The best use of this I’ve found is for quickly making notes in a meeting but other than this you’ll forget it’s there.

 The Note 3 sports a 13-megapixel camera, the same as the S4’s lens. Megapixels aren’t everything though and they don’t always ensure better pictures. There are certainly no issues with the picture quality found after taking snaps with the Note. Low light images weren’t quite as high quality but still perfectly acceptable. Of course, as standard nowadays, there are the panorama and HDR options, but Samsung also has the odd ‘Dual-Shot’ feature. This lets you paste your face from the front-facing camera over the top of the image from the main camera to 'put you in the picture'.

 The main feature of the Note’s camera is the 4K video resolution. This is effectively ‘Ultra HD’ and is something that seems impressive but an improvement of such that only the few with 4K TV’s/ displays have (and these are still extraordinarily expensive).

 The Note 3 packs in a very capacious 3,200mAh battery, which is far bigger than most cells you'll find in standard smart phones. Big it might be, but that enormous, high definition display and powerful processor really do take their toll on battery life. Saying this though, the Note 3 lasts far longer than you’d expect from regular smartphones. Fairly regular usage will mean only having to charge once every two days as opposed to the daily you’d need with a regular sized phone.

 The enormous size will definitely deter the casual phone user but I’d recommend this ‘phablet’ to anybody looking for a device to tackle work on the move. Its huge screen, sort of useful stylus and incredible power and speed make it the perfect companion to working on the go. 

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