John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Samsung Note 3 review

I’ve been using my S4 since May, over 6 months! That’s quite a while for me. There really hasn’t been anything to motivate me to upgrade. The S5 is incremental at best to the S4. I really do like the S4. I’ve come to use the Ant+ Radio as well as the bluetooth low energy so would love to keep them. I rarely if ever use the HDMI functionality. The battery life on the S4 is abysmal. And to top it off I have found the S4 finicky when it comes to external battery packs. I was really reticent to buy a second battery simply because I upgrade my phone so often. That said, I’ve kept this one the longest yet …

I enjoy my Samsung Note 8 and use it often to take notes at my wine tasting events. It’s a huge step forward from writing on paper and then trying to find the paper later. So I scratched things 🙂 and wondered, hmm if I had a Samsung Note maybe I would use it daily to take digital notes? I always have a stack of paper that I jot down notes on at work and home. So with this in mind I started looking around. Now a Note 4 is current just for reference … I ruled out a Note 2 because it does not have Ant+ (which I use for my Scosche Rhythm+ heart rate monitor), has had issues with it’s charge circuit (a colleague actually encountered this issue which is well documented on the net) and has also been quite susceptible to screens breaking. The Note 4 is still quite expensive. So I zeroed in on the Note 3. I was looking around for them for a bit when I found one that expired on New Years eve. Low and behold I sniped one on ebay using BidNip. Sniping consists of placing your offer at the very last minute to avoid getting into a bidding war. It can get you great deals on ebay. Bidnip is a web site you log on to and tell it what your price for the item is and BidNip places your bid for you based on your criteria. It does everything for you …

Given my in depth reviews of both the Samsung S4 and the Samsung Note 8 I will try and not repeat things already in the other two reviews.

The exact model I have is a SM-N900W8 running Android 4.4.2.

The S4 was announced April 2013 and the Note 3 Oct 2013.

Note3/S4 specs:
Let’s start with Physicals, as compared to the S4:
79.2 x 151.2 x 8.3 mm vs 69.8 x 136.6 x 7.9 mm
168 g vs 130 g

Tech Specs:
4x Qualcomm Krait 400 at 2.265GHZ Vs 4x Qualcomm Krait 300 at 1.890GHZ
3G Ram Vs 2G
5.7″ vs 5″ screen both are 1080×1920 (and thus the first rub. A much larger screen but same resolution leading to a much lower pixel per inch. The Note 4 for reference is 1440 x 2560 and the Note 2 was 720×1280)
Battery 3200 mAh vs 2600 mAh

Physically the device is the usual assortment of Samsung chosen buttons. Soft buttons for options and back on the front as well as a physical button for home. As usual no on screen button for back/home making HDMI remote a challenge. Also as usual Samsung do not allow rotating home screen. Problematic again for HDMI output. If you use an app like Ultimate Screen rotation and get the home screen to rotate the screen is cut off, making it clear Samsung don’t intend this to be used. Making HDMI as usual a poorly implemented solution. Notice the missing (and critical) app menu button.
Samsung wisely moved the power button down a bit from the top to make it easier to turn on and off. Volume control buttons are on the side.

Samsung have gone to a faux leather back to the phone that is much easier to hold onto verses the uber slippery plastic back of so many of the previous phones. Behind the back is the battery (which is removable) a micro SIM and micro SD card. Spare batteries are very available on ebay or Amazon and cheap.

On the bottom Samsung have gone to a micro USB 3 connector. This has been cleverly designed to take a standard micro USB connector as well so your old accessories (cables and chargers) still work. Oddly the charger is still maxed out at 2A so I can see no advantage to USB 3. Internal and SD card speeds are still well below USB 2 anyway.

Samsung offer a smartview cover for the Note 3. I had one for my s4 and love it. It turns the screen on when you open the cover (and off when you close it), and shows some information on the smaller screen when a message or call comes in. You can answer the call right through the smart screen without having to open the cover. A quite like these covers. The cover also provides some protection for the screen.

The Note 3 is the usual collection of Samsung Touchwiz. Honestly there is little new from the S4. The S.Health app is the newer one so it supports the Gear 2/Neo but still no support for the Android wear Samsung Gear Live, and may never. There’s also the usual smart screen (keep the screen on if your looking at it) and the like that I hate and turn off due to how laggy it makes the phone. There’s a newer version of the S.Note app used with the pen (compared with the Note 8). As before there is no way to do much with the data files from this app so it’s pretty useless. The Note 3 supports what Samsung call multi window (oddly the note 8 does not). This allows you to divide the screen into two with one app on the top and another on the bottom. You can resize it to be any split between the two apps. Page buddy (an app launcher customizable to a particular task, like using the pen, listening to music etc) is gone on the Note 3 (it was there on the Note 8). The menuing system is a little off. As usual they do not sort it alphabetically (but you can change it to do that) and there are folders for Samsung and Google Apps within the menuing system. This is the first time I’ve seen that. While it shortens the menu list I found myself looking about for an app that had been moved under a folder. I wasn’t wild about this. All in all the app mix is fine. Little to complain about.

The usual newer MHL connector (used on the S3 and above) works and HDMI does work with the usual Samsung phone imperfections such as the home screen mentioned above. You could use it for movie playback and the like otherwise not a useful function. At least the screen does stay on with HDMI connected so at least they got that right.

A standard USB OTG cable works fine with mouse/keyboard and flash drives. As in the past NTFS is not supported so you need to be careful how you format your flash drive if you intend to use it on the Note 3.

There are lots of comments about problems with the GPS in the Note 3. I’ve experienced it myself. The GPS will all of a sudden not be able to get a lock on your position. When it happened I tried everything from powering off the phone, removing the battery, trying different apps etc. None worked. If your using a GPS program like Google Maps etc it will use the network location which of course is very inaccurate and have you bouncing around the map.

The only solution I found was to use an app called GPS Status that allowed me to reset the GPS. After that it took a long time to get a lock because that was a cold start to the GPS. But at least it solved the problem. Of course it will happen again. It’s a shame that Samsung have not found a fix to this issue.

The pen functionality works although for whatever reason I find the pen does not flow quite as smoothly over the screen as on the Note 8. None the less it is very usable and works miles better than the pen on a capacitive touch screen. In case your not aware, all of the Samsung Notes use a Wacom digitizer making the pen a lot more accurate. The tip of the pen is changeable and spares are shipped with the phone. The pen works even if there is a pen in the dock so you can carry a spare pen with you and use it. On the Note 8 the pen was ignored if it was in the dock. Samsung have added a new app called Air command that pops up when the pen is removed to allow you to quickly start action memo, scrap booker, screen write, s.finder or pen window. In the settings you can change it to launch nothing, Action memo or air command. Sadly you can not have it launch any other apps. There is a neat feature you can turn on that alerts you if your walking and your pen is not in the dock so that you don’t loose the pen! Nice.

The pen on the notes is not the nicest to hold. It is too small. So I started looking around for alternatives. It took a LOT of digging but I found a few. I even found a Chinese knock off on ebay.
First off Samsung have one. Model number ET-S200EBEGSTA.

I also found one from Wacom. But be careful, some of them are for generic touch screens. It’s called the Wacom Bamboo stylus feel for samsung galaxy note. It looks real nice. Like a real pen. And includes a cap to protect the tip. At $39 it is not cheap.

I’ve bought a couple of them so we will see how they feel.

As in the past Samsung Find My Mobile is included. This service allows you to find, ring, lock, and wipe your device from a web page. There is also a SIM change alert which sends you a message if the SIM is changed. IE stolen phone.

So at the end of the day the Note 3 is a mild step forward to the S4 and adds the pen. It’s got a slightly faster processor, bigger screen and bigger battery. It’s a nice device and while big will still fit in a pocket.

January 19, 2015 - Posted by | Android


  1. John

    I finally have time to read your informative reviews. Keep it up.

    Joe Maneli

    Comment by J. Maneli | March 12, 2015 | Reply

    • Thanks Joe, hope your enjoying your days!

      Comment by johngalea | March 12, 2015 | Reply

  2. extremely busy but things will calm down in a few months. Take care. will have to drop by for some chodder 🙂

    Comment by J. Maneli | March 18, 2015 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: