Like most third generation flagships, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 needs no introduction but will generate lots of excitement. The first Note was a groundbreaking smartphone that inspired the word "phablet": it's a phone and a small tablet. With each generation the Note's display gets larger but the device doesn't. That means the Note 3 has a huge 5.7" display, and though it's a bigger phone than it's mid-sized companion, the Samsung Galaxy S4, it's not insanely larger like the Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3.
The Note 3 runs on the latest, greatest Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU with 3 gigs of RAM. This is the first smartphone that comes to mind with that much RAM and it needs it for all the Samsung custom software. The quad core Snapdragon 800 is clocked at 2.3GHz, and the phone performs all tasks quickly, with little if any TouchWiz-induced lag. Given recent news about benchmark manipulation, we won't say much about the Note 3's synthetic performance except that the Snapdragon 800 is one of the fastest mobile CPUs and the Galaxy Note 3 is a top performer.
The phablet has 32 gigs of internal storage and a removable back that grants access to the micro SIM card slot, micro SD card slot and battery. It weighs just 5.9 ounces thanks to those plastics Samsung loves. The company has addressed their glossy plastics image problem with a new faux leather injection molded plastic back, complete with fake stitching. The phone is available in white and black with faux chrome trim, and I think the visual and textural treatment looks nice. Yes, the back cover is still flexible and wafer thin, but the phone is not longer a slippery fingerprint magnet.
The Android 4.3 phone has Samsung's S-Pen, their name for a Wacom digital pen and active digitizer. This staple of the Samsung Galaxy Note phone and tablet line works well as ever with pressure sensitivity, good tracking and smooth response. It's great for drawing and note taking--much better than a capacitive stylus. Samsung throws even more software at the pen, from the evolved S Note to a strange feature where you draw a rectangle on the screen to reveal a collection of quick-launcher apps like calculator and YouTube. It's a little over the top, but Samsung's software has been over the top for some time now. The basics like multi-window where you can split two apps into half screen is still here (we love this on a big screen phone or tablet), as is the feature that keeps the screen turned on if you're looking at the phone.
Is the Galaxy Note 3 a great phablet? Yes it is. Want to know more? Watch our in-depth Samsung Galaxy Note 3 video review of the AT&T model. Our full written review will follow soon.