Galaxy Note 3 (SM-N900)

Galaxy Note 3 (SM-N900)

Steve's Conclusion


Steve's SnapShot
    Samsung Galaxy Note 3 275 wide again.jpg
  • Full HD 5.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen 
  • 13-megapixel primary camera
  • 2-megapixel secondary screen-facing camera
  • LED flash
  • Several special effect control settings available
  • Full HD and 4K video recording
  • Measures only 0.33 inches in thickness
  • Runs Android 4.3 operating system
  • Offers 2.3 GHz quad-core processor
  • 32GB of internal memory included
  • Use of microSD memory card adds up to another 32GB of storage
  • Stylus S Pen included
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC wireless connectivity all built in
  • Image quality compares favorably to other smartphone cameras and beginner-level point-n-shoot cameras
  • Large touchscreen display is sharp and bright
  • Touchscreen is very responsive
  • Samsung designed the camera's operational buttons and menus to work with touchscreen interface
  • Both front- and rear-facing cameras
  • Battery life is outstanding
  • Camera responds quickly with very little shutter lag
  • LED flash works well for low light photos
  • Large camera body makes it easier to hold and use camera
  • Good smartphone features too
  • Extremely large device to allow for 5.7-inch touchscreen
  • May not fit in a pocket comfortably
  • No optical zoom option
  • No shutter button, other than an on-screen button
  • No manual control shooting mode
  • Process of changing camera's settings is a little awkward
  • Options for controlling movies could be better
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured from complete shutdown = 27.9 seconds
  • Power up to first image captured from sleep mode = 6.2 seconds
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.1 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/o flash = 0.9 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 4.1 seconds
All tests were taken using internal memory, Auto mode, default image quality, ISO Auto, Flash off and all other settings at factory defaults unless noted otherwise. No image review mode is available.
Bottom Line
Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 offers a very nice combination of camera and smartphone features, and its primary camera produces image quality that's above average when compared to other smartphones and beginner level point-n-shoot cameras. Its 5.7-inch full HD display touchscreen is very impressive, and Samsung did a great job in designing the camera's menus and buttons to take advantage of the touchscreen. But the large screen requires this device to be larger than most smartphones, which may disappoint some users. And the Galaxy Note 3's lack of an optical zoom lens will make it tough for many photographers to use this device as their only camera.
Pick This Up If...
You are seeking a smartphone that includes one of the better cameras in a smartphone on the market, and you don't mind a physically large device. 
Samsung has put together an impressive combination of advanced smartphone features with a very nice 13-megapixel smartphone camera with its Galaxy Note 3. 

Don't misunderstand: The Galaxy Note 3 isn't going to replace your interchangeable lens camera any time soon, nor are most photographers who appreciate a large optical zoom lens going to abandon that type of camera for this smartphone.

But if you only want to carry one device, and you're looking to just shoot some good looking photos that you want to share on the Internet, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will be able to accomplish that task more than adequately. This type of smartphone camera is exactly why basic point-n-shoot cameras are fading away rapidly.

I'll be focusing primarily on the Galaxy Note 3's camera functionality in this review, but let me touch on the device's smartphone capabilities briefly. 

The Galaxy Note 3 runs Android 4.3 at the time of this writing, although the Android KitKat (version 4.4) upgrade likely will made available to users soon. The Galaxy Note 3 makes use of a 2.3GHz quad-core processor alongside 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, all of which are very impressive features. You can add up to another 32GB of storage with a microSD card.

Battery life is really good with this model. Through typical usage -- including shooting a healthy number of photographs -- you should be able to run the Galaxy Note 3 for an entire working day and then some without coming close to needing a recharge. Samsung included a microUSB 3 port with this smartphone, along with a microSD slot.

I loved the clarity and brightness of the Galaxy Note 3's 5.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen display. Of course to have such a large touchscreen, you must construct a pretty large device (6 by 3.1 inches), at least compared to average sized smartphones and point-n-shoot cameras. Samsung has maintained a very thin design with the Galaxy Note 3 of 0.33 inches, but its dimensions are too large to allow it to fit in some pockets. I didn't mind the size, but some others I showed it to said they would prefer a smaller sized smartphone. For such a large smartphone, it only weighs 5.9 ounces, which is another nice design feature.

The large dimensions of this smartphone do make it easier to hold and use its camera comfortably, as does the fake leather covering on the back side of the camera. However the only shutter button is the on-screen button, which can be a bit awkward to use at times, depending on how you're trying to frame a scene. 

As with the above-average HD touchscreen, the Galaxy Note 3's 13-megapixel primary camera's features are equally impressive when compared to what's available from other smartphones currently on the market. The Galaxy Note 3 also offers a 2-megapixel opposite-facing secondary camera.

Image quality with the Galaxy Note 3's 13MP camera is above average when compared to the primary cameras found with other smartphones, as you'll find images that have good exposure and realistic colors. The Galaxy Note 3's primary camera is able to shoot with quite a bit less shutter lag than other smartphones. Samsung included an LED flash that helps this smartphone's camera perform better than most of its peers in low light.

Versus other digital cameras, the Galaxy Note 3's image results are closer to that of a beginner-level camera. Occasionally images seemed a bit over processed, especially indoor photos. When shooting outdoors though, photos are well exposed. And even indoor photos shot with the impressive LED flash were of pretty good quality. If you're trying to shoot in low light without the flash, the results are going to be mixed. Some of my indoor test photos shot without the flash were blurred because of camera shake. Still, the Galaxy Note 3's overall image quality was better than quite a few beginner-level point-n-shoot cameras currently on the market.

When compared to digital cameras, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 suffers from the same problem that other smartphone cameras have: there's no optical zoom option. You'll have to shoot with a 4x digital zoom, but using it reduces the image quality noticeably. 

Even with 13-megapixels of resolution, don't expect to make large, sharp prints with the Galaxy Note 3's images. The image quality simply isn't good enough. However this smartphone's images are easily good enough to use on social networking sites or for small prints, which is almost certainly what most people who choose this device will want anyway.

Although you can shoot 4K video with the Galaxy Note 3, the smartphone camera won't quite do the 4K resolution justice. The autofocus isn't always accurate when shooting video, and you're limited to a 5-minute video clip when shooting 4K resolution video. You can record standard HD video, as well as three other video resolution options. Compared to other smartphones and budget-priced point-n-shoot cameras, the Galaxy Note 3's video recording quality is average to slightly above average, primarily because of the availability of 4K and full HD resolutions.

The Galaxy Note 3's camera shooting interface is very impressive, making this model extremely easy to use. You can make use of a large number of scene modes and special effect features, and you'll be able to change a few settings manually with this smartphone's camera, such as white balance or exposure value, which is nice. ISO is limited to 800 with the Galaxy Note 3.

Of course this smartphone camera's navigational interface is so easy to use in part because of the previously mentioned 5.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen. It's a full HD resolution screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio, making the Galaxy Note 3 ideal on which to watch HD videos. Considering the large size of the Galaxy Note 3's display screen, its long battery life is even more impressive. You also can make use of a built-in S Pen stylus to unlock some smartphone features.

As they seem to do with all of their cameras, Samsung has created a great set of navigational menus with the Galaxy Note 3. It offers features and a navigational structure that are almost identical to the Samsung Galaxy Zoom camera/smartphone combination. The menus and buttons have all been designed with a touchscreen in mind, which makes this model even easier to use. 

Samsung gave the Galaxy Note 3 a relatively high MSRP of $299.99 if you're comparing it to other digital cameras with similar features, but the price you'll actually pay will vary quite a bit, depending on whether you purchase it as part of a cellular network contract package. Most of the major cellular network providers around the world offer the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. You can use this device with a cell network, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or NFC, which should meet the wireless needs of almost everyone.

Bottom Line - Samsung has become the leading manufacturer for creating digital cameras that include operational and navigational features more like a smartphone, thereby allowing easy-to-use features while also providing optical zoom capabilities, such as the Samsung Galaxy Camera. Samsung also has created a 10x optical zoom digital camera that can operate as a fully functioning smartphone in the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. Still, many people are just looking for better camera capabilities in a smartphone, and Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 smartphone can fill that need. The Galaxy Note 3 includes a 13-megapixel primary camera that compares favorably in the image quality and performance of its camera versus other smartphones and even some point-n-shoot digital cameras. The 5.7-inch touchscreen display is very impressive and includes full HD resolution. No digital camera only device can match that type of display screen. As with most cameras we see that are built into a smartphone, the Galaxy Note 3 has no optical zoom capability, which means many photographers won't feel comfortable using this device as his or her only camera. And the large size of this smartphone may discourage some people who just want to carry one device, as the Galaxy Note 3 won't fit in every type of pocket. The Galaxy Note 3 is a lot of fun to use though, and its image quality is more than adequate for sharing on social networking sites. If you're in the market for a new smartphone and you're looking for one with an above average built-in camera, fun photography features, and a top-end display screen, the Galaxy Note 3 is a device well worth considering.

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