Durban - Regular readers of this column will know I’m a fan of smartphones with big screens. But when it comes to “phablets”, those gadgets that awkwardly straddle the line between phones and tablet computers, I’ve found them just a tad too big for daily use.
Until now, that is. Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 3 may well be the phablet that changes my mind. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with this, the latest in the hugely popular Note line, at its South African launch in Cape Town recently, and it is without doubt a superb piece of kit – arguably the best Android-powered smartphone.
That’s a bold statement, so let me back it up. To start with, the Note 3 exudes quality and looks and feels like a premium device – and so it should, at a recommended prepaid price of R9 000. The grooved, steel-look sides are meant to evoke the pages of an old-fashioned notebook and they certainly make the phone easier to grip than its slick, plastic predecessors. The textured, faux leather back, complete with stitching, also adds to the upmarket image and ergonomics – it comes in black and white, with “blush pink” on its way.
Then there’s the display, all 5.7 gorgeous inches of it. Samsung’s managed to make it bigger than the Note 2’s already gigantic 5.5 inches, while somehow making the phone just a little lighter, narrower and easier to grip. The full HD Super Amoled screen is also almost twice as bright and pixel-packed as its predecessor’s, which should allow stunning video viewing.
The biggest improvement in my book, however, is to the Note’s signature feature, its stylus – or S Pen, as Samsung calls it. The latest version still slides out from a dock in the bottom right of the phone, but it can do so much more on the Note 3 than on previous models.
The pen unlocks a new feature called Air Command, allowing you to open five other features.
Action Memo lets you hand-write a short note, then “action” it – for example the Note 3 will recognise that you’ve written down a number and you can opt to call it, or write down an address and navigate to it using the phone’s GPS.
Scrapbook lets you circle content like videos or blog posts, then saves and organises into an easy-to-browse format. Screen Write takes a screenshot and lets you annotate it, while S Finder acts as a built-in search engine, helping you to find messages, documents and even handwritten notes stored on the Note 3 – a useful feature given the device’s 32GB of onboard storage.
Then there’s Pen Window, which lets you open one of eight useful apps on top of a web page or app you’re already using, simply by drawing a box on the screen. This means, for example, you can open the calculator on top of the spreadsheet you’re currently viewing, or your contacts list on top of the party invitation you’re creating.
These and other features help to turn the S Pen it into a true daily use productivity and work tool.
Add the fact that the Note 3 has an insanely powerful processor, the biggest battery going, a great 13 megapixel camera capable of shooting 4K resolution video – that’s four times the quality of full HD.
And this premium smartphone’s clincher? The Note 3 comes with a deluxe version of Samsung’s no-questions-asked accidental damage warranty. Break its screen or dunk it in water and Samsung will not only fix or replace it twice in the two-year warranty period, they’ll send a courier to fetch it and deliver a new one within 24 hours. - Sunday Tribune
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