New Toy – Samsung Galaxy Note 3

*New Toy – Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – My “Initial Impressions” Review*I bought the original Samsung Galaxy Note a few months after it was released ( The phone originally came with Android ICS, then got upgraded to Gingerbread and recently Jellybean. It’s served me well — I rarely get voice calls and use it mostly for browsing and hangouts, so the extra large screen has been a big plus.

It’s not without it’s downsides: (a) The S-pen is useless for me due to the way I write (left handed with pen angled downwards towards me, causing it to always register a few mm higher than where it should. (b) No LED notification indicator (c) washed out pixelated blacks when playing video makes a mockery of the AMOLED screen (d) limited storage (even my 32gb external SD is getting full). But most of all, over time it has just become intolerably slow. My sister recently bought a Galaxy S4 and in the time she can complete a google query and browse the resulting pages, I’m still waiting for the on-screen keyboard to appear.

Samsung fixed a lot of these issues with the Galaxy Note 2, but since my phone was still new-ish then, I held on to my Note 1. It’s now over 1.5 years old and so I figured I could justify myself an upgrade.

The initial rumours were that Malaysia would be getting both the Exynos and Snapdragon versions of the Note 3. I was keen on the HMP octa-core of the Exynos, but it turned out at launch only the Snapdragon LTE was to be made available. So LTE it was.

I was at the ATM yesterday and found myself withdrawing borrowing money from my future self. Last night I had some doubts … it is a lot of money and my Note 1 could probably stretch a few more months. But then again, if I’m going to get a Note 3 a few months down the road, I might as well get it now and enjoy it rather than “fasting” on the Note 1. I also found that my usual store ( was selling it for RM200 cheaper than RRP, so that was incentive enough.

The shop opened earlier (at 8:00AM) but no way was I going to get there so early given the time I sleep the traffic, so at was around 9:50 that I reached Subang Jaya. Parking was hell as usual. Surprisingly the store was not crowded … I was attended to within minutes. Plonked down my money for the phone (plus RM15 for a screen protector — I don’t really think it’s necessary but since I carry my phone naked (the phone, not me 8-))  and have been using a screen protector on my gadgets since the Palm days, what the heck) and that was that. I was still half asleep and didn’t really spend time testing it out … decided to have some faith in Samsung’s Quality Control.

Since I was in an all-or-nothing mood, I handed my MAXIS SIM card to the guy to be cut (the Note 3 uses a MicroSIM). I got a free micro-to-mini SIM adapter, but I know how finicky these things are to use. It’s going to be a problem mostly when I travel as I usually pop a local SIM into the Note and stick my Maxis SIM into an old Nokia, which has a regular SIM slot). Maybe time to upgrade the old Nokia also.

Sat down at the nearby mamak stall for roti canai and wah … already got 4G!

First Impressions

it’s TALL. I don’t know what it is with this world and 16:9 ratios on everything. The Note 1 was big but had a 16:10 ratio which felt proportionate. The Note 3 is just looks tall and skinny. I have the same issues with my desktop PC monitors (my primary monitor is a 24″ 16:10 which looks just right, but my secondary monitor is a 24″ 16:9 which feels … so lacking of that little bit of extra space that means so much). My sister’s Galaxy S4 is the same way but because it’s smaller doesn’t feel so … TALL … resulting in a display that feels cramped.

Granted this is all just an illusion … in terms of actual width the Note 3 is just a tiny little bit narrower than the Note 1 and has a whole lot more pixels in that space. So I’m actually seeing the same amount of content horizontally and a lot more vertically. Anyway, like it or lump it, I just have to get used to it.

It feels a bit easier to hold in the hand than the Note 1. I doubt if the slight decrease in width has much to do with that.

It still fits in my trouser pockets just fine. The extra height feels a bit different and I’m a bit more careful when getting up from sitting, but again this is all probably just imaginary worries.

On to the new faux-leather back. It looks nice in a classic sense … not quite what I’d expect on a smartphone. I guess you really need the top cover to complete the look. As far as feel and grip goes it’s good; about as effective as the grippy surface on the original Note.

However, what really gets to me is the chrome (I suspect it’s just painted plastic) sides of the phone. It’s got these groves that run along ( it that make it look like something off an ugly 1970s car. The idea was that if you have the top and bottom cover in faux-leather with stitching, this might actually look like the side view of the “pages” within the book. But without all that … I find it terribly ugly. It looks like an oversized iPhone (and at least the iphone’s chrome sides are flat and sleek).

On the black model, which is what I got, from the front, the chrome edges frame the phone, giving a distinct border that emphasizes … the bloody tallness of the thing. If you’re looking to get one, do check out the white model to see if that suits your tastes better.

It’s also more square and boxy … the Note 1 had nice rounded blimpy sides and softer rounded corners. I know that Apple makes noise about rounded corners but I liked the blimpy sides of the Note 1 much better.

Again, like it or lump it. I didn’t buy it for the looks anyway.

Oh … while were on faux-everything, Samsung took the trouble to make the cardboard box it comes in look like … wood. I know some designer must have spent a lot of time and effort on it, and he has my 5 seconds of appreciation before I toss the box into the cupboard, never to be gazed upon again.


I’ve got LTE coverage at home!( At least i do when I sit at in my living room or balcony, where it matters. And it’s bloody fast. Coupled with the waay faster processor on this, I am soooo glad I got the LTE version instead of hunting around for the Octa-core version, which only does HSDPA+. Honestly, I used to think HSDPA+ was good enough, but after this UniFi-busting LTE experience, there’s no going back.

I also have the original Maxis unlimited data plan (the MyMaxis app shows a cap of 30G, which is a lot for a smartphone), which I’m paying a bomb for. I was considering changing my plan to save some money every month; now with LTE I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll give it another few months and see. It’s no longer on their current available plans, so once I give it up, the best I can get is a 5GB capped plan.


It’s fast. I don’t know how fast fast is supposed to be these days, but coming from a Note 1, It’s definitely happy-happy fast. If you’ve been suffering with a Note 1, you will not regret upgrading, if only for this reason.

When doing a search there’s no longer any waiting for windows to pop open and keystrokes to catch up, and even the voice search is ready to listen to you almost instantly.

Switching apps is extremely fast too. Except for the slight delay  it takes to press down on  the physical button. I wish the app switcher was on a soft-button.

Chrome is fast too, although there is still a tiny delay before the keyboard pops up (nothing as bad as my Note 1).

The multi-window feature which Samsung introduced in their recent TouchWiz is nice and fast too. I have the same feature on my Note 1 but it takes forever to do anything with it, probably due to the lack of memory.

That covers all my primary use cases for this device. So i’m Happy!

How well this holds up over the next 2 years remains to be seen, as more and more stuff gets loaded into it and newer OS updates bog it down. But with 3GB of RAM (the Note 1 has only 1GB), even with all the Samsung bloatware, it should last.


The Note 3 ships with Android 4.3 Jellybean, whereas my Note 1 was at Android 4.1.2 Jellybean. I Can’t tell you what the difference is and I don’t think it really matters these days also. All the important apps are now updated via the Play Store so you’re not really left behind with an older OS. Probably there’s support for NFC (banging phones) and other such stuff which I’ll hardly ever use.

TouchWiz has somehow reverted to a 4×4 grid of Icons (The Note 2 is 4×4 as well. The Note 1 had 5×5). This is RIDICULOUS for a 5.7″ 386 DPI display. What’s the point of all that screen space and resolution? I can’t seem to find any setting to fix this, so I’ve had to adjust my regular layout of apps to fit. It’s fixable with a third-party replacement home screen app, but I was hoping not to bother with such hackery for this.

The S-pen now works for me! I don’t know how they got this right, but even with my downward-pointing left handed pen-holding style, it registers perfectly where the pen is. I guess I can actually start using the S-apps now. Of which there are a lot of them, and most feel gimicky (Samsung GALAXY Note 3 + Gear : Official First Hands-on). There’s a S-health app that is telling me how much calories I need to burn each day. There’s also some sort of scrapbook for keeping all kinds of things.

Unfortunately, what gets to me about most of the S-apps is that they are phone-only, there’s no web-equivalent. And since I spend most of my time in front of my Desktop PC, I really prefer apps that seamlessly integrate their phone-presence with their web-presence. So I’ll probably end up using most of the stock Google apps.

In all my previous android phones, I’ve ended up rooting them after a few weeks (once I’m convinced there are no warranty issues). Surprisingly, with the current state of Android, i was able to get everything I previously needed root for, to work, without root. OpenVPN runs fine, and so does installing the US-only Netflix app (you can’t search for it in the Play Store, but if you google for netflix and open the link with the Play Store, there it is 8-)). Netflix even plays smoothly over a VPN over LTE. QuickSSH also works (although you can’t write to system folders, not that I need to — I usually use this when I need to transfer something to the phone and I’m to lazy to connect a USB cable).

So it looks like for the first time, I will not bother with rooting.


It has a  13-megapixel camera. I really wonder if I need this kind of quality, since we’re mostly sharing photos over Google+ and the web these days. I might turn it down a bit so that pictures fit into Google+ “free” storage criteria. Nice to have though.

There are all kinds of fancy-shmancy modes in the camera, similar to the Galaxy S4 (Galaxy S4 Camera – Features and Quality). I guess I need to play around with them more to familiarize myself.

You can also capture 4K-resolution video with this camera. Which will take 4 times as much storage, and can only be viewed downsized to full-hd on the phone or on your PC (unless you have a 4K-resolution monitor. Otherwise, pointless, this.)

Other Stuff

I’ve weaned myself of playing games since the Note 1 had such limited storage, so I’m not to sure whether I will start again on the Note 3. I think I’d rather play games on a Tablet though.

There’s a whole bunch of new ringtones, which is again pointless because sooner or later everybody around you will be having the same Samsung ringtones 8-). I’m going to dig up my old Treo ringtone which hopefully nobody still uses.

There’s some chatter on the LowYat Forum Note 3 thread about the phone running hot; i didn’t find this was the case with mine. it seems a bit cooler than my Note 1.

All my Note 1 accessories (car dock, desktop dock, spare batteries) need to be replaced (any offers?), so the spending is not over yet. I might also want to get a 64GB microSD since the 32GB one I carried forward from my Note 1 is mostly full.

Oh, the FM Radio that was in the Note 1, is no longer present on the Note 3. I used it once while in the UK. Probably won’t be missed.


Worthy upgrade, for me.

If you’re on a Note 1, you will definitely want this.

If you’re on a Note 2, I guess you can skip one generation, unless you really want LTE.


#Samsung #note3 #newtoy

Comments (6):

  • 2013-09-26 00:36:57+0800 Delon Liew You mentioned about delay when pressing the physical button to switch apps, did you mean the one between the 2 soft keys? That is because after pressing once it will wait for awhile to see if you will press it again immediately, because pressing the button twice in a quick motion brings up the S-Voice app, so if you don’t want the delay, you can turn it off in the settings of the S-Voice app, hope this helps. By the way, I’m hooh888 of Lowyat Forum’s Galaxy Note 3 thread which led me here. 😀
  • 2013-09-26 00:46:55+0800 shahada abubakar Thanks +Delon Liew  … that helps a bit (don’t know how many times I’ve had heads turn when my phone goes “What would you like to do?!”).  I don’t really use S-Voice.I would really like if pressing Home when in the home page brought up the app switcher though (right now it brings up S-News). That way two quick taps would bring up the switcher. Having to long press when switching apps … that wait just makes me think of so many things I could be doing in that time! 😎

    I guess it would need to be rooted or maybe a replacement home app might solve that.

    Ha-Ha, this post has been linked under the LYN thread’s “*Short* User Reviews” …

  • 2013-09-26 00:49:49+0800 shahada abubakar Actually, it is a quite a bit faster after disabling S-voice. It gets to the launcher before i can think of anything 8-)Either that or I’m way past my bedtime. 😎
  • 2013-09-26 16:32:59+0800 Hassan Abu Bakar Samsung punya bloatware slow x ?
  • 2013-09-26 21:16:34+0800 shahada abubakar Fast even with all the default touchwiz widgets running.I’ve switch to Nova Launcher which feels even faster (and no TouchWiz widgets). But the Touchwiz services are still running. Maybe in a few months can replace with some simpler ROM. I don’t really need the S-Apps.
  • 2013-09-27 01:28:00+0800 Delon Liew The bloatwares here aren’t slow, but there are too many unnecessary ones, I think I can find 20 apps that I don’t use lol.

This post was originally published publicly on Google+ at 2013-09-25 23:17:22+0800

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