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Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear

February 18, 2014 • Reviews, Top Stories

With Samsung’s bold moves into the world of smart wearables and bigger mobile devices, IT News Africa had the opportunity to play around with the Galaxy Note 3 and the accompanying Galaxy Gear wearable.

Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 (image: Samsung)

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 (image: Samsung)

Do they live up to expectation, or are they just a fad?

What we like about it

Samsung’s mobile phones always run the risk of just being more of the same. But for the Galaxy Note 3, the Korean manufacturing tried to do a couple of things differently – the size being one of them.

Sporting a 5.7″ Super AMOLED Full HD display with a screen resolution 1920 x 1080, the visuals are crisp and clear – whether it is images or HD films. But having a bigger screen also comes with one disadvantage, as it has a pixel density of 386 PPI. In comparison, the Galaxy S4 has a pixel density 440 PPI.

While the screen size is important to most consumers, another factor that comes into play is the battery life. Here the Note 3 definitely cannot be faulted. Sure, a bigger screen does need a bigger battery, but the unit comes packed with a massive 3200 mAh battery. A full 90 minute charge is enough to power the device for 48hours.

In terms of processing power, the unit makes use of a Quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400 CPU, which allows for multitasking and processor-intensive applications without the device taking serious strain.

The Gear is an accompanying device, a wrist worn watch that links to the Note 3 via Bluetooth. Besides telling the time, the user is capable of check eMail, IM and answering calls with the Gear.

It is a nifty addition, and while it works well for the first couple of days, the novelty wears off rather quickly. Where the Gear shines, is its functionality. You can glance at the device to check eMail, missed calls or messages without having to take your phone out of your pocket. Other than that, the first generation of true smart wearables still have a long way to go to being essential gadgets.

What we don’t like about

Admittedly the biggest gripe that we had about the Note 3 was the size – it’s much larger than we’re comfortable with, although there has definitely been a shift in the market towards larger devices.

Larger screens allow the manufacturer to include a host of features which simply wouldn’t be possible on smaller screens, but it does take some getting used to. The larger screen felt uncomfortable and cumbersome, and the 5.7″ display might  just be too large for most users.

In what is only a small issue with the Note 3 (and it’s more on Samsung than the device), is that there are a plethora of apps bundled with the device for retail. Whilst most users will only make use of a small portion of them, the sheer amount of pre-installed apps can become quite overwhelming.

In terms of the Gear, it is nifty but by no means is it an essential addition to the package. Battery life is pretty average, and with the Gear’s awkward charging clip-on, it becomes a bit of a chore.

The strap on the Gear is made from plastic with the microphone built into the bottom clip. When answering a call, users can’t help but look like secret service agents – it’s fun in the beginning, but afterward it just feels silly. In layman’s terms, the Gear is “alright, but not great”.

Conclusion

The Galaxy Note 3 is an impressive device, and even with its size, users shouldn’t have a problem operating it. The S-Pen slides in and out with ease, and basic functions can be executed with one-hand.

As usual with Samsung mobile devices, the TouchWiz operating system overlay is easy to navigate, fast and incredibly responsive. If users are looking for one of Samsung’s best new “phablets”, the Note 3 should definitely be an option.

But as far as the Gear is concerned, ultimately it is a bit of a gimmick at this stage. Sure, wearables will get a lot better as time goes by, but for the first-generation, there is room for improvement. It’s not a necessity to pair the Gear with the Note 3, as the smartphone can definitely hold its own.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor

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