Phablets, which sit somewhere between a smartphone and tablet, are a pretty niche category. The Samsung Note 3 does fit in your jeans pocket, but not comfortably or discreetly. The tradeoff is a massive 5.7” screen, which makes browsing the web and viewing movies an experience that puts iPhones’ 4” screens to shame. The Note 3 is promising more than display real estate, though. Its stylus is meant to make it a creative device that allows you to draw, crop and lay out images on the go.
+ The S Pen stylus works perfectly, allowing you to make beautiful sketches anywhere. The handwriting recognition also works wonders, although it’s a bit of a gimmick, as typing remains faster and more convenient.
Android offers the best integration with Google: contacts, calendars and documents all work seamlessly.
+ The sharp 1920 x 1080 screen is so big you can even do things hitherto reserved to tablets or desktops, such as working on a spreadsheet. Of course, it looks great when you show pictures and movies on it, too.
+ This thing is fast. Whether you’re shooting with the very capable 13MP camera or running two applications at once in the split window, everything just whizzes along.
- Do you normally sketch a lot? If not, you’re going to use that stylus twice and then forget about it. The handwriting and scrapbooking, too, are really just gimmicks.
- The stylus and screen size are basically the two major differences with the Galaxy S4. And we actually think this screen is too big for comfortable one-hand use. You’re constantly shifting the device in your palm to reach all four corners.
- Of course, the second size issue is portability. This is not going to look good in your jeans, or fit into them at all if they’re skinny.
- The design—fake leather and plastic metallic trim—is tacky and cheap. iOS7 also remains a lot more streamlined than Android. These aren’t deal breakers, but if you’re a design fanatic, the Note 3 just won’t cut it for you.
It’s the best phablet out there: great screen, camera, processing speeds, stylus, battery, etc. But while that massive screen is a joy under some circumstances, it’s just as often unwieldy. Unless you’re dead set on having a stylus, just get the Samsung S4, whose 5” screen is much closer to the ideal smartphone size.