5 things to note about the Galaxy Note 3

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Note fans, take note: Samsung's newest plus-sized product has officially arrived.

Sammy introduced its Galaxy Note 3 at a glitzy press event in Berlin today. The Note 3 -- slated to launch in the U.S. in October -- builds upon the formula established with the original Note and turns things up another few notches.

The Note 3 is focused largely on refining and improving the existing Note experience -- a welcome change from the typical "jam-40,000-new-features-in-there-and-see-what-sticks" approach Samsung tends to take with its mobile products.

Make no mistake, though: There's a lot to say about the new Galaxy Note 3 -- and a lot to wrap your head around. Let's boil it down to five key points:

1. The Galaxy Note 3 has improved hardware all around.

There's no question the new Note is a meaningful upgrade over its predecessor. The Note 3 has a 5.7-in. 1080p AMOLED display compared to the Note II's 5.5-in. 720p screen.

Despite the increased display size, the new Note is actually about the same size as last year's model -- a bit thinner and lighter, even.

The Note 3 packs a 13-megapixel camera, up from last year's 8MP. It also runs on a new 2.3GHz quad-core chip (for the LTE version) along with 3GB of RAM, which should -- theoretically -- make for impeccable performance.

2. The Note 3 has a new but familiar look.

Galaxy Note 3 (back)

Samsung's switched to a more squared-off look with the Note 3, and -- perhaps most notably -- has moved to a faux-leather look on the phone's back that brings to mind a paper-notebook-like design.

That said, the Note 3 still looks very much like a Samsung Galaxy product. And the back, while a definite step away from the oft-criticized glossy plastic of yore, is, in fact, still a thin, removable plastic panel.

3. The Note 3 has several new S Pen capabilities.

The S Pen is the Note's true calling card, and with the Note 3, the stylus is starting to seem more like an integral part of the phone-using experience than an easily overlooked accessory.

The Note 3 introduces a new S Pen command center known as Air Command. You simply click the button on the side of the stylus while holding it above the screen, and a semicircle of options appears on top whatever else you're viewing.

Air Command gives you a one-stop shop for creating interactive notes, saving URL-tagged screenshots of information for later viewing, and searching through your previously saved content.

Perhaps most interestingly, it also lets you run certain applications in a small movable window, similar to a feature we first saw in LG's Optimus G Pro. The function is limited to a handful of specific apps -- it won't work with just anything -- but it's still a cool and potentially useful concept that puts the large screen size to good use.

4. The Note 3 has a couple of other noteworthy software improvements.

With the new Note 3, Samsung has tweaked its Multi Window multitasking tool to allow you to run two instances of the same program -- such as browser tabs or chat windows -- side by side on-screen together. The company has also enabled drag-and-drop functionality between windows to let you plop text or images from one place to another.

(Like with the Air Command multitasking feature, Multi Window works only with a specific set of applications, so it may or may not support the apps you want.)

The Note 3 also ships with Samsung's Knox security system in place and ready to roll. Knox adds a layer of security onto the phone that allows you to store data in separate "containers" -- something that could hold particular appeal for IT departments and enterprise-oriented users.

5. The Note 3 still has TouchWiz -- and that odd mix of physical and capacitive buttons Sammy inexplicably adores.

Yup -- along with all the Note-specific features, you also get Sammy's cluttered mess of a user interface and dated physical-capacitive button setup. You can cover up some of the UI issues with a custom launcher, but doing so would eliminate many of the S Pen-targeted enhancements built into the Note's software.

Hey, c'est la vie when it comes to Samsung.

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AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and U.S. Cellular have all confirmed plans to carry the Galaxy Note 3. Thus far, no specific launch dates or pricing details have been released.


Note 3 in the real world: The first things you notice about Samsung's new phone

Hands on: 7 cool things about the Galaxy Note 3

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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