Handheld Devices

Samsung goes even bigger with Galaxy Note 3

Samsung continues its tradition of testing the public's appetite for supersized mobile displays with the new Galaxy Note 3.

While the 5.7-inch phone comes in shy of the 6.3-inch display of its pituitary-affected Mega cousin, the Note 3 ups the ante over its 5.5-inch predecessor, the Galaxy Note II.

To be sure, the Note 3 is big. But not too big. I won't bring up that annoying P-word the media uses to describe these extra girthy handsets. However, the Note 3 does indeed fit into that nebulous territory between phone and tablet.

The display is ideal for gaming and video, but can still comfortably be used for phones' original purpose: making and receiving calls. While the Note 3 may stretch the practicality of pockets for some users, it feels comfortable to use in the hand and against your face.

Despite some extra display space, the device is actually lighter than the Note 2 at a surprisingly feathery 5.9 ounces versus 6.4 ounces. The Note 3 is even a bit thinner at svelte 0.32 inches and it is powered with 3GB of RAM (compared to only 2GB with the Note 2).

The speedier engine comes in handy as the phone readily flips between screens and apps (more on that below).

Another great new design feature is the stitched "leather" backing (I couldn't get an exact answer as to the make-up, but the animal-free backing has a truly "leather-like" feel to it). The phone feels nice in your hand and looks top-shelf, and Samsung could have lied to me and told me it was actual leather, and I might have believed it.

Stylus features

While Steve Jobs famously disdained all styli when it came to mobile gadgets, Samsung--wisely by most accounts--has demonstrated no fear when it comes to incorporating a digital appendage into its Galaxy Note line of supersized phones. And Samsung continues to flaunt that Jobsian wisdom with the just-unveiled Galaxy Note 3, complete with "S Pen" in tow.

With this generation, the stylus has a few additional tricks. Hovering over the screen will present a small dot on the screen and once "clicked," it will unveil a fan of choices through a feature called Air Command.

The coolest new function from Air Command is "Pen Window," which allows the user to draw a square window on the ample display in which to open a new app. So, for example, if you chatting with someone, you could open a new pen window by simply drawing a box and selecting the calculator app, which will then open directly into the dimensions of the box you drew.

You can probably imagine various situations when this feature would come in handy.

Furthermore, you can use Pen Window to open two windows of the same app. For example, you might be able to have two Internet windows open simultaneously on the same screen. Currently Pen Window will only work with a handful of secondary preloaded apps such as calculator, Internet, and YouTube. However a rep promises that more may follow.

Starting Sept. 25, the smartphone will be available in more than 140 countries around the world. It will also be available in the U.S. later this year on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular, Samsung said without elaborating on exact dates.

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