Samsung's new Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear devices are going on sale in mere days, and we've got you covered with a roundup of the best blips from the best reviews on the both of them.
Maybe you're wondering if a large-screened "phablet" (phone/tablet hybrid) is right for you, or perhaps the wearable gadgets category has caught your attention. Let us connect you with important opinions from some of the best voices in technology news today.
We call it THE LAST WORD.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Dan Seifert, The Verge:
The big phone category is well, bigger than ever, but the Galaxy Note 3 proves that Samsung still owns this arena. The wealth of iterative improvements over last year’s quite-capable model are more than welcome, and the overall experience is better than ever. It feels nicer, runs faster, lasts a long time, and is just a better device overall than the Note II. If you really liked the earlier models, you’ll love the Note 3, but it probably won’t convert those that never bought into the idea. Samsung didn’t reinvent the wheel here, it just gave it a smoother ride.
The Galaxy Note 3 is the best Samsung phone you can buy — with a beautiful full HD display and stylus functions that are truly useful — as long as you can get over the humongous screen.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a great phone and if you were to own one you wouldn't be disappointed. It provides a great onscreen experience - as long as your hands are big enough to reach across it - and its stuffed full of tech to almost warrant its lofty price tag. Its size will be a real stumbling point for many and we'd recommend going into a store and just holding the Note 3 for a while to see if it's something you can cope with.
...This is the best Galaxy Note smartphone to date and if you're a fan of the range then you'll love the Note 3 - but if you're looking for the best smartphone in the world you'll need to look elsewhere.
Once Samsung commits to making a product, it plays to win. The company may not get things right the first time around, but it patiently persists until it creates a truly seductive piece of hardware. The third time is indeed a charm, because the Galaxy Note 3, while certainly a niche gadget, is the most compelling phone/tablet mashup Samsung has ever created, and the best I've ever used...
I admit a few of its attributes won’t appeal to some people. Its sheer size is hard to ignore, or squeeze into tight pants pockets. The handset’s textured imitation leather backing and retro styling will be a stumbling block as well. Frankly, though, I’m completely in love with the Note 3’s aesthetics, especially in its classy black hue (it also comes in white). To me it harkens back to the venerable Galaxy S2’s design as well, one of my favorite phones of all time.
...That’s why if you consider yourself a power Android user who'd rather not spend extra on a small tablet like the Nexus 7, or just want the most phone you can buy, the Galaxy Note 3 is the clear choice.
The Note 3 is an iterative product, that’s absolutely true, but the improvements in the Note 3 are pretty dramatic. It really does feel better, thinner, lighter all while having a bigger, more usable display. The silicon inside is incredibly quick, easily the fastest in the Android camp. It's also good to see Samsung on the forefront of RF technology here, implementing an envelope power tracker alongside Qualcomm's 3rd generation LTE modem. The combination results in a fairly robust, very high-end platform that is modern on both compute and modem/RF fronts. Given my affinity for the latter, I'm happy.
...Whereas previous Notes felt like a strange alternative to the Galaxy S line, the Galaxy Note 3 feels more like Samsung's actual flagship. It equals the Galaxy S 4 in camera performance, but exceeds it pretty much everywhere else. There's a better SoC, better cellular/RF and even better industrial design. I suppose next year we'll see the Galaxy S 5 play catch up in these areas, but until then it's clear that the Note 3 is the new flagship from Samsung. Although you could argue that the improvements within are incremental, the Note 3 really defines what incremental should be.
Do you like really big phones? Then [you should buy a Note 3]! This is the best big phone out there. Do you hate big phones? Then no, of course you shouldn't get it because you will drop it on the ground and cry. That's pretty much the long and short of it, at least for now. Oh, except for the price.
...We still long to see Samsung get it together on the software side. As it is, the software on the Note tends to get in its own way, which has long been a Samsung tradition. Less is more, Samsung, even on a phone this big.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is far and away the most mature smartphone of this size on the market today. More than that, Samsung has outdone themselves in this category – with the likes of Air Command, the S Pen suite becomes a solid experience that I’ll no longer have to explain to relatives is just for writing notes and drawing pictures. Here there’s a real solid draw.
The Galaxy Note 3 is the best smartphone Samsung has ever made. In fact, the Note 3 is one of the best Android phones ever, period. It’s fast, it’s very capable, and unlike most smartphones these days, the S Pen and Samsung’s related software suite give the Note 3 genuinely compelling differentiation. This phone does things your phone can’t. Important, useful things that make your life easier.
While the massive size and plasticky build would prevent me from ever carrying the Note 3 personally, the size is a big draw for millions of smartphone users across the globe. And when it comes to supersized smartphones with screens that measure more than 5 inches diagonally, there is simply nothing on the market right now that can hold a candle to the Galaxy Note 3.
True, most of the new software features aren’t new, as it borrows many things from the Galaxy S4 before it, but the new stuff primarily centers around the S Pen and multi-tasking aspect of the phone, which is something that continues to make the Note 3 very different from other smartphones. Business oriented folks will surely appreciate all of these features, but even for the everyday Joe, it’s something that offers more diversity than other things. Some argue that the exorbitant amount of features might end up confusing, and possibly alienating users, but it simply goes to show how rapid Samsung really is when it comes to expanding its experience.
On top of all that, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is simply one balanced performing smartphone! At $300 with a 2-year contract, there’s no denying the fact that it’s an expensive cost, but as we’ve come to learn, the hefty pricing does come with some perks. The phablet category saw some new entrants into the space this year, but the Note 3 continues to be the best in its class.
Should you get a phone or a phablet? Samsung isn't making the decision easy, thanks to its sheer number available devices with all manner of screen sizes. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Mega steps up to an even larger 6.3-inch display, but it's lower in resolution, and the Mega's dual-core processor is significantly behind the quad-core, next-gen chip in the Galaxy Note 3. Heading back down in the other direction, the Galaxy S4 still has a substantial 5-inch display, and since it's also 1080p, its pixel density is even tighter. The LG G2 splits the difference, with its 5.2-inch screen, and it has the same processing powerhouse internals, but it's not quite in the same league software-wise.
All told, the Galaxy Note 3 is the best phablet you can buy right now, and it's an easy Editors' Choice. There wasn't much wrong with the Galaxy Note 2 that a spec bump and software refinements couldn't fix, and we basically got them here.
To use a term of phrase borrowed from that other mobile giant, this is Samsung's best Note yet. It's better in pretty much every way, with the possible exception of that speaker. The display is bigger, but it never makes the device feel inflated, which is some sort of dark magic in its own right. Either way, we applaud Samsung for consistently making this series better and better. But, like most good things, it does come at a price...[The Note 3 is] not the cheapest phone, but those who have already converted to the way of the Note will likely see it as a necessary evil. If you're thinking about making the step up, we say get it while it's hot.
Samsung Galaxy Gear
Vlad Savov, The Verge:
A smartwatch the Galaxy Gear is not. Frankly, I’m not sure exactly what it’s supposed to be. Samsung describes it as a companion device, and the Gear is indeed chronically dependent on an umbilical link to another Samsung device, but it never left me feeling like it was a helpful companion. The notifications are Orwellian, the media controls are exiguous, and the app selection has no substance to underpin the hype. Samsung’s attempt to turn the Gear into a style icon is also unlikely to succeed, owing to the company’s indecision about its target demographic. Trying to please all tastes has resulted in a predictably charmless and soulless product.
The Gear’s camera and phone calls are both surprising and delightful, but they’re unfortunately isolated highlights. When all is said and done, I expect the Galaxy Gear will be looked back upon as a rough first draft that helped the Korean chaebol steer a better course en route to the goal of producing a real smartwatch. As it stands today, though — unintuitive, oversized, overpriced, and in constant need of a Galaxy guardian — the Galaxy Gear might have been better off staying on the drawing board.
There are a lot of good ideas with the Samsung Galaxy Gear, but the execution feels unfinished and the overall experience is searching for purpose.
If a watch is to be truly smart, it needs to be able to provide a window into all the smart functions of your phone. E-mail and social networking are both absolute musts and voice control that works properly every time is essential. The Galaxy Gear falls down on all of these points.
Without more commitment from developers, the Gear's usefulness is limited. If proper apps are made to let you receive e-mails, send tweets, and use the other smart services that have made our phones such important tools in our lives, the Gear might stand a real chance of becoming a similarly important tool.
It's perhaps surprising that Samsung would admit its own product lacks something special before it's even on sale, but it's certainly not wrong. With such a high price, a limited number of useful functions and a tiny number of compatible devices, the Galaxy Gear is not Samsung's exciting entrance into wearable devices that we hoped it would be.
Ultimately the Galaxy Gear isn't the perfect solution to wearable computing, but rather a first attempt. It's more a proof of concept that you can own. If we look at Samsung's history in nearly every market we've followed it (SoCs, SSDs, smartphones), the company has a tendency to show up early with the wrong solution, but iterate aggressively to the point where it ends up with a very good solution.
In terms of interim improvement - I'd love to see more/better watch faces, broader compatibility with Samsung phones and a persistent clock. Let's start there and see where it takes us.
Only if $300 means nothing to you. If you can drop that kind of money to satisfy a vague curiosity, then sure. Actually, make that $600, since you'll need to buy a so Galaxy Note 3 as well (or shell out more for the Galaxy Note 10.1 2013 Edition tablet) to get any use out of it. Let us save you some money, though: It doesn't do enough, well enough, to be worth it.
As it stands, the Samsung Galaxy Gear is an interesting device – a rather unique device at that, and a high-quality addition to the Galaxy collection of Samsung smartphones, cameras, and future line of wearable devices. Samsung proves here in the Galaxy Gear that they’ll be ready to roll when the time comes for them to create a stand-alone smartwatch: hardware, software, and a developer backing that reflects the already surprisingly diverse support this first iteration has seen.
At the moment, with a market limited to those looking to purchase the Galaxy Note 3, the Galaxy Gear is more of an exercise in paving the way for future devices. Samsung has already done a fine job with the software and the hardware this device comes packed with – now the way is made more than ready for a beastly follow-up.
In the end, the Galaxy Gear feels like a product that Samsung rushed to market in an effort to get a head start in the category many are calling the next big thing. Had rumors of Apple’s forthcoming “iWatch” not popped up late last year, the Galaxy Gear would almost certainly not exist. And if it did still exist, it wouldn’t exist as it does today.
Samsung’s first shot at the smartwatch category everyone is calling the future is hopelessly stuck in the past. It’s a tiny 1.63-inch window into a handful of basic smartphone functions. It brings nothing new to the table. It does not innovate or even try to. The Galaxy Gear is a “we were here first” device that feels like a half-baked response to an Apple product that doesn’t even exist.
If smartwatches are the future they will be nothing like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear.
When it comes down to it, the Samsung Galaxy Gear is simply trying to do so much in such a short period of time. We’ll mention that it’s a good starting point, but it’s still very far from being perfect. Visually, the Galaxy Gear is a gorgeous looking thing – something that surprises us, especially from Samsung. At the same time, though, we still can’t get our heads over the fact that it isn’t water resistant, which means that we need to be conscious about it at all times. Also, its app support is limited at the moment, but it’s even worse knowing that the Galaxy Note 3 is the only compatible device.
Finally, the $300 cost is a bit excessive considering that you can seemingly purchase an inexpensive smartphone, buy a wearable fitness tracking gadget, and a Bluetooth headset to get almost the same experience as we would with the Galaxy Gear. Quite frankly, it still requires some tinkering in the software and experience to make it a standout offering. Maybe version 2.0 of the Galaxy Gear will be it? Unless you buy or own the Note 3, there isn’t much of a reason to pick it up right now. Like we said folks, it’s a wonderful first stab by Samsung, but it lacks direction and depth to make it a no-brainer companion.
All told, if you're hell-bent on getting smartwatch now, you're better off with the Pebble. If you can wait, hold out for the inevitable revisions to the Galaxy Gear. Some pundits theorize the Galaxy Gear makes using Samsung's huge-screen phones more palatable, but I don't think that's going to be a driving factor here. Really, it's just that $300 is a lot to spend on something that could have used a longer development and QA cycle, and is more frustrating than enjoyable to use. The Galaxy Gear is definitely cooler than I expected, but it's not worth buying yet.
The Galaxy Gear is a solid effort from Samsung, but it needs time to grow and develop. The things it does, it does well, and it's certainly more feature-rich and involved than any other smartwatch we've used so far. But it's the shortcomings that cause us to look at the big picture: it's only compatible with two devices at launch (soon to expand to five); the ecosystem is still brand-new and isn't open to all developers yet; notifications could use a bit of work; and S Voice isn't truly hands-free yet. These are all problems that should hopefully be resolved by the time the next Gear comes out (that is, assuming the series will continue next year). Still, they were frustrations that hurt our user experience so far.
The Gear isn't bad for a first-generation Samsung product, and it'll get better as the ecosystem grows. Of course, that's if the watch catches on and developers decide it's worth their time to produce a special app for it. Of any Android manufacturer, Samsung stands the best chance of gaining support. If it doesn't succeed, however, the $300 retail price will be even harder to swallow than it currently is, and no assortment of hot colors will change the fact that it's little more than a glorified time-telling device.
Smartwatches or ‘companion devices’ have to answer a few key questions. Do they look cool? The Samsung Galaxy Gear does. Is it comfortable to wear? Yes. Would I want to wear it everyday? Again, on first impressions, it’s a yes.
But perhaps the toughest test is will it genuinely be useful? From what we’ve seen so far the Gear has enough tools to sway us. The camera is genuinely innovative and fun while the potential for more apps is an appetite whetter. As ever what will make or break it will be the price.
...Galaxy Gear just isn’t something most folks need. It’s not even something I wanted to keep on my wrist all day. While the feature set is more advanced than any other smartwatch, the technology and its uses are clearly in their infancy. I imagine that later generations of Galaxy Gears, with a trimmer design, lighter weight, speedier processor, and maybe even a better camera, might be a slightly easier sell. Yes, it’s a noble attempt at innovation. But for the most part, the end result is too clunky and awkward for true appeal beyond being a brief conversation piece on your wrist. For now, the Gear remains a $300 smartphone accessory.
Follow us on Twitter for all the latest on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy Gear and other tech news - @YahooTech