Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs. Note 3 Neo: A Worthy Budget Phablet?
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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs. Note 3 Neo: A Worthy Budget Phablet?

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As has been noted numerous times before, Samsung is pretty much the creator of the “phablet” market segment. While others may have tried to combine the tablet and smartphone worlds into one, the Note series was the first to actually succeed. This makes the Note 3 a very unique and competitive smartphone, delivering a wide range of productivity tools and numerous interesting features. Of course, all those features come at a price, and the Note series has always been among the most expensive handsets offered. Those who haven’t been willing to spend big bucks on a brand new Note have been left out, or they’ve turned their attention to older models. Fortunately though, Samsung might have addressed this issue with the announcement of a “lite” Note 3 version, dubbed the “Galaxy Note 3 Neo.”

Neo’s purpose is to offer the benefits of owning a Note, but at a lower price. Has Samsung managed to achieve a balance between affordability and quality? Let’s find out below.

Display

As most of you already know, the Galaxy Note 3 is currently the most powerful Samsung smartphone on the market. Since the Neo is aimed at a more budget-friendly tier, it doesn’t pack the same punch as its larger sibling.

Yes, the Neo is slightly smaller than the Note 3, and offers a 5.5-inch display instead of a 5.7-inch one. The resolution also took a hit, as the Neo comes with a 720 x 1280 Super AMOLED panel resulting in a pixel density of 267 pixels per inch. The Note 3 on the other hand, comes with 1080 x 1920 pixels and a density of 386 ppi. While 720p is not really something to complain about on a 5.5 inch surface, it’s considered mid-range nonetheless.

Hardware Specifications

First of all, let’s remind everyone that the Note 3 comes in two main variants, one with an Exynos chip, and the other with a Snapdragon CPU. Unsurprisingly, the Neo follows the same route, and offers a similar – but not identical – Snapdragon / Exynos formula, depending on the model.

On short, the 3G-only, dual SIM Note 3 Neo features a Qualcomm MSM8228 Snapdragon quad-core processor clocked at 1.6 GHz, while the 4G LTE-equipped variant draws its power from a brand new Exynos 5260 Hexa unit. The 5260 chip is comprised out of a Cortex-A15 dual-core chip clocked at 1.7 GHz and a Cortex-A7 quad-core chip with a frequency of 1.3 GHz.

In the graphics department, the Neo comes with an Adreno 305 GPU (for Snapdragon), or a Mali-T624 graphics processor (for the Exynos model). While both GPUs should be able to keep up with most 3D-heavy applications available today, they won’t offer the same longevity as the Adreno 330 / Mali-T628 MP6 chips fitted on the Note 3.

Furthermore, the Neo comes with 2 GB of RAM regardless of what type of CPU is found under the hood, so that’s 1 GB less than what you’d get from its bigger brother. The Neo is being offered with 16 GB of storage only, but as is tradition with Samsung, the smartphone is equipped with a microSD card slot, allowing for an additional 64 GB of storage. Lastly, there’s also a small discrepancy in terms of battery, as the budget-friendly device draws its energy from a 3100 mAh unit instead of a 3200 mAh one.

The bottom line is that, while Note 3 Neo’s processor(s) are expected to offer decent performance, we’re fairly confident that the gap between its internals and the hardware offered by the Note 3 will be noticeable, especially in synthetic benchmarks.

Camera Comparison

Smartphones today strive to become real alternatives to day-to-day point-and-shoot cameras, and the Note 3′s sensor has been quite successful in that regard. While it disappointingly lacks optical image stabilization  (OIS), the 13 MP camera does its job well, and the LED flash is definitely a perk.

As expected, the Neo took a hit in this department as well, but fortunately, Samsung hasn’t made a lot of compromises. While the gadget features an 8 MP camera, it still takes advantage of an LED flash, HDR, panorama and 1080p@30fps video recording capabilities.

Of course, we’ll have to wait for the Neo to become available before camera experts determine the handset’s ability to capture stills or videos, but so far the device seems promising.

Design

We’ve mentioned before that the Note 3 Neo is slightly smaller than its flagship counterpart. Other than that, however, the device looks very similar to the Note 3, and that’s definitely a big plus. Much like the top-tier model, the Neo comes with a metal-like side rim, a relatively thin bezel and a faux leather back panel.

Thanks to its smaller camera, Neo’s camera rim is also less prominent. From afar, that’s probably the only element that helps differentiate one smartphone from the other. All that being said, Samsung did a rather impressive job to make the Neo look as top-tier as possible, and I’m fairly sure that Samsung enthusiasts will be glad that the Korean manufacturer didn’t cut corners in this regard.

Productivity and Software

Extra software features that go well with an S Pen define the Note series – this being one of the main reasons why Samsung’s phablet made a bigger impact than any other alternative device. Thankfully, the Neo is on the same page as its more costly counterpart. It conceals a stylus in its chassis, and productivity tools like multi-window are present.

Both devices come with Samsung’s proprietary TouchWiz UI, and the Neo is packed with features like Air View, Air Gestures and numerous tools that allow the usage of the S Pen in the Calendar, Gallery apps and more.

While the Note 3 recently made a leap to Android 4.4 KitKat, the budget model comes with Android 4.3 out of the box. However, the TouchWiz UI covers most of the stock Android user interface, so you’re not really missing that much. Besides, chances are that the Neo will eventually take advantage of KitKat once Samsung finishes rolling out the update to its 2013 high-end line-up.

Price and Expected Release

While the Korean giant has lifted the veil on its latest phablet and made it official in all its glory, the price remains somewhat of a mystery. Nevertheless, Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo recently appeared in a German online retailer’s listing at the price of 525 ($710) Euros for the LTE variant, and 499 ($675) Euros for the 3G-only model. Whether or not these figures represent the manufacturer’s suggested retail price remains to be seen. Samsung Poland has recently issued a press release, suggesting that the Neo will go on sale in February, so it’s only a matter of time before the aforementioned prices will be confirmed, or not.

Until the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo hits the shelves, we invite you to share your opinions by leaving a comment below. Is the budget-friendly Note 3 the smartphone that you’ve been looking for all these years?

Vlad Andrici is editor for gforgames.com and writes about technology issues. Follow Vlad on Google Plus.

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