Samsung started this whole phablet business with the first Galaxy Note which sold surprisingly well. Its successor the Note 2 upped the stakes with a 5.5-inch screen compared to the Mk. 1's 5.3. It sold in huge quantities. The moral? Bigger is better. That's why the Galaxy Note 3 has a 5.7-inch display plus a 2.3GHz quad-core processor with 3GB of RAM. Being a Note device it naturally packs a stylus too. Samsung has also added a 13-megapixel camera into the mix to give it a pretty impressive all-round technical specification.
The Note 3 has clearly been designed to be all things to all people. That whopping 1080p Super AMOLED screen is great for looking at web pages and documents, it has enough power for anything you'll likely throw at it and the stylus makes writing quick notes a breeze. If you're a hardcore movie buff and want to watch Blu-ray rips on the move, its superb screen makes it a good choice.
Usefully despite the larger screen the body of the Note 3 is no wider and even slightly thinner and lighter than the Note 2. This is due to less bezel so you get in a larger screen without stretching the chassis. It's still a bit on the large size though at 151mm tall and 79mm wide. Like the even larger Sony Xperia Z Ultra you'll need both hands to use it.
The front of the Note 3 borrows its design from the Galaxy S4 and includes a chrome-effect speaker grille and silver-edged home button. Around the edge is a shiny silver plastic band which looks just a little cheap. Tucked into the side are the volume and power buttons, 3.5mm headphone jack and a widened power port to allow for USB 3.0 data transfers. You can use a normal micro USB cable too though.
The glossy white back of the Note 2 has been replaced with a leather-effect (but still plastic) cover with a rubberized finish. When I first saw the Note 3 I thought that the leather effect looked cheap and nasty but it's much nicer in the flesh. It doesn't feel like leather, but the rubbery texture and fake stitching might be enough to fool some. More importantly it makes the Note 3 easier to hold than the Note 2 or the Ultra Z.
The Note 3's 5.7-inch display boasts a full 1920 x 1080 resolution, which is the same resolution as the Galaxy S4 and the Xperia Z Ultra. Given that the Note 3's screen is larger than the former but smaller than the latter it has a higher pixel density than the Ultra but a lower one than the S4. In use though the naked eye can't tell the difference between the three. The display is very sharp, and even tiny text is superbly clear. High-definition images look great and Full HD video is displayed beautifully.
That's helped by the rich colours and deep blacks of the Super AMOLED display Samsung has used. It's extremely bright and vivid, at times even bordering on the extreme. Some videos look over-saturated but there are various screen modes you can choose from to tone things down.
The Note 3 runs the latest version of Android, 4.3 Jelly Bean. On top of that is Samsung's TouchWiz overlay which adds a plethora of extra functions not least support for the S Pen stylus and the option to run certain apps in windows just like on a PC running, well, Windows.
You also get Air gestures which allow you to swipe above the screen to scroll through images without touching the screen. It also has the same eye-tracking tech from the S4, that lets you scroll through pages without using your finger or will pause video when you look away from the screen. They're fun to play with but not really more than clever diversions.
Samsung would say it is adding value by installing a lot of different services and features but you could also argue that the Note 3 is jammed up with so much extra stuff that it makes it very difficult to get to grips with.
Do you really need a Samsung calender client when the basic Google Android app is so good and free? Ditto two web browsers when Chrome is so good? On the plus side the media playback apps are very good indeed.
The ace in the Note 3's hole though is it's sheer power. The 2.3GHz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset is brutally fast, faster even than the 2.2GHz / 2GB RAM component fitted to the Xperia Z Ultra. This is one handset that won't be regarded as under-powered in 18 months time. It's incredibly, savagely, almost ludicrously powerful.
Combine all those features with a big (3200mAh) removable battery and a more decent camera that can record 4K content - pointless at the moment, but potentially a handy feature down the line - and you have a really rather impressive handset.
Verdict: The Galaxy Note 3 doesn't completely eclipse Sony's Xperia Z Ultra - the Ultra's screen is more natural, Sony's tweaked version of Android is a hell of a lot less confusing, the bespoke Sony media apps are better and it feels like a more up market device - but it's a hugely impressive package nonetheless. The screen is bright and vivid, the camera good, the chipset awesome and the battery removable. What more do you want?
Price: £595 unlocked or from around £35pcm on contract.