Samsung Galaxy Note 3: Hands-on preview

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Samsung's next-generation Note smartphone is upon us, complete with some new, S Pen-enhanced features and an even bigger display.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 sports a 5.7in, 1,920 x 1,080 display, up from 5.5in, and gets a spec upgrade. There's a 2.3-GHz, quad-core processor for the LTE version and a 1.9GHz Octa Core processor on the 3G device. The camera also comes in at 13 megapixels, up from 8 megapixels in the Galaxy Note 2, and includes a 2-megapixel front-facing shooter.

Though I've used an iPhone as my personal smartphone for a few years now, I am intrigued by the phablet category. I'm not sure if I truly need 5.7in worth of smartphone for everyday tasks, but as more and more of our lives transition to mobile gadgets, it makes sense to have a bit more real estate in the palm of our hands. I doubt Apple will agree anytime soon, but Samsung (which just released its even bigger 6.3in Galaxy Mega) certainly does.

For those who are already familiar with the Galaxy Note, though, the third-generation device doesn't look all that different from its predecessor. The changes are mostly internal - including an upgrade to Android 4.3 - with a number of new software features - from scrapbooking and Flipboard-based magazines to revamped multi-tasking.

The Air Command menu provides quick access to options like memos, search, scrapbooks, and multi-tasking. The half moon-shaped menu pops up when you remove the S Pen, and will also appear if you hover the S Pen over the screen and press the button on the stylus.

On the multi-tasking front, the small tab on the edge of the display swipes out for easy access to Multi Window and frequently used apps. Have a text-based discussion with a friend open on the top half of the phablet, while Google Maps is open on the bottom. If you're trying to tell her where to meet you, tap the blue button in the middle of the screen to drag and drop a map directly into your text - a feature that works for a number of apps, including photos.

Meanwhile, use Air Command to select an app that will show up in a smaller overlay atop the home screen. Have your email or a browser open in full screen, but then a small version of YouTube on top of it, for example. When you minimise the tiny version of the app, it'll show up as a small, round icon that is similar to Facebook's Chatheads. Tap and hit the "X" to remove it.

It'll likely take you a few tries to figure out all the new add-ons (I kept taking screen shots by accident) but as with most devices, it probably soon become second nature.

The Galaxy Note 3 will be available starting on 25 September in more than 140 countries.

Samsung today also unveiled its Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which can be used a companion device with the Galaxy Note 3. For more, see our hands-on with the Galaxy Gear, and for everything else IFA 2013, check out our live rolling coverage page.