The Galaxy Note 3 does exactly what we thought it would do: takes over the mantle of the world's most powerful smartphone, although the advantage is a lot smaller this time.

Samsung seems to have run out of ideas when it comes to improving the specs on its smartphones, and that's a jolly good thing. It means the company has been forced to really think about what it's doing with the Galaxy Note 3, and it's all the better for it.

After the Galaxy S4 was lauded for its core abilities, but criticised for its many pointless 'innovations', Samsung made far less of a point of talking about anything to do with eye tracking, and instead focused on the enhanced use of the S Pen.

Don't get us wrong: we're still a long way from thinking that the S Pen is a killer feature, but what Samsung has done with it here makes sense, and puts the user first.

Well, the user who can afford to pay a top-of-the-range price for a smartphone, that is. In the UK, the Galaxy Note will be available for £47 per month if you want a free phone, and we're expecting the US Note 3-fanciers to shell out $299 on contract, making it one of the most expensive smartphones in the world.

However, expensive doesn't mean poor value - with so many features on offer, surely there's enough to warrant the cost?

Samsung is making a big deal about the freedom the S Pen brings you, with the definitely-not-a-stylus now imbued with even greater power.

Called Air Control, all you need to do is hover the S Pen over the screen and click the button, with a little fan dock coming up to give you some new options. These include smart cutting, where you simply draw a circle around the content you want and it will automatically save it to whichever scrapbook you want for future reference.

Why you'd want to do this (Samsung seems to think everyone from a chef to a florist will be snicking videos from the web) is a little less clear, but at least the option is there.

Other new abilities include an enhanced multi-tasking capability, with one of the fan-dock options in Air Power letting you draw a square on the screen and have a select number of apps pop up for use. So if you need a calculator, to watch some YouTube or set an alarm, and can't be bothered to exit your current app, then this is a great option to have.

Samsung's back with the Multi-window too, and now you can add two of the same app at once. This makes sense if you want to check two emails at once or have two chat windows open at once, although it seems like more hassle than it's worth to do this.

This leads us neatly to one of the issues that we've got with the Samsung Galaxy Note family as a whole: there's just too much going on at once. Most people will never use multi-window, as nine times out of 10 you'll find you're using it for the sake of it. On the odd occasion you annoyingly have to keep switching between windows to copy text, it's really helpful, but we've never found it anything other than fiddly to use.
The notion of being able to draw more windows fills us with dread.

We're not criticising the amount of power on offer here though - far from it, we're all for a more powerful smartphone and it's the reason a lot of people pick it up. However, to sell it on such features feels a little counter-intuitive. Why not make a bigger deal of the amazing 5.7-inch screen with a much thinner bezel, and the fact it's been crammed into a frame that's even smaller than before?

That seems like a much better selling point than the ability to look at maps and email at the same time - but then again, perhaps millions of sales of the Note family worldwide tells a different story.

Talking of design, we can't really say we like the faux leather on offer. In the promotional videos it looks slick and premium, but when you hold it in the hand it doesn't give the 'life's notebook' feeling Samsung was clearly going for.

It will be interesting to see how people engage with this concept. It's not always practical to go for metal, so at least Samsung is taking things in a different direction. We're just not sure this is the right one.

Samsung has repeated another annoying trick from the S4, and that's the decision to release different versions of the Note 3 with a variety of functionality. You can get it with the ability to shoot in Ultra HD, or an octa-core version, or just 2.3GHz quad core processor instead. We presumed the quad core option would have 4K capabilities, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Early verdict

The Galaxy Note 3 is very much an evolution, with the specs starting to top out. The 3GB of RAM, the 13MP camera and octa-core processor are all nice additions, as well as things like superfast 4G on board.

It's excellent sonically, can display superbly crisp images, and has a number of tweaks to the camera that mean it can take decent snaps. Those are the things we want to judge the Note 3 on, not the ability to click the S Pen in a different manner.

We're not sold on the design of the back, nor the high price - but there still seems to be an appetite for the Note range, so perhaps this is just the handset Samsung needs.