Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 is a gadget on steroids, combining every design and piece of software in the Samsung universe into one beastly device. This isn’t so much a smartphone as it is a play thing Samsung uses to overload with Touch Wiz enhancements. For how minimalist Motorola’s Moto X is, the Note 3 is the exact opposite; the entire experience is basically built around Samsung’s S Pen, which is need for optimum operation. But it’s the best big phone there is, and something the phablet crowd will completely devour.

Even before the Note 3 was announced, we already knew it would sport impressive specs: 5.7-inch Full HD display, 2.3GHz quad-core processor, 3GB of RAM, 13-megapixel camera, Android 4.3 and 3,200mAh battery. It’s very, very fast and very robust; a device that could easily last someone two years. The specs, though, are merely an aside; Samsung this year has really got into overdrive attempting to create the most complete package, which is a big reason why the Note 3 comes with so many software tweaks. Even further, there’s a huge hint of skeuomorphism, with the Korean company modeling the removable plastic shell after the texture of leather, right on down to the stitching—Samsung called it classic notebook inspiration.

The device itself feels feels solid and strong; there’s only a slight give when pressing on the rear shell. Compared to last year’s Note, this year’s model sports more of a squarish design, though the devices themselves don’t differ all that much in size. The Note 3’s bezel is minimal, and is surrounded by a band of metal that holds the device together. On the bottom right, the improved S Pen sits in its own alcove; the S Pen itself fits snugly into its slot, and actually takes a bit of effort to pull out. Like other phablets, the Note 3 is wonderfully thin, and the screen itself looks terrific. If you like big and bright, the Note 3 definitely delivers.

Samsung’s Note experience focuses mainly on the improved S Pen, which is in turn a gateway to Air Command and a series of subsequent actions. Those familiar with previous Note devices will find this experience familiar. Designed to go beyond the capabilities of chubby fingers, Samsung wants to turn your device into a personal diary, something you scribble, draw and take notes on. Want to create a digital scrapbook? Call on the S Pen, find a neat video, bring up Air Command, hit Scrapbook, draw a circle, and then write yourself a note. Simple. On the Note 3, Samsung has even added a BlinkFeed-like feature, so you’re always up-to-date with your favorite content.

There’s much more like that; the Note 3 is filled with different little tweaks designed to mimic the notebook experience, hence the name. Write on screenshots, search your device with S Finder, jot down notes and scroll through your pictures using S Pen. We haven’t even scratched the surface of what the Note 3 has to offer; there’s now built-in Evernote support, improved Multi Window, My Magazine, and much, much more. The Note 3 is Samsung’s biggest device this year, but is it the best? Stay tuned for more Note 3 coverage coming up.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Gallery