The Samsung Galaxy Note line of phones is the undisputed king of the phablets. Those giant phones filling the gap between tablet and phone were once the target of great ridicule in the early years but as smartphone screens got bigger and batteries got better phablets started to attract more than just the geeks and the gadgeteers. I’ll admit that I was once one of those initial trolls but by the time the Note 2 came around I became a believer.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 was released in late 2014 and in my mind Samsung has gotten the phablet formula right. The combination of design, software, features and specs in the Note 4 is truly amazing if you have the big hands, deep pockets and/or creative excuses to own such a premium device.
Hardware and Design
Unsurprisingly the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is packed full of technology with unbelievable processing power, a huge bright screen, more sensors that I can say in one breath; all packaged into a thin form-factor. The S Pen stylus tucks away almost unnoticed inside the body of the phone. The addition of a metal bezel and that leather-like feel on the back really uplifts the Note 4 from looking and feeling like a overpriced lump of plastic (points at S4) to sleek, attractive head-turner.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Specs
- Processor – 1.9GHz Quad core plus a 1.3GHz Quad core (Octa Core)
- Connectivity – 2G, 3G and 4G capability, WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, infared
- Memory – 32 GB User memory + microSD slot (up to 128GB) 3GB RAM
- Display – 5.7 inch Full HD Super AMOLED (1440 x 2560 pixels) display, 515 ppi
- Camera – 16 mega pixel rear facing camera with flash + 3.7 mega pixel front facing camera. Full HD video
- Sensors – Accelerometer, RGB light, Heart rate, Proximity, Gyro, Barometer, Temperature & Humidity, Fingerprint
- Battery – 3220 mAh
- Size and Weight – 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm, 176g
- Operating System – Android 4.4.4 (KitKat)
I wasn’t joking when I said that the Note 4 required big hands to wield effectively. In the smartphone world if the Moto G is the short sword and the Samsung Galaxy S5 is the longsword then the Note 4 is the Halberd meant to be wielded with two hands and not when riding on horseback. Even as a former Note 2 and Galaxy S4 user the sheer size of the Note 4 took some getting used to as my primary phone for the last 9 months has been my super versatile and tiny Motorolla G. I will say that after the first few days my geeky hands did adjust to the size, mix in the better performance, speed and features and suddenly my lovely Moto G didn’t seem quite as capable anymore but a quick glance of the price tag will keep many grounded.
My multiple week review of the Note 4 coincided with the festive season and I took the oportunity to take the phone with me everywhere. As I have said in previous reviews the camera is one of if not the most important feature of a smartphone in todays social, connected, selfie obsessed world. I snapped and recorded pictures and videos of food, gifts, shopping, the beach, my cat, social gatherings etc and 9 times out of 10 I was satisfied.
Like all cameras the Note 4’s performed better in good light but the powerful flash and capable sensors performed well enough in low light situations like when I sided with the Dwarves in a dimly lit theater during The Hobbit: battle of the Five Armies. The camera software offers a great deal of settings and features to plow through from HDR to geo tagging to voice control, panorama and more. There is a build in “Selfie” mode for the front facing camera complete with adjustable skin smoothing for all you selfie addicts out there. While not addicted to selfies I took way too many pictures of my cat than I would like to admit.
Operating System, User Interface and Apps
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is powered by Android 4.4.4 KitKat which is modified with Samsung’s custom TouchWiz Nature UX 3.0 skin. Personally I’ve never been a fan of TouchWiz and prefer the stock Android experience but minus the bloatware I found it more bearable than in previous iterations. My gripe with the included S Apps remain as they cannot be removed (easily) at many 3rd party note-taking, fitness and planning apps are better than the “S” family of included applications but I understand why Samsung includes them.
Overall the Android app ecosystem with Google Play overflowing with various apps from games to productivity apps and more. The Note 4 is one of the phones that will be upgradeable to Android 5.0 (Lollipop) which brings a plethura of new features to the already powerful Android operation system. There is also no concern about app compatibility or an inability to get newer versions of Android at least in the near future for a flagship device like the Note 4.
Right there after camera performance, battery performance ranks as the most important concern for smartphone buyers as no one wants to stay tethered to an outlet or needing multiple batteries to go through the day. Even with heavy usage I am happy to report that the 3220 mAh battery in the Note 4 lasted a full workday and more. Simple power management best practices like adjust screen brightness, sniffing out power hungry apps and limiting how often some apps sync go a far way to extending battery life. Even if you are not a seasoned battery sipper like myself you should have plenty of juice to carry you through a full day with above average usage.
Like it or not the Samsung Galaxy Note line of smartphones is the veteran in the phablet space. However, if you don’t like the attention the Note 4 brings or have small hands or a shallow pocket the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is not for you. Many have challenged for the phablet crown but I still believe it is planted firmly on Samsung’s head even with the iPhone 6 plus and the Nexus 6 challenging for the top. The Note 4 adds more power and a layer of refinement to go with a glorious screen, ever improving OS and tablet-esque features.
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