Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Review
One of the most noticeable things about the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphone is the fact that few other popular phones on the market today come with a fully functioning stylus tucked into the phone. Though this can be a drawback for someone who doesn't often use a stylus or who finds the idea of placing digital pen to screen strange at best. There are many other phones without this feature which handle all other work just as well and considering the phone's price tag, these may be a better choice as the other improvements over the success of the Note 3 are small.
Stylus aside, the Note 4 scores highly across the board, including clear and vibrant colors in the display, a processor which can handle a variety of tasks, and a 16-megapixel camera. These are just a few of the features which make the Note 4 a strong competitor for other highly rated handsets.
Make Way For Metal
Samsung recently broke its long-standing habit of all-plastic phones with the Galaxy Alpha. This metal-rimmed design was carried over to the Note 4 and provides a sharpness to the phone's look which is well in line with Samsung's long run of overall drool-worthy designs. The metal gives a silver accent around the edge of the phone as well as the buttons and stands out well with both white and black versions. The metal also makes finding the physical buttons easy.
In terms of looks, this is probably the best Samsung phone you can buy with the possible exception of the Galaxy Alpha. Not only are the buttons easy to find without looking, but the phone itself is easy and comfortable to hold. The backing is also slightly more textured than before, giving a better all-around look.
All this aside, the Note 4 doesn't quite measure up to the LG G3 in contouring and general finishes. The Sony Xperia Z3 also blows it out of the water when it comes to modern edges.
Size and Portability
There's been a trend recently of super-sized phones and the Note 4 is no different. Samsung's Note 4 is nearly identical in size to the iPhone 6 Plus and is only slightly thicker and taller than the previous version, the Note 3.
The phone itself weighs only 6.2 ounces, with official dimensions of 6 by 3.1 by 0.34 inches. Someone who is small-built may find one-handed use of the Note 4 all but impossible and carrying it around in a back pocket may be awkward due to the phone's size, but it appears to be a good fit for anyone with a wider grip. Most people comment on how easy the phone is to handle and how comfortable it is to hold during long calls.
While the screen display is the same size as last year's model, the Note 4 has made a huge jump in screen resolution. While it still falls short of the LG G3's 538 ppi, the new pixel density of 515 ppi is leaps and bounds above last year's 386 ppi. The Note 4 displays colors in strong contrast as well as showing smooth color gradients.
The Note 4 essentially echoes the Galaxy S5 in terms of design. Like on the S5, there is a home button and two soft keys under the screen. Each of these keys has a secondary function when pressed. The power/lock button is found on the right spine while the left holds the volume controls. The charging port is located on the bottom edge.
There is an LED flash module combined with a heart-rate sensor located below the camera lens. This is quickly becoming a hallmark of the Samsung brand. The back cover of the Note 4 can be removed in order to access the battery, as well as the mircoSD card slot which will handle a card up to 64GB. Music plays clearly and loudly through the speakers, though the sound is slightly thin and tinny.
There is no rubber waterproofing gasket surrounding the inner workings of the phone which, while not a deal-breaker, can be a little inconvenient for some people.
Apps and OS
Rather than adding more and more, as is customary with new versions of technology, Samsung appears to have scaled things back a bit with the Note 4. Several features present on the S5, such as the Toolbox and the ability to color-code folders, are notably missing on the Note 4. There are also fewer bundled apps such as the Kid's Mode which was pre-installed on the S5. While there aren't gone completely, they are packaged with Galaxy apps and hence include partner apps such as Kindle and Dropbox.
Beyond this, there are several ways to customize the phone. Everything from motion control to the notification panel can be customized to suit the individual user. There is both a blocking and private mode, as well as an Easy mode for those who find the interface a bit too hectic. The Note 4 also includes a fingerprint scanner for the more security-minded. Also available is a persistent panel which houses the icons for your Home button functions, as well as one which shrinks down the application window. In theory, this makes the phone easier to use with only one hand. This can be expanded or hidden on any screen.
While features such as this may make the phone easier to use one-handed, it's still necessary to be able to grip the phone comfortably and navigate with a thumb, both of which are awkward for anyone with a smaller grip. In addition, the shrinking of the app window for this purpose flies in the face of having such a large display screen in the first place.
Split-screen is still supported on the Note 4, meaning that you can resize two app windows from a supported list. This can be launched in several ways and can also create smaller windows which can be moved around the screen. It is also possible to shrink a popup and float it around the screen as a persistent bubble.
Clicking the S-Pen button and dragging will highlight and select multiple lines of text or multiple images at once which can then be moved to another app when in popup or multi-window mode.
It is worth noting that the new S-Pen now has over 2,000 levels of sensitivity, compared to the 1,000 in the Note 3. This means that even at different ink thicknesses, the same writing with come through heavier and darker on the Note 4. The Note 4's pen is also smoother and more responsive due to improvements in the technology.
Building your own presets from a range of colors and writing implements is still a strong feature. These can all be used a several different backgrounds as well. A calligraphy tip is the newest addition to the line-up. While the S-Pen goes a long way toward keeping the screen free of fingerprints, most find it much easier to use when they themselves are stationary.
Cameras and Video
The Note 4 contains a 16-megapixel camera which will take very high-quality pictures with the aid of a feature known as optical image stabilization, which greatly reduces motion blur. The color may be over-saturated at times but overall the camera performs well in areas with ample natural lighting. Darkened areas, such as indoors, may switch on the phone's automatic night mode which will request that the phone is kept still for several seconds in order to process the image. Even then, the quality is much less than in good lighting.
Video capture is impressively clear and recorded in 1080p HD by default, though the file sizes for the highest quality - Ultra HD 3,840 x 2,160-pixel resolution - will be gigantic. There is an option to shoot in lower resolution to avoid this. Slow and fast-motion can also be used.
Overall Performance and Call Quality
In real-world tests, both upload and download speeds ranked highly. The Note 4 consistently gave double-digit downlink speeds as well as uplink speeds which ranged from 11 to 15Mbps Both music and videos streamed well, even when the content was HD.
The Note 4 contains 32GB of internal storage and can use a microSD card which holds up to 64GB more. In terms of processing, the Note 4 runs with either a 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chipset with a Andreno 420 GPU, or a 1.95GHz octa-core Exynos 5433. 3GB of RAM is standard.
The battery is rated for 20 hours of talk time though it will often last well over a day even when the phone is being used to stream music, use Wi-Fi, and take photos. The charger included will bring the phone back up to 50 percent charge within an hour of being plugged in.
Call quality is ranked well. Often the volume is loud when at the high and medium-high levels, although the caller's voice will occasionally sound flat or breathy. There is little to no background noise with most calls. Calls through the speakerphone also score well, with most complaints mentioning calls having a slight echo or sounding slightly muffled.