Galaxy Note 4 Review!

The first 5.5 inch Galaxy Note from Samsung was introduced 4 years ago. It was the phone that dared to be different, a 5.5 inch display screen instead of the 3 – 4 inch display screen which was the norm at that time. Coupled with the S-Pen, the Note became a roaring success which then paved the way for what we now know as phablets. Almost all phones sport a screen size between 5-6 inch and the 4th iteration of the Note lineup is no different.

Galaxy Note 4

Galaxy Note 4

Credits : Thanks to WeiQiang for loaning me this new Note 4 to play with!

Design and build

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For the first time in the Note lineup, Samsung has finally ditched plastic polycarbonate with a all metal body construction. As it has a removable back for access to the removable battery, SIM card and SD card slot, the back cover is still made of textured plastic. The sides are full metal with chamfered edges which accentuates between the raw metal finish with the black/white metal finish.

Chamfered edge

Chamfered edge

S-Pen on the bottom right

S-Pen on the bottom right

The Note 4 looks very good in comparison with almost every other Samsung phone you can find. It feels solid and sturdy, and also feels very premium in the hands. The home button, power button and volume rocker also features the same chamfered edge. When the phone is held with my right hand, my thumb sits nicely on the power button. However my index finger which usually controls the volume rocker, isn’t placed nicely on the volume rocker. Some hand gymnastics is required to access with one hand use. This might not pose a problem to most people as most will use the device 2 handed.

Index finger doesn't sit in line with the volume rocker

Index finger doesn’t sit in line with the volume rocker

Compared to the OnePlus One, the size of the phone has not much difference but the Note 4 has a 5.7 inch display whereas the OnePlus One has a 5.5 inch display. The Note 4 display comes with a resolution of 2650 x 1440 (Quad HD) with a PPI of 515. At such high resolution, it’s not hard to notice how crisp and sharp pictures and videos are. When compared side by side with a OnePlus One 1080p phone, I did not notice much difference between both phones in terms of display sharpness. The Note 4 display has saturated colors and deep blacks thanks to the Super AMOLED Display as compared to the warmer colors of the IPS LCD OnePlus One display.

Note 4 and OnesPlus One

Note 4 and OnesPlus One

Note 4 and OnesPlus One

Note 4 and OnesPlus One

The display has 2D glass which is slightly curved towards the edges. This makes swiping from the edge feels very smooth and natural. This set has tempered glass protector on it which spoils the smooth feel of swiping.

The Note 4 features a heart-rate sensor and a fingerprint sensor integrated into the home button. Battery cover is removable for access to the battery, SIM tray slot and micro SD slot which supports up to 128 GB. The fingerprint sensor is really hard to use as it requires the finger to swipe on the sensor fully. It becomes more of a hassle to use and it’s quicker to just swipe to unlock.

Heart rate sensor below the camera

Heart rate sensor below the camera

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Plastic back

Plastic back

Fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanner doesn’t work well using this orientation

Software & Performance

Note 4 with S-Pen

Note 4 with S-Pen

Note 4 is currently running on Android Kit Kat 4.4 and will be getting the Lollipop update in early 2015. Samsung’s skin, TouchWiz resides on top of Android. I have used a couple of Samsung’s phones with TouchWiz and those phones will have this occasional stutter when I flip through the homepage or opening the recent apps. Even with the beastly specs of the Note 4, I still see those stutters. This is not a hardware issue as TouchWiz have been known to be heavy on Android. Hopefully the next Lollipop update will address this as it supposedly will come with a newer TouchWiz.

Similar to HTC’s Blinkfeed, TouchWiz also features Flipboard when you scroll all the way to the left of the home screen. If you would like to disable it, long press on the home screen to go to the Home Screen Settings. Uncheck Flipboard Briefing to disable.

The S-Pen is what makes the Note 4, well a note taking device. Samsung has included many useful software features specifically for the S-Pen.

Air command

Air command

The S-Pen has a little button on it that when you hover the S-Pen over the screen and press on it, the Air Command menu will appear. Likewise removing the S-Pen from its dock will also display the menu.

Action Memo – This tool allows you to quickly jot down memos. It also has number recognition that will recognize numbers hand written on it.

Smart Select – Allows you to collect content from whatever that is on the screen

Image Clip – Able to specify any area of the screen to save as an image.

Screen Write – Much like a screen capture, but also have the ability to edit and write on the screen captures straight away.

The S-Pen sensitivity is really good. It felt almost like a real pen when I was writing on the screen with no noticeable lag between writing on screen and the displaying what I was writing.

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Multi window / Split window are useful as it takes advantage of the 5.7 inch screen real estate. The big screen makes multitasking somewhat useful as I didn’t find myself using the multi window feature that much. Viewing apps and websites in its 5.7 inch full glory was more satisfying to me.

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Performance was no doubt excellent due to it high end specs. Apart from the once in a blue moon lag of TouchWiz, it handled everything I threw at it with ease. Video playback from Youtube was smooth, highly intensive games loads quickly and performs well with no lag. Graphics was smooth with good frame rate and colors were vibrant. Consuming media in this power house was definitely a joy. Sound quality from the speakers was clear and also quite loud. Although it can’t be compared to front firing speakers, this will serve most needs.

Call quality (M1 network) was great. Both parties could hear each other loud and clear. LTE signal was constant and receiving network related notifications (WhatsApp, Line, Email) was fast.

Battery life

The Note 4’s 3220 mAh battery is more than sufficient to last me through the day through normal usage, with about 30% – 35% battery life left. Initially I was worried the Quad HD display would suck up lots of battery to push the extra pixels but this isn’t the case. Through normal usage, I would get around 3.5 hours of screen on time. Compared to the OnePlus One, I was getting about half an hour less of screen on time. It could be due to the larger Quad HD display of the Note 4.
Looping a HD video and playing games extensively drained the battery quite fast. Like all phones, pushing the screen and processer which in this case Quad HD screen, will definitely reduce battery life quicker. Day-to-Day normal usage should not affect the battery life much.

Should you have the need to charge your near depleted phone, the Note 4 includes a fast charger if you are near a wall plug. The charger boasts a recharge from 0% – 50% battery life in around 30 mins. During testing of the fast charge, I got 42% in 30 mins in which the phone remains switched on. Testing when the phone is off, the battery got to 54% in the same amount of time.

Fast charger and replacement tips for the S-Pen

Fast charger and replacement tips for the S-Pen

Camera

The main camera has a 16 MP sensor with OIS (Optical Image Stabilization). OIS will help stabilize the video recording if there are big movements which might make the video shaky. Below are sample shots of Note 4.

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Conclusion

Personally I don’t really utilize the S-Pen features and the only time I used the S-Pen was only on the first day. The 5.7 inch display was really a joy to use but there isn’t much difference between Quad HD and 1080 screen in my opinion. TouchWiz is really heavy with tons of features which I probably never use. The phone also feels slightly heavy due to the metal construction but the metal feel was a breath of fresh air from the usual plastic phones.

One thing to note that this is definitely not a one handed device.
Note 4 is no doubt the best looking phone Samsung has made. If you can accept TouchWiz and will utilize the main focus of the Note 4 which is the S-Pen, this will make a great phone to boost your productivity. Otherwise, find other alternatives if you don’t plan to use the S-Pen.

Note 4 and OnePlusOne

Note 4 and OnePlus One

Galaxy Note 4 OnePlus One
Dimensions 6.04 x 3.09 x 0.33 inches 6.02 x 2.99 x 0.35 inches
Weight 176g 162g
Screen Size 5.7 inch 5.5 inches
Resolution 1440 x 2560 1080 x 1920
PPI 515 401
Screen Super AMOLED IPS LCD
Back Camera 16 MP Auto Focus with OIS 13 MP Auto Focus
Front Camera 3.7 MP 5 MP
Chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
Processor 2.7 GHz Quad Core Krait 450 2.5 Ghz Quad Core Krait 400
Network bands 2.5G – 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
3G – 850 / 900 / 1800 / 2100 MHz
4G – 700 / 800 / 850 / 900 / (1700/2100) / 1800 / 1900 / 2100 / 2600 MHz
2.5G – 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
3G – 850 / 900 / (1700/2100) / 1900 / 2100 MHz
4G – 700 / (1700/2100) / 1800 / 2100 / 2600 MHz
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0 / WI-FI (802.11 a/b/g/n) Bluetooth 4.0 / WI-FI (802.11 a/b/g/n)
Graphics Adreno 420 Adreno 330
RAM 3 GB 3 GB
Storage Internal 32 GB with SD card slot up to 128 GB 16 GB / 64 GB
Battery 3220 mAh removable 3100 mAh

Richard

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