The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is the latest model of the Note Phablet series. With a 5.7 inch 1440 x 2560 pixel quad HD display, this smartphone is one of the sharpest on the market. In addition, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 features a 16 megapixel camera, 3.7 megapixel front facing camera, HD video capture, and optical image stabilization. Other features include split-screen multitasking, a heart rate monitor, infrared port, large removable battery, global roaming, a fingerprint reader, and memory card slot.
From the outset, it's clear Samsung didn't let superphone enthusiasts down this time. Out of the box, the Galaxy Note 4 easily comes decked out with the finest parts in mobile technology, whether it's the lightning-quick multitasking and navigation, bleeding-edge quad-HD display, professional-grade camera and camcorder, premium chassis, or the myriad innovations such as multi-window and air scrolling. This is a solid device with some tricks up its sleeve and few weaknesses to note, making it a serious contender for the title of the best Android handset on the market. Read on to learn what makes Samsung's noteworthy superphone well worth its $300 contract price.
Arresting QHD Display
The Note 4's most salient feature is its mind-blowing 5.7" QHD Super AMOLED display, protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass 3, and there's really no better way to say it: this is arguably the most beautiful screen on a smartphone to date. With quadruple the resolution of the Note 2 and double that of the Note 3's 1080p panel, the Note 4's extreme pixel density at 515 ppi would leave one expecting an abruptly short battery life, but this is not at all the case. Despite the massive, bright display, the handset manages to deliver exceptional visuals with surprisingly minimal draw on the generous 3,220mAh battery.
Super AMOLED displays have been known for their infinite contrast ratio, striking color saturation and wide viewing angles, but have suffered from inaccurate color reproduction, poor brightness and sub-standard resolutions. Samsung has progressively ironed out these flaws over the years into what is now near-perfection on the Note 4: accurate colors, incredible visibility under sunlight, and a 2,560x1,440 resolution that effectively hides the PenTile subpixel matrix while matching or exceeding the qualities of current high-end LCDs. In addition, Super AMOLED's individually-lit pixels use significantly less battery than LCDs, and in the Note 4's case, the display brightness can be culled to mere one nit for comfortable, low-power reading in dark rooms. Long gone is the Galaxy S5's cold, green tint; there's little complaining anyone can put against this device' stunning visual horsepower.
Mind Over Metal
A notorious characteristic of Samsung's premium phones since the very first Galaxy S, the plastic polycarbonate chassis and its design language have been recycled ad nauseam since 2010. Smartphone enthusiasts have time and again pushed for aluminum to be used in Samsung's flagship series to aesthetically set them apart from less-premium devices, but apart from the Galaxy Alpha, the tech giant never delivered - until now. The Galaxy Note 4 is the company's first worldwide flagship to come with a stylish aluminum rim, and it also offers a more squared-off, masculine aesthetic.
The device's removable battery hatch on the back dons a plasticky faux-leather texture also found on the Note 3, although it's certainly a step up from the slippery plastic of earlier Galaxy models, and it actually blends quite well with the handset's design language. Facing the device, the power button resides in its usual spot on the right side with the volume rocker on the left, headphone jack on top and the high-speed charging port on the bottom next to the stylus port. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Note 4 didn't carry over its little brother's IP67 certification, meaning you'll want to keep it away from dust and water. On the plus side, the removable battery allows users to swap the Note 4's battery on the fly when the first one goes dry, a feature many competing superphones have opted to leave out.
16MP Optically Stabilized Camera
One of the Galaxy S5's swellest features was its 16MP ISOCELL shooter, and it was indeed one of the best at the time, but leaving out optical image stabilization (OIS) raised eyebrows and made the flagship feel less premium than it deserved. OIS allows cameras to take far more stable images without the motion blur of ever-slightly-unsteady handling while the camera takes a shot. Unfortunately, where the S5's camera excelled phenomenally when held perfectly still in broad daylight, its picture stabilization feature did little to compensate for its shortcomings in less-than-optimal environments.
The Galaxy Note 4 skips the headaches and finally includes the much-needed mechanical OIS, resulting in far clearer shots that justify the 16-megapixel sensor, although dimly-lit environments will still turn up quite grainy without flash. Included in the package is dual-LED flash, an upgraded wide-shot front-facing camera, facial recognition, ultra slow-motion videos at 1080p and under, and excellent 4K UHD (3,840x2,160) at 30Hz for those who are considering the upgrade to a UHDTV. The flash can be toggled as a flashlight during videos for nighttime capture, and the heart rate monitor under the camera can be touched to take photos with the selfie camera. The Note 4 also includes an built-in photo editor and gallery for modifying and organizing those precious moments.
Under The Hood
If there's one thing Samsung has never let down on, it's the guts that drive their high-end handhelds. The US version of the Note 4 comes packed with a blistering 32-bit 2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 CPU and Adreno 420 GPU, both complemented by 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 32GB of inbuilt storage with the option to expand it by up to 128GB with a microSD card. All this adds up to an insanely fast phone worthy of its superphone title, and save for the occasional stutter navigating the TouchWiz UI, there's nothing in the smartphone theater the Note 4 can't handle in silky smooth stride.
The Note 4 comes with the latest and greatest connections technologies in a single package, including near-field communication (NFC), cat 4 LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n/n 5GHz WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 and precision GPS. Fortunately, Samsung didn't forget that the Note 4 is still a phone at heart, and the device provides the expected flagship-grade call quality both ways. Factoring in the exceptional camera and stratospheric display panel, there isn't much this beast doesn't already have nailed. As mentioned before, the juice for all this awesomeness draws from an impressive, user-replaceable 3,220mAh battery providing for roughly 10 hours of constant, moderately heavy usage. As if that wasn't enough power, the Note 4's noteworthy fast-charging technology allows the device to go from zero to 50% in just a half hour.
UI, Software, Features, and Operating System
The Galaxy Note 4 comes out of the box running Android 4.4 KitKat and is expected to be updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop sometime in the first half of 2015. In true Samsung fashion, the phablet comes with the signature, feature-packed TouchWiz UI, although its dazzling menus can take some adjustment to learn.
Aside from the screen size, the biggest difference between the Galaxy S and Note series is the inclusion of the S-Pen stylus, which grants extra functionality to the user when used in place of a finger, and proves exceptional for handwritten notes and doodles alike. Other software features include Air View for hover-to-zoom functionality, Air Browse for gesture-based scrolling, enhanced touch sensitivity for use with gloves, car mode, screen mirroring, and a multi-window mode that allows for more than one app to be open on the screen at once. The Note 4 also adds the ability to free-float the windows like on a tablet or desktop computer.
Back on the point of the Note 4's positive battery life and charging capabilities, the phablet's Ultra Power Saving Mode goes a step beyond traditional power saving and pares the operating system down to a simplified, grayscale user interface, allowing the user to squeeze an extra day of standby time out of just 10% remaining battery.
Conclusively, Samsung's latest phablet offers an excellent, well-rounded experience for anyone with the pocket to afford and carry the device. In a market where the distinction between one smartphone and the next is thinning, it's good to know some companies are still innovating, and the Galaxy Note 4 fills its promise of being the noteworthy Next Big Thing, doing everything one would expect from it and then some. However, those with smaller hands may look to the Galaxy S5 for a smaller alternative.
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