Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Review: It’s Worth Every cent

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Galaxy Note 4
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Galaxy Note 4 represents so many things about Samsung. One of them being the design element that marks a new shift in the way Samsung smartphones are finished, the other one being Samsung’s venture in new hardware materials like metal being the main frame of the phone and the last one being a passionate focus in research and development to better a product they spearhead. Samsung made the phablet series and also brought back the stylus to make it useful.

The device was launched sometime in early September in Berlin in the fringes of IFA. Although they had already launched Galaxy Alpha with a metal frame and edges, this had yet to reach many people and Galaxy Note 4 was where media, analysts and users came to interact with Samsung’s new design language. And the reception was good.

Outside of the remarkable design, the hardware and software blend on the Galaxy Note 4 is industry leading.  From the great camera, display, Stylus functionality and performance to security and supporting software, the Galaxy Note 4 scores in all ways. The Galaxy S5 got some flack from critics about design but the Galaxy Note 4 has been in good books all through. So what makes the Galaxy Note 4?Galaxy Note 4

Let’s look at the device specifications:

  • Size & weight: 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5mm, 176g
  • Display: 5.7 inch Quad HD Super AMOLED (2560 x 1440)
  • Processor: 2.7 GHz Quad-Core Snapdragon 805 with an Adreno 420 GPU or 1.9 GHz Octa-Core (4 X 1.3 GHz Cortex-A53 + 4 Cortex-A57) Exynos 5433 64-bit chip backed by a Mali T760 GPU (varies by region)
  • Memory: 32 GB internal storage expandable upto 128 GB via microSD/ 3 GB RAM
  • Camera: 16 MP main camera (with Smart OIS)/ 3.7 MP front-facing camera
  • OS: Android 4.4.4 (with TouchWiz, of course)
  • Battery: 3220 mAh
  • Network: 2.5G [(GSM/ GPRS/ EDGE) : 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz], 3G [(HSPA+ 42Mbps): 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 MHz], 4G [(LTE Cat 4 150/50Mbps) or 4G (LTE Cat 6 300/50Mbps)]
  • Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (HT80) MIMO PCIe GPS / GLONASS , NFC, Bluetooth 4.1 (BLE,ANT+), IR LED (Remote Control), USB2.0, MHL 3.0
  • Additional features: Dynamic Lockscreen, Multi-window, S Health v3.5, Ultra-Power Saving Mode, Air Command, Fingerprint scanner, heart rate sensor, ultra-violet (UV) light sensor
  • Others:
  • Colours: Charcoal Black, Blossom Pink, Frost White, and Bronze Gold

Design Element

The Galaxy Note 4 comes with new design changes on the hardware. It has a metal frame that also doubles up as the phone chassis that is curved out to be the skeleton of the phone and also serve as the edge. The metal is then anodized to carry the colour of the phone in the edges. The edges are then chamfered to give them that silver look in the front edges. The front is all glass save for the ear-piece and the home button. On the right we have the power button while the volume rocker is on the left. At the bottom we have the USB 2.0 port flanked on each side by mics, there are two at the bottom and another at the top. The Stylus, called S Pen by Samsung is on the bottom right. At the top we have the 3.5 mm av jack and the AV blaster for TV remote app.

Note 4 Rear

In the rear we have the removable back that also has the speaker outlet at the bottom and the bold Samsung logo just below the camera module. The back cover maintains the faux leather that Galaxy Note 3 has but the finish is better here giving it a premium feel. The camera protrudes to make that the widest part of the phone and with both the lens and heart rate monitor right below it. The overall phone has 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm in dimensions  which feel comfortable to the hand depending on what size your hand is. Personally I am able to use it with one hand but there is many applications that will require two handed use. More about this later in the review.

Features And Performance

Exploring the features in the Galaxy Note 4 can take a day and you won’t have done it justice still. This is because Samsung has worked on every bit on the phone like they are separate phones but still manage to get all the components to work together to bring out the best business phone there is right now. You will rarely exhaust the resources available to the Galaxy Note 4 in terms of processing power and RAM. At 1.9 GHz Octa-core backed by a Mali T760 GPU for the Exynos 5433 version and 3GB RAM we have the best power-horse and productivity device you could ask for.

The Galaxy Note 4 is made to be a business phone, and it is said that once you go Note you don’t come back. The same is true for all those I have interacted with that have used the device. It lives up to the name of a business phone, first for it’s large screen. Samsung ventured into this field and has since shaped things as a front-runner. Second we have the applications that Samsung has for quite a long time now with amazing results.

Samsung has given free subscription to several paid applications on the Play Store and even made a widget to help you discover them. These are tools and utilities that help improve the stance of the phone as a business phone by guiding the user in the right direction when it comes to applications for business. These range from cloud storage, business new subscriptions to office applications. Read more about Galaxy Gifts here. Samsung also has a widget for recommended apps, not necessarily paid, but just as a way o help you get started fast.

Quite many apps have been developed for use with they Stylus, you won’t find yourself using it most of the time, but when you do the experience is great and you feel glad it’s there. From being able to select text on a screen when copying and pasting, capturing a section of the screen in a screen shot, capturing a web page when collecting information to being able to scribble a contact with the S pen and calling the number scribbled. Something like scribbling on a notebook, someone’s contact and not needing to input it again on the phone when dialing. You can do this with phone numbers, names, locations and emails.

The Galaxy Note 4 performs well both when user testing and when subjected to tests in comparison with others. It tops the list on Geekbench 3 for both single core and multicore processor performance. See belowGeekbench quadrant

Display

Galaxy Note 4 display

The big display makes for better viewing of documents and media consumption and honestly this device blurs out the need for two separate devices, a smartphone and tablet since it’s a device that can be handled easily in the hand while at the same time the 5.7″ display gets so much of screen real estate available for you. Add the 2K display and you have one of the best media experience on a personal device.

The 2K Super AMOLED display lives up to the hype, it’s amazing. From great viewer angles to great outdoor visuals. I doubt one could ask for more. Out of the box, the display uses the sensors on the front and front camera to automatically adjust to the current environment and give the best output instantly. When you go outside in the sun, the display instantly brightens up to give you outdoor visuals, when indoors it gets the same instant dimming since there is no bright external light to have the need of a super-bright display.

Samsung has improved multi-tasking from just split-screen previously to multi-screen, something that was only previously available on the desktop, not smartphone. You can resize a screen and have several floating independently on the screen with ability to copy and paste from one to the other.

Multitasking is quite well developed now, way ahead of the pack.Previously there was split screen on the Galaxy Note 3 and other flagships, but the Galaxy Note 4 brings it further with multi-screen pop ups. You can resize a screen and have several floating independently on the screen with ability to copy and paste from one to the other. You can even go ahead and minimize the to small balls on the screen for opening later. As much as it’s a large screen, Samsung has improved on the single handed use for those who still want to use the phone with one hand. just swipe down from any of the two top corners, depending on what hand side you want to operate from and you have a minimized screen to operate from.

Previously, single-handed use meant full-screen with a resized keyboard on any of the bottom corners you chose to have it. Now You get the whole screen minimized to a small screen for the whole app. The rest of the screen goes black and inactive while at it. That’s quite amazing.

Samsung went ahead and improved on functionality of the Stylus. The S Pen has more sensitivity and is as close as ever to the real feel of writing with a pen. Pressure points improved and you get spare pen tips to replace should the one you have get problems, not that I have had any thus far.

Camera

Galaxy Note 4 camera

The cameras on the Galaxy Note 4 are some of the best on a smartphone. This is Samsung’s best work on a camera-phone. The rear camera is a 16 MP autofocus with a LED flash and this time has smart Optical Image Stabilization. This enables one to shoot some of the best photos while not losing focus due to shaky hands. It has settings to enable you shoot in full HD, 2k and 4K.

This is quite huge for a smartphone that has not gone out of it’s way to be bulky to achieve this. For a user who just landed into the camera-phone world, Galaxy cameras are some of the best for a newbie. You get presets and the camera also adapts quite fast to the environment when you set it to auto, and this gives you superb shots and videos. HDR is just a toggle away on the view-finder. You can get presets from the Galaxy App store to download, Samsung decided not to pre-install them leaving that as user choice.

The phone also has a 3.7MP front camera that enables one shoot some of the best selfies the world has to offer with the huge sensor. Add the functionality of the heart rate sensor being used as a camera button for selfies, this is one development that makes an interesting war into the selfies world. LG introduced the rear buttons on their flagships, and that was a selling point that the selfies were the easiest then. Then Samsung added this functionality, a software addition and they were the clear winners. You just use the front camera, tap onto the heart rate monitor and you get the selfie snapped. Easy.

The output for the rear camera is seen in the below gallery. These are not the full images, the night shots were captured at 7pm on the Nairobi skyline. Click on any to view gallery.

Battery life

The Galaxy Note 4 has one of the most amazing batteries on a smartphone. As we all know battery life has never ceased being a main agenda in smartphones. The large form factor plays a big role in getting the Galaxy Note 4 a humongous battery that will last you a day very comfortably. During my test times, the phone did quite well on both average use and above average use.

I am a person who calls less and uses the smartphone more for internet access, photos, chatting, reading books and blogs, gaming, watching videos and other more intensive activities on the phone that are mostly apps. This means that I qualify as a super-user. The phone handles this well and you can comfortably leave the charge home and the phone will easily do a day. See below my usage with over 6 hours screen-on time giving me more than a day of battery life. Galaxy Note 4 battery life

It also has two power saving modes. Basic power saving mode and ultra-power saving mode. The former takes care of background apps, lowers the screen light and also reduces the time-out period for the screen. This takes the phone further and could do a much more than a day on battery life. Ultra-power saving mode is ideal for two scenarios. One is when you go to the village off the power grid and you do not have your charger with you. The phone can do more than two weeks on full charge. But your apps access will be limited as you only get access to a few apps.

The screen will be in black and white, so even the browsing experience is in in two colours and their varied shades. You can add a max of 6 apps to access, but it serves its purpose of keeping you connected with the basics. The other is when you are down on battery juice on an ordinary day and you’re away from chargers, you can get up-to 12 hours on 10% battery.

This is then complimented by Adaptive fast charging, yet another feature that’s a first on the Galaxy Note 4. The Galaxy Note 4 charger, the one that you get in the box is not your ordinary charger. It’s able to get your phone charged to 50% in 30 minutes. This is something I have tested over and over, and the results are the same. Of course you will need to leave the phone to charge without you using it. This is the average way to get phones charged fast, on idle mode, or even when off.

The second part of 50% however doesn’t take the other 30 minutes to charge, it’s different. It does an hour, so to charge the phone to full you will need roughly an hour and a half. But you see the point, 3 minuted to charge from empty is something, you will agree. Think about those airport stopovers, 3 minutes so you will be able to call or navigate when you reach your destination, that’s if your plane has no charging ports. With Galaxy Note 4 there really isn’t a need for powerbanks.

You can remove the battery and put in another fully charged one, a priviledge that’s not there for many other flagships.

Conclusion

Note 4 bottom

The Galaxy Note 4 scores on so many levels. From the design element which got an overhaul, the display which is outstanding, Imaging, processor performance, applications developed for it to battery performance, says this is a device for work. This is a fierce number one contender for best smartphones across the board. Galaxy Note 4 will appeal very much to the business person who wants all that screen real estate, one who wants a flaghsip that is an all round beauty and a device that they can use for the next 2 years without feeling that they are behind times.

The Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy Note 3 did the same and it seems the Galaxy Note 4 improves so much on this. Samsung did not increase on hardware dimensions because there is only so much one can go in terms of size and going into  inches for a flagship wouldn’t have been a good idea. 5.7″ sits pretty at the sweet spot of phablets, devices you can take as daily drivers, use for office work and also do loads of media consumption. An all rounder.

Onto the camera, Samsung did marvelous work here, you have the best cameraphone without compromising on anything, including phone design and dimensions, keeping the phone anorexic and light while at it. No unnecessary bulges. The stylus scores in so many ways, not many people will use them on the daily, but it feels good while it’s there, the small things you will do to get yourself organized or creative are unrivaled anywhere else.

This is a device I would buy over and over if I had to choose twice or thrice. Not that I’d buy two, no need, but you see the point. Of course this does not mean it will mean much for you f you have a problem with phablets. You will find all this praise useless if big screens are not your thing. You will want to stay with the small screens you love. This one is for people who love phablets, and this is the best phablet in the world.

 

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