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The Galaxy Note 4 is by far one of the best phablets that we have seen and combines high-end hardware with a feature rich UI. It also features some welcome changes in the design department and the Super AMOLED display just leaves us wanting for more. Samsung has yet again proved that it is the king among the phablet makers, and if you are looking for real-estate, this is where you should invest.
Samsung has be credited for bringing the phablet category into the market with its Galaxy Note series. Creating a bridge between traditional sized smartphones and tablets, the Note series has always been all about performance along with large real estate. The Note 4 is definitely an iconic phablet and probably the best phablet we have ever seen. But how does it perform in the real world? Here is our review...
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Display: 5.7 inches Super AMOLED, 2560x1440 resolution with Gorilla Glass 3 (515ppi)
Battery: 3220mAh, Fast battery charging: 60% in 30 min (Quick Charge 2.0)
Camera: 16MP rear with flash and OIS, 3MP front with 1440p video
SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
CPU: Quad-core 2.7 GHz
GPU: Adreno 420
Operating system: Android 4.4.4 with TouchWiz UX
Connectivity: 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB with OTG, IR Blaster port
BODY AND DESIGN
While Samsung is known and ridiculed for its plastic smartphones, the Note 4 is one of the first few devices from the Korean giant that uses metal. Before you get jumping, let us clarify that only the chassis/frame of the phablet is metal just like the Galaxy Alpha. The front is all glass and at the back, the removable back panel is again flimsy plastic with a faux-leather finish.
The front has the 5.7-inch Super AMOLED panel with a 2K resolution and 515 ppi pixel density, which looks absolutely brilliant. The colours are really vivid and the sharpness on the display is unmatched. Since it's an AMOLED display, the contrast is great and blacks looks deep. Samsung proves yet again that Super AMOLED is THE display to have on a smartphone. Underneath the display we again have two capacitive buttons and a hardware home key which has the integrated fingerprint scanner. Above the display there are your usual sensors, the earpiece, an LED notification light and the 3.7MP front camera.
The metal frame is a great addition and gives the phablet a robust feel. The frame however has some curves and bends like on the top there is a slight curve to accommodate the 3.5mm audio jack. All in all the Note 4, with its metal frame, is definitely a premium phablet.
The back does feature the old flimsy plastic cover, but thankfully it doesn’t lower down points in the design department. It blends in well and even offers a decent amount of grip. The back also has the loudspeaker, the 16MP camera, the LED flash and the heart rate monitor just next to it. Underneath the back panel you will find the 3220mAH battery, and two slots, one for your microSIM card and one for microSD card.
Of course you get the S-Pen which fits nicely into a slot at the bottom of the phablet. The S-Pen has a plastic finish with a single button which is slightly difficult to use. Also, the tip of the S-Pen wears out, but Samsung has got you covered by providing 5 extra tips in the box.
At first glance, the Note 4 seems to look like its predecessor, however it does feature some really good upgrades. The metal frame is an excellent choice, adding OIS to the camera improves the quality and the 2K Super AMOLED panel is just a delight.
UI AND PERFORMANCE
The Note 4 runs on Android 4.4.4 KitKat out of the box with Samsung TouchWiz UX layer on top. This is quite similar to the one seen on the Galaxy S5 and other recent Galaxy products. TouchWiz has matured a lot over the years and Samsung has finally done it right. Previous versions of TouchWiz were not good with memory management and response. But the latest version of TouchWiz works like a charm, and is almost our favourite UI for Android.
Thankfully Samsung has not loaded a lot of bloatware but has included its own app store, Galaxy Essentials, and Galaxy Gifts from where you can download apps as per your requirement. Samsung has also been very generous and is offering a vast list of free apps and app subscriptions with the Note 4. Some of the notable gifts include a free office editor app, one book per month free from Kindle, free photo prints worth Rs. 1000 from ZoomIn and loads more. My Magazine, which is a Flipboard based app, sits on the left of your first homescreen and brings you various news articles from various categories.
You also get Samsung’s well known apps like S-Note and S-Health apps, the former providing you tools to scribble with the S-Pen and the latter providing some interesting health based trackers and features. Blocking mode and private mode are present and there a number of other customisations that you can use to personalize your experience. The Note 4 also brings in a brand new resizing feature which lets you resize any running app, making one hand operations easy on the phablet.The S-Pen brings in the true potential of the device as it enables you to not only draw or scribble stuff, but it also lets you cut/copy anything on your display and you can send it straight away. The S-Pen also lets you control your entire phone and also provides air gestures which essentially feels like a cursor.
The UI is silky smooth and we didn't notice any issues with the overall usage experience. Multitasking is managed well and even memory management works in order. The phablet is truly a powerhouse, handling everything thrown at it. Thanks to the Snapdragon 805 SoC and 3GB of RAM, the Note 4 is definitely one of the most powerful Android devices that you can buy.
High end games like Real Racing 3, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Asphalt 8: Airborne work flawlessly with no signs of frame drop. Playing movies, especially 1080p and 1440p is a piece of cake for the Note 4. In the benchmark tests, the Note 4 came out with flying colours as it scored the highest in almost all the tests. Here are the benchmark scores:
The battery performance is quite impressive as the large 3220mAh battery gives about one and half days of regular use. You get a power saving mode which restricts background data and performance and has a greyscale mode which applies a gray theme on the device. There is also Samsung’s newest ultra power saving mode which turns the display black and white and allows you to enable only a few functions like phone calls and text messages. On extensive use, without any power saving modes enabled, we got almost a full day's charge.
The new 16MP camera with OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) is something really worth mentioning. The OIS improves a lot in terms of sharpness and focusing as well. The camera is accurate, focusing is fast and there is zero shutter delay. The auto-white balance is not bad but it could see some improvement as the tones somehow don't seem very accurate. Colour reproduction is controlled and even saturation seems good. The camera app is intuitive and comes with various modes, filters and settings to tinker with.
Low light performance is commendable although some pictures turned out to be noisy when compared to the iPhone 6 or the Xperia Z3. Check out some camera samples below:
Video recording is smooth and videos come out excellent, especially 4K. Audio recording is also crisp thanks to the multiple mics.
Samsung was once criticised for going overboard with large screens, but today, the market is following the trend. The Galaxy Note 4 is yet again an excellent product from Samsung and it also reclaims the title of the best phablet around. The Note 4 is all about about great performance and productivity and the new design just makes it even better. If you are looking for a phablet, this is the one you should buy.