If you’re after an oversized phone you’re usually best off looking at the source of the popularity and, like it or not, Samsung is the company that made the phablet a thing with the Galaxy Note. Fast forward a few years and you have the Galaxy Note 4, which is Samsung’s take on a super-phone that features flagship-spanking specs combined with a big screen that even LG might gaze upon in awe.
The Galaxy Note 4 has undergone some serious upgrades since the Note 3 (representing a massive jump over the Note 2 – we wouldn’t have seen it coming back then). The overall design hasn’t changed much though, we’re still looking at a Samsung smartphone here but it looks surprisingly like an iPhone 6 Plus from the front, an eventuality that has caused some comment at Stuff Towers.
Bits And Pieces
The 16MP camera causes a bulge at the rear of the Note 4, marring the textured surface of the thin plastic backing plate that you need to lift in order to get to the battery and other internals. We’re constantly horrified about having to do this, since it always feels like we’re going to crack or break the back-panel into many, many little pieces. We haven’t yet, since it’s tougher than it looks, but the fear is still there.
Otherwise, the volume rocker is on the upper left side, the power button sits on the right and the Samsung Home button/fingerprint sensor lives below the screen. No surprises here and, aside from the flimsy back, the Note 4 is an extremely solid-feeling handset, especially around the edges. The S Pen remains in its little recess, waiting for you to pull it out and then lose it somewhere.
Chipset/CPU: Exynos 5433 octa-core/1.3GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 & quad-core 1.9GHz Cortex-A57 (3GB RAM)
Storage: 32GB, up to 128GB external
Camera: 16MP (5,312 x 2,988), optical image stabilisation, autofocus, LED flash/3.7MP (front)
Connectivity: LTE, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, 3G, NFC
Battery: 3,220mAh Li-Ion
Operating System: Android 4.4.4
SIM Card: Micro-SIM
Features: Fingerprint sensor, S Pen
Dimensions: 153.5mm x 78.6 x 8.5
ALL The Specs
Whatever deficiencies there are in the build of the Galaxy Note 4, they are more than made up for with the collection of hardware that is found inside this (somehow only) 8.5mm phone. There are two versions of the Galaxy Note 4, one of which sports a Snapdragon 805 chip at its heart that runs at 2.7GHz. Here in SA we have the other version, which has the nifty Exynos 5433 octa-core processor as its brain-box. 1.3GHz and 1.9GHz quad-cores work in tandem to make the Note 4 as fast as we’ve ever seen a smartphone perform.
3GB of system memory and a battery large enough to ensure that the Note 4 will last the day at the very least are other key components. If you’re a light user (and you’d better not be with a phone like this – all that wasted potential) it’ll easily carry over on to multiple days before needing to return to the wall socket.
We haven’t mentioned the display at all but that’s because there’s so much else to talk about. But the Note 4’s screen is worth er… noting, since it’s a resolution monster. All 1,440 x 2,560 of it, for a huge pixel density of 515ppi on the 5.7-inch screen. The short of it is that you’re not going to battle with viewing high-res images at all, there’s masses of detail and Samsung’s screens are as colourful as ever here.
Photos And Pens
Sammy have given the Note 4 a whomping-big (for Samsung) camera that performs well outside in bright light and just about as spiffingly in low-light conditions. The 16MP snapper features optical image stabilisation (take that, LG), an LED flash and autofocus, of course. It can’t quite match the G3 for speed though, that laser autofocus is a tough nut to crack but the Note 4 is still pretty quick off the mark when it comes to framing your subject. There’s a 3.7MP front-facing camera for video calls and the dreaded selfie – these larger front cams are becoming a trend. It’s a nice-to-have but we can take it or leave it. Takes nice photos though.
Which brings us to the S Pen, the thing that makes the Galaxy Note 4 a phablet rather than just an oddly-sized smartphone. As usual it’s super-easy to use, quick-launching a stylus-specific menu when you retract it from its little sheath. The Pen is accurate and fast, responds to pressure well (the kind where you push on the screen, not the stress version) and will prove a valuable companion during your workday. If you’re the type to use it, that is. Not everyone does.
The Galaxy Note 4 isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s bigger than the average phone and some folks are going to find it hard to use. But those same folks are also not going to be impressed with the iPhone 6 Plus, which just about matches the Note 4 in size. But it’s powerful, versatile and the S Pen really does make the Note 4 perform like a smaller tablet so you can swap away from a 7-inch tab if you feel like being a one-device person. If you’re a size-loving smartphone user, this is your option right here. Until the next one launches.