Device Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 4
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is the successor to Samsung’s wildly popular Galaxy Note 2 and 3 phablet devices. The Note 3 was a giant-sized phone with a 5.7” screen display, with the Note 4 still sporting the same 5.7” display but with a higher QHD resolution. The Note 4 was released on October 17, with some US release dates lagging a bit depending on carrier. For this review, we will be looking at the T-Mobile variant, which did not have a delayed release.
The internal hardware of the US-market Galaxy Note 4 is based on the Snapdragon 805 SoC, whereas the international model features the Samsung Exynos 5433 Chipset. Aside from carrier radio modifications and a few other minor branding details, the models are very similar. Either way, the Note 4 is a powerhouse.
Here’s what’s in the box:
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (natch)
- 3220mAh Fast Charging Battery
- USB 2.0 sync and charge cable
- A/C Adapter
- S-Pen and replacement tips
The phone packs the quad-core 2.70 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805, one of the most powerful processors currently on the market. The 5.7-inch device weighs in at 6.3 ounces and has a display resolution of 2560×1440 pixels, which equates to approximately 518 ppi. That is up from 386 ppi on the Note III. The display is protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 panel, and we have the fingerprint scanner as added to the front of the display.
The Main Device specifications are:
- 2.70GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
- 5.7” Quad HD Super AMOLED (2560 x1440) at 518 PPI
- 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm
- 6.3 ounces
- 3 GB RAM
- 32/64 GB storage options (also includes a Micro SD expansion slot up to 128GB)
- Fast Charging 3220mAh User Replaceable Battery
- 16 MP with OIS Rear Camera
- 3.7MP + F1.9 Front Camera
- S Pen stylus
- Android 4.4 KitKat with TouchWiz UI (Lollipop has been promised in the next few months)
- Bluetooth 4.1
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2X2 MIMO)
- 4G LTE and Below
- T-Mobile Specific: Voice over LTE Enabled
Over the course of a week of testing, the battery of the Note 4 demonstrated impressive longevity. On average, it lasted a solid day with heavy use, and could go to 1.5 days with light to moderate usage. We have a departure of the Samsung Galaxy S 5 material design that we saw this year. Samsung went a premium metal band around the device. The weight of the Note 4 feels even more like a premium device in hand. The processor is very fast, especially for those coming from the US variants of the Galaxy S 5, which features the Snapdragon 801 processor. The S-Pen is even better than the original, with more sensitivity and better selection tools, combined with a new non-intrusive S-pen menu.
Overall, the phone is has a solid build. It should provide a great experience when holding and using it on a daily basis.
The phone runs Android 4.4.4 skinned with TouchWiz UI. The implementation is visible in every aspect of the phone’s interface. Because of this, if you are looking for a phone that provides the pure Google experience, the Note 4 will fit the bill. However, the options that are added are intended to help the user be more productive.
Multitasking is accessed with a dedicated key that replaces the menu key that we had with last year’s Samsung offerings. The apps and widgets are in the same position and work the same way as stock Android. Folder creation is not the same as stock Android. You need to a shortcut and bring it up to create a folder, rather than hold two app icons on top of each other.
The camera app was modified as well, adding surround shot, panorama, golf, and burst shot modes. This year, we have a slow shooting mode that was added and it works quite well. The Messaging app now features contact shortcuts on the top to match the design from the S5.
The multi-window interface remains the same and it still works great as it did on the Note III or S5, It showcases the added RAM, and you can even use a floating window on top of the multi window when you receive a call.
The UI is exactly what you would expect Touchwiz to be. Samsung has done a great job making it less and less intrusive. It’s likely that those who use the device for a few days will grow to enjoy the little changes in material and added PPI on the screen. However, if you want a pure Google experience, get a Nexus 6 if you can find one in stock!
The Note 4 shows its Samsung lineage, with many design traits similar to those seen on the Galaxy S 5 and the Note 3. The one main change is the speaker position. It is near the back instead of positioned like on the GS5. NFC is built into the back battery like on the S5.
The phone’s dimensions are 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm, and it weighs in at 6.3 ounces. Compared to the Note III which tipped the scales at 5.9 oz. The S-pen fits inside the phone, and can be stored in the lower right side.
The Note 4 battery did not grow in capacity much from last year’s Note. They are 3220 mAh and 3200 mAh, respectively. The type of battery has changed. The Note 4 has a fast charging battery with a 2 Amp charger to speed charging. You can go from 0 to 50% in about 30 minutes and be fully charged in about 1.5 hours. The benefit is that even thought we lost the USB 3.0 connectivity, we gain faster charging, a very good trade indead.
Overall the battery life is better then what you would expect for a (2560 x1440) resolution screen. The use of AMOLED technology helps by giving you a balance in performance and battery life.
Samsung finally included OIS on its Note line of devices, something that we have been waiting for some time. The 16 MP rear camera is sharp and takes great pictures. The front facing one has a wide-angle lens to fit more people in your selfies. (Yay?)
The camera software is still Samsung’s but you get more features like slow motion video, depth of field and much more. Samsung includes more camera options as downloadable content from their App store.
Rooting the device and modding it is possible. Samsung devices have never been too hard to hack for users wanting to modify them. Just be aware of the Knox E-fuse, once you trip it you cannot go back. Please head over to your variant’s forum and check for the process. The Note 4 had a root method before the device was released in the US. We will cover rooting, ROMs and Mods in video in the near future here on XDA. Please check back soon.
The Note 4 is set to compete against quite a few phablets this year. When I reviewed the Note III last year, the Note line was pretty much standing alone and reigning supreme. Google decided to enter into the phablet world with the Nexus 6. Watch out Samsung, you have created your own market and others want to become top dog. Although only the Samsung Note line carries the iconic Wacom-powered S-Pen.
I came to this device with my Galaxy Note III experiences, and the Note 4 has since replaced the OnePlus One and HTC One M7. I love the power under the hood of the Note 4, and wish Samsung would copy some of the new Note design elements to the S6 next year–things like the metal band and fast charging.
Make no mistake, the Note 4 is not made to be a one-handed phone! Although Samsung includes a few one-handed options under the dialer and calculator settings. They introduce an all new one handed mode for easy access. Regardless, you will need both hands for the S-pen.
The Note 4 is available from all major US carriers now. I would like to thank Samsung USA for providing us with this review unit.