Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 reviewed

Now that we’ve seen Apple do its first take on the whole big phone thing, it’s time to see Samsung make its Note phablet better than ever.

Features

The original phablet is back, as Samsung delivers its fourth incarnation of the tablet-sized phone called the “Note” with the Galaxy Note 4.

In this model, Samsung has left the screen size roughly what it was before (5.7 inches), and even made the dimensions similar, as the phone is a fraction thicker than the previous generation, but with some easily noticed changes.

Despite what we’ve said about the screen size, the first change is, in fact, the screen, which now runs with a higher resolution, jumping from the Full HD resolution of 1920×1080 and moves to a more pixel-packed resolution of 2560×1440, the same resolution used by the LG G3 smartphone but on a larger display.

Because of this slightly different screen size, the Galaxy Note 4 runs a pixel clarity of 515 pixels per inch, with Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3 protecting the display, which is Super AMOLED, too.

Under the screen is a new processor, an upgrade from last year’s quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor increased to the newer Snapdragon 805, making it the first phone in Australia to sport the new chip, with Samsung relying on a model clocked at 2.7GHz.

This works with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage, though the latter of this can be bolstered with more thanks to the inclusion of a microSD slot capable of taking up to 128GB, while the graphics are taken care of by way of the Adreno 420 graphics chipset.

Google’s Android 4.4 “KitKat” runs here out of the box with Samsung’s TouchWiz interface on top.

Over to the connectivity options, and the upgrades include quite a lot of high-bandwidth connections for people who do a lot of work, and even a lot of play, with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 support for Low Energy/Smart, Near-Field Communication, infrared, GPS, and 4G LTE working across Category 6, a new technology that can offer download speeds as high as 300Mbps, while uploads can net as much as 50Mbps.

Cameras are also included, upgraded with a 16 megapixel shooter on the back, complete with flash, optical image stabilisation, autofocus, and 4K Ultra HD video capture, while the front-facing camera sports a 3.7 megapixel camera capable of recording selfie video in as high as 2560×1440, also known as WQHD or the same resolution as the Galaxy Note 4’s screen.

Extra features are included, too, such as a heart rate sensor on the back as well Samsung’s S Pen stylus, which sits at the bottom of the display in its neat little slot, providing a way — when removed — for Galaxy Note 4 owners to scribble notes, draw, and crop images down when needed.

A fingerprint sensor is also included on the phone, found underneath the home button on the front of the handset.

Connections are relatively standard, though, but a little different from last time, with the microUSB 3.0 port found on the Galaxy Note 3 and used on many a mobile hard drive switched around and replaced with a standard microUSB port here, though one supporting the latest version of MHL.

A 3.5mm headphone jack is also here, found at the top left of the handset.

The back of the Note 4 can also be removed, a plastic casing with a back designed to feel like leather, and covering the two slots the phone has, with microSD and microSIM catered for here.

The battery is rated at 3220mAh and is removable.

Performance

A few years ago, Samsung changed the smartphone world forever with an experiment: a handset that took a tablet approach and applied it to a smartphone. It wasn’t a full tablet, but rather a very big phone, which the media began to call a tablet-sized phone, or “phablet” for short.

The product that tested this concept out was the Galaxy Note, and while it took a second generation to really peg on, Samsung’s idea has paid off, with the phablet market taking off. Nearly every manufacturer has one, with Sony competing with the Xperia Z Ultra, Nokia and its 1320 and 1520 handsets, HTC with the “Max” series of products, Huawei’s Ascend Mate series, and even an LG or two that never found their way to Australia.

Samsung has even expanded beyond the Galaxy Note range, with the Galaxy Mega models, large-screened handsets that brought the big screen without the big prices to people who wanted it.

But the Galaxy Note range stayed, providing a flagship entry for people who preferred a larger screen, with more than just a big display at their disposal, providing high-end features and a pen to replace paper.

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