• Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review: Galaxy Strikes Back


    It only took 5 years but Apple is now back to parity with Samsung when it comes to screen-size. With that in mind, Samsung is now under even more pressure to make sure that they deliver a hit with the Galaxy Note 4.

    Did Samsung deliver the goods? Letís check it out:
    What about the Note 3?



    On paper, the difference between the Note 3 and 4 is minimal. The screen resolution is higher and you get a newer SoC. Both cameras receive a bump in resolution plus you get a fingerprint reader, UV sensor, heart rate monitor and fast charging.

    As it turns out, the Note 4 is a noticeable upgrade from the 3. While the extra screen resolution doesnít really make any difference, the screen itself is a big improvement. It looks more natural and whites are cleaner though also introduces some noticeable off-angle colour shift.

    Performance is more or less the same because all the extra performance is eaten up by the extra screen resolution.

    The camera is a big step forward in terms of image quality. You also get an optically stabilized lens.

    The fingerprint reader is usable and a nice thing to have. The UV sensor, heart rate monitor and fast charger are also nice but I think most people arenít going to use them.

    However, the biggest difference between the 2 is how they feel in your hand. The 4 has an exposed metal frame which really makes it feel much more expensive.

    Bottom line, if you have a Note 3 and are happy with it, keep it. However, if you drop the money and upgrade to the 4, chances are youíll be happy.



    What about the iPhone 6 Plus?

    The biggest problem with the Note 4 is that while itís a brilliant device with no significant weaknesses, you can now buy an iPhone thatís more or less the same size.



    Now let me give credit where credit is due; Samsung has done a great job designing and marketing their Galaxy line up. That being said, at least part of their success is because up until now, their phones are an alternative for people who want something bigger than an iPhone.

    Release date Phone Screen size size difference
    over existing iPhone
    Q3 2009 iPhone 3Gs 3.5"
    Q2 2010 Galaxy S 4" +0.5"
    Q3 2010 iPhone 4 3.5"
    Q2 2011 Galaxy S II 4.3/4.5" +0.8/1.0"
    Q3 2011 iPhone 4s 3.5"
    Q3 2011 Galaxy Note 5.3" +1.8"
    Q2 2012 Galaxy S III 4.8" +1.3"
    Q3 2012 iPhone 5 4"
    Q3 2012 Galaxy Note 2 5.5" +1.5"
    Q1 2013 Galaxy S4 5" +1"
    Q3 2013 iPhone 5s 4"
    Q3 2013 Galaxy Note 3 5.7" +1.7"
    Q1 2014 Galaxy S5 5.1" +1.1"
    Q3 2014 iPhone 6 Plus 5.5"
    Q3 2014 Galaxy Note 4 5.7" +0.2"
    Now that Apple is also playing the size game, one of Samsungís major advantages is now gone. If you want a iPhone with a large display, you can just buy an iPhone.



    Both have metal bodies so itís hard to pick one over the other. I prefer holding the Note 4 because it feels more substantial. The 6 Plus is a bit too thin for my tastes. Iím also not a fan of of the curved edges on the Plusí display - it just feels really cheesy. The Note 4 also has curved edges but itís not as exaggerated as the Plusí.

    Then again, if weíre going to talk cheese, the 4 has a faux leather back. Itís a toss up here.

    As for the displays, itís also a toss up. The Plus is better off-angle and has more natural looking colour. The 4 display has deeper blacks and more contrast.

    In case youíre wondering, why I didnít mention resolution, thatís because for all intents and purposes, itís not important when comparing the 2 because both are incredibly sharp. Actually, when I look closely, I prefer the Plusí display because the 4ís is laid out in a PenTile arrangement so solid colours looks grainy up close - not that youíd ever notice this unless you looked really hard.



    As for the cameras, Iíd give the Plus an edge. While it has lower resolution, I get more keepers when I use it. If you take a lot of selfies Iíd also prefer the Plus since the 4ís wide-angle front facing camera is weird to use plus it makes you look 10lbs heavier if you use it up close.

    On the software front, itís an iOS vs Android and Touchwiz decision. Some people love iOS and think Android is the worst thing ever and others feel the opposite. Iím going to sit this one out not take sides.



    I guess, since weíre talking about Samsung here I need to talk about the Ďextrasí. The fingerprint reader, UV sensor and heart rate monitor specifically. I prefer the Plusí fingerprint reader because itís easier to use but then again, the 4ís isnít exactly hard to use.

    As for the heart rate monitor - letís just say that I havenít used the one built into my GS5 in months. If i wanted to monitor my heart rate I would just buy a fitness band with one built in. Some, will find it useful, Iím betting most wonít.

    As for the UV sensor, I also think that while some will use it, even more wonít.

    I donít use the S-Pen and Iím guessing those who do use it, can be served just as well with a regular capacitive stylus.

    Performance-wise, itís a toss up. While the Plus does better in benchmarks, the benchmarks donít reveal one big problem with the Plus; it only comes with 1GB of RAM.

    When you use a Plus and switch programs, a lot of the time you have to wait for the program to re-launch when you switch back. Itís especially noticeable if youíre playing games and it really annoys the hell out of me. With 3GB of RAM, the Note 4 almost never has to relaunch anything.

    Then thereís the fast charging. Itís a cool feature but you know what? The Note 4 has a 3220mAh battery - a lot of people arenít going to need to charge it halfway through the day. I guess it could be useful if you forget to charge your phone regularly.

    Price-wise, in Canada the Note 4 is going to be $799 unlocked or $299 on contract (on Bell) while the 6 Plus is $859 unlocked or $359 on contract. Keep in mind that at that price is the Note 4 comes with 32GB of storage while the 6 Plus only gets 16GB.

    Unless you're the type of user who doesn't load many apps on their phone, 16GB of storage is much too small. A more reasonable 6 Plus is the 64GB variant that costs $969/484.99.

    So now we're talking $969 vs $799. I'll be totally honest, while the 6 Plus is an amazing device, paying $170 more for it is a total rip-off.

    In the US, the pricing is a little closer. On AT&T the Note 4 is going to be $799/299 while the T-Mobile 64GB 6 Plus is $849 before financing while an AT&T locked one is $399 on contract.

    Paying $50 USD more for a 64GB 6 Plus is much more reasonable.

    Anyways, if you want an iPhone and a big screen then you now have more choice. That being said, Samsung is ready and has really upped their game with the Note 4.

    What about the Galaxy S5?



    Back when the original Note came out, the difference between it and the Galaxy S II was very pronounced. 5.3Ē on a 16:10 display is a lot bigger than the GSIIís 4.3Ē. However, since the Note 2, the size difference between the Note and Galaxy S line has been shrinking. On top of that, phones in general have been increasing in size to the point that even $150 phones come with 5Ē high definition displays.

    While the GS5 is smaller than the Note 4, the difference between them isnít THAT big to the point that now theyíve become competitors.



    If you can afford it, go with the Note 4 for its metal frame and extra storage. There are other differences between them but those are the 2 worth mentioning.

    Specifications:

    • 5.7Ē SuperAMOLED display
    • 2560x1440 resolution
    • 2.66Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
    • 3GB RAM
    • 32GB storage (24.4GB available to the user)
    • 16MP camera with auto focus, LED flash and optical image stabilization
    • 3.7MP front facing camera with 90 degree angle
    • MicroSD slot
    • 3220mAh battery
    • Quick charge support
    • S-Pen stylus
    • Fingerprint reader
    • Heart rate sensor
    • UV meter

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review: Galaxy Strikes Back started by howard View original post
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. sabesh's Avatar
      sabesh -
      I need a Note 4! Excellent review with useful info. Thx.
    1. NickC's Avatar
      NickC -
      Great review, but I disagree with this point:

      "I don’t use the S-Pen and I’m guessing those who do use it, can be served just as well with a regular capacitive stylus."

      The S-Pen does far more than a regular capacitive stylus. In addition to being more precise due to the smaller point, the Wacom digitizer in conjunction with the Samsung software can do several more things that are not possible with your finger/capacitive stylus. I won't list them out here cause there are tons of videos and websites that show off all these features. I'd suggest playing around with some of these extra features because the S-pen is really the thing that sets the Note series apart from other large smartphones.
    1. HC - NO "i"'s Avatar
      HC - NO "i" -
      Fellow HC,

      Regarding the small gap around the screen of the Galaxy Note 4, Samsung claims it is "intentional"! Page 180 of the manual, under troubleshooting...

      Attachment 116345
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      Thanks, I'm aware of what makes the S-Pen special over a capacitive stylus. However, I still think most people don't really need the extra capabilities.

      Feel free to disagree

      Quote Originally Posted by NickC View Post
      Great review, but I disagree with this point:

      "I don’t use the S-Pen and I’m guessing those who do use it, can be served just as well with a regular capacitive stylus."

      The S-Pen does far more than a regular capacitive stylus. In addition to being more precise due to the smaller point, the Wacom digitizer in conjunction with the Samsung software can do several more things that are not possible with your finger/capacitive stylus. I won't list them out here cause there are tons of videos and websites that show off all these features. I'd suggest playing around with some of these extra features because the S-pen is really the thing that sets the Note series apart from other large smartphones.
    1. havarti's Avatar
      havarti -
      They keep pushing the release date back - ridiculous!
    1. johnmoon's Avatar
      johnmoon -
      Quote Originally Posted by havarti View Post
      They keep pushing the release date back - ridiculous!
      With the amount of problems with its build quality being reported in South Korea
      I bet they are going to have to
      Everyone buys this phone will be checking their gap, battery cover and etc
      and ton of them will be returned if anything

      Unlike South Korea, Samsung wont be able to refuse to take it back by saying 'its normal'
    1. David Walcott's Avatar
      David Walcott -
      I am glad Samsung changed that port. I work at a store and everyone keeps asking for that USB cable on their S5's and Note 3's. I always tell them to go to Bestbuy because they have a Samsung store. I do not know if they carry it I just tell them to go there. It is good that Samsung is going back to good old 2.0 like everyone else. I wonder if it is because of European ruling on the standard of charges on phones.
    1. tigerwolf's Avatar
      tigerwolf -
      Really disappointed they didn't make this waterproof like the S5...was expecting that, that that was the new standard for Samsung stuff.

      I like Sony's stuff, though like any of this I'm concerned about updated...
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      Quote Originally Posted by tigerwolf View Post
      Really disappointed they didn't make this waterproof like the S5...was expecting that, that that was the new standard for Samsung stuff.

      I like Sony's stuff, though like any of this I'm concerned about updated...
      Sony has been very good about updating their phones lately.
    1. bjacks12's Avatar
      bjacks12 -
      If I were in the market, it would be a hard choice for me between the Note 4 and the Nexus 6. If buying outright, probably the Nexus to save a couple hundred, but the Note's expandable storage, S-pen, and removable battery are just too damn tempting. I wouldn't be eager to go back to waiting for updates or having a hundred carrier and OEM apps that I'd never use though.
    1. bjacks12's Avatar
      bjacks12 -
      Quote Originally Posted by howard View Post
      Sony has been very good about updating their phones lately.
      I don't know anything about Sony's phones, but I did read that their entire Z line is getting Lollipop.
    1. toorex's Avatar
      toorex -
      i security locked my phone when drunk now i cant remember my security code.please help me how do i unlock it with out a hassle.
    1. nateo200's Avatar
      nateo200 -
      Quote Originally Posted by NickC View Post
      Great review, but I disagree with this point:

      "I donít use the S-Pen and Iím guessing those who do use it, can be served just as well with a regular capacitive stylus."

      The S-Pen does far more than a regular capacitive stylus. In addition to being more precise due to the smaller point, the Wacom digitizer in conjunction with the Samsung software can do several more things that are not possible with your finger/capacitive stylus. I won't list them out here cause there are tons of videos and websites that show off all these features. I'd suggest playing around with some of these extra features because the S-pen is really the thing that sets the Note series apart from other large smartphones.
      Agreed! When I went to buy my Samsung Galaxy Note 8 I paid no mind to the S-Pen but the guy at Best Buy told me straight up "You can not ignore this feature, its not another gimmick, its what makes this tablet better than the other ones you may have looked at" he then ran be through a crash course in all the stuff I could do with it and I was hooked to say the least. Definitely not something I use even 60% of the time but when I use it I love it and its very handy.
    1. Tsepz_GP's Avatar
      Tsepz_GP -
      Good review.

      I am thoroughly enjoying my Note 4, got it the nite before official launch day as my local Voda invited 20 of its most loyal customers to its own showcase and launch of the phone. Mine has been with me nearly a month now and I am loving it still.

      Battery life is incredible, I can get through a work day on a single charge, get home and use it heavily for browsing, watching vids, WhatsApp, FB, Twitter and Instagram, and I will have around 30% batt by the time I get to bed.

      The camera is fast and takes amazing pics and incredibly smooth vids.

      The phone feels amazing in hand, the metal frame, the faux leather back cover, it just feels good to hold and use.

      And then there is the Display, simply stunning! Be it due to the QHD res or Samsung further refining how they make SuperAMOLED displays, or both, they have done one hell of a fine job

      I am very happy overall, job well done by Samsung. Coming from a Galaxy S4, I thought the Note 4 would be a handful, but nah, its quite easy to use one-handed.
    1. bbq_123's Avatar
      bbq_123 -
      Quote Originally Posted by NickC View Post
      Great review, but I disagree with this point:

      "I donít use the S-Pen and Iím guessing those who do use it, can be served just as well with a regular capacitive stylus."

      The S-Pen does far more than a regular capacitive stylus. In addition to being more precise due to the smaller point, the Wacom digitizer in conjunction with the Samsung software can do several more things that are not possible with your finger/capacitive stylus. I won't list them out here cause there are tons of videos and websites that show off all these features. I'd suggest playing around with some of these extra features because the S-pen is really the thing that sets the Note series apart from other large smartphones.
      Seriously who would review a Note without using its pen??? It's like reviewing an iPhone and say you don't use any apps and therefore you guess an iPhone is just as good as a rotatory phone.