Samsung Galaxy Note 4 hands-on review
Samsung launched the new Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphone at IFA 2014 in Berlin, alongside a surprise Galaxy Note Edge with a curved screen. The new Galaxy Note 4 offers various improvements over its Galaxy Note 3 predecessor, including a Quad HD screen, better processor and other improved specs. Here's our Samsung Galaxy Note 4 hands-on review. See also: Best smartphones 2014
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 hands-on review: Price & availability
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4's price is still under wraps, but we expect it to cost around the same as its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which costs £549 direct from Samsung. Its price will fall within a few months, though, so waiting to buy this device could save you some money if you're planning on buying it outright rather than getting it on a contract.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is expected to hit the shelves in October.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 hands-on review: Design
The overall design of the Galaxy Note 4 is similar to that of the Note 3, with the same size screen, a faux leather textured back that we're still not too keen on, and similar dimensions and weight. See also: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Note 4
One slight difference is that the Note 4 has a metal frame, though only a very small portion of the frame around the edge looked metal to us. There's none of that tacky stitching found on the Note 3, though, so we're pleased to see that go.
The Note 4 is 8.5mm thick, so slightly thicker than its predecessor but by no means a chunky device. However, we'd class it as a phablet with its 5.7in screen, so don't expect to be able to fit it in your front pocket.
It weighs a healthy 176g, which we found to be reasonable considering the size of the screen. It felt comfortable in our hands, even with that annoying security tag in the way. It is a fraction heavier than the Note 3, though, which weighs 168g.
The Note 4 is available in Charcoal Black, Frost White, Blossom Pink and Bronze Gold. We got hands on with a Frost White model, which we thought was a bit on the sparkly side for our liking. If sparkly is your thing, though, Samsung has teamed up with Swarovski to offer some extremely sparkly crystal back cases for the Note 4.
Of course, it also comes with the S Pen, which is what gives this phablet the 'Note' in its name.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 hands-on review: Screen
The screen on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is stunning. It's the same 5.7in as the Note 3, but this time Samsung has introduced a Quad-HD Super AMOLED display, following in the footsteps of LG with the LG G3. That's a resolution of 2560x1440, which means a whopping 515ppi pixel density.
While using the Note 4, we found that the screen had an incredible sense of depth, and we can imagine that it'll be difficult to go back to full-HD once you've used a smartphone or tablet with a Quad HD screen like this one.
Samsung says that the Note 4 has a 2.5D glass screen, which it says is inherited from the Galaxy S3. It means that the edges are slightly curved, which is designed to make swiping at the edges of the screen easier. We didn't notice much difference, though.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 hands-on review: Hardware
Inside the Galaxy Note 4 is a 2.7 GHz Quad-Core 805 Processor (or a 1.9GHz Octa-Core processor in some countries). It's a super-speedy processor, which also has 3GB RAM and Adreno 420 graphics, and we found it to be extremely smooth and snappy when launching and switching apps.
We're looking forward to carrying out our benchmark tests on the Galaxy Note 4 when we get it into our lab, as we can expect some very impressive results from this powerful smartphone.
Built-in storage for the Note 4 is 32GB, but Samsung has included a microSD slot to allow you to add up to 64GB additional storage to the device.
Connectivity includes the faster 802.11ac WiFi, and Samsung has included 4G LTE (Cat 6), NFC, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, MHL 3.0 and IR blaster. It also offers the Download Booster, first seen in the S5, which pairs 4G and WiFi to offer a theoretical maximum download speed of 400Mb/s. You couldn't really ask for more.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 hands-on review: New features
Like the Samsung Galaxy S5, the Note 4 has a Fingerprint Scanner beneath the home button, and a Heart Rate Monitor located on the back of the device beneath the camera.
Interestingly, it's also got a UV sensor, which Samsung says is the first to be found in a mobile device. It's part of the S Health system, and is designed to warn users if they're getting too much sun by measuring the sun's ultraviolet radiation and presenting them with precautions based on which level is measured.
The Note 4 comes with multiple microphones too, which work with the built-in Voice Recorder to lets you record in eight different directions and then pick just one direction to play back if you just want to listen to what one particular person had to say within a group conversation. We were unable to test this in the noisy environment at IFA, but it's certainly a feature we can see coming in handy.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 hands-on review: Cameras
Samsung has improved the camera in the Galaxy Note 4, and we found the results to be quite impressive. The rear-facing camera is 16Mp, with auto focus and Smart OIS (optical image stabilisation). HDR on the Galaxy Note 4 offers a live preview, so you can see exactly what your image will look like before you capture it.
On the front is a 3.7Mp camera with an aperture of f1.9. Samsung has introduced a fun Wide Selfie mode with the Note 4, so you can capture more of the environment around you when taking those all-important and extremely popular selfies with the front-facing camera.
One thing we did find is that the size of the Note 4 means taking photographs is not an exceptionally easy task. It can get a bit clumsy, particularly if you are trying to take a photo with one hand.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 hands-on review: Software & S Pen
The Galaxy Note 4 runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat, and will presumably be updated to Android L when it becomes available. Samsung has added lots of cool and useful features to take advantage of the large screen on the Note 4 and the S Pen that comes with the device.
The Multi Window feature means you can use two apps at once in a split screen view thanks to the 5.7in display. These windows can be resized, too, to allow more space for an app that requires it, for example. It also offers the ability to view a window as a pop-up screen that can be moved around and will let you continue working in the background, though this is considerably less useful than the split screen mode.
The Galaxy Note 4's S Pen has been improved, too. Using the S Note app, the S Pen can now emulate various pen and writing types, including a fountain pen or calligraphy pen, thanks to its 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity.
The Air Command wheel lets you access features such as Action Memo, Screen Write, Image Clip and the new Smart Select feature by pressing the small button on the side of the S Pen.
Fast Charging and Ultra Power Saving means battery life can be lengthened and charging times should be lower. We'll bring you full battery tests once we've spent some more time with the Note 4.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is an impressive device. At first glance it's similar to the Galaxy Note 3, but with its Quad HD screen, extra power, improved S Pen and additional features, we imagine this will be flying off the shelves when it lands in October.