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Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review: One phablet to rule them all

Samsung’s latest phablet improves, but doesn’t revolutionise like its predecessors

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Samsung carved out its very own niche in the market when it first launched the Galaxy Note series. Although numerous competitors have been released since, the Note still stands as the premier phone-come-tablet device, with the Note 4 the latest in line. Due to what we’ve seen in the older versions of the Note series, the Note 4 on the outside is a noticeable upgrade. The more premium use of materials leaves the Note 4 looking like one of the best Android devices we’ve ever had the pleasure of testing. The faux leather back adds to the quality feel, while the odd spot of metal shines through on the edges. This is without doubt a premium phone, targeted at the very high-end of the market. As well as including a removable battery, there’s the addition of a microSD slot, as well as the standard microUSB port, power button, volume rocker and a designated holster for the accompanying S Pen. All in all, apart from the premium finish, there are no major changes between this and the Note 3 in the design department.

Another area in where there’s no change from the Note 3 is with the size of the screen. At 5.7-inches this is still a massive device to hold in one hand, but the extra thinness of the Note 4 makes the task a little easier. The screen itself is a noticeable improvement, however, and the bump to quad HD helps make everything seem vibrant. Colours especially look good here and both icons and lettering are as crisp and clear as we hoped for. For a device that specialises in multitasking, moving around the device is a real pleasure. The quad-core processor is fairly standard, but powerful enough to blast through anything you throw at it. There’s also the small matter of the S Pen, which has fast become one of the staple productivity tools for all Note users to master. There are no new design things to note about the minuscule pen, but it’s easier to use at an angle and a wide range of shortcuts that can solely be accessed through use of the S Pen.

It’s testament to Samsung’s vision of being the best Android manufacturer out there that arguably the biggest change in the Note 4 is with TouchWiz. All the usual S Pen-enabled apps have seen updates; while there are new sidemenus to quickly move between apps and screens. It’s just a pleasure to use and although it’s still not as simple as stock Android, the gap is gradually closing with every update. The other major change is the 16-megapixel camera. This time around there’s a helpful image stabilisation feature to help keep blur to an absolute minimum, while low-light photography is taken care of with the designated night mode. Images can sometimes look over saturated, but this is still a big improvement over previous models. To use all of this, you’re going to want a battery than can keep up. The 3220mAh battery here is a behemoth and will undoubtedly keep you going for a couple of days before requiring a charge. It’s removable, but finding how to get into the back was slightly confusing at first.

Lets set the record straight; the Note 4 isn’t as revolutionary as we’ve seen before and may even be a small disappointment to the most critical of Android users. But what it’s however is a small improvement in nearly area of the device. The design has been revamped to cater for Samsung’s new premium design ethics, TouchWiz is easier to use and the S Pen has finally come of age. If you’ve been a long-standing fan of the Note series and been waiting for an upgrade, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be your next device. Note 3 users might not find quite enough reasons to move across, however.

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For further reviews, make sure to check out the latest issue of Android Magazine.

 

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