This Galaxy Note 4 Review will focus on the three most attractive features of this big Android phone: the S Pen, 5.7″ display and great camera. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is one of the best, and unique, Android phones available and one that every big-phone shopper should at least consider.
Samsung gave me a Galaxy Note 4 review unit a couple of weeks before it launched in the United States and I’ve enjoyed using it alongside my iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and LG G3. Overall I’m very impressed with the Note 4 and recommend it for those looking for more than just a large phone. The gorgeous display, long battery life and versatility earned it a GottaBeMobile Editors’ Choice Award.
There’s no getting around the fact that the Galaxy Note 4 is an oversized phone that is simply too big for some people to use comfortably. So long as you have big enough hands and enough patience to adapt to it, it’s easy to appreciate the Note 4 for all it has to offer.
Three GottaBeMobile.com writers are now using Samsung’s new phone, which means we will regularly update this Galaxy Note 4 review with long-term observations. If you have any questions about the Note 4, please drop them in the comments form at the end of this review. The Galaxy Note 4 is available at:
- AT&T Wireless for $299 on contract
- Sprint for $299 or $30 per month
- T-Mobile for $749 or $31 per month
- Verizon for $299 on contract, $29 per month, or $700 outright
- Amazon.com for $299 on contract or UNLOCKED for $859
Galaxy Note 4 Design and Overview
People were skeptical about whether or not anyone would buy the original Galaxy Note when it launched in 2011. Back then it seemed absolutely ludicrous to sell a phone with a 5.3″ display. At the time, the iPhone 4 was the hottest selling smartphone and it only had a 3.5″ display. Fast forward three years and Samsung’s sold tens of millions of Note series phablets and Apple’s selling the 5.5″ iPhone 6 Plus. Samsung’s made enough improvements on its Note series to keep it competitive and differentiate it from the competition.
The first thing I noticed about the Galaxy Note 4 when I picked it up is that it feels better than the Note 3. The Note 4 has an aluminum strip that runs around the edge of the phone, replacing the cheap-feeling plastic on previous editions. There’s also a little extra heft to the Note 4 and it feels more rigid.
One problem with large metallic phones is that they’re slippery and too easy to drop. The back of the Note 4 is textured, providing some needed grip. As with all Galaxy phones, the Note 4’s rear cover peels off to reveal the battery, SIM card, microSD card slot and battery. Unfortunately, the Note 4’s rear cover is not water resistant like the Galaxy S5’s.
The Note 4’s battery is quite large and has a capacity of 3,220 mAh. The Note 4 is a battery champ when it comes to standby time, barely sipping any juice during extended periods of down time. The large and bright display did seem to chomp through the battery however, especially when shooting a lot of photos and video. That being said, the Note 4 never lasted less than a full day during normal use.
Those looking to go for extended periods of time between charges can buy extra batteries for the Note 4 or can switch on ultra power saving mode. In this mode, the Note 4’s display goes from showing brilliant colors to grayscale, only select apps run and wireless data is turned off when the display is off. That extends the standby time to more than two weeks. Sure, it severely hampers the Note 4, but it’s a fantastic mode to have during a power outage or natural disaster.
The Note 4’s S Pen is stowed in a pen garage in the bottom of the device. This adds a little thickness to the phone, making it more difficult to hold with one hand than the iPhone 6 Plus. The boxy edges look good, but make it less comfortable to hold than the iPhone 6 Plus with its curved edges.
Galaxy Note 4 Display
The Galaxy Note 4 display is simply gorgeous. It has 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, which is more than any iPhone Retina Display and more than most HDTVs. Text, pictures, video and anything else on the Note 4’s display are incredibly crisp and clear.
The Note 4’s display is beautiful, but so are the displays on the LG G3 and iPhone 6 Plus. Put the three side-by-side and you may be able to detect some differences, but there’s not enough variance to between any of these displays to make it the deciding factor on which phone to buy.
The Note 4’s display is a little bigger than its competitors, but again, it’s not going to be too noticeable unless you compare the devices side-by-side.
Galaxy Note 4 Camera
As an experienced photographer that uses everything from smartphones to high-end professional cameras, I’m pleased with the Note 4’s 16MP rear-facing camera. It shoots nice sharp photos and incredible 4K video, though it does have its limits.
Shooting 4K video is overkill for things like posting videos to Facebook, especially since most people don’t have smartphones or computer monitors capable of playing back 4K video at full resolution. But videos shot with the Note 4’s camera look great whether they’re shot in UHD (4K) or in 1080p.
Above is a sample video I shot of the San Francisco Giant’s Michael Morse hitting a home run at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The home run tied what would be the final game of the National League Championship Series. As you can see, the crowd was very excited. What’s nice about the video sample is that the night sky is nice and dark, the field is exposed properly and there’s a lot of detail in the crowd.
Stills are really nice as well so long as there’s a decent amount of light to shoot with. Outdoors the Note 4 is on par with the LG G3 and iPhone 6 in terms of image quality. However, the Note 4’s camera has longer exposures than the iPhone 6 in dimly lit rooms, causing motion blur way too often. The iPhone 6 isn’t perfect, but I get significantly better results with it or the iPhone 6 Plus than the Note 4.
The Note 4 has a bunch of modes that most people will never use, but they are nice to have built into the camera app rather than having to download a completely separate app. One of the more compelling camera modes is rear-facing selfie mode. That mode allows users to take photos of themselves with the rear-facing 16MP camera rather than the puny front-facing camera. When activated, this mode automatically detects the user’s face and snaps a selfie when there’s a face is in the middle of the frame.
Galaxy Note 4 Software
The Galaxy Note 4 review unit Samsung provided was the AT&T version. Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon are all selling the Galaxy Note 4 as well and their versions are nearly identical to the one reviewed here, with minor variances in the pre-loaded software.
There are a number of cool software features on the Galaxy Note 4, but most people will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of features and add-ons. The S Pen and its accompanying suite of software features are what you should take a close look at before buying the Galaxy Note 4. If you can’t imagine yourself using the S Pen to mark up whatever’s on the display, write notes or draw, then the Note 4 probably isn’t the right device for you.
If you love what you see in the above Samsung Galaxy Note 4 promo video, then you should definitely take a closer look at it.
It definitely takes some time to get used to the idea of using the S Pen, especially if you’ve never used a pen-enabled tablet or smartphone before. Thankfully, the Note 4 has the best version of the S Pen and its accompanying software so far. Pressure sensitivity and accuracy are both improved.
One nice feature on the Note 4 is Multi window mode. This lets users view and use two apps at once. For example, you can watch a video and browse the web at the same time as illustrated in the screen capture to the right. This is a killer feature for people that do a lot of multi-tasking and something that’s sorely missing from the iPhone 6 Plus. For some reason the Multi window feature is turned off by default, but it’s easy enough to activate it in the Note 4’s settings.
As much as I like the Galaxy Note 4, the software simply isn’t as cohesive as Apple’s iOS 8. There are too many chefs in the Note 4 kitchen, with at least two ways so just about anything. For example, holding the home button down will bring up Google Now, a slick voice-enabled personal assistance service. Double-tapping the home button launches S Voice, Samsung’s not so slick voice-enabled personal assistance service.
Most apps and media you’d actually want to buy can be purchased through the Google Play Store app. But Samsung offers a bunch of freebies through its own app store. Again and again, the Note 4 interface continuously badgers the user to choose between apps and services that don’t add much value. Do you want to use Chrome to browse the web or the Internet app? Email or Gmail? Photo Gallery or Picasa to view your pictures? Carriers, such as AT&T, only add to the confusion by piling on their own Android apps.
Galaxy Note 4 Review Conclusion and Pricing
The Galaxy Note 4 is one of the best Android phones money can buy. It’s worth the extra expense and bulk if you’re willing to learn the ins and outs of the S Pen and if you’re going to take advantage of the extra screen real estate.
The Galaxy Note 4 is a substantial improvement over last year’s model, but I wish it was water resistant like the Galaxy S5, its smaller sibling.
The Galaxy Note 4’s full retail price is $800 and is available from most carriers for $300 with a two-year contract. Apple offers the iPhone 6 Plus for $299 with a two-year contract with AT&T, Sprint or Verizon. However, the iPhone 6 Plus is $50 cheaper than the Note 4 if you pay full price for the device. That’s something to consider since, carriers are really pushing subscribers to pay full price upfront or to spread the full cost out over a couple of years.
Galaxy Note 4 Specs
- 153.5 X 78.6 X 8.5 mm / 176g
- 5.7” Quad HD Super AMOLED (2560 x1440)
- 2.7GHz Quad Core Processor
- 3GB RAM + 32GB Internal memory
- Supports microSD up to 128GB
- 2.5G (GSM/GPRS/EDGE) : 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
- 3G (HSPA＋ 42Mbps): 850/900/1900/2100 MHz
- 4G (LTE Cat.4 150/50Mbps) or 4G (LTE Cat.6 300/50Mbps)
* May differ by country and carrier
- Front Camera 3.7MP + F1.9/ Selfie (90º), Wide selfie mode (120º)
- Rear Camera 16M+ Smart OIS/ Fast AF, Live HDR(Rich Tone)
- Android 4.4 (Kitkat)
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2X2 MIMO)
- Download Booster, NFC, Bluetooth® v 4.1 (BLE),ANT+ ,
USB2.0, MHL 3.0
- IR LED (Remote Control)
- 3220mAh Fast Charging
- Codec: MP3, AAC/AAC＋/eAAC＋, WMA, AMR-NB/WB,
- Adapt Sound, Sound Alive, Wise Voice 2.0, Extra Volume 2.0
- 3 Mics (Directional Voice Recording)
- S Pen
- 15g, Hovering 15mm, Pressure level 2,048
- Gesture, Accelerometer, Geo-magnetic, Gyroscope,
RGB ambient light, Proximity, Barometer, Hall Sensor,