At this point, the Galaxy Note line needs little introduction. After all, the Galaxy Note is Samsung’s biggest success in mobile. While Apple redefined the smartphone and tablet segment, Samsung defined the phablet segment. Despite widespread skepticism, the original Galaxy Note was a massive success. Combined with the Galaxy S2, 2011 was a watershed year for Samsung as they leapfrogged other Android OEMs. Since then, we’ve seen continuous improvement from year to year with each Galaxy Note. While there were competitors, Samsung managed to hold on to their first-mover advantage for multiple generations. However, with the release of Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus we see one of the first significant threats to Samsung’s dominance of this segment.

The Galaxy Note 4 is Samsung’s latest iteration of the Galaxy Note phablet, and on the surface Samsung has put their best foot forward. With the highest bin of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 or Exynos 5433, the latest generation AMOLED display, a 16MP camera with OIS, and a new design, the Galaxy Note 4 encompasses some of the best hardware that Samsung can deliver. I won’t spend too much time here, but the spec sheet below should cover most of the key points.

  Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Samsung Galaxy Note 4
SoC 2.26 GHz Snapdragon 800 2.7 GHz Snapdragon 805
RAM/NAND 3 GB LPDDR3, 32/64GB NAND + microSD 3GB LPDDR3, 32GB NAND + microSD
Display 5.7” 1080p Super AMOLED 5.7” 1440p Super AMOLED
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 IP block UE Category 4 LTE) 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x35 UE Category 6 LTE)
Dimensions 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm, 168 grams 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm, 176 grams
Camera 13MP Rear Facing, 1/3.06" CMOS size (Sony IMX135), 2.1MP FFC 16MP Rear Facing w/ OIS, 1/2.6" CMOS size (Sony IMX240), F/2.0, 3.7MP FFC w/ F/1.9 aperture
Battery 3200 mAh, 3.8V, 12.1 Whr 3220 mAh, 3.85V, 12.397 Whr
OS Android 4.4.2 with TouchWiz UX Android 4.4.4 with TouchWiz UX
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0, USB3.0, GPS/GNSS, MHL, DLNA, NFC 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.1, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, MHL, DLNA, NFC
SIM Size MicroSIM MicroSIM

While all of these things are easily discovered, the most immediate impressions always come from the design of the phone. In this respect, Samsung has done a surprisingly good job. On the front of the phone, we see a relatively standard design for Samsung. This entails a pattern on underneath the glass, which appears to be a bit shimmery in nature, along with dark black pinstripes. This causes a noticeable pattern in the capacitive buttons when lit, as with the LED notification light. There’s the standard earpiece and Samsung logo on top of the display, and a home button on the bottom, which serves as a fingerprint scanner as well. This home button is noticeably clicky in nature, and feels much better than the Galaxy Note 3’s home button.

On the sides, we see a similar level of improvement. The volume rocker, which is on the left side, and power button, which is on the right side, feel fantastic in comparison to most phones, and is quite close to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in feel. Unlike most Galaxy smartphones, we see an aluminum frame that runs all along the side of the phone, which also has a chamfered edge to eliminate sharp edges. In this area, Samsung has made serious strides as the frame really helps to make for a better in-hand feel that far exceeds what we saw with the Galaxy Note 3 or even the Galaxy S5. Along the top of the frame are cutouts for the 3.5mm headphone jack and IR port which enables TV remote functionality. Along the bottom of the frame, we see the microUSB 2.0 port. While this is technically a regression from the microUSB 3.0 port in speed and power delivery, I suspect compatibility issues and the ungainly design of the microUSB 3.0 standard justified a move back, at least until USB Type-C is ready for shipping devices.

On the back of the phone, we see some more changes. Instead of the downward-firing speakers of the Galaxy Note 3, we see that the speaker has been moved to the back of the phone. The design of the back cover is more an evolution of the Note 3’s back cover than the Galaxy S5’s, which has a noticeable faux leather pattern although the feel is closer to soft touch plastic. There’s also no stitching to try and make it seem more like leather. Instead, at the edges it seems to meet with the metal frame. A similar level of fit and finish is seen around the LED flash module, which is now flush with the back cover instead of sunk into the phone as with the Galaxy S5.

Overall, the design of the Galaxy Note 4 is massively improved. While it isn’t quite as amazing as the rounded design of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, it’s one of the best designs I’ve seen for a phone with a removable back cover. The only complaint I have is that Samsung should use a flat black pattern under the glass to accentuate the high contrast of the AMOLED display, but this is quite minor in nature.

Software: TouchWiz UX
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • MattL - Thursday, October 16, 2014 - link

    Not strange at all, often certain places will get early review devices, they got an early iPhone 6 and 6+ too.
  • Arcetnathon7 - Thursday, October 16, 2014 - link

    Yes, but every early review of iPhone 6 and 6+ are "strangely" without any benchmarks.
    We always have to wait for Anandtech :)
  • MattL - Friday, October 17, 2014 - link

    Well Display Mate had Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus screen reviews up for a while now... I honestly would trust them more on the screen side of things anyways (they are far more comprehensive in their analysis and are obviously specialized experts in screens)... just curious as to the differences seen between theirs and the analysis here since they found the Note 4 definitely more accurate vs here.

    I do agree that you see very few iPhone 6 reviews with benchmarks though.

    I would be very interested in other sites doing in-depth screen analysis runs, should give a better picture... but unfortunately not many sites do and the couple others I have seen are *horrible*, they didn't even realize that the Note 4's screen modes actually supported different color gamuts so they critiqued the color accuracy on the Adaptive mode specifically designed to have a high saturation of the color gamut to fend off ambient light washing out that saturation or the Photo mode which supports the Adobe RGB color gamut (17% larger than sRGB) do a high degree of accuracy, but when viewing non Adobe RGB content it will analyze off obviously. While the Basic mode is designed to be extremely color accurate to the sRGB standard (again Display Mate found it to be the most accurate of any smartphone or tablet screen, even the iPhone 6 screens)... so those sites results are pointless.
  • tralalalalalala40 - Saturday, October 18, 2014 - link

    Does the user have to manually change the color scheme on the note4 for every app?
  • tralalalalalala40 - Saturday, October 18, 2014 - link

    The golden phone review, hand picked by robots maybe? At least they aren't programming their phones to cheat benchmarks anymore (most likely)
  • trynberg - Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - link

    So, the iPhone 6+ is declared the best phablet with no supporting statements or qualifications. The Note 4 gets "remains one of the best phablets on the market, but whether it's the best for a given user is a matter of priorities and personal preference rather than any absolutes".

    I mean, how blind do you have to be to not see the bias there?
  • KPOM - Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - link

    This is actually a much more positive review of the Note 4 than ArsTechnica. AT basically said it comes down to your OS preference.
  • MattL - Thursday, October 16, 2014 - link

    Ars had the most negative Note 4 review I've seen anywhere on the web... really surprised about that, very disappointed.
  • tralalalalalala40 - Saturday, October 18, 2014 - link

    Go to samsung's website, they have a great review of the note 4 that should cheer you up.
  • TrackSmart - Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - link

    Thanks for the review! As always, this is much more complete information than you find at competing sites.

    That said, the Battery Charging Speed Test is not as useful as it could be. Supposedly this phone charges to 50% in the first 30 minutes. That means most of your testing time represents "topping off" the battery. Consider adding 50% or 75% charge speeds instead of (or in addition to) 100%. It would tell us which phones allow a user to quickly get back to business.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now