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
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  • nerd1 - Thursday, October 16, 2014 - link

    So again anandtech use Chrome browser to do web testing and not showing any multi core benchmarks at all. LOL
  • tralalalalalala40 - Saturday, October 18, 2014 - link

    don't take the phone so seriously. default browser is fatally flawed, have to use chrome.
  • Krysto - Thursday, October 16, 2014 - link

    You should review the Exynos one, too.
  • nerd1 - Thursday, October 16, 2014 - link

    Wow, I was totally dumbstruck to read the camera comparison. I actually spend some time to download original image of Note 4 and iPhone 6+, and although N4 is VASTLY better than 6+ (6+ image is totally desaturated and looks like phone camera image) this review says "while it is better than galaxy s5, iphone 6+ still has better detail" WHAT THE F***?
  • akdj - Thursday, October 30, 2014 - link

    I think you're the first I've read to exclaim 'VASTLY better' --- both have made two signfificant strides. OS and faster, wetter focusing. With the two, better low light photography.
    Some well regarded photography sites, mags and forums that have, too, sung the praises of the new optics and IP. Continuing to refine an 8 mpxl cam seems to make sense with a 6+, perfectly optimized '4K' sensor for shooting video (as quixk as these read/write speeds have gotten!)
  • jerrylzy - Thursday, October 16, 2014 - link

    I believe the daylight scene of camera test is at UCLA.
  • pjcamp - Friday, October 17, 2014 - link

    So the Xperia Z3 was released before this device -- is there a plan to review it in the near future?
  • sgmuser - Friday, October 17, 2014 - link

    Galaxy Note 4 is a killer product from Samsung. I have a Ipad mini Retina and I hate when i have multiple tabs and it keeps on refreshing when switch tabs. Low Sunspider score never matters if this keeps on refreshing tabs, its annoying, I tell you. We need more RAM! Better graphic scores are not for every day use! Avid games himself only uses 20 or 30% of his time in gaming if not he plays in his gaming system or PC. Now with bendgate, I am moving away from apple. Lets be realistic and choose wisely and spend wisely. I am looking at G3 and Note 4 and both impresses! Esp N4 in the top of the list.
  • tralalalalalala40 - Saturday, October 18, 2014 - link

    meh, if all you do is browse the web then choose android. ios is for productivity apps. would say that reloading of tabs isn't that big of a deal since the reload is faster than app switching on the note, even with 4x the ram.
  • DaveMo - Sunday, October 19, 2014 - link

    Ugh. I also can't stand the browser tabs always reloading.

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