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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  • Donkey2008 - Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - link

    You have to love the 3DMark "onscreen" vs "offscreen" results. As long as any Android doesn't have to actually render images on the screen for the user than it is just as fast as an iPhone. ROLMAO.
  • Announcer97624 - Saturday, November 1, 2014 - link

    I don't get the point about battery life trailing behind the IPhone 6 plus? The IPhone 6 plus doesn't have a removable battery so on a 16 hour plane ride the IPhone 6 plus is a liability not an asset compared to the Galaxy Note 4's ability to have a few spare charged batteries. While I have the European Galaxy S5 4G LTE I have a battery wallet with six fresh batteries so I can go for most of a week without charging. My girlfriend has an IPhone 5 and is now going to purchase the Galaxy Note 4 specifically because of the non removable battery on all IPhones.
  • Bikerboy89 - Saturday, November 8, 2014 - link

    Wow onscreen GPU performance is laughable. Really bad vs the competition from apple and Nvidia. My LG G Flex gets better onscreen performance in gfxbench and the iPhone 6 gets double or triple Note 4. Pretty pathetic for a flagship device.
  • MattL - Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - link

    I finally realize why your color accuracy results differ so much from display mate, where you find the iPhone is more color accurate they found the Note 4 more accurate.

    "Recently some reviewers have published articles contradicting my Absolute Color Accuracy Measurements for the Samsung Galaxy S5. For example, see this recent review in phone Arena. The problem is that these reviewers are not scientists or display experts, and are using canned display calibration software incorrectly in order to test a display, which produces incorrect results and bogus conclusions. Below is a brief semi-technical analysis...

    The Color Difference dE used by the Reviewers Incorrectly includes the Luminance: The reviewers are using retail display calibration software products that use a Color Difference measure called dE, which includes a Luminance (Brightness) Error component in addition to the Color Hue and Saturation (Chromaticity) Error component. Using the Color Difference dE is appropriate for setting the display calibration, but dE is Not a measure of Visual Color Accuracy (Hue and Saturation) because it also includes the Luminance (Brightness). The eye sees and interprets brightness and color as two separate visual issues - dE combines them together. So all conclusions based on using dE for Visual Color Accuracy are incorrect.

    Our Color Accuracy only includes Color Hue and Saturation: Since the eye sees color and brightness as two separate visual issues I measure and analyze them separately. My published Absolute Color Accuracy measurements and data analysis includes only the Color (Hue and Saturation) Chromaticity Error component Δ(u'v') or d(u'v'), which evaluates just the difference in Hue and Saturation seen by the eye, and is plotted on a 1976 CIE Uniform Chromaticity Color Diagram in all of my articles. This is the correct method for evaluating Visual Color Accuracy (Hue and Saturation). Compare my very precise and detailed Absolute Color Accuracy plots with their crude figure."

    Basically you're doing it wrong anandtech
  • kamhagh - Monday, May 25, 2015 - link

    this phone lags on ui and on games like deadtrigger2, don't trust benchmarks! specially when its samsung..... benchamrks are only meaningless numbers!(well useful in some cases)

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