The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 arrives, guns smoking!


Few product announcements garner as wide-reaching interest as do Samsung's Note series, and for a while now that's been simply attributed to the line's high-end status. But that's probably not all there is to it, as timing is an equally important ingredient. Sure, we usually think of Samsung's other high-end line, the S series, as just as impressive, but the truth is that the Note line has, since its conception, consistently outshined it.

And that's what we mean by timing. By putting half a year worth of time between its S and Note line announcements, Samsung has ensured that as soon as the appeal of the former starts wearing off, it already has something even better up for grabs. Yes, it's a different form factor, but the truth is that the line that distinguishes a phablet from a "normal-sized" flagship is starting to evaporate. Even without knowing anything specific about the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, all of this suggests that it will, like its predecessors, reap massive success. The only difference today is that we now do know most everything there is to know about the Note 4, and let us tell you this: it doesn't disappoint.

Starting point? The design, of course!

Stuff a terrible-looking rectangle of a phone with even the best hardware available, and it will, sure as hell, fail. Spectacularly. 

And it's true -- like it or not, smartphones have metamorphosed into something that is both a tool and a fashion statement at the same time. Samsung certainly knows that, as it's phones are traditionally more of the former and less of the latter. To that end, most all modern Samsung smartphones are pretty much entirely made out of polycarbonate. Thankfully, Samsung finally listened, and, after announcing the premium-looking and built Galaxy Alpha, is now extending that same strategy of gracing its high-profile devices with metal to the Note line.

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That's right, the Note 4 is the first of its name to sport metal in its body, and the well-regarded material is seen with the phablet's frame. Also different is the Note 4's overall shape, which is now getting dangerously close to an actual rectangle, and that will inevitably put off some. Lastly, alike to the Note 3, the Note 4 will also have a faux-leather back, though the pattern has been changed a little, and no longer features the fake stitching at the end.

In terms of color options, the palette includes Charcoal Black, Frost White, Bronze Gold, and Blossom Pink.

The S-Pen, better than ever

Samsung has also spent time and effort working on improvements for what it calls “the iconic S-Pen”. Like it or not, there's no denying that the Note series have become synonymous with the digital pen.

Onto the specifics, perhaps the most welcome one is the claimed improvement in the Note 4's display sensitivity, which allows it to better understand input when writing. The company claims that jotting down notes on the phablet will feel more like doing the same thing with a standard pen than ever before.

The S-Pen will now also work a bit alike to your computer mouse. For example, if you go into the Note 4's gallery, you'll be able to select multiple photos by clicking and dragging over an area. Samsung has also improved its S-Note app, so now you can snap a picture with your camera and edit it afterward, even if the picture you snapped is titled (S-Note automatically rotates it).

AMOLED like you've never seen it before

Perhaps the number one reason people buy into the Note line in the first place are the large, phablet-y displays. With the Note 4, however, Samsung is saying enough is enough and is putting an end to the series' traditional screen size inflation over the year. Said otherwise, the Note 4 will stick to the 5.7-inch AMOLED screen of its predecessor, but improve in one notable aspect: pixel density.

That's right -- the rumors were right. Samsung's new phablet will sport a display with a super-crisp, 1440 x 2560 pixel resolution (Quad HD or QHD), which works out to the very impressive 515 pixels per inch for a super-detailed image. Unfortunately, at least at this point in time, so many pixels are more trouble than it's worth. Essentially, you're sacrificing battery life as the processor has to work harder to push so much information constantly. Samsung, however, disagrees, and claims that the 3220 mAh battery in the Galaxy Note 4 will actually provide the phablet with an even longer battery life compared with the Note 3 thanks to component efficiency improvements across the board.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 is finally ready for action, but so is the octa-core Exynos 5433

While the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 is already commercially-available in some regions (South Korea), it's international debut hasn't yet taken place. That changes today, or, well, as soon as the Note 4 hits the market. What's more, a second version of the Note 4, headed for some markets, will have the company's home-grown, Exynos 5433 chip.

Starting with the Snapdragon 805, the quad-core chip is clocked at 2.7GHz, and is all about pushing high resolution devices. Helpful with that is the new Adreno 420 GPU, which not only introduces a non-trivial performance boost over Adreno 330, but also allows for a higher-end graphics content to be rendered by the unit. The new silicon is also capable of category 6 LTE speeds, which, in theory, can reach the whopping 300 Mbps. That's more bandwidth than you can hope to get from your carrier.

As for the Exynos 5433, the chip is of the octa-core flavor and utilizes four Cortex A7 cores running at the efficient 1.3GHz, and four potent Cortex A15 cores running at up to 1.9GHz in an ARM big.LITTLE configuration, meaning that loads are transferred between the two clusters, depending on the lightness (or heaviness) of the task. If maximum power is required, the two clusters work together for superior speed.

Lest we forget, Samsung has also fitted 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM inside the Note 4, which, even today, is more than enough for a smartphone.

The same awesome camera from the Galaxy S5, but better

As expected, the Note 4 packs a 16-megapixel sensor, very likely nearly identical to the one inside the Galaxy S5, but better. That last part can be almost entirely attributed to the inclusion of an Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) gizmo, which the company calls Smart OIS. The 'smart' part is due to the fact that the camera combines both Optical and Digital stabilization to lower processing time. For those of you who aren't aware, OIS is very for video capture (compensates for hand shake), and is also useful for stills, as it allows the camera to snap photos at higher shutter speed without having to worry too much about blur. That's great to have when doing night shots.

Looking at the front, Samsung has included a 3.7-megapixel selfie camera with very wide, f/1.9 lens. Since this is the selfie age and all, the front snapper comes with a few tricks up its sleeve – like the ability to take a photo by just putting your finger on top of the rear camera's lens and then removing it to snap, or, the addition of selfie panoramas.

Sensors, monitors, the whole shebang!

Like the Galaxy S5, the Note 4 is also equipped with a fingerprint scanner that Samsung claims has been improved over the implementation found in the former. That's some great news, seeing as we generally disliked having to depend on its mercy when using it on the GS5. On a similar note, the heart rate monitor that debuted with the S5 is also present here, though we're not sure why that is. After all, a free app off the Play Store has, in our experience, been a pretty solid alternative. 

What's new with the Note 4, however, is the inclusion of the oft-rumored, and completely novel UV sensor. What's more, certain markets will apparently also see a model with an SpO2 sensor that can measure the oxygen saturation in your blood. Right now, we don't know exactly how that one will work, as you'll likely need external accessories to do that, and Samsung was completely mum about it during its presentation.

Price and release date

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is headed for an October release, and the typical carrier $299 price tag with a 2-year commitment is quite likely, at least judging from the way the company priced the Note 3. As for pricing off contract, the Note 4 will probably cost you about $750 stateside.

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