Phone

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Review (+Bonus Material: My Purchase Saga!)

This review article is made possible by purchasing the phone. No review units were provided. So let me start by sharing my purchase drama before going into the review proper.


Prelude (Purchase Saga)

The purchase of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has been an adventure itself. It all started well with a successful register of interest with StarHub, next came the actual booking which also took place without a hitch. But the challenge came when collecting the phone. I was informed at the shop concierge that the wait would be at least 1.5 hours, so the natural thing for me to do was to go for lunch. When I returned to the shop 30 minutes later, I was shocked that I have missed my queue number by a mile. I went to the concierge who offered a priority queue number. This time, I waited at the shop without moving my butt. Sadly, the queue refused to move and I had to rush back to office for meeting. As I was approaching the car park, I received noticed that the meeting was cancelled. I dashed back to the shop hoping that my number is not missed. Alas, I missed by ONE. I went to the counter and asked if I could be served next, but he told me to get another priority queue number. Well, well. I ain’t gonna wait for another half an hour. I left the shop empty handed.

Under usual circumstances, I would not have rushed to buy a brand new phone, but I had to give wifey her belated birthday gift and our wedding anniversary. So I bit the bullet and on the following day, went to the Samsung Experience Corner at Challenger Funan to get it. Happy like a bird, I presented her the surprise in the evening. Mission accomplished.

When she finally transferred all her data to the new phone and started using it on the first day in office, she told me the phone was not working properly. She couldn’t receive calls (other party got through with a ring tone but there was no incoming on the Note 4), nor could she make a voice call (the call got through but there was no sound, neither could other party hear her). I gave myself another day to monitor the situation, since I assume it could be some network issue. But the issue persisted, even when SIM cards were swapped. On Day 4, I told her to pass me the phone to try out myself. I too faced this intermittent problem.

Devastated, I knew there were only 2 outcomes: either go back to the shop and hope they accept an exchange, or head to Samsung Service Centre where they would neither have stocks to exchange nor have the skill set to perform any repair for at least a few weeks. I reached out to all my Samsung contacts and I was fortunate to hear that the Samsung Experience Corner at Funan Challenger would accept my case for an exchange. Positive customer experience!

But looking at the bright side, if not for this saga, I would not have the opportunity to test out the Note 4, since it would have been possessed by wifey (lol).

OK, end of rant.

The Review

It’s been a long time since I reviewed a Samsung smartphone. My last review was the Note 3 a year back, and I did not review the Galaxy S4 or S5. Looking back, I have been closely following the evolution of the Galaxy Note series, from its first incarnation to its current fourth refresh.

So, what are the features on the new Samsung Galaxy Note 4 worth clamouring for, compared to the 13-month-old Note 3?

  • Design: Love it or hate it, the metal sides may feel literally edgy, but I love the positions of the power and volume buttons. They are right where my fingers should be when holding the Note 4. They have the right size and protusion for ease of access. At the back of the Note 4, you will notice a lot more subtle contours to give the phone some character.

  • 2.7GHz quad-core: it’s the fastest processor in a smartphone – at least for now. Theoretically, it will power the Note 4 to be smoother when handling multi-windows.

  • 4G+: it’s delivers fast 300Mbps data speed. I have to warn you, though, the network speed is so fast, that you could use up you whatever GB of free data within hours. Scary.

  • QHD display: LG G3 has it first, and Note 4 now has it in their signature Super AMOLED. I wouldn’t notice any major difference though, I’m perfectly satisfied with FHD. Nevertheless, no harm getting a display with even smaller pixel density. I do notice that there is colour tone shift effect when viewing at different angles.

  • 16MP rear camera: I think it looks fabulous. Did a test shot of my desktop underneath my desk and I’m impressed with the details despite in a low light situation. On top of that, the camera has optical image stabilisation and it really helps in capturing images and videos that are less jerky.

Top: Full image. Bottom: 100% crop at top left corner.
  • 3.7MP front camera: Front cameras are getting a lot more attention these days, so it’s great to have a higher MP front camera module. Samsung ups the ante with the ability to capture panorama selfies termed as “Wide Selfies”. But the front camera quality pales in comparison with the rear camera, and I feel the HTC One (M8) front camera still beats the Note 4.

  • Fast charging: This is another smartphone feature that will catch on with the mobile industry. You can charge the Note 4 by 50% in 30 minutes. How’s that for time saving.

  • Improved S Pen: The S Pen is the least used hardware to my wife and myself. Nevertheless, stylus lovers will go gaga over the Note 4. It now supports 2048 pressure levels, it works more like a mouse (supporting multi-selects), and lets you collect text and content easily. So, even if you are not interested in doodling, the S Pen offers improved navigation features that everyone should use more often. It certainly beats using your stubby finger for more accurate on-screen selects.

  • Improved S Health: The improved S Health is a lot more integrated into the Note 4, letting you track your health in the background. It reminds you to take a walk when it detects you have been idle, the heart rate monitor allows you to measure your heart rate easily. It even has a UV detector! The next Galaxy Note should incorporate a PSI detector, serious!

  • Fingerprint Sensor: First introduced in Galaxy S5, this feature lets you unlock your phone with a quick swipe off the home button. This is a lot more secure than the on-screen security method which is easily visible and remembered. The sensor can also be used for secured online transactions like PayPal.

  • Settings -> Quick Settings Icons: Pick your favourite settings to appear as large icons at the top of the settings page. Now I don’t have to scroll through the entire settings list to access the items I frequently use.

  • Flipboard Briefing home screen: I’m not a fan of home screen embedded news feeds, but the Flipboard Briefing UI is just smooth and enticing.

The Note 4 may have loads of improvements, but one thing that they did not change is… their user interface! I have grown to dislike the interface so much so that I feel I am using a child’s phone. The icons and text are just too big and bright for my liking, the screen is so big but Samsung still only allows 4×4 icons on their home screen.

The Note 4 is less rugged than Note 3, especially the metal side frames with matt white coat which is prone to scratches. Unlike the predecessor, protective case is a must to keep the Note 4 in great condition.

Conclusion

So, is the Note 4 a must-buy? It really depends on how much you desire the new features. For the level-headed folks, the Note 3 is still a good-spec device that is not to be written off for at least another 18 months.

As much as I disliked the UI, the Note 4 is still an amazing piece of technology, and is still the only smartphone with a professional-grade pen stylus. With so much features packed in it, there is bound to be something that you will like about it.

Specs (SM-N910G)

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 Quad-core 2.7GHz
  • Operating System: Android Kit Kat 4.4.4
  • Network:
    • 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)
  • Memory: 3GB RAM + 32GB Internal
  • Display: 5.7″ 1440×2560 (QHD) Super AMOLED
  • Sensor: Gesture, Accelerometer, Geo-magnetic, Gyroscope, RGB ambient light, Proximity, Barometer, Hall Sensor, Finger Scanner, UV, HRM
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2X2 MIMO), Download Booster, NFC, Bluetooth® v4.1 (BLE),ANT+, USB2.0, MHL 3.0, IR LED (Remote Control)
  • Cameras: 
    • Front Camera 3.7MP + F1.9/ Selfie (90º), Wide selfie mode (120º). 
    • Rear Camera 16M+ Smart OIS/ Fast AF, Live HDR(Rich Tone)
  • SIM Type: Micro-SIM
  • Battery: 3220mAh
  • Dimension: 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm
  • Weight: 176g

Reviewed by Chester Tan
Rating: 4.5 of 5

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