Samsung wasn’t the first handset vendor to launch a smartphone with an oversized display, but there’s no question that Samsung single-handedly popularized the new “phablet” category. The company laughed in the face of neighsayers — myself included — and proved that consumers were indeed looking for phones with supersized screens. In fact, devices that would have been considered phablets back when Samsung helped pioneer the category are now the norm, and top rival Apple has been forced to finally increase the display size on its iPhone lineup.
Now, the king of phablets is back with the fourth version of its groundbreaking Galaxy Note lineup, the Galaxy Note 4.
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Samsung on Wednesday finally unveiled the smartphone Android fans have been dying to see for the past few months. The good news is it’s everything the rumors suggested it would be — a beastly smartphone with cutting-edge specs and Samsung’s first ever quad HD display.
In fact, there really aren’t any surprises at all.
The new Galaxy Note 4 features what are hands down the most impressive specs we’ve ever seen on paper. The phone includes a quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor, 3GB of RAM, a fingerprint scanner, a heart rate monitor, a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera with OIS and 8x digital zoom, a wide-angle front-facing camera, up to 64GB of internal storage, microSDXC support and Android KitKat. The phone also includes a rapid-charge feature that charges it from 0% to 50% in just 30 minutes.
These monstrous internals translate into a user experience that is fantastic. Operation is a smooth as you would expect from a quad-core beast like this, and I couldn’t trip it up at all during my brief time with it.
And then there’s the display.
I won’t mince words: The quad HD display on Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 4 is the most gorgeous smartphone screen I have ever seen.
Samsung’s 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display features 1,440 x 2,560-pixel resolution, also known as “quad HD” or “2K resolution.” It sports a Retina-busting pixel density of 518 pixels per inch and colors on the screen are simply brilliant. No other smartphone display in the world is as vivid as the one on Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 4.
Beneath the display, the overall TouchWiz experience remains largely unchanged on the Note 4. There are some solid enhancements, especially surrounding S Pen functionality, but for the most part the phone offers what we’ve seen on Note-series devices before it.
Finally, in terms of fit and finish, the new metal frame surrounding the Note 4 is a nice touch that Samsung proudly touts, but the back of the phone is the same plasticky pleather we’ve seen before on recent Samsung devices. This isn’t a bad thing for many users, but the phone definitely doesn’t feel as premium as an iPhone or the HTC One (M8), of course.
The bad news for Samsung fans hoping for a huge upgrade over the Note 3 is that the new Galaxy Note 4 is to the Note line what the Galaxy S5 was to the Galaxy S line. It’s not a huge, innovative step forward. Instead, it’s mostly an iterative upgrade that focuses on refining a user experience that was largely already in place.
2014 will seemingly be the first year Apple enters the phablet segment and the company will clearly have its work cut out for it. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 is a great device with monstrous specs, a fantastic feature set and the most gorgeous display that has ever existed on a smartphone. TouchWiz gets a bit complicated and iOS’s simplicity may give the iPhone phablet an edge in that area, but the overall experience afforded by the Note 4 will be tough to beat.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 will launch soon on each of the four major nationwide U.S. wireless carriers, with pricing and exact release timing to be announced in the coming weeks.