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Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review: An utterly fabulous phablet

It may literally be the largest phone launch of the season, thanks to its size, but the Samsung Note 4 is also hugely impressive.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has plenty of improvements from the Note 3, including an easier to use stylus pen. SeongJoon Cho / Bloomberg
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has plenty of improvements from the Note 3, including an easier to use stylus pen. SeongJoon Cho / Bloomberg
Forget the iPhone 6, the Sony Xperia Z3, the Blackberry Passport and the LG G3. Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 is the biggest phone launch of the season, in terms of size at least.

The Note 4 is the latest version of Samsung's hugely popular "phablet" range, for those who want a phone and a tablet in one package. While sporting the same 5.7 inch display as its predecessor the Note 3, Samsung has improved the design quality and added a number of bells and whistles for the Note 4, making a great handset even better.

Set for release in the UAE this month, the most noticeable update is the Super Amoled display, already in place on the Galaxy S5 and the Galaxy Tab S. While one could argue that LG's G3 may have more natural looking colours, the Note 4's display is a true stunner, with wonderfully rich hues and sharp definition, making it a great tablet alternative for watching movies on a flight or on the treadmill.

Samsung has listened to its users and upgraded the design quality of the Note 4, which feels much less plasticky and cheap than its predecessor, with a metallic trim and a faux-leather back that sits comfortably in the hand.

Other new features include a fingerprint sensor on the home button, enabling one touch unlocking and PayPal authorisation, and a heart rate monitor, useful for the occasional pulse check, but impractical for serious training.

But aside from the new display, the Note 4's biggest innovation is its S Pen, the first stylus I've used that actually feels like a pen on paper, as opposed to a piece of plastic on glass. It's still a niche application, but a much more intuitive and usable one, with the S Pen lending itself to navigating spreadsheets and other precise tasks.

Despite the trend towards ever larger screens, the Note 4 is not going to be for everyone, particularly for those with smaller hands as one-handed operation will be nigh on impossible. But if you're looking for a big, bright screen and tablet functionality in a phone, it should be right at the top of your list.

Q&A

The Samsung Galaxy Note. Isn't that the oversized phone that thinks it's a tablet?

Well, not really. At 5.7 inches, it's pretty big, but not that much bigger than a standard smartphone like the Xperia Z3 (5.2 inches), and just 0.2 inches larger than the LG G3 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Really? Has the Note been getting smaller?

Au contraire, everything else has been getting bigger, as the Note range has persuaded a lot of customers (and a lot of manufacturers) that "oversized" phones are actually quite a good thing after all. The Note 3, launched last year, sold 10 million unites in two months.

How much does it retail for?

The Note 4 will sell for Dh2,799. While that's more than the starting price for the LG G3 (Dh2,299) and Blackberry Passport (Dh2,699), it's cheaper than the Sony Xperia Z3 and iPhone 6 (Dh2,999)

Interesting. What else do I get for my money?

There's a generous 32GB of storage built in, plus a Micro SD card slot for more if you need it. There's a 16 MP camera with a speedy shutter, plus a 3.7 MP secondary camera for high quality selfies. Talking of which, there's even a feature called Wide selfie, which allows for a more panoramic view of your surroundings.

All sounds good. What about battery life?

Fully charged, the phone comfortably lasted a day on normal usage. What's more, the supplied plug will charge the battery 50 per cent in only half an hour.

jeverington@thenational.ae

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Updated: October 20, 2014 04:00 AM

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