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Product Listing

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 4G+: More than big

By Sidney Wong - 7 Oct 2014
Launch SRP: S$1088

Benchmark Performance, Imaging and Conclusion

Performance Benchmarks

The Note 4 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 quad-core 2.7GHz processor and 3GB RAM, which makes it the most powerful Android smartphone (on paper at least) in the market. The Galaxy S5 4G+ comes close with the same chipset, but at a lower clock speed of 2.5GHz and 2GB RAM. There is another variant of the Note 4 powered by the Exynos 5433 chipset, but it is not sold in Singapore.

With this much processing prowess, the Note 4 should run circles around the competition in terms of benchmark performance. For this review, we compare the Note 4 against the Note 3, LG G3, Oppo Find 7, and Apple iPhone 6 Plus. Let's take a look at the benchmarks right after this comparison table: -

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs the Competition
  Samsung Galaxy Note 4 4G+ Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (32GB) LG G3 Oppo Find 7 Apple iPhone 6 Plus
  Samsung Galaxy Note 4 4G+ Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (32GB) LG G3 Oppo Find 7 Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Launch SRP
  • From S$1088
  • From S$1048
  • From S$868
  • From S$719
  • From S$1148
Operating system
  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat
  • ColorOS based on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • iOS 8
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 quad-core 2.7GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.3GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core up to 2.5GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core 2.5GHz
  • Apple A8 64-bit dual-core 1.4GHz with M8 motion coprocessor
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
  • 2GB/3GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
  • 1GB RAM
Display
  • 5.7-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (518 ppi) / Super AMOLED
  • 5.7-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / Super AMOLED
  • 5.5-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (538 ppi) / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels / IPS
  • 5.5-inch Retina HD / 1,920 x 1,080 (401 ppi) / IPS
Camera
  • Rear: 16-megapixel with Smart OIS and LED flash
  • Front: 3.7-megapixel with f/1.9
  • Rear: 13-megapixel with BSI sensor, autofocus and LED flash
  • Front: 2-megapixel with BSI sensor
  • Rear: 13-megapixel with optical image stabilization plus and laser autofocus
  • Front: 2.1-megapixel
  • Rear: 13-megapixel with 6P lens, F2.0 and stacked CMOS sensor
  • Front: 5-megapixel with 5P lens and F2.0
  • Rear: 8-megapixel iSight camera with autofocus, dual warm/cool LED flashes and optical image stabilization
  • Front: 2.2-megapixels FaceTime HD camera
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE, Bluetooth 4.1, VHT80, MIMO (2x2), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, Screen Mirroring
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/nac (HT80), GPS/GLONASS, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 (LE), IR LED, MHL 2.0
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth Smart Ready (Apt-X), NFC, A-GPS/Glonass
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, USB OTG, GPS, GLONASS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n) (802.11n: 2.4 and 5 GHz), 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS & GLONASS, Lightning connector, 3.5mm headphone jack
Storage Type
  • 32GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 128GB
  • 32GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 64GB
  • 16/32GB internal storage
  • microSD expansion up to 128GB
  • 32GB internal storage
  • microSD expansion up to 128GB
  • 16 / 64 / 128GB internal storage
Battery
  • 3,220mAh
  • 3,200mAh
  • 3,000mAh
  • 3,000mAh
  • 2915mAh
Dimensions
  • 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5mm
  • 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm
  • 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm
  • 152.6 x 75 x 9.2mm
  • 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1mm
Weight
  • 176g
  • 168g
  • 149g
  • 173g
  • 172g
 

 

Quadrant Results

Quadrant evaluates a device's CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performance. The Note 4 fared 11% better than the Note 3 and Find 7 in the Quadrant benchmark, while pulling a 47% lead over the G3. 

 

 

3DMark (2013)

Originally developed as a PC gaming benchmarking tool, 3DMark now supports multiple platforms including Android. The Ice Storm benchmark is designed for smartphones, mobile devices and ARM architecture computers.

For an in-depth understanding of 3DMark for Android, do head over to our article, "3DMark - Android Device GPU Performance Review." In a nutshell, it is an OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark test that uses fixed off-screen rendering to run two graphics tests designed to stress the GPU performance of your device and a physics test to stress its CPU performance. The benchmark consists of three test portfolios:- Standard (720p resolution rendering), Extreme (1080p resolution rendering with higher quality textures and post-processing effects) and Unlimited (disabled v-sync, display scaling and other OS factors that make it ideal for chipset comparison).

Since all the recent flagship smartphones max out the scores for the Standard and Extreme tests, we will only be looking at the scores for Ice Storm Unlimited run. The Note 4 clinched the top spot in the benchmark with a score of 20,821, which is a healthy lead over the G3, Find 7 and the iPhone 6 Plus.

 

 

SunSpider Javascript

SunSpider Javascript helps measure the browsing performance of a device when processing Javascript. It not only takes into consideration the underlying hardware performance, but also assesses how optimized a particular platform is at delivering a high-speed web browsing experience. 

 

Contrary to expectations that the Note 4 could fare as well or even better than the Galaxy S5, it only managed a middling performance in the SunSpider Javascript benchmark. The iPhone 6 Plus rules the roost here and it shows how well optimized Apple's platform is when compared to Android. Nevertheless, with the kind of raw power that the Note 4 has, we did not encounter any slowdowns when browsing the internet with the device.

Number crunching aside, the user experience on the Note 4 is great. While we encountered occasional stutters during multitasking, they were not significant enough to affect the day-to-day operation and experience. Overall, we are quite pleased with the performance of the Note 4.

 

Battery Performance

Our standard battery test for mobile phones includes the following parameters:

  • Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

The Note 4 lasted a whopping 14 hours and 48 minutes in our battery test, which is by far the best battery performance in our records of any phone, ever. The previous record holder was the Motorola Razr Maxx with an up-time of 864 minutes - and that was all the way back in 2012. Compared to its QHD counterparts (the LG G3 and Oppo Find 7), the Note 4 lasted at least two times longer. 

Its record breaking battery mileage can be attributed to its lower power consumption of just 0.84 watts, which is in turn attributed to Samsung's extremely efficient AMOLED display. Since the other phones utilize LCD panels, their power consumption in use were much higher.

 

Portability

We measure the portability of a device by calculating its battery life to (weight x volume) ratio. Despite the Note 4 being the heaviest of the lot, it managed to pull ahead of the pack and edged out the Note 3 in the Portability Index. Its excellent battery mileage more than made up for its heft and form factor.

 

 

Real World Usage Performance

Benchmarking only provides a theoretical view of a performance assessment though. For a more realistic understanding on how the Note 4 fared under real world usage conditions, here are some screenshots of usage and history graphs of our time with the phone.

As seen from the graphs above, our Note 4 lasted about 30 hours (more than a day) before the battery levels dropped to 10%. Screen-on time is close to five hours. Some notes:

  • The device logged onto the 3G network because the SIM card used does not support 4G LTE.
  • The device logged onto Wi-Fi connections from time to time.
  • Our typical usage scenarios include making voice calls, texting via WhatsApp, capturing photos and sharing them on social networking sites, the occasional web browsing via Pulse News Reader and emailing.

Do note that battery mileage varies depending on your usage patterns. Under normal usage conditions, the rear of the Note 4 did not feel warm. It only started to heat up when we ran benchmarks continuously.

To put its performance into context, the Note 3 lasted about 27 hours (3 hours less) and screen-on time is on-par. It's quite remarkable for Samsung further improve on battery life for the Note 4 considering that it has only a minor bump in battery capacity (3,220mAh from 3,200mAh), but has to power a higher resolution display and processor. When compared to its rivals, the Note 4 also fared quite well; the G3 only managed 18 hours and 30 minutes before hitting 5% with screen-on time of less than three hours, while the Find 7 clocked 13 hours and 33 minutes and a screen-on time of slightly over two and a half hours. 

 

Fast Charging 

As smartphones today get more powerful and sport higher resolution displays, it is inevitable that power consumption will go up and the battery will drain faster. Besides fitting bigger batteries, phone makers are looking at other hardware solutions to mitigate the issue. 

For Samsung, the Note 4 comes with an adaptive fast charger (bundled in the retail box). In case you are wondering, the adaptive fast charging is dependent on the chipset and charger. Hence, you can use the Note 4's charger for other mobile devices, but you won't experience the same fast charging feature.

The company claims that the Note 4 can be recharged from 0% to 50% in just 30 minutes. We put it through two tests and in both, the Note 4 only managed to hit close to 40% - we got 34% on the first attempt and 39% on the second attempt - in half an hour. Subsequently, the Note 4's battery reached 70% within an hour. While this is a far cry from the Find 7's record of 82% in 37 minutes, it is still faster than most mobile chargers. We also noticed the rear of the Note 4 getting warm during the first hour of charging.

 

Camera Performance

Besides improving on the design and software aspects, Samsung has also made a significant improvement to the imaging capability of the Note 4. It is the first Samsung smartphone to feature optical image stabilization (dubbed Smart OIS).

There have been an increasing number of smartphones that come with OIS such as the HTC One (2013), high-end Nokia Lumia devices, the LG G3 and most recently, the iPhone 6 Plus. OIS helps take better, clearer images in low light conditions and smoother videos as it counters camera shake and increases the exposure time. Rounding off the OIS is a new 16-megapixel rear camera sensor with f/2.4 aperture and LED flash.

If you take a lot of selfies, you would be glad to know that the Note 4 has one of the better equipped front-facing cameras in the market; you get a 3.7-megapixel camera with f/1.9 aperture and a wide-selfie mode that is able to cover more with a 120-degree angle.

The camera interface on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is no different from that of the Galaxy S5. To access the different imaging tools, tap on Settings > Menu.

The image quality taken by the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is really good. There is hardly any image artifacts in the darker areas and details are sharp. Color reproduction is good too. Click to view the full resolution photo.

   

Conclusion

Is Samsung's leadership in the phablet market threatened by the arrival of the iPhone 6 Plus and other compelling Android alternatives such as the LG G3 and Oppo Find 7? From our experience with the Galaxy Note 4, we think that Samsung would be able to survive the current onslaught.

With more than three years of experience and development, the Note 4 continues to be in a league of its own thanks to its signature S Pen and suite of software features. While previous iterations of TouchWiz and S Pen-related features were gimmicky and often viewed as bloatware, the version on the Note 4 did not disappoint in aesthetics and actual performance.

We like its modernized, flattened outlook and navigation actually feels more fluid than ever on a Samsung device. We were also impressed by the different multitasking modes offered, particularly the ease in switching between full, split, pop up and icon views. The implementation of the side key panel deserves a special mention here as it made one-handed usage of the Note 4 much easier.

Samsung also made strides in the design and build quality of the Note 4. The use of metal may be long overdue, but definitely adds a more premium finish to the Note 4. The 5.7-inch QHD display is arguably one of the best mobile displays in the industry and the use of 2.5D curved glass helps to augment the user experience. 

As expected of every Samsung's flagship device, the Note 4 establishes itself as the most powerful Android smartphone in the market today. Apart from toppling benchmark after benchmark, the Note 4 also outclasses every other device on our list in battery performance. It is without a doubt the most well rounded of any phablet in the market (at the time of publishing) and we would easily recommend the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 to previous Note owners, as well as anyone comfortable with the Android camp and wants to have a big screen experience with the appropriate tools to maximize their device.

But how does it compare with the Apple iPhone 6 Plus?

Alas, if you are in the market for a premium phablet, we understand that it's hard to ignore Apple's own take, with the recently launched iPhone 6 Plus. OS preferences aside, we'll quickly run down key aspects between it and the Galaxy Note 4 to help you conclusively decide on your preferred premium phablet:- 

  • Design and build quality -  We feel most consumers will agree that the iPhone 6 Plus boasts a more premium build. Putting #bendgate issue aside, the iPhone 6 Plus easily trumps the Note 4 with its aluminium unibody chassis. The Note 4 may have a metal frame, but its faux leather might still win some points for some depending on the preferred appearance you wish to convey. After all, your attire, body language and what you use does indirectly communicate about you.
     
  • Display - The Note 4 gains the upper hand in both display size and resolution as the iPhone 6 Plus loses out in pixel count. However, do note that you would most likely be unable to tell the difference - apart from the slightly saturated display on the Note 4. Moreover, most apps/content are still not optimized for use with QHD displays.
     
  • Software features/interface - Both mobile platforms have their pros and cons. If simplicity is what you look for in a mobile platform, iOS 8 may be the one you need. Samsung's TouchWiz on the other hand, has everything but the kitchen sink. Plus, you have the S Pen related features that further make the Galaxy Note 4 a much more productive tool if you get into the habit of incorporating it into your daily use. Overall, we give the nod to the Galaxy Note 4 for making a phablet device more useful than anyone has ever done to-date.
     
  • Camera performance - Apple and Samsung clearly have differing views on imaging performance. You will not go wrong with either device, but we are leaning slightly over to the Apple's camp as the overall user experience is better.
     
  • Battery performance - There is without a doubt that the Note 4 has the best battery life among any large screen phone you're likely to come across today (or for that matter, any phone at all). While the real world usage performance of both phones are still up for debate since personal usage experience varies greatly, the convenience of switching out the battery on the Note 4 makes us give our vote this time to Samsung.
     
  • Usability - In all honesty, consumers should not expect to use phablets in the same manner as they do on smaller-sized devices. Nonetheless, we've seen some innovative solutions from both camps and we think that the Note 4 gives an overall better user experience for handling its large screen.
     
  • Price - Apple's products generally cost more and this is true for the iPhone 6 Plus. The Galaxy Note 4 is only available in one variant with 32GB built-in storage capacity that costs S$1,088 whereas the retail prices of the iPhone 6 Plus starts from S$1,148 for the 16GB model. If you are tired of playing into Apple's game of having to fork out extra for more built-in storage because it's not expandable, we reckon the microSD expansion option on the Galaxy Note 4 sounds like a better and more affordable deal.

    Practicality aside, we do have to make a mention of subtle intricacies that go into making the iPhone 6 Plus a more polished product from an appearance and handling point of view. The Apple product has a better build, finish and even perfects a lot of subtle design elements such as how the curved display edge meets the curved aluminum sides almost seamlessly. All of this builds into the overall experience and aura of the product which the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus command and thus the higher price point as well. As such, while Apple costs more, it's arguably justifiable depending on what you need and prefer.
9.0
  • Design 8.5
  • Features 9.5
  • User-Friendliness 8.5
  • Performance 9.5
  • Value 8
The Good
Excellent battery life
Gorgeous display
Great overall performance
Good usability features
The Bad
Faux leather back may not be to everybody's liking
Software features may be overwhelming for some