Samsung Galaxy Note 4; the king of phablets retains the throne

Samsung Galaxy Note 4; the king of phablets retains the throne

I was one of those who jumped into the phablet bandwagon when the first Samsung Galaxy Note was introduced three years ago. I then made a switch to a smaller phone because I needed something more portable.

But now that we have smart watches that work as a second screen to our smartphones, a phablet doesn't seem like a terrible idea anymore.

Looking at the current crop of phablets, it's interesting to see how far they've come from what was once a very niche category; almost every flagship today are phablets.

But if there's one phone company that does it right, its Samsung.

While others simply shove monstrous versions of their flagship devices to consumers, Samsung gives its customers a highly compelling large phone experience with its Galaxy Note series.

When I want to carry a large-sized phone, I expect it to really take full advantage of its size to make up for diminished portability (one-hand use).

And that's exactly what the new Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has done to entice me to reconsider coming back to phablets.

After spending hours at a Samsung Experience Store overseas testing out a Galaxy Note 4 recently, I have to say I've never had this much fun with a Samsung phone since my last Galaxy Note 1.

Since I've ditched my last Galaxy a couple of years back, I've lost my faith in the Korean company for clogging their devices with excessive bloatware and gimmicks. I've also grown tired of the same cheap plasticky designs across its entire line and how they're so hung up on bashing Apple.

The Note 4 restored my faith on Samsung with its improved design quality. Gone is the metal-look plastic trim of the past, replaced with a real aluminium metal trim with chamfered edges which gives the Note 4 a more premium feel.

The entire back is still plastic but has a soft leather-effect texture to it, minus the ugly fake stitching of last year's Note 3.

As I removed the back cover, I realised how much I've missed the ability to access a microSD card slot and replace the battery on my smartphone, something Samsung still stands on for years when all the rest of the competition are going the minimalist Apple route.

Samsung's 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display truly shines in the Note 4, now packing a much higher resolution than its predecessor. The Quad-HD screen is stunning to look at. Texts and images are pin sharp.

Watching video on the Note 4 is jaw-droppingly good thanks to the display's vivid colour reproduction; blacks look gorgeously deep and white looks exceptionally white.

Overall, the Note 4 is definitely the better designed Galaxy phone to ever come out from Samsung this year.

When it comes to software, I'm a purist at heart. I'm never a fan of the TouchWiz user interface and its reputation for bloat clutter, but Samsung has definitely listened to its customers by cutting down the unnecessary features on its latest version. So far, I'm liking the new, simpler TouchWiz.

Somehow, I feel that TouchWiz feels more right at home on the Note series than on the other galaxy phones, mainly because of how its tailored to work wonderfully on a larger screen.

Features such as the ability to view multiple apps on the same screen and taking notes on the S-Pen truly gives users a great phablet experience, as opposed to just supersizing the display.

Speaking of the S-Pen, the Note 4 is still the king with the mighty stylus. My, how much this killer feature has improved from the first Galaxy Note. Taking the S-Pen out of its compartment for a spin, I was amazed by how precise the writing and sketching experience is on the Note 4.

Samsung gave the S-Pen a boost in pressure sensitivity up to 2048 dbs, which gives users the same kind of control and sensitivity as from a Wacom stylus. Writing feels more fluid, light strokes give me exactly that, just like writing on a real notepad.

All the good stuff found on the Note 3 that makes the S-Pen so enjoyable to use are back on the Note 4: Action Memo opens up a small notepad page for quick note taking, Screen Write takes a screenshot of whatever is on the screen and allow you to doodle on it, Smart Select quickly crops out anything displayed on the screen into a scrapbook, and Image Clip allows the user to quickly draw and crop around an item.

With this improved technology and abundance of S-Pen apps, the stylus becomes a highly dispensable tool and not just an afterthought.

Another highlight of the Note 4 is the camera. The Note 4 sits up high with the best camera phones in the market.

Images produced by the 16-megapixel rear camera look fantastic; they're constantly sharp and detailed, colours look bright and vivid, and I absolutely love the 'bokeh' effect when shooting closeups.

The built-in optical image stabilisation does a great job in reducing blur and movement when shooting in low light.

Meanwhile, the front-facing camera has something that will really please the selfie addicts, the lens is wider, and you can do a panorama selfie if you have a big group with you. Goodbye monopods.

The Note 4 is also an excellent video camera, capable of shooting in 4K resolution.

Performance-wise, the Note 4 blazes with the top-of-the-range Snapdragon 805 processor while its large 3220mAh battery and fast charging feature gets you through the day without turning the phone into a paper weight.

The Note 4 is a standout compared to the other Galaxy phones on offer. I can see Samsung is really trying to bounce back after the lacklustre two years, and the Note 4 has certainly won my heart again.

This is definitely a step in the right direction for the South Korean firm. The new aluminium metal trim design and bloatware reduction are a welcome change.

The smartphone competition is getting tougher for Samsung, with phones coming from China such as Xiaomi, Oppo, Huawei and ZTE all offering high quality phones at much affordable prices, Samsung must stop releasing too many phones and instead shift its focus on making its flagship phones even better.

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