After a short delay in dispatch dates, my greatly anticipated Samsung Note 4 has arrived.
The first thing to "Note" about it is that its big. Very big. But weirdly, not that big that it feels unwieldy or cumbersome to use. The clever folk at Samsung seem to have got the balance just right. I'm a fairly normal sized man - 6'0" in socks and I guess normal sized hands. It feels natural in my hands although I'd worry slightly that it would feel overly large in the hands of someone significantly smaller.
As an existing Galaxy S4 user I was pleasantly surprised by the departure from plastic to the new metal rimmed design. It feels solid and well made. A definite improvement to my mind.
I've always been very keen on the idea of a stylus but in the past, very disappointed by the practicality of them. The stylus on this unit slides out from its enclosure on the bottom of the phone and clicks into place securely and the action is slick to say the least. More about the functionality later, but from a design point of view my only complaint could be that the action button is extremely thin and flush to the stylus - I occasionally have trouble locating it with my fat fingers.
One of the stand out features of the Note 4 is it's 5.7 inch screen. This is the same size as it's predecessor the Note 3 - but it's not the same by any means. This new model sports a Samsung Super Amoled screen with QHD display, providing 515ppi pixel density through a 2,560 x 1,440 resolution. If like me, you have difficulty understand exactly what all that means in practise, I can tell you this; The screen is simply stunning, crisp, bright and as good as anything on the market - including the much vaunted LG G3.
The Samsung Note 4 is built on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor supported by 3GB Ram. Having had the unit for a few days now I can honestly report no instances of lag and indeed I have been very impressed with the speed of response - no frustrations to report at all. This kind of performance though is often at the expense of battery life, however on this too I can report no issues at all. Like many people, all I need from a phone is for it to get me from taking it off one overnight charge to plugging it in ready for the next one. On the Note 4 the 3220mAh battery has not dipped below 40% during a days use, so I would be reasonably confident that even the heaviest of users would find it more than adequate. Should you manage to run this battery out however, the unit comes with a new super fast charger which promises 50% charge in only 30 minutes - that is enough to plug in your dead phone while you grab a Starbucks and leave the cafe half charged. Not bad at all.
Here's where the Samsung Note 4 really comes into its own. The stylus in simply brilliant. As mentioned earlier, the stylus storage solution is as slick as you'd like. Slipping the stylus out and hovering over the screen, a tap on the action button brings up a menu of four really great features.
The first of these menu options is to create an action memo. Action memos have been around in previous incarnations, however the note 4 adds the ability to short-cut them onto one of your home screens - a really handy feature for those people who are avid note takers and for myself? Shopping lists.
The second menu option is quite frankly a stroke of genius. The smart select does two things, firstly it captures and image of anything on screen which you draw around ready for sharing or saving - so cropping part of a website out to send to someone - and secondly it extracts all of the textual content ready for re-use. This is a really clever feature and is a great addition for scrapbook-ing and collaborative efforts.
The third option is something I have struggled to find the use of - image clipping. Essentially you can freehand draw around any image or part of a screen and clip it to your scrap book. Personally my hand is not steady enough to make this really useful and I would tend towards the smart select to allow the Note 4 to define the boundaries for me.
The final option on this quick menu is the Screen write. Now this is seriously cool. Screen write basically takes a screenshot of the Note 4 screen and allows you to write your own notes onto it before saving or sharing it - incredibly handy for collaborative efforts. Ever been trying to explain to someone which button to click on a confusing website? Now its, easy, simply Screen write and draw a big red circle round the button and send it via your favourite messaging app. The brains behind this one need a metaphorical pat on the back for this.
Other Interesting Features
One of the changes for Galaxy S series users is the locations of buttons. These take a little getting used to. The bottom left key, which used to be for options, now only brings up options if you hold it. The default tap behaviour is now to bring up the window cascade to allow you to multi-window or shut down applications. At first I was somewhat perplexed about this choice, however, having used the phone for a few days I find this very useful. Shutting down apps becomes a regular part of use and a single tap rather than holding the home button (as I was used to on the S4) makes the process a lot simpler.
Other than experimenting with the functionality, I cannot think of a single instance on the Galaxy S4 where I used Multi-window. The screen was borderline large enough, but it was simply too small to make it a comfortable experience. The Note 4 does not suffer from this. Two enhancements to the functionality also make this a seriously useful tool; the ability to access it from the single tap bottom left key and the ability to drag around windows and resize them with the high accuracy of the stylus. Already after just a few days I have used multi-window several times - often keeping a messaging app conversation open in a third of the screen whilst browsing or emailing on the larger part. It feels natural and not cramped - tie this functionality up with the cool features of the stylus and the Note 4 really comes into it's own as a productivity tool.
Again, on the S4, this was a feature I simply didn't use. I use Evernote as my primary note taking app both on-line and on the S4 - so why would I add an extra component to the process? With the Stylus / handwriting functionality on the Note 4 it all makes sense. S Note has several really useful features. The handwriting memos are much nicer than the limited Evernote functionality, but when you add into the the photo memo and word recognition it trumps Evernote on the portable device. The fact that it also syncs with my Evernote account and I can drag and drop the notes around on-line when I'm at my laptop is the deal-sealer. If it was a straight choice between the two, I'd probably stick with what I know, however the clever folk at Samsung have obviously recognised this, so now I can use S Note to compliment my Evernote rather than try to replace it.
S View Cover
the S View cover was a separate purchase, clocking in at around £40. Worth every penny. On the surface the sView gives you a very sleek protective cover which replaces the supplied back of the phone and has a really comfortable and quality feeling soft plastic finish to it. The window by default displays the time, date, weather, sHealth pedometer steps and short-cut to the camera. So pretty much the same as sView cases which I used to have on my S4. The major difference is the "..." more button which brings up a second screen.
The second screen has Favourite Contacts / Torch / Settings / Heart rate. The settings option allows you to customise the sView display, choosing between wallpapers and some quite funky clock faces.
Well no surprises here really. The verdict on this one is that it's an exceptional device, fast, sleek and some extremely well thought out and useful features. The only downside I can see so far is it's size (which is also a major upside) - this may not be the device for some of the more petite people on the planet.