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Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review – King of the phablets

The LG G3 is no longer the only smartphone to have a 2,560×1,440 resolution screen. After months of wild speculation, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is finally here, packing more pixels than ever before into Samsung’s highly popular phablet.

With a massive pixel density of 515PPI (pixels-per-inch), the Note 4’s 5.7in screen is visibly more detailed than those on either the Galaxy S5or the iPhone 6 Plus, which have PPIs of 432 and 401 respectively. Text in particular was noticeably sharper and darker when we compared them side by side, making desktop sites much easier to read. Smaller body copy was still perfectly legible next to the larger headlines and we didn’t feel the need to zoom in quite so often.

Admittedly, the LG G3 still has the edge on paper, as its smaller 5.5in screen means the pixels are more tightly packed together, giving it a higher pixel density of 534PPI. However, when we looked at both phones together, the Note 4 was the clear winner, both in terms of picture quality and the overall crispness of the screen – more on that below.

GALAXY NOTE 4 DESIGN

In the hand, we still prefer the feel of the G3’s curved metallic finish to the Note 4’s flat, faux leather back, but there’s no denying the Note 4’s excellent build quality. Rather than take its design cues from the Galaxy S5, the Note 4 is essentially a giant Galaxy Alpha, borrowing the metal trim from its smaller cousin. It’s a massive improvement over the plastic phones from Samsung’s past, and a sign of things to come for future handsets, and helps make it feel much more rigid, without dramatically affecting the weight of the phone.

The Galaxy Note 3 used a USB3 port, which allowed quicker data transfers and quicker charging from an appropriately equipped PC or laptop, however it wasn’t popular apparently, as it looked kind of ugly. The Note 4 returns to a typical USB2 port, though there is support for Quick Charge 2.0 from the Snapdragon chipset. As we’ve come to expect from Samsung’s flagship phones, he Note 4 also comes with a fingerprint scanner built into the home button and an optical heart rate monitor on the back of the handset.

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It’s similar to the Alpha then, but not identical, as Samsung’s also added what it calls 2.5D glass to the front of the handset. This gives the front panel a slightly rounded edge, making it look a touch more stylish than the completely flat Alpha and catching the light around the sides, though we wouldn’t say it makes a significant difference to how the screen looks during everyday use.

GALAXY NOTE 4 DISPLAY

This is partly because both the Alpha and the Note 4 use one of Samsung’s Super AMOLED panels. These have always scored highly in our screen quality tests, and the Note 4 is no exception. Our colour calibrator showed it was displaying a full 100 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut on its default settings, and its black levels were a perfect 0.00cd/m2, so you can be sure that your videos and photos will always look their best. These results are also much higher than the measurements we got from the iPhone 6 Plus, which only covered 90.5 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut and had blacks of 0.40cd/m2.

Where the Note 4 falls down slightly is its low maximum brightness level. At just 265.71cd/m2, this is much dimmer than both the Galaxy S5, which measured 339.43cd/m2, and the iPhone 6 Plus, which was almost twice as bright at 572.14cd/m2. However, we found the Note 4 was still bright enough to use outside even in bright sunshine, although you’ll need it at maximum brightness to cope. Those who spend a lot of time in deserts and on beaches might want to look elsewhere, but most us poor brits need not worry.

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At the other end of the scale, the Note 4’s contrast levels were off the charts, as our colour calibrator couldn’t even give us a score. This means that images will not only have plenty of detail on show, but that they’ll also look great from almost any viewing angle, as we could still see our high contrast test images clearly when looking at the screen side-on. This is particularly useful if you’re using the bundled S Pen stylus to jot down a quick memo while the phone’s on a table in front of you, for example, as you won’t have to pick it up and look at the screen face-on to see what you’re writing.

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