sexta-feira, 16 de janeiro de 2015

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 & Note Edge Review

Samsung's Galaxy Note line went from being a doubtful niche attempt to essentially the most popular line in Samsung's inventory in just four years. Naturally, Samsung's 2014 Note phablets were highly anticipated, and Samsung delivered accordingly. This time around, the direct successor to last year's Note 3, the aptly named Note 4, came accompanied by a very interesting attempt from Samsung to make a popular phone making use of its curved display technology, the Galaxy Note Edge. Very similar to the Note 4, except with a cuved extension of the main display replacing the right side of the device. 
Both phones excel in almost very aspect you can think of, and are definitely very worthy successors to last year's Galaxy Note 3. Those who are adventurous, and are looking for something new and different, will look to the Note Edge, while those who just want a traditional phablet, albeit in this case, the best one in the market, will go for the regular Note 4. 

To begin this review, let's look at how this year's Galaxy Notes fare in terms of pure specs, listed in the table below:

Galaxy Note 4 Galaxy Note Edge
 Body   153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5mm
 151.3 x 82.4 x 8.3mm
 Display   5.7" Super AMOLED QHD (2560 x 1440, 515ppi)   5.6" Super AMOLED WQXGA (2560 x 1600, 524ppi) with curved edge
 Storage & RAM  32/64 GB, 3GB RAM   32/64 GB, 3GB RAM
 Networks  GSM, HSDPA, LTE Cat. 6  GSM, HSDPA, LTE Cat. 6
 WiFi   dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac   dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth  Bluetooth 4.1 LE  Bluetooth 4.1 LE
Camera (Rear)   16MP with OIS, LED flash, face detection and HDR
 4K@30fps (2160p) video, 1080p@30fps or 720p@120fps with video stabilization
  16MP with OIS, LED flash, face detection and HDR
 4K@30fps (2160p) video, 1080p@30fps or 720p@120fps with video stabilization
Camera (Front)  3.7MP with 2K@30fps (1440p) video   3.7MP with 2K@30fps (1440p) video
 OS  Android 4.4 KitKat w/ TouchWiz UI  Android 4.4 KitKat w/ TouchWiz UI
 Processor   SM-N910S: Snapdragon 805
 SM-N910C: Exynos 5433
 Snapdragon 805
 CPU  SM-N910S: Quad-core 32-bit Krait 450 @ 2.7GHz
 SM-N910C: Octa-core 64-bit bit.LITTLE (Quad-core Cortex-A57 @ 1.9GHz + Quad-core Cortex-A53 @ 1.3GHz)
 Quad-core 32-bit Krait 450 @ 2.7GHz
 GPU  SM-N910S: Adreno 420 @ 600MHz (337.5 GFLOPS)
 SM-N910C: Mali-T760MP6 @ 700MHz (204 GFLOPS)
 SM-N910S: Adreno 420 @ 600MHz (337.5 GFLOPS)
 Battery  Removable Li-Ion 3,200mAh
 Video playback: 14 hours
 Removable Li-Ion 3,000mAh
 Video playback: 12 hours
 Features  Heart rate and Sp02 sensor, fingerprint scanner, S Pen  Smart Edge screen, heart rate and Sp02 sensor, fingerprint scanner, S Pen


This is probably the only aspect where the Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy Note Edge actually differ significantly. While the Galaxy Note 4 is the regular shape we've come to expect phones to have, with a flat screen on the front, the Galaxy Note Edge makes an interesting use of Samsung's curved screen technology. Instead of having a flat screen covering the front, the Note Edge's panel cascades down the right edge of the phone, replacing the entire right side of the device. While it makes for a very interesting phone, from an aesthetic point of view, what is even better is the added functionality that the curved display offers. The side screen can be used for many things, like quick notifications, controls, and app shortcuts. While it won't exactly revolutionize the smartphone experience, it is a convenient extra to have.

Lefties beware! Since the Note Edge curves down the right side of the phone, it is less convenient for lefties to use. In the future, we might be seeing phones that curve down both sides, but until then, this device is more appropriate for right-handed users. 

In any case, aside from the curved screen, the Galaxy Note Edge and the Note 4 are very similar. Taking a leaf from the Galaxy Alpha's book, the two phablets' sides are made of aluminium (or in the case of the Note Edge, three of the four sides), with the back panel made of plastic, textured to resemble leather. The back cover of the new Notes are still removable, and so is the battery. While I would've liked to see an all-aluminium design, the new Notes feel very good in hand thanks to the metal sides. The front of the devices resembles any recent Samsung device, with the usual physical home button sitting in between Task Switcher and Back capacitive buttons. Underneath the home button there is Samsung's swipe-based fingerprint scanner.

Overall, a very good design for the new Notes. The aluminium sides, especially, are a very welcome addition to the phablets' designs, especially coming from Samsung. And at long last, Samsung has found a very non-disruptive and useful way to implement their curved AMOLED screens on a smartphone.


When it comes to displays, Samsung's flagships are always highly anticipated, as their AMOLED screens are always among the best in the mobile space. Both the Note Edge and the Note 4 feature Super AMOLED screens with a Diamond PenTile pixel matrix. Of course, the main difference here is that one has a flat screen and the other has a curved one.

The Note 4 features a 5.7" display, just like the Note 3, except that this time the resolution is bumped to a stunning 2560 x 1440 resolution, which results in a fine 515ppi. This pixel density is really starting to get close to the limit after which the human eye cannot process any further details, but still, so far there are still advantages to be had with the extra resolution.

The Note Edge features a curved 5.6" display with 2560 x 1600 resolution, which translates into a pixel density of 524ppi. In comparison to the Note 4, the extra 160 pixels form the extra edge display portion. That aside, the Note Edge should be identical to the Note 4's display, offering the same benefits of Samsung's AMOLED technology, like extremely saturated colors and stunning contrast.

Software & Features

Both the Galaxy Note 4 and the Note Edge run on an Android 4.4.4 KitKat build skinned with Samsung's TouchWiz UI. An update to Android 5.0 Lollipop should be coming out soon.

TouchWiz is known for its various software features, some useful, many useless. The same can obviously be said about the new Galaxy Notes' software. Features like Multi Window and Air Gestures continue to be implemented and refined in Samsung's new phablets. Despite how heavy the whole TouchWiz package is, the 3 GB of RAM and powerful processors should keep the new Notes running very smoothly, no matter what you throw at it. 

Of course, these being devices from the Note range, a very important part of the package is the S Pen, Samsung's active stylus, which is better than ever this time around. More than ever, the S Pen lends itself to making the Note experience much more interactive and productive than on any other device.

Processor & Performance

As every flagship device these days, the Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge are powered by some of the most powerful processors currently available. There is a distinction to be made, however. While the Galaxy Note 4 is available either with a Snapdragon 805 or an Exynos 5433 processor, depending on the region, the Galaxy Note Edge uses only the Snapdragon 805.

The Snapdragon 805, built on a 28nm HPm process (which is starting to get old), consists of a quad-core Krait 450 CPU clocked at up to 2.7GHz. The CPU is 32-bit, so when Lollipop comes to the Snapdragon 805-powered Notes, the new OS's 64-bit support will be of no benefit. Alongside the CPU, there is an Adreno 420 GPU clocked at 600MHz and a dual-channel 64-bit LPDDR3-1600 memory interface, offering ample bandwidth at a peak 25.6GB/s.

Samsung's Exynos 5433 processor, used in some variants of the Note 4, but not on the Note Edge, is a totally different beast. Built on Samsung's cutting-edge 20nm HKMG process node, it consists of a big.LITTLE CPU configuration, with four high-performance Cortex-A57 cores clocked at 1.9GHz, and four low-power, low-performance Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.3GHz. When necessary, both CPU clusters can work together, essentially making it a true octa-core CPU. Backing up this beastly CPU is ARM's Mali-T760 GPU clocked at 700MHz, and to wrap it off (not so well), the system is fed by a 32-bit dual-channel LPDDR3-1650 memory interface capable of delivering up to 13.2GB/s of bandwidth. This is much less than what the Snapdragon 805's memory interface can deliver, and I'm not sure 13.2GB/s can cut it for such a high-resolution display. This could only pose a potential bottleneck issue when running bandwidth-heavy games at the Note 4's native resolution. 

All variants of the Note 4 and Note Edge carry 3 GB of RAM, which should be more than enough space, even with Samsung's heavy TouchWiz features eating up memory.


Considering the large, high-resolution display and the powerful processors, the Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge require a large battery to keep them running for long enough. The Galaxy Note 4 has a large 3,220 mAh battery feeding it, which should be enough, despite the power hungry internals. However, probably because of the curved display portion, Samsung had to reduce the Galaxy Note Edge's battery size down to 3,000 mAh. While this is still a large battery, it means that the Galaxy Note Edge will hardly win any battery life tests.


The new Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge are excellent devices, delivering the goods in pretty much every aspect you can possibly think of. Beautiful screen, attractive design, powerful hardware and, of course, the venerable S Pen all make the new Notes very worthy successors of the flagship Note line.

The Note 4 is not exactly revolutionary compared to last year's Galaxy Note 3, however, every aspect of it is improved in comparison, securing Samsung's advantage in the phablet market. The Galaxy Note Edge, however, is more like Samsung still experimenting ways to implement its curved displays, and is so far Samsung's best attempt at it. Without impairing the usability of the device, Samsung managed to implement its curved screen technology in a way that not only made for an aesthetically pleasing phone, but also added functionality that people might actually use, unlike previous attempts (Galaxy Round, I'm talking to you).

Overall, Samsung's 2014 Note devices are their best phablets ever, and probably the best in the entire phablet market, scoring high marks in every aspect you can think of.

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