I initially had no intention of writing about this at all since I knew I wouldn’t enough time to justify how it really was. However things had changed after few days tinkering with it drastically. I had Galaxy Note 4 for a bit over a week in total.

Impression

I used to love inking with my Windows tablet (pre-iPad era) but since iPad set a new trend for portability. No other manufacturer seemed to get Wacom (or N-Trig if mattered) pen working in a small package. Samsung, the only one, tried numbers of times with Note series. I was excited when it first launched, yet disappointed with the inking experience. I hadn’t paid my attention to inking with Galaxy Note since then. Nonetheless, with unexpected arrival of Note 4, I had a chance to try one more time, this time around, Samsung apparently proved how far they came.

Writing was fun again.

No inking lag with Note 4; although there was a little of pressure sensitivity, it didn’t matter. The whole experience was awesome. I bet Samsung found their mojo. Screen size, pen, and performance were at optimal. Not a single complain. S Note turned into vector based which made things much easier to erase and scale. Lasso was there too. Although it didn’t fly as high as OneNote. With this progress, I bet it was only the matter of time.

For the rest of thing with Note 4, I didn’t think anyone would argue that it belonged in one of the best phones out there.

Things that Note 4 excelled besides its famous pen

  • pop-up app
  • 2-pane app
  • heart rate sensor & walking sensor thing – S health looked like a well made app; looked much better and more informative than (Apple) Health or LG Health.
  • infrared sensor – using as TV remote + Smart remote app which has current TV programs to pick. I would say they had done a good job, but app’s UI could definitely be better. I imagined if I were in the US, this app should have had much more informative. Here in Thailand, this sorta information was limited.
  • camera – this thing was quick; it felt much faster than my iPhone 6+ and got the same or better result
  • S Voice (Siri-like) was quite good eventually it kept listening to voice command even when screen was off without draining battery enough for me to notice the difference. It integrated with Google Search well.
  • Air Wakeup - aka Moto X Air gesture - basically you waved your hand over the phone. Then it showed you its lock screen which surely contained some notifications. It worked as advertised also. If both S Voice and Air Wakeup enabled, I didn’t notice any significant difference as far as battery was concerned.

Drawback

What if I could change anything I would do as following:

  • fingerprint sensor - the sensor was actually quite accurate but the placement wasn’t comfortable to do a full finger swipe, instead of just holding for Apple Touch ID, in order to verify your identity.
  • usability; IMHO if this was at the back where heart rate sensor was, this fingerprint sensor could actually be a Touch ID alternative. So far it wasn’t.
  • It was the time to ditch the physical touch buttons altogether. Never did I hate physical buttons, but with so narrow bottom edge/bezel made things complicated. Samsung needed to either ditch buttons or make bottom edge wider. Ditching button was a preferred path because it also solved accidental touch those buttons while playing games or holding in landscape mode as well since app developers could hide all buttons if needed. I reminded me of how I liked to use Nexus 7 in hand. Enough bezel to hold in any orientation.

Indeed there were crappy design decisions. For instance, S Finder shortcut in notification pane while they should embedded this feature in the launcher. Flipboard embedded in the lancher with no option to disable or few useless Samsung apps. All goodies packed in Note4 did outweight its weakness by far.

Verdict

Note 4 was at the same bar as iPhone 6 plus’ for me. These two couldn’t be compared directly since they both were like the king of their own land. You would not regret getting either one of them. It all came down to your own OS preference literally.