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Samsung Galaxy Note 4 hands-on review: Can Apple's iPhone 6 Plus compete against this beast?

As expected, at IFA 2014 Samsung unveiled the fourth edition of its Galaxy Note phablet, and it looks like a really promising device.

The big presentation had much of the crowd oohing and aaahing, but how does the phone look under the microscope? I successfully managed to dodge countless flailing arms, legs and tripods to find out.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 launch: As it happened (opens in new tab)

My first impression was very positive. You can often get a fair insight into how decent a phone is as soon as you pick it up. The Note 4 immediately feels as premium as they come. At 176g and a healthy 8.5mm thick, this does not claim to be the slinkiest thing on the market. What is does do, however, is feel robust yet quality. It's reassuringly weighty, without being impractical. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either incredibly fussy or has really weak wrists.

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I'm not really a fan of the soft, leather-feel back of the phone, but this seems to be a feature Samsung is sticking with, which keeps many of its customers happy. The metal strip that frames the handset adds a touch of elegance to proceedings, and adds to that solid feel. It also signals the end to Samsung's infamous love affair with polycarbonate, which can only be a good thing.

Taking care to make sure that Samsung's employees weren't watching, I gave the device a few light knocks - in different circumstances, I might have gone to more extreme lengths - on the edge of the table. Unsurprising but still reassuringly, no damage was recorded. Apologies, Samsung, but congratulations.

The second feature that really stands out is the screen. A 5.7in, 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution (QHD) Super AMOLED beauty that pulls you in and doesn't willingly let you go. It is truly wonderful and certainly adds plenty of pazazz to the Note 4. I was sceptical when LG boasted about the G3's own super sharp display but now I'm a believer. It enhances pictures and videos to such an extent that I felt kind of sad going back to Full HD. It's a great feature, especially when it is eventually used as part of the Gear VR headset.

The cameras, however, left a little to be desired. The 16-megapixel rear snapper is nothing to be sniffed at, but it seemed to sap some of the colour out of photos. Samsung did say that the cameras on the phone deliver 60 per cent more brightness, so maybe this was a case in which that backfired. It must also be said that the room I used it in was flooded in white light, so this might have corrupted proceedings. The 3.7-megapixel front-facing camera left me feeling neither impressed nor devastated. One thing I will say is that the QHD screen deserves better than that.

Since a huge proportion of the build-up to the launched revolved around the stylus, I was slightly disappointed to find that this hasn't undertaken some form of dramatic transformation. Samsung instead says it has doubled writing sensitivity, making it feel more like a real pen. It's obviously still not quite perfect - as pictures will reveal - but it's most of the way there.

In terms of battery life, I was unfortunately unable to stay in the showroom for more than a few hours but Samsung says the 3,220mAh number has been improved by 7.5 per cent. The fast charging feature, which claims to pump a dead battery to 50 per cent sounds really promising though.

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Under the hood, the device packs 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, with the option for expansion. It also comes with Android 4.4.4 KitKat as standard

Samsung referred to the Note 4 as a "sophisticated update" on the Note 3. I think that sums things up pretty solidly. The new phablet hasn't strayed too far from a tried and trusted formula. In fact, the two devices look very similar from the front. The South Korean company has simply taken the old recipe and tweaked it for the better. Large-screened iPhone, the bar has been raised even higher.

Aatif Sulleyman
Aatif Sulleyman

Aatif is a freelance copywriter and journalist based in the UK. He’s written about technology, science and politics for publications including Gizmodo, The Independent, Trusted Reviews, Newsweek, and ITProPortal.