23 Oct 2014
Samsung has enjoyed control of the big screen phablet space for close to three years with its range of Galaxy Note handsets.
As we noted in past Galaxy Note reviews, this is in part due to the handsets being generally pretty good, but it's also because Samsung hasn't had too much competition in the space.
However, all this changed in 2014 as numerous technology firms around the world released top-end phablets capable of challenging Samsung's latest Galaxy Note 4. One of the biggest of these is Apple's first phablet, the iPhone 6 Plus.
iPhone 6 Plus: 158x78x7.1mm 172g
Galaxy Note 4: 154x79x8.5mm, 176g
Visually the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 are about as different as you can get. The iPhone features the same rounded metal design as its little brother, the iPhone 6, while the Galaxy Note 4 features the same fake leather-finish backplate as past Samsung phablets.
However, the Galaxy Note 4 is the only one to feature a dockable stylus. Housed in the bottom right hand side, the S Pen is a useful productivity aid for quickly and easily scribbling notes or editing documents.
Considering how useful we've found the S Pen on past Note devices, we're a little disappointed that Apple didn't load the iPhone 6 Plus with an equivalent stylus.
iPhone 6 Plus: 5.5in 1920x1080, 401ppi Retina HD display
Galaxy Note 4: 5.7in QHD 2560x1440, 515ppi Super Amoled display
Traditionally we've struggled to pick a clear winner between Samsung and Apple smartphone displays because the respective Super Amoled and IPS Retina technologies each have their strengths and weaknesses.
Amoled technology produces deeper and richer blacks by electrically charging each individual pixel to generate colours. The flipside is that the screen has a shorter life and can produce more heat than IPS displays.
By comparison, IPS displays generally show more balanced and realistic colours and whites than their Amoled equivalents, because the technology organises liquid crystals on a fixed plate that's charged at a consistent rate.
This means we won't know which display is better without a hands-on test of the phones side by side.
iPhone 6 Plus: iOS 8, upgrade available for iOS 8.1
Galaxy Note 4: Android 4.4.4 Kitkat with Samsung Touchwiz
Apple's ability to push upgrades to handsets faster than Google has been a constant selling point, and this remains true when comparing the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4.
While iOS 8.1 may be a minor update that generally does little more than fix bugs in iOS 8, the fact that the iPhone 6 Plus runs the latest version of Apple's operating system is a big bonus.
The Galaxy Note 4, on the other hand, runs a heavily customised version of Android 4.4 Kitkat, which is not the latest version of Google's operating system.
While Touchwiz does add a number of useful features to Android designed to take advantage of the S Pen, such as S Note and multi-window support, we're still disappointed that there's no official word when the phone will be upgraded to Google's latest Android 5.0 Lollipop version other than it will happen at some point.
iPhone 6 Plus: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture and M8 motion coprocessor
Galaxy Note 4: 2.7GHz Snapdragon 805
Apple made a big deal about the A8 chip in the iPhone 6 Plus, claiming it will offer 25 percent faster CPU performance and 50 percent faster graphics performance than the A7. As we noted in our full iPhone 6 Plus review, there is a lot of truth to this claim and the Apple handset is one of the fastest currently available.
However, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor used in the Galaxy Note 4 in the UK makes it one of a select few handsets to have the on-paper chops to match the iPhone 6 Plus. While the Note 4 does ship with a 1.9GHz octa-core chip in some markets, this model is not available to purchase in the UK market.
iPhone 6 Plus: 8MP front with Optical Image Stabilisation (OSI) and 1.2MP Facetime rear cameras
Galaxy Note 4: 16MP with OSI front and 3.7MP rear cameras
Imaging technology is one area in which Apple has fallen slightly behind in recent years. The firm has worked to fix this on the iPhone 6 Plus with an 8MP rear camera loaded with a new sensor with TrueTone flash, 1.5 micron pixels, f/2.2 aperture and OSI technology.
OSI improves photo quality by compensating in real time for shaking and vibrating while shooting. The compensation means there are no alterations or light degradations to the captured image.
However, even with these additions, the iPhone 6 Plus still has some pretty stiff competition when facing Samsung's Galaxy Note 4. Featuring a higher megapixel sensor and equivalent OIS technology, the Galaxy Note offers an equally, if not superior, camera on paper.
iPhone 6 Plus: Unspecified, 14-hour listed life
Galaxy Note 4: 3,229mAh battery
Poor battery life is an ongoing problem with many smartphones. Aware of this, Samsung and Apple have made improvements with their latest phablets. The iPhone 6 Plus impressed us during our review and its 14-hour listed life generally rang true.
However, featuring a sizeable battery and a custom Fast Charging feature that lets it charge from zero to 50 percent in 30 minutes, the Galaxy Note 4 is likely to feature an above average battery life.
iPhone 6 Plus: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB, unspecified RAM
Galaxy Note 4: 32GB, microSD card slot
Samsung is offering the Galaxy Note 4 with 32GB of internal space, meaning that the iPhone offers significantly more varied storage options. However, the Galaxy Note 4 features a microSD card slot allowing up to 64GB of extra space to be added to the internal storage.
iPhone 6 Plus: From £619
Galaxy Note 4: £630
You can pick up the iPhone 6 Plus for £11 less than the Galaxy Note 4. However, it's worth noting that this only gets you 16GB of space, while the £630 Galaxy Note 4 offers 32GB.
On paper the Galaxy Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus are fairly evenly matched. The iPhone 6 Plus features a superfast A8 chip, luxurious metal design, more storage options and the latest version of iOS.
By comparison the Galaxy Note 4 features a higher megapixel rear camera, enterprise and productivity focused dockable S Pen stylus and cutting edge Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chip.
Make sure to check back with V3 later for a full head to head review of the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4, breaking down how the two phablets compare in real-world tests.
18 Sep 2014
Apple unveiled its first big-screen smartphone on 9 September – the 5.5in iPhone 6 Plus – as it tries to compete with the growing number of Android phablets on the market. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4, one of these large-screen Android phones, has a 5.5in Retina HD screen and will be directly in competition with Apple's new offering. So here we compare the two smartphones to see which comes out on top.
Design, measurements and weight
iPhone 6 Plus: 158x78x7.1mm, 172g
Galaxy Note 4: 154x79x8.5 mm, 176g
The iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 are not worlds apart in size. The iPhone 6 Plus is slightly taller at 158mm compared with 154mm, but trumps the Galaxy Note 4 when it comes to depth, measuring 7.1mm compared with 8.5mm. Samsung's latest phablet is also slightly heavier at 176g, while the iPhone 6 Plus weighs 172g.
The two phones are worlds apart in design, however. The iPhone 6 Plus is crafted from the same metals used to build the iPhone 5S, retaining the same high-end design as its predecessor. The Galaxy Note 4, on the other hand, features a faux-leather backplate, coupled with metallic edges and a plastic front. While some might prefer the Galaxy Note 4's quirky design, it's likely that the metal finish of the iPhone 6 Plus will appeal to more people.
The iPhone 6 Plus will be available in silver, space grey and gold, while the Galaxy Note 4 will launch in white, black, gold and pink.
iPhone 6 Plus: 5.5in, 1920x1080 resolution, 401ppi Retina HD display
Galaxy Note 4: 5.7in, 1440x2560 resolution, 515ppi Super Amoled display
While the iPhone wins in the style stakes, the Galaxy Note 4 is the clear winner when it comes to the screen – on paper, at least.
The iPhone 6 Plus debuts Apple's new Retina HD resolution, with the 5.5in screen boasting a 1920x1080 resolution, and a pixel density of 401ppi. Apple also claims that its new Retina HD screen offers better viewing angles and colour production than before.
This likely will get iFans excited, but the Galaxy Note 4's QHD 1440x2560 resolution screen way surpasses that of the iPhone 6 on paper, boasting a pixel density of 515ppi, and Samsung's Super Amoled technology, which also offers better viewing angles and colours.
iPhone 6 Plus: Apple A8 chip
Galaxy Note 4: 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chip
The iPhone 6 Plus arrives with Apple's new A8 chip under the bonnet. While Apple hasn't revealed many details about its latest processor, the firm claims it offers 25 percent faster processing and delivers up to 50 percent faster graphics.
It's also as yet unclear how this compares with the Galaxy Note 4's quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, which proved impressive during our hands-on time with the phablet. This Qualcomm chip also provides the Galaxy Note 4 with support for 300Mbps LTE speeds, compared with the iPhone 6 Plus's support for 150Mbps connections.
iPhone 6 Plus: iOS 8
Galaxy Note 4: Android 4.4 KitKat
With the iPhone 6 Plus running iOS 8 and the Galaxy Note 4 running Android 4.4 KitKat, the winner in this category is a matter of taste.
Apple has clearly been taking some tips from Samsung in its iOS 8 software, however, introducing a landscape mode designed specifically for the larger 5.5in iPhone and a one-handed mode called "reachability". Samsung arguably makes better use of the screen space, thanks to the smartphone's included stylus, allowing users to doodle and annotate on the handset's screen.
However, with Samsung's custom overlay onboard, it might take the Galaxy Note 4 some time to be updated to Google's next Android iteration, whereas all iPhones receive software updates on the same day.
iPhone 6 Plus: 8MP rear camera with optical image stabilisation (OIS), 1.2MP front-facing camera
Galaxy Note 4: 16MP rear camera with OIS, 3.7MP front-facing camera
Camera is another category that the Galaxy Note 4 wins on paper, touting a 16MP rear-facing camera, compared with the 8MP camera on the iPhone 6 Plus.
However, Apple claims its camera is one of the best on the market. The firm has a new feature called Focus Pixels, for example, which means it focuses twice as fast as before, and has added Phase Detection Autofocus. The iPhone 6 Plus camera is also the first to feature optical image stabilisation and the first capable of capturing 43MP panoramic images.
Saying that, the Galaxy Note 4 comes with the ability to record 4K video, while the iPhone 6 Plus is able to record HD 1080p footage.
The Galaxy Note 4 boasts a 3.7MP front-facing snapper, compared to the iPhone 6 Plus' 1.2MP front camera.
iPhone 6 Plus: 24 hours of talk time
Galaxy Note 4: 3,200mAh battery, talk time TBC
Apple claims that its iPhone 6 Plus offers 24 hours of talk time, a huge improvement compared to the 10 hours offered by the iPhone 5S. However, it's not yet clear how this compares with the Galaxy Note 4's 3,200mAh offering, with Samsung yet to reveal its battery life.
iPhone 6 Plus: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB
Galaxy Note 4: 32GB, Micro SD up to 64GB
While the iPhone 6 Plus is available in more models than the Galaxy Note 4, with 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models, it still doesn't feature a Micro SD card slot. The Galaxy Note 4, unsurprisingly, does, giving users the option to expand the phone's storage by an additional 64GB
iPhone 6 Plus: From £619 SIM-free
Galaxy Note 4: From £600 SIM-free (TBC)
The iPhone 6 Plus is, again unsurprisingly, an expensive device. The 16GB model is available for £619, while the 64GB and 128GB versions are priced at £699 and £789 SIM-free, respectively.
The Galaxy Note 4 looks like it will be the cheaper option, with preorders outing the handset's price as just shy of £600.
Apple phones usually trump their rivals on paper, but the iPhone 6 Plus does face some stiff competition from the Galaxy Note 4, with its higher-resolution screen, Micro SD card storage and lower price. But the iPhone 6 Plus wins on a design front, and we are still yet to find out which smartphone has better battery life.
Check back with V3 later for a full head-to-head review.
10 Sep 2014
The annual battle between Apple and Samsung has become a staple event in every tech fan's calendar and this year is no different. Both Samsung and Apple have come out guns blazing, releasing completely redesigned flagship handsets that come loaded with more new features and custom technologies than can easily be counted.
In fact, the Apple iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5 are so packed with features some fans have justifiably struggled to keep track and have been left wondering how the two match when they're run head-to-head.
iPhone 6:138x67x6.9mm, 129g
Galaxy S5: 142x73x8.1mm, 145g
Both the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 have very different designs. The iPhone 6 has an aluminium curved chassis while the Galaxy S5 has a pebble-like perforated detachable polycarbonate backplate that connects to its metal sides.
Of the two, the iPhone 6 is the lighter and thinner of the two, however the Galaxy S5 is on paper more robust, with Samsung having built it to meet IP67 certification standards. The certification means the Galaxy S5 is the only phone of the two to be dust and water resistant.
Both handsets feature custom fingerprint scanners in their front-facing physical home buttons, though the Samsung Galaxy S5 is the only one of the two to feature a biometric heart scanner on its back.
iPhone 6: 4.7in, 1334x750, 326ppi Retina HD display
Galaxy S5: 5.1in, 1920x1080, 432ppi, Super Amoled touchscreen
Apple made a big deal about the iPhone 6's 4.7in Retina display. But on paper it is still lagging behind its Android competition in terms of resolution. This is particularly true when comparing it with the Galaxy S5, which, featuring Samsung's Super Amoled technology, is currently one of the finest on the market.
However, considering the stellar colour balance and contrast levels seen on previous Retina displays we're not willing to rule the iPhone 6 out just yet and will wait and see how the two compare with real-world use before offering our final verdict.
iPhone 6: iOS 8
Galaxy S5: Android 4.4.2 KitKat with Samsung Touchwiz
Comparing Android and iOS phones from a software perspective is always a tricky affair and this remains true on the KitKat-powered Galaxy S5 and iOS 8-powered iPhone 6. While iOS's lack of malware is a selling point for the iPhone 6, both handsets are rife with enterprise features.
For example, iOS 8 features improved password security, S/MIME features and VIP threads, and support for Microsoft Exchange out of office replies as well as advanced synchronisation features with Mac OS X computers.
By comparison, the Galaxy S5 comes with Samsung's custom Knox security as well as Google's own enterprise applications and services. Knox is a sandboxing service that lets users create a separate encrypted password-protected work area on their device.
The Knox version 2.0 running on the Galaxy S5 also features upgraded certificate management, VPN+ and enhanced container-security powers, as well as new Marketplace and enterprise mobility management (EMM) services.
iPhone 6: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture with M8 motion co-processor
Galaxy S5: Quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
Both the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 are on paper powerhouse smartphones. However with the iPhone 6 being the first ever smartphone to run using Apple's new A8 chip and reworked M8 motion co-processor, which Apple claims offers 25 percent faster CPU performance than the A7, we won't know how the two compare until we get our hands on the new iPhone.
iPhone 6: 8MP rear, 1.2MP FaceTime front
Galaxy S5: 16MP rear, 2MP front
Camera technology is one area where Apple has been falling behind in recent years, and when it was released the Galaxy S5's 16MP rear camera was better than the iPhone 5S's 8MP rear camera in close to every way. Even now, featuring what Samsung claims is the fastest auto-focus speed of 0.3 seconds, the Galaxy S5's camera is a very impressive piece of technology.
Aware it is facing stiff competition Apple has worked to radically improve the iPhone 6's 8MP rear camera and has loaded it with a new sensor with True Tone flash, 1.5 micron pixels and f/2.2 aperture.
The sensor adds a number of improvements to the iPhone 6's camera compared with previous iOS handsets. Key additions include phase-detection auto-focus, which allows it to focus twice as fast, as well as tone-mapping, noise reduction, and a new slow-motion mode that can capture video at 240fps.
iPhone 6: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB, unspecified RAM
Galaxy S5: 16GB and 32GB upgradable via Micro SD, 2GB RAM
The Galaxy S5 comes with fewer storage options than the iPhone 6, but it is the only one of the two that can have its storage upgraded after purchase. Via the Galaxy S5's Micro SD card slot, users can add a further 128GB of space, meaning the handset can technically feature more physical storage than the iPhone 6.
iPhone 6: Unspecified, 11-hour listed life
Galaxy S5: Li-Ion 2,800mAh seven-hour burn score
Apple lists the iPhone 6's unspecified battery as offering users 11 hours of video playback and WiFi browsing and 10 hours of LTE and 3G browsing. If accurate this means the iPhone 6 will feature a significantly better battery life than the Galaxy S5, which during our burn tests generally only offered between seven and eight hours of video playback.
iPhone 6: From £539
Galaxy S5: From £580
Neither the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S5 are cheap, though the Samsung handset does carry a more premium price tag, with the basic 16GB model costing a full £40 more than its equivalent Apple competitor.
Run head-to-head, both the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 are very impressive handsets. However, thanks to a slew of new untested technologies, such as its new camera sensor, A8 processor and iOS 8 operating system, it's difficult to gauge how the iPhone 6 will perform with real-world use. As a result, until we get our hands on an iPhone 6 and thoroughly test it, we won't be able to accurately know which is the better phone.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
04 Sep 2014
Technology firms have been trying to persuade us we need smartwatches for quite some time. However, a number of niggling flaws in past smartwatches – including their need to be tethered to a smartphone to work and woefully small displays – have stopped many people, including us here at V3, from getting excited about them.
Samsung claims to have gone back to the drawing board to design its Gear S smartwatch, and has worked to fix all our past qualms and finally offer users the wearable wrist companion they've been waiting for.
Design and build
The Gear S's curved screen and metallic design features make it look about as slick as a smartwatch can be.
As well as making the wearable look slick, the curved chassis also makes the device feel significantly more comfortable to wear than many of the other smartwatches we've experienced, for example the LG G Watch, which has a flat back.
The one potential design flaw we noticed is that, like most smartwatches, the Gear S is noticeably larger than most regular watches. We're used to wearing big watches, so we found the 40x58x12.5mm Gear S' dimensions weren't too much of an issue, but people used to regularly sized watches may find it slightly cumbersome.
Despite being large the Gear S is fairly well built regarding its specs, and it meets IP67 certification standards. This means the Gear S should be dust and water resistant and should be able to survive submersions in up to one metre of water for 30 minutes.
Sadly the Samsung spokesperson on hand at the event declined our request to test the Gear S's water resiliency and all but tore it off our wrist when asked we if we could pour our bottle of water over it.
During our hands on we found the Gear S's 2in, 360x480 pixels, 300ppi Super Amoled capacitive touchscreen was one of the best we'd ever seen on a smartwatch. Using Samsung's Super Amoled screen tech, colours on the Gear S display were wonderfully vibrant and it was brilliantly bright. We'll be interested to see if our positive impressions remain when we test the Gear S in more adverse lighting conditions, such as direct sunlight, which has rendered all past smartwatches close to unusable.
Unlike most 2014 smartwatches the Gear S runs using Samsung's own Tizen operating system, not Google's newly launched Android Wear. Scrolling through various menus we found Tizen offers a significantly different user experience to Android Wear and has a completely different menu and application system.
Unlike Android Wear, Tizen's user interface (UI) requires you to swipe left or right to switch between applications and services. Google's OS by comparison requires you to scoll up and down. Tizen applications' individual interfaces are also far more varied than those seen on Android Wear, which have a uniform card-like design similar to that seen on Google Now.
For example, moving from a weather app, which featured a familiar UI to Android's to a Tizen news aggregator we were met with a completely different tiled design reminiscent of HTC's BlinkFeed that had its own set of shortcuts and colour palette.
While we initially found the experience a little jarring and disjointed, we soon became accustomed and began to notice a number of positive points about Tizen.
For one, many of the apps we used had noticeably more advanced functionality than their Android Wear equivalents. For example, entering the calendar app, we could not only see incoming notifications, but we could also tweak or create new ones directly from the Gear S, which we couldn't do on Android Wear smartwatches.
Productivity perks are aided by the fact it has standalone 3G and WiFi connectivity. This means, after requiring you to pair the smartwatch with a smartphone on setup, the Gear S can function independently and doesn't require a constant Bluetooth connection to an Android handset.
The Gear S is powered by an unspecified dual-core 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM. While we found these features were more than good enough in past smartwatches, during our hands on we noticed the Gear S did occasionally chug and stutter.
For example, going through the news feed on an aggregator app, the Gear S occasionally stalled for a fraction of a second when we tried to scroll up or down. Though being fair to Samsung, the Gear S we tried was a pre-production model and this issue could equally be due to poor coding on the app itself and in general the Gear S performed very well during our hands on.
Battery power is a constant issue on all the smartwatches we've encountered, with most barely lasting a full day's use before needing a top-up charge. Sadly we didn't get a chance to test the Gear S battery life. However, if Samsung's claim the Gear S 300mAh battery will offer users "two full days of typical usage", it will be above average for a smartwatch.
While the Gear S doesn't follow the common path of most manufacturers and uses Samsung's Tizen OS, as opposed to the increasingly common Android Wear, it did impress us.
Featuring a curved design that makes the Gear S look nice and feel comfortable on your wrist, a sizable 2in display and standalone 3G connectivity, there is plenty to like about Samsung's latest smartwatch.
Hopefully the minor performance issues we noticed during our hands on will have disappeared by the time the Gear S arrives in the UK later this year, and tech aficionados across the globe will finally have the smart smartwatch they've been waiting for.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Samsung Gear S.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
03 Sep 2014
BERLIN: Samsung claims it created the plus-sized "phablet" market in 2011 when it unveiled its first Galaxy Note. While technically this was actually Dell with its Streak 5 in 2010, Samsung is without a doubt the first smartphone manufacturer to successfully push big handsets to the masses and, in many buyers' minds, the Galaxy Note range is still the first anyone thinks of when shopping for a big-screen device.
As a result, at the Galaxy Note 4's unveiling at Samsung's IFA Unpacked 2014 keynote in Berlin, we couldn't resist the chance to get some hands on time with the gargantuan handset.
Design and build
Visually the Galaxy Note 4 doesn't stray too far from its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 3 and has the same fake leather backplate and metallic sides. The Galaxy Note 4's button placement is also the same and the Galaxy Note 4 has a physical front-facing home button and volume and power controls on its right side. Under the hood, though, Samsung has made a few changes, one of the biggest of which is the inclusion of the custom fingerprint scanner debuted on Samsung's regular-sized Galaxy S5 handset.
The scanner is a bonus for enterprise customers as it lets them lock the Galaxy Note 4 to only unlock once they have proven their identity, making it much harder for criminals to access corporate data stored on the phone should it be lost or stolen.
While the Galaxy Note 4 is fairly thin by phablet standards, despite years of wielding the plus-sized handsets, we still found the phone's 154x79x8.5mm dimensions and 176g weight slightly cumbersome when trying to use the device one handed.
Luckily these issues are heavily countermanded by the inclusion of the Galaxy Note 4's reworded S Pen. The S Pen digital stylus docks into the bottom edge of the Galaxy Note's rear, and helps make the Galaxy Note 4 more comfortable to use, despite it's advanced size, for a variety of reasons. More on this later.
While we didn't get to drop test the Galaxy Note 4 during our hands on we were reasonably impressed with its build quality. The handset felt solidly built and left us feeling suitably assured it could survive the odd accidental drop chip and scratch free.
As we've seen in past Samsung handsets, the Galaxy Note 4's 5.7in QHD 2560x1440 Super Amoled display is one of its best features. While we only got to test the display in the controlled showroom floor lighting conditions we found the Galaxy Note 4's display is not only crisp, but also features great colour balance and brightness levels – so much so that we had to turn the demo unit's brightness setting down.
This is likely a consequence of Samsung's custom Super Amoled technology. Super Amoled is good as not only does it offer all the benefits of normal Amoled screens, which are designed to display deeper and richer blacks by electrically charging each individual pixel to generate colours, it also reduces the screen's power consumption.
The technology reduces power consumption by integrating the capacitive touchscreen layer directly into the display instead of overlaying it on top, as with regular Amoled screens. The practice removes the need to charge two components at once, thus reducing the display's power consumption.
Operating system and software
The Galaxy Note 4 runs using a heavily customised version of Android 4.4.4 KitKat. In the past we've not been massive fans of Samsung's software additions as they, generally, add a wealth of needless services and make handsets' user interfaces (UIs) feel busy and slightly unpleasant to use.
But we were fairly impressed by how much work Samsung has put in to fix these issues. As well as featuring significantly fewer bloatware applications than the Galaxy Note 3, the Galaxy Note 4's main UI also looks noticeably cleaner.
We were also happy to see Samsung has developed some of the more pleasant and useful software additions it has made over the years, loading the Galaxy Note 4 with a wealth of applications designed to help users take advantage of its S Pen Stylus, for example.
Key positive additions we noticed are the Galaxy Note 4's enhanced multi-window support and new Smart Select and S Pen Mouse features.
The reworked multi-window feature lets users swipe using the S Pen to minimise open windows and pull up new apps, while Smart Select is an innovative feature that lets users select several pieces of content in a row and simultaneously share them as attachments in messages. S Pen Mouse is designed to make it easier to select and edit text using the S Pen and lets users instruct the stylus to highlight text simply by holding down the pen's side button.
During our time with the Galaxy Note 4 we were very impressed by how well the features worked and found they made key productivity tasks, such as document-editing, note-taking and altering images, significantly easier to do than they are on most competing handsets.
There is some truth to Samsung's claims that the Galaxy Note 4's S Pen stylus is twice as pressure sensitive as the Note 3's and felt it was significantly more accurate and reactive than its predecessor.
On paper the Galaxy Note 4 is one of the most powerful handsets out there and runs using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor and 3GB of RAM. We didn't get a chance to properly benchmark the Galaxy Note 4, or see how it coped with demanding tasks such as 3D gaming during our hands on, but found for general purposes it is very quick.
The Galaxy Note 4 opened applications and webpages in milliseconds and ran chug and stutter free, even when we had multiple apps running using the handset's multi-window support.
Samsung made a big deal about the Galaxy Note 4's 16MP, 3456x4608 rear camera with optical image stabilisation, and 3.7MP front camera, claiming they will offer users "industry-leading" imaging quality.
Testing them on the show floor, while still not of the same quality as images taken on the Nokia Lumia 1020, images taken on the Galaxy Note 4 were very crisp and featured great contrast and brightness levels.
Running through the camera app's options, it is reasonably well stocked and supports all the modes you'd expect, including Dual Shot, panorama and HDR (high dynamic range).
While we're still not convinced many executives would use the Galaxy Note 4's 3.7MP front camera for anything but video calling, we were also reasonably impressed with its imaging quality and found it is reasonably good at taking photos.
The Galaxy Note 4 we tested came with 32GB of internal storage. Luckily for those looking for more space, a further 64GB can be added using the Galaxy Note 4's micro SD card slot.
Featuring a large, but crisp display and offering what appears to be top-end performance and a reworked more sensitive S Pen stylus, our opening impressions of the Galaxy Note 4 are very positive and the device certainly has the potential to be one of 2014's best handsets.
However, with Samsung yet to reveal the Galaxy Note 4's UK release date and price, it's currently difficult to gauge whether it will make good on this promise.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.
By V3's Alastair Stevneson
20 Jun 2014
Samsung has described its new Galaxy Tab S, unveiled in New York earlier in June, as "industry-leading" when it comes to specifications. In light of the fact this was probably a dig at Apple's iPad Air, we've pitted the two tablets head to head on paper, to see which one offers the best features.
iPad Air: 240x169.5x7.5mm, 478g
Galaxy Tab S: 213x177x6.6mm, 465g
When Apple first unveiled the iPad Air, it was keen to boast that it was – at 7.5mm thick – the thinnest tablet available on the market. But Samsung has stolen the crown, with the Galaxy Tab S measuring a mere 6.6mm. Samsung's latest tablet, despite its larger screen size, is slightly lighter too, with the 3G and 4G versions tipping the scales at 465g and 467g, respectively.
iPad Air: 9.7in, 2048x1536, 264ppi LED-backlit in-plane switching (IPS) screen
Galaxy Tab S: 10.5in, 2560x1600, 288ppi Super Amoled screen
The iPad's screen – since the release of the third-generation model at least – has long been heralded as one of the best, with its Retina display boasting 2048x1536 resolution.
Samsung, however, has once again toppled Apple's flagship device, with its 10.5in Galaxy Tab S boasting a higher, "industry-leading" 2560x1600 touchscreen display. The screen also has Samsung's Super Amoled technology and a 100,000:1 contrast ratio, which should make for deep blacks and bright whites.
However, given that the screen on the Galaxy Tab S is larger than Apple's 9.7in, it remains to be seen which comes out on top in terms of quality.
It's worth noting that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S is also available in an 8.4in model with the same 2560x1600 resolution, pitting it against Apple's latest iPad Mini tablet.
iPad Air: iOS 7
Galaxy Tab S: Android 4.4 KitKat, custom UI
It's always hard to judge a winner in the software category when comparing an Apple and a Samsung device, as most people already know whether they prefer iOS or Android.
The iPad Air runs Apple's latest iOS 7 release, and will be promptly updated to iOS 8 once this is released later in the year. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S runs the newest version of Google's Android 4.4 KitKat mobile operating system, which it has heavily customised in its own user interface (UI).
Fans of the vanilla version of Android might not be too keen, as Samsung's custom UI sees the tablet's 10.5in screen stuffed full of widgets, custom applications and features. However, some of these will likely come in handy, such as Samsung's S Note app, the ability to answer a call through the tablet and its support for the tablet's on-board fingerprint scanner, adding an extra layer of security to the device.
Despite appearing on the flagship iPhone 5S, the iPad Air doesn't come with a Touch ID sensor.
Next: Processor, cameras, battery, pricing and storage
19 Jun 2014
Sony kicked the tech year off with a bang, unveiling a fresh wave of Xperia smart devices that many observers have considered to be its most innovative to date.
One of the best of these was the Xperia Z2 Tablet. Featuring a sturdy yet slim design, a wealth of top-end components and up-to-date Android software, the Xperia Z2 Tablet remains one of the best Android tablets currently available.
But a few months on, Samsung has returned to the tablet scene with its upgraded Galaxy Tab S, leaving many buyers wondering if Sony's day in the sun as leader of the Android tablet market is already over.
We've pulled together the key specifications from both devices here to see which is the daddy, at least on paper.
Galaxy Tab S: 213x177x6.6mm, 465g
Xperia Z2 Tablet: 266x172x6.4mm, 439g
Both Samsung and Sony designed their respective tablets to be as light and thin as possible. In this area Sony is the clear victor, with its Xperia Z2 Tablet being over 20g lighter and 0.2mm thinner than the Galaxy Tab S.
The Xperia Z2 Tablet is also better in terms of build quality, at least on paper, carrying IP55 and IP58 certifications so it can survive an accidental submersion in water.
Galaxy Tab S: 10.5in, 2560x1600, 288ppi Super Amoled
Xperia Z2 Tablet: 10.1in, 1200x1920, 224ppi TFT capacitive touchscreen
Neither the Galaxy Tab S or Xperia Z2 Tablet's display breaks the 300ppi count, but the Samsung tablet's screen is superior on paper.
Outside of its higher pixels-per-inch density, this is largely due to the use of Super Amoled technology. This lets screens display richer colours and deeper blacks, by electrically charging each individual pixel to generate colours and creating blacks by turning off the relevant pixels.
Galaxy Tab S: Android 4.4 KitKat
Xperia Z2 Tablet: Android 4.4 KitKat
Both The Xperia Z2 Tablet and Galaxy Tab S run using customised versions of Android. However it's worth noting that Sony's appraoch shows a much lighter touch than Samsung when skinning the Xperia Z2 Tablet, with the only notable changes being the addition of a few custom applications, such as the PlayStation Store.
Samsung has taken a heavy-handed approach to skinning the Galaxy Tab S and has completely reworked the user interface, installing a number of custom software services. These include multi-window support, multitasking and a new software service that lets users answer incoming calls to their mobile phone via the tablet.
Galaxy Tab S: Exynos 5 Octa (1.9GHz quad-core and 1.3GHz quad-core)
Xperia Z2 Tablet: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
The Xperia Tablet Z was amazingly fast and scored an impressive 35573 using the Antutu benchmark. By comparison, Samsung's other Exynos 5 Octa-powered tablet, the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, scored a slightly lower 32727 on the same test, indicating that the Galaxy Tab S may also be a fraction slower.
We'll be interested to see how the Xperia Z2 Tablet and Galaxy Tab S perform head to head in our full head-to-head review coming soon.
Galaxy Tab S: 8MP rear, 2.1MP front
Xperia Z2 Tablet: 8.1MP rear, 2.2 MP front
On paper, both the Galaxy Tab S and Xperia Z2 Tablet are fairly evenly matched when it comes to camera technology. We'll only know which performs better when we get a chance to put the two tablets head to head with real-world testing.
Galaxy Tab S: Non-removable lithium polymer 7,900mAh battery
Xperia Z2 Tablet: Non-removable lithium polymer 6,000mAh battery
The Galaxy Tab S has a slightly larger battery than the Xperia Z2 Tablet and is listed by Samsung as offering users "above-average battery life". If true this could be a key differentiator, as the Xperia Z2 Tablet lasted for around eight to nine hours of multimedia use in our review, which by tablet standards is fairly average.
Galaxy Tab S: 16GB, 32GB, expandable by up to 128GB via micro SD card
Xperia Z2 Tablet: 16GB, expandable by up to 128GB via micro SD card
The Galaxy Tab S comes with more internal storage options than the Xperia Z2 Tablet. But both tablets can have a further 128GB of space added via their respective micro SD card slots, so most users shouldn't have to worry about running out.
Galaxy Tab S: £420
Xperia Z2 Tablet: £399
Despite offering on-paper equivalent specs to the Galaxy Tab S, the Xperia Z2 Tablet is £20 cheaper, with prices starting at £399.
When viewed from a purely technical perspective both the Xperia Z2 Tablet and Galaxy Tab S are fairly evenly matched. Both tablets feature powerful processors and ultra-slim, lightweight designs. Hopefully the Galaxy Tab S will make good on its promise when it is released later this year and buyers will have a second viable top-end 10in Android tablet to choose from.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
18 Jun 2014
Apple and Samsung have been fighting for control of the tablet market for some time. But despite Samsung's best efforts, it has traditionally been Apple's iPad tablets that have ended up as each year's top-selling device.
Unperturbed by Apple's past successes Samsung has returned to the battleground in 2014, unveiling one of its highest-specced tiny tablets ever, the Galaxy Tab S 8.4.
Featuring an ultra-thin design and wealth of top-end hardware and software, the Galaxy Tab S has caught the eyes of many buyers, including us. But, to make good on its promise, the Galaxy Tab S will first have to overcome its key rival, the iPad Mini 2, which has become a benchmark in many buyers' eyes.
Galaxy Tab S: 213x126x6.6mm, 294g (WiFi)
iPad Mini 2: 200x135x7.5mm, 331g (WiFi)
In a move many have taken to be a clear swipe at Apple, Samsung designed the Galaxy Tab S to be as thin and light as possible. As a result the Galaxy Tab S is both thinner and lighter than the iPad Mini 2.
The Galaxy Tab S also has a radically different design to the all-metal iPad Mini 2, featuring aluminium sides and a perforated polycarbonate back. So despite being lighter and thinner, the Galaxy Tab S may not be as sturdy as the purely metal iPad.
Galaxy Tab S: 8.4in 2560x1600, 359ppi Super Amoled
iPad Mini 2: 7.9in 2048x1536, 326ppi Retina display
Apple has always claimed its Retina display technology is the best currently available. Traditionally, at least in the tablet market, there has been some truth to this claim and the iPads' Retina displays have always been superior to the screens on Android devices.
Samsung has worked to fix this on the Galaxy Tab S, loading it with its own Super Amoled screen technology. Super Amoled technology works to let screens display deeper and richer blacks by electrically charging each individual pixel to generate colours, meaning it can create blacks simply by turning off the relevant pixels.
Galaxy Tab S: Android 4.4 KitKat
iPad Mini 2: iOS 7
The Galaxy Tab S comes loaded with a customised version of Google's Android operating system (OS). In the past we've found Samsung's changes have sometimes been to the detriment of the OS and have made devices significantly less user-friendly than their iOS competitors. Hopefully this won't prove true with the Galaxy Tab S.
Galaxy Tab S: Exynos 5 Octa
iPad Mini 2: A7 plus M7 coprocessor
When it comes to performance, we've always found picking between iOS and Android handsets quite difficult. This is because iOS system requirements are significantly lower than Android and allow Apple devices to match or beat the performance of competing Google devices with higher on-paper specifications. Because of this we won't be able to know which tablet performs better until we thoroughly test the Galaxy Tab S.
Galaxy Tab S: 8MP rear, 2.1MP front
iPad Mini 2: 5MP iSight rear and 1.2MP FaceTime HD front
Cameras have always been one of the iPads' weakest points, and sadly this remains true on the iPad Mini 2. The basic 5MP rear camera is capable of at best average imaging quality, even when shooting in regular light. Given other Samsung tablets' superior cameras, we think the Galaxy Tab S will outperform the Apple iPad Mini 2 when it comes to imaging performance.
Galaxy Tab S: 16GB, 32GB, expandable via micro SD up to 128GB
iPad Mini 2: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB
The iPad Mini 2 is available with more internal storage options. However, the Galaxy Tab S is the only one of the two that has the option to upgrade its storage.
Galaxy Tab S: 4,900mAh (11 hours)
iPad Mini 2: 10 hours
Samsung's 11-hour multimedia playback score means the Galaxy Tab S should last an hour longer than the iPad Mini 2, which is listed as offering 10 hours of life off one charge.
Galaxy Tab S: £329
iPad Mini 2: £319
Apple iPads have always carried a premium price tag and are generally significantly more expensive than their Android competitors. Interestingly, though, the iPad Mini 2 is cheaper than the Galaxy Tab S, with prices for the basic 16GB WiFi model starting at £319. Pricing for the equivalent Galaxy Tab S starts at £329.
On paper the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is a very impressive machine and generally beats the Apple iPad Mini. We'll be excited to see if the tablet makes good on its early promise, so look out for our full review later this year.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson