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Galaxy Note 4 review roundup: Revenge of the 'phablet'

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review scores have hit the Web. The critics are pretty positive about Samsung's new 'phablet.'

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A visitor tries out a Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 smart phone during the 2014 Korea Electronics Show in Goyang, South Korea, Oct. 14, 2014.

Ahn Young-joon/AP

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This week, a number of technology reviewers have admitted that they were wrong. When "phablets" first debuted a few years ago, the tech press largely met these jumbo-sized smart phones with smirks and snickers. Who would want a phone the size of a Pop-Tart? The answer turned out to be: A lot of people.

Sure, they may not fit in tight pockets. You may have trouble using them one-handed. But these large screens are perfect for watching videos, playing games, and enjoying websites. 

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Now, with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 out this week for AT&T and Verizon, many tech reviewers seem won over. 

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"I was convinced Samsung was off its rocker when I saw the first Galaxy Note phablet in 2011," writes Joanna Stern in a pretty positive review of the Note 4 for The Wall Street Journal. "Of course, I was the crazy one.... It’s wrong to call the Note an oversized smartphone at this point. It’s a pocketable computing device with serious multitasking power."

The Galaxy Note 4 stands 6.04-inches tall, 3.09-inches wide, and 0.33-inches thick — roughly the same size as the iPhone 6 Plus (a device many assume is a reaction to Samsung's impressive sales numbers). Samsung makes use of this large screen. It packs in four times as many pixels as a full HD TV, making images sharp and clear, even if they're a tad embellished.

"While movies, games, and other extremely colorful applications appear bright and vivid on the Note 4’s Super AMOLED display, there’s still that noticeable color over-saturation that appears in certain applications," writes Florence Ion in a mostly glowing review for PC World. "When you’re browsing stark white websites, for instance, there’s a bit of a blue-hued tint. It’s obvious when you place the device alongside another type of display technology, but it’s not so apparent that it’ll ruin your entertainment experience. And with Super AMOLED, at least you’ll get the blackest blacks."

Samsung wrapped this lovely screen in a stylish metal frame and faux-leather back. "The Galaxy Note 4 now features an aluminum band that wraps around the frame of the phone to give it a more solid feel," says Bonnie Cha for Re/Code. "And, yes, I gave it the ol’ back-pocket-sit down test — so far, the smartphone has not bent under the pressure. I also like that Samsung did away with the stitching on the leatherette back cover. The phone looks neater and more streamlined now. Overall, it’s a huge improvement over the Galaxy Note 3."

Reviewers raved about the Note 4's two new cameras. The back-facing camera sports a 16-megapixel sensor and optical image stabilization for high-quality shots in low-light situations. The front-facing camera takes a step forward, as well, with 3.7 megapixels and new software for selfies. 

Speaking of software, one big improvement with the Note 4 is Samsung's multitasking features.

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"The phone excels at multitasking," says Edward C. Baig in USA Today. "You can display more than one app on the screen at the same time, perhaps keeping your calendar open while you search the Web for a restaurant. Samsung also adds helpful tools for people who like to operate the phone with one hand. For example, while you're typing a message, a reduced size keyboard can be pushed to either the right or left side of the display, closer to your fingers."

Ars Technica, which published one of the more critical reviews, reports that the Note 4 offers good battery life. It lasted through more than 10 hours of constant Wi-Fi browsing. That's slightly better than the Note 3, but a few percentage points behind the Galaxy S5, HTC One (M8), and iPhone 6 Plus.

"The 1440p display will suck down power at a faster rate than the 1080p screen on the Note 3, but Samsung managed to not let things get out of control," writes Ron Amadeo in Ars Technica. "It's a new year and new iteration, but this is much the same old Note. If you like the Note 3, you'll like the Note 4. It doesn't offer much for upgraders, but much of the industry is on a yearly cycle. Samsung seemingly had to release something, so it did."