Samsung is serious about phablets, and its three latest announcements add compelling twists to its Galaxy Note lineup. The most straightforward of the company’s new offerings will be the Galaxy Note 4, its latest flagship big-screened phone. Beyond that, things get much more interesting: A Note 4 doppelganger called the Note Edge with a wraparound AMOLED screen, and an Oculus-like VR mask driven by the Note 4, the Gear VR.
Samsung’s New Phlagship Phablet
The new Galaxy Note 4 runs Android 4.4 KitKat and has a 5.7-inch AMOLED display with a 2,560 x 1,440 (Quad HD) resolution; that adds up to an incredibly sharp and colorful 518 ppi screen. Its cameras also get significant upgrades. Optical image stabilization bolsters its 16-megapixel main camera, and there’s an 8X digital zoom on that shooter. To reduce pixelation on those digitally-zoomed images, Samsung says the camera uses its own special blend of HDR-like image compositing. The front-facing camera also gets a bump, with a higher-resolution 3.7-megapixel sensor and an F1.9 aperture that helps it perform well in low light. According to Samsung, it also has a 120-degree field of view, which is a much wider-angle lens than most selfie cams.
The Note 4′s removable battery is an ample 3,220mAh unit, and the company touts its “Rapid Charge” feature, which can juice the battery 50 percent in 30 minutes. Similar to the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Tab S, the phablet also has an “Ultra Power Saver” mode that the company claims can last 24 hours with just 10 percent battery life.
I can say with confidence that it feels good in the hand. The metal-framed Note 4 has a soft faux-leather back like its predecessor, but there’s no fake stitching this time around. Its S Pen also works more like a mouse on this version; you click the stylus’s side button and drag the pen across text to highlight it, and the same actions allow you to drag-and-drop onscreen items precisely. Along with the user-accessible battery, there’s also a microSD slot that lets you add up to 64GB of extra storage.
All the Note 4 specifics haven’t been revealed just yet. Samsung says it will be available with a 2.7GHz quad-core CPU (likely to be a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chip, although Samsung wouldn’t comment on the specifics) and with dual quad-core CPUs like the Exynos-based Galaxy Tab S. The pricing has yet to be announced, but the phone will launch on all all four major U.S. carriers in October.
Gear VR: A Phablet-Driven Oculus Rift
Sold separately (at a price yet to be announced this fall) will be the coolest phablet accessory in world history: the Gear VR. This is an Oculus Rift-style headset that works only with the Note 4. You insert the Note 4 into the facemask, and the phone automatically enters VR mode when you dock it into the headset.
When docked, the Gear VR uses the Note 4 display and its processing power for full-immersion games and movies, while the headset has its own magnetometer and accelerometer to calculate movement, as well as a proximity sensor to know when it’s on your face.
Built-in lenses with a 96-degree field of view sit between your eyes and the screen, and there’s a touchpad on the headset’s right temple for navigating on-face menus. The sides of the mask also host volume controls and a menu-back button, and there’s a focus-adjust wheel on top. The whole thing clings to your face with Velcro straps.
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