Animal Crossing and Amiibo seem like a match made in heaven: cute characters, and collectable toys. Sadly, the duo’s first pairing turned out to be a shallow, dull board game without much replay value. Fans longed for a full Animal Crossing toys-to-life experience — and this year, they’re going to get it. Sort of. This fall, Nintendo will be updating the 3DS’ 4-year-old Animal Crossing: New Leaf with Amiibo support.
Starting this fall, players with a New Nintendo 3DS or a 3DS NFC Amiibo reader will be able to use the figure and cards created for Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival in 2012’s New Leaf. Using an animal card will let you invite a character to live in your town, while Amiibo figures from other Nintendo series, like Splatoon, appear to unlock special in-game items. It’s the kind of natural integration we’d expect from a newly released title — so it’s doubly impressive this functionality is being baked into a such an old game. The update is free, and should be available to 3DS owners later this year.
If you thought Sony was done announcing new TVs for the year at CES 2016, you were mistaken. Today, Sony unveiled the Z series, a new line of LCD televisions that it says is its best and brightest yet. It runs on Android TV just like the rest of Sony’s stable, but the big deal with this new flagship line of 4K HDR Ultra HD TVs is its Backlight Master Drive technology. This tech, which we saw in prototype form at CES, aims to bring a brightness and contrast that’ll rival the richness of OLED sets.
Backlight Master Drive is essentially a precision backlight technology that aims to provide the best lighting possible. There’s a dense LCD layer atop the TV that is coupled with a unique lighting algorithm to do the job. Discrete LED controls plus a calibrated beam LED design prompts the TV to dim and boost each LED individually instead of lighting up entire zones. This, Sony says, offers “unparalleled contrast and realism,” leading to a deeper blacks and brighter images.
On top of all this, the Z series packs in the new 4K HDR Processor X1TM Extreme, which when combined with the Backlight Master Drive tech, should result in better color and contrast. Sony says it has 40 percent more real-time image processing power than the previous 4K Processor X1TM. It packs in features such as object-based HDR remastering, dual database processing and Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR, all of which combine to create better HD upscaling, improved noise reduction and just a smoother picture overall.
The 65-inch and 75-inch models are available for pre-sale today for $6,999 and $9,999 MSRP respectively, while a 100-inch version will be available later in the year for a yet to be determined price.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to finally approve a three-year extension on local-sourcing rules within the country, granted to Apple due to its single-brand retail company status selling “cutting-edge technology.” Those familiar with the matter, speaking with Bloomberg, claimed that the Indian government as a whole is gearing up to make it easier for all companies like Apple to meet a similar criteria.
Before the so-called “shift” in Modi’s government, India’s rules on foreign direct investments required 30 percent of goods sold by a foreign company to be manufactured and produced within the country. Like most companies, the law prevented Apple’s retail growth within India — leading to a handful of third-party endorsed pop-up shops — because of the fact that most of its goods are created in China.
Apple filed for a new retail application when the new shifts in India’s laws began to pick up steam, but some confusion still remained over what would be considered “cutting-edge” and “state of the art” technology, which could eventually grant a company another 5-year extension on top of the blanketed 3-year ruling being made common. It’s this “push to clarify” the country’s laws and procedures that Modi is spearheading, eventually expected to allow Apple to open its first retail stores in India.
Modi’s push to clarify those procedures will pave the way for Apple to open a retail store, according to the people [familiar with the matter]. The new rules may also impact China’s Xiaomi Corp. and Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corp., which have also asked for exemptions.
Apple has been attempting to gain a foothold in India for a while now, most recently with CEO Tim Cook visiting the country, and Modi himself, to discuss manufacturing and retail opportunities. Its Authorized Mobility Resellers program has allowed Apple to skirt the country’s restrictive retail presence rules, but still lacks the ability to bring in big sales numbers from India.
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Microsoft-owned keyboard app maker SwiftKey today launched a brand-new iOS app, this time focused on predictive emoji suggestions. Called Swiftmoji, the app runs a crowdsourced usage data algorithm to begin suggesting its users specific emoji characters when they send text messages, with the app set to eventually learn each user’s preferences and recommend frequently-used emoji above those hardly ever sent in a message.
Image via TechCrunch
The app works by piggybacking on the written text created in Apple’s — or any other third-party’s — keyboard, showcasing a wall of emojis meant to be related to the message waiting to be sent. All users need to do is type something, tap the globe icon to switch over to Swiftmoji, and pick from the app’s proposed emoji characters. SwiftKey hopes this method is a bit more streamlined in comparison to the emoji hunt that happens in Apple’s first-party keyboard but, as TechCrunch noted, its predictive capabilities have room for improvement.
Testing the app out ahead of launch, the predictions seemed a tad tenuous and/or hit and miss at times. For example, typing ‘viva la France’ did indeed yield the French flag emoji as the first prediction. However the second prediction was the Italian flag. Which it’s hard to imagine being useful.
The app also lets users send an “emoji storm,” which shoots out emojis from its suggestion box in a random order at the tail-end of a message, if users think sending just one or two characters isn’t enough. In addition, there’s a tab for frequently used emoji, and a basic, scrollable section akin to what iOS users have been used to over the past few years. Interestingly, the Android version of the app is more robust, offering quick-access emoji suggestions above a full third-party keyboard.
Due to its ability to condense vast topics down to cartoonish characters, a SwiftKey spokeswoman is also ensuring users that the company has “worked to reduce the chances of anyone using Swiftmoji to be caused offence from the emoji predictions suggested.” All the same, she confirmed that SwiftKey wouldn’t outright censor its users, letting everyone have “the option to use whichever emoji they like and in whatever way they like,” with truly questionable outcomes from the app advised to be reported to the company.
Anyone interested can check out Swiftmoji for free on the App Store today. [Direct Link]
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Apple today released a new update for Safari Technology Preview, the experimental browser Apple first introduced on March 30, 2016. Apple designed the Safari Technology Preview to test features that may be introduced into the release version of Safari.
The Safari Technology Preview update is available through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store to anyone who has downloaded the browser. Full release notes for the update are available on the Safari Technology Preview website.
Apple’s goal with Safari Technology Preview is to gather feedback from developers and users on its browser development process. Safari Technology Preview can be run side-by-side with the existing Safari browser and while aimed at developers, it does not require a developer account to download.
Tag: Safari Technology Preview
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If you install an SSD on a Mac, it’s important to make sure that the TRIM command is running on the machine.
Screenshot by Dong Ngo
If you have replaced the hard drive on your Mac with an SSD (which you should do), you already know how much faster your computer is. However, I’m going to show you how to avoid this one simple mistake that so many of us make when installing a new SSD. By default, Mac OS, unlike Windows, doesn’t automatically enable the TRIM command for a self-installed SSD. (If your Mac comes with an SSD, TRIM will already be enabled.)
TRIM allows the operating system to actively inform an SSD which blocks of data are no longer in use and can be wiped internally. This helps the drive work more efficiently and leads to faster performance and most importantly, longer lifespan. You can read more about that here. The bottom line is that, in order to prolong the life of your SSD, you need to make sure TRIM is running on your Mac.
Here’s how you check to see if the TRIM command is running on your Mac.
Here’s how to find out if TRIM is running or not.
1. Click on the Apple icon (top-right corner) then choose About This Mac.
2. Click on System Report.
3. On the left pane of the System Information window, under Hardware navigate to SATA/SATA Express.
4. On the right pane, scroll down until you find TRIM Support. If the value is Yes, then TRIM is running — you’re all good! If the value is No, then you need to turn it on.
Here’s how to turn TRIM on in a Mac.
Here’s how to turn TRIM on:
Make sure you’re logged into your Mac with an account that has Administrator privileges. Next:
1. Run Terminal (you can search for it with Spotlight)
2. Type in this command: sudo trimforce enable and press enter.
3. Type in the password of the account you’re using, then press enter.
4. The system will display a notice, then ask you if you are sure you wish to proceed. Type in y and then press enter.
5. The system will then indicate that it will reboot and ask you if that’s OK. Type y again then press enter.
Now wait for the system to restart by itself and you’re done. If you check again, you will see that TRIM is now running on the system.
The Raspberry Pi is the ultimate, affordable computer for anyone who likes to tinker and doesn’t mind doing some legwork to get it up and running.
If you order a Raspberry Pi without an SD card preloaded with New Out Of Box Software (NOOBS), you will need to provide your own SD card and manually install an operating system.
There are many to choose from — like Raspbian or OSMC for media streaming– and they’re all quick and easy to install. There are even operating systems that turn your Raspbery Pi into a music streamer.
Here’s how to install (aka “flash”) an OS to the Raspberry Pi without NOOBS.
What you’ll need
Begin by downloading the software that you want to install on the Raspberry Pi. In this case, we’re using Raspbian, a Raspberry Pi-optimized version of the Linux distribution called Debian, which you can find by going to raspberrypi.org/downloads. Click Raspbian (instead of NOOBS) and download the full Raspbian Jessie ZIP. The file is approximately 1.3GB, so it may take several minutes to download, depending on your internet speeds.
You’ll also need a freshly-formatted SD card (microSD cards are required for the Raspberry Pi 2 or 3). The format used by Raspberry Pi is FAT32 (or MS-DOS), not exFAT. If you have an SD card larger than 32GB, make sure it is using the proper format, as anything larger than 32GB defaults to exFAT.
To do this on a Mac, open Disk Utility, select the drive you want to format, click Erase. Choose MS-DOS (FAT) for the format and click Erase.
On Windows, it’s recommended that you use the SD Association’s Formatting Tool, which is available free of charge at sdcard.org. Open SDFormatter and, according to Raspberry Pi Foundation, you “need to set FORMAT SIZE ADJUSTMENT option to ON” in the program’s settings to ensure you format the entire SD card.
Installing Raspbian with Mac or Windows
To install Raspbian, you will need to write the operating system image file onto the SD card.
Start by uncompressing the ZIP file you downloaded from raspberrypi.org. To do this from a Mac, install The Unarchiver and double-click the ZIP file. From Windows, right-click the file, select Extract All, choose a destination for the extracted files and click Extract.
After it’s done unzipping, it’s time to write the image.
- Open Terminal by locating the app in Launchpad or by pressing command + spacebar and searching for the app in Spotlight.
- Change the directory you’re working in to the location of the extracted image. For example, if you extracted the Raspbian image to your desktop, type cd Desktop/ and press enter.
- Identify the disk by typing diskutil list and pressing enter. Look for the name of the SD card you’re using (it will appear the same in Terminal as it does on the desktop) and locate its identifier, which will look something like disk2 or disk3, depending on how many devices you have connected to your Mac.
- Make sure you have the right storage device identifier and type the command diskutil unmountDisk /dev/[disk identifier] and press return. The command should look something like diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk2.
- Finally, write the image to the disk using the command sudo dd bs=1m if=[image].img of=/dev/r[disk identifier] and press return. The complete command will look something like sudo dd bs=1m if=2016-03-18-raspbian-jessie.img of=/dev/rdisk2. You will need to enter the administrator password to your computer and press enter once more.
The process for Windows is a bit more straightforward. You will first need to download Win32 Disk Imager from SourceForge.
- Once Win32 Disk Imager is installed, run it as an administrator by right-clicking the program icon and selecting Run as administrator.
- Select the image file you extracted from the Raspbian ZIP file.
- Select the correct storage drive by choosing the drive letter in the dropdown menu below Device. Be completely certain you selected the correct drive before proceeding.
- Click Write.
This process will take several minutes to complete, but once the image is finished writing to the the SD card, you can eject the drive, insert it into the Raspberry Pi and power it on.
The first boot will take longer than usual, but you will have a working version of Raspbian installed.
Ready for more? Turn your Raspberry Pi into a music streaming device or get started on one of these 25 Raspberry Pi projects.
The Good This $800 Bosch dishwasher has the best cleaning rating of any machine we’ve tested so far, including some $1,200 models. It tops that off with great drying performance that limits water spots. Your dishes will actually come out shiny, no matter what’s covering them when they go in.
The Bad $800 isn’t cheap for a dishwasher, yet the Bosch has minimal features and a plain design. Inflexible racks also make it a pain to use.
The Bottom Line You can throw anything you want at the $800 Bosch SHS63VL5UC as long as you can find a place where it fits. If you’re willing to adapt to a tedious rack setup, it’ll reward you with cleaning performance that far outclasses its pay grade.
I have a love-hate relationship with the $800 Bosch SHS63VL5UC. With only a few cycle options and no extras such as a third rack, there isn’t much about this dishwasher’s feature list to lure you in. The adjustable height and fold down tines of the top rack are a plus, but you get no other flexibility, making it hard to fit any large or oddly shaped dishes. Plus, the plain color pallette and push buttons on the dishwasher’s upper lip make it look outdated, so forget about a cutting-edge design.
For all of that, this Bosch unit does do one thing consistently well: clean dishes. This $800 dishwasher tackled everything we threw at it. It handled tough stains like chili and spinach, and water spots on glassware were almost non-existent. In fact, it out-cleaned our previous champ — the $1,200 LG LDT9965BD — by a couple of percentage points making it the best cleaner we’ve seen so far. It finished our trials with an average clean score of 93 percent. That’s amazing.
I wish there were more features on the Bosch SHS63VL5UC for its price, but seeing sparkling dishes after each cycle makes this dishwasher hard to ignore. If all you care about is dish-cleaning performance and you’re willing to spend for an upper-midrange appliance to get it, the Bosch SHS63VL5UC is an easy recommendation.
Boss your dishes around with this Bosch dishwasher
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The stainless finish of the Bosch SHS63VL5UC reminds me of many other modern large appliances, but the scoop handle provides a pleasant change of pace. Above the handle, a lighter steel color borders the rest and curves up to the control panel on the upper lip. As with every other built-in dishwasher with hidden controls, you’ll need to pull open the door for the control panel to work. But unlike most other dishwashers with hidden controls, the Bosch SHS63VL5UC actually has physical buttons instead of touch controls.
The buttons are responsive, I just found them strangely out of place on a hidden control panel. There’s nothing outright wrong about the design of the SHS63VL5UC, but there’s no color accents on the interior, and as a whole it struck me as plain and a little old fashioned.
A little old fashioned, but not necessarily ugly.
You can purchase the Bosch SHS63VL5UC 300 Series dishwasher at AJ Madison and other large appliance dealers. Like most large appliances, you’ll find it cheaper than the $800 list price. Right now, AJ Madison has it for $715. The SHS63VL5UC is not available overseas.
Open the dishwasher and press the On-Off button, and you’ll be able to select from a pretty standard selection of cycle options — Heavy, Auto, Normal and Rinse — each with their own respective buttons. I found the lack of creative cycle options on an $800 dishwasher more egregious than the presence of buttons themselves — especially given that Bosch doesn’t even give you an express cycle if you need to wash a load quickly.
Not many cycles to choose from.
The $900 LG LDF7774ST lets you vary the water pressure from the top rack to the bottom with one of its cycles. It doesn’t have a true express either, but it comes closer with a Quick & Dry cycle that takes a little over an hour. Bosch’s shortest cycle other than Rinse is more than two hours long.
The $900 LG’s time display stays on as it runs, keeping you up to date with how much longer it will run. As you select your cycle, the display on the Bosch SHS63VL5UC blinks an estimate that updates as you add options such as “ExtraDry,” then turns solid as you hit start on the right to show you it’s ready to go. But once you close the door and the SHS63VL5UC whirs into action, the display turns off.
The InfoLight lets you know the dishwasher is running.
A red info light shines on the floor to let you know the dishwasher is running, so the SHS63VL5UC is sure to delight your family’s cat, but I’d have liked a few more features aimed at humans for the $800 price.
The interior of the SHS63VL5UC doesn’t have a lot going on in terms of features either, and I don’t like most of what it does have.
You can lift the upper rack to adjust its height to any of three possible positions. Once it’s all the way up, press the triggers on either side of the rack to lower it back down to position one, but even that is cumbersome as you’ll need to prod and jostle the rack to actually get it to drop.
Teal is more than just another quadcopter: It’s a platform.
As it stands in 2016, consumers can pick out a ready-to-fly drone for aerial photos and video or for racing or just to fly casually. Teal is meant to appeal to all of these buyers, regardless of skill level, and eventually to commercial pilots, too.
Behind Teal — the company and the drone — is 18-year old George Matus who has been flying quads since he was 11 and built his first one at 14. The drone is the result of an evolving list of dream features he’s been making since then.
The quad can go fast at up to 70 mph (112 kph) in up to 40 mph (64 kph) winds, it’s weatherproof, can be controlled with an iOS or Android device or a regular radio controller and is small enough to slip into backpack. In front is an electronically stabilized 13-megapixel camera that can record video at 4K resolution.
Teal is also modular, and that doesn’t only mean removing the battery. Each arm can be popped on and off, as can the drone’s top section. With other drones, if you were to break one of the prop arms you would have to send the whole thing in for repair. With Teal you’ll be able to easily replace it on your own. Plus, this opens the possibility for specialized arms for specific tasks. Teal is also currently planning to release modules for the top section including thermal imaging, obstacle avoidance (something it currently can’t do on its own) and a secondary camera for first-person-view racing.
Here’s where it gets even more interesting, though. Inside Teal is an Nvidia TX1 computer with an octa-core processor to handle machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies. The idea here is that by having the modular design, powerful hardware running the drone’s Teal OS as well as making an SDK available, it can be a platform to be developed for consumer and commercial uses.
For the moment the drone is targeted at consumers and will have three apps available at launch: one for flight control, another for a Follow-Me mode for automatic subject tracking and a racing application so you can compete against other Teal pilots. Matus hopes after an app store has been built and grows, that licensing of the platform with other hardware manufacturers will soon follow.
The biggest downsides we see are the same things we see with a lot of drones: battery life and price. Teal has a 1,800mAh lithium polymer battery that will provide around 10 minutes of flight time. This is shorter than larger camera drones, but is in line with most racing drones. Teal should be releasing extended batteries at some point after launch, too.
The other issue is that Teal is a new comer and at $1,299 the unit is not cheap and it is far off with the earliest units shipping right before Christmas 2016. While the rest of the orders placed by August 15, should ship by early 2017, which is quite some time. And that’s if all goes according to plan.
The company is accepting preorders on Teal Drones site and you won’t be charged until the drone ships.
The Good The 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has a brilliant high-resolution screen and takes excellent outdoor shots on its 16-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization. Using the stylus is more convenient, and the battery charges very quickly.
The Bad Low light and indoor shots aren’t as good as they should be. The Note 4 costs significantly more than some other phablets, like the LG G3.
The Bottom Line The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 will thrill anyone who loves a fast phone with a large screen, but it’s best for compulsive scribblers willing to pay a lot for its winning stylus.
Editors’ note: Samsung will be revealing the Galaxy Note 7 at an event in New York City on August 2. The successor to the 2014 Galaxy Note 4 (reviewed here) was 2015’s Galaxy Note 5, but Samsung is skipping the Note 6 moniker in order to bring its product line in sync with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, which were released earlier in 2016.
To stylus or not to stylus, that is the question.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4‘s S-Pen — the narrow stylus tucked handily inside Samsung’s surprisingly successful, giant 5.7-inch Galaxy Note phone — stands out in a crowd. No other popular phone comes with a stylus, and this one makes the most of its mouselike properties, and an ability to write and draw on the screen. Every day, I’ve used it instinctively to jot a list or note, and to keep the screen clean from finger smudges.
The Note 4’s specs also earn outstanding marks across the board, including its eye-poppingly vibrant display and a mostly-excellent 16-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization. Rapid LTE data speeds and a robust processor join a host of other specs and features that easily make the metal-rimmed, Android-powered Note 4 easily equal to other top-rated handsets — and often better. The phone’s drawbacks, though present, are minor and few.
As someone who enjoys the physical act of writing, I love the Note 4’s stylus skills. However, if the act of putting digital pen to paper baffles you, skip this handset in favor of other big-screen phones that potentially cost less and perform core tasks just as well. This year’s Galaxy Note makes only incremental improvements over last year’s runaway Note 3 , and if you don’t use the S-Pen heavily, the Note “phablet” costs too much compared to competing large-screen phones like the LG G3 .
The Note 4 sells for $300 on-contract and $600 off-contract in the US; £600 or £650 in the UK; and AU$940 in Australia. Scroll to the end for price comparisons.
Framed! Samsung Galaxy Note 4 now metal-trimmed…
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Design and build: Metal over plastic
Achieving the zenith of premium design has long eluded Samsung, whose polycarbonate handsets are usually attractive if not drool-worthy. Earlier this year, Samsung broke the all-plastic mold with its metal-rimmed Galaxy Alpha , a move repeated on the Note 4. Silver accents around the rim and buttons look sharp on both the white and black versions we saw; they should class up the gold and pink tones as well.
So how does it all look? Very good, and a lot better than pretty much every other Samsung phone you can buy, except perhaps for the Alpha. The backing is slightly more textured (and thankfully free of last year’s cheesy, chintzy faux stitching). The straight sides are comfortable to grasp and easy to hold onto. You can easily find physical buttons with your fingertips.
View full gallery The Note 4’s straight sides make it easy to hold.
Despite the improvements, though, the Note 4 still falls short of the LG G3 and HTC One M8’s luxe metal contouring and finishes, and the Sony Xperia Z3 ‘s modern edges. Metal also structures the iPhone 6 Plus, which maintains a more seamless build quality than the Note 4 (although you can’t remove the iPhone’s backplate.)
After spending several months using the phone, I found that it holds up well to daily wear and tear.
Size and portability
There’s big and then there’s big, and the definition seems to swell by the day. You’ll find the Note 4’s exact dimensions and weight in the chart below, but what I think you really want to know is what it’s like to hold and carry around, especially compared to other supersize phones.
Size-wise, it’s a hair taller and thicker than the Note 3 and almost identical to the iPhone 6 Plus . The LG G3 feels much more compact by comparison, even though its screen size is just 0.2-inch smaller.
View full gallery Seeing double? The Note 4 (left) and iPhone 6 Plus are closely matched in height and size.
As a relatively short person with smaller hands, the Note 4 technically squeezes into my back pocket, though it looks comical sticking out of it. The same scenario goes for its palm-stretching effects: I find one-handed use pretty much pointless and almost impossible, even with Samsung’s software modes turned on. However, several CNET editors with larger mitts and pockets didn’t have much trouble with the Note 4’s size, commenting on how nice it feels to grip.
Size and weight
|6 x 3.1 x 0.34 inches (153.5 by 78.6 by 8.5mm)||6.2 x 3.1 x 0.28 inches (158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1 mm)||5.76 x 2.94 x 0.35 inches (146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm)||5.75 x 2.83 x 0.29 inches (146 x 72 x 7.3mm)|
|6.2 ounces (176g)||6.07 ounces (172g)||5.26 ounces (149g)||5.36 ounces (152g)|
Ultra HD display
Although it’s got the same 5.7-inch display as last year’s model, the Note 4 has jumped in display resolution, from 1080p HD up to a 2,650 x 1,440p quad HD AMOLED display. Its pixel density of 515 ppi soars over the Note 3’s 386 ppi and the iPhone 6 Plus’ density of 401 ppi (but is less pixel-packed than the slightly smaller LG G3’s at 538 ppi).
These are big, impressive numbers on a big, impressive display that is undoubtedly clear and sharp. I spent a lot of time scrutinizing the Note 4’s presentation of many HD images, Web sites, and even 4K video against the iPhone 6 Plus and LG G3, all of them with brightness cranked to the max. I also threw in the Note 3 for good measure. Apart from predictable differences in color temperature and tone between the LCD iPhone and G3 versus the AMOLED Notes, differences in lettering and image quality were minor, if visible at all.
Display resolutions, compared
|5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED (2,560×1,440)||5.5-inch 1080p HD LCD (1,920×1,080)||5.5-inch Quad HD LCD (2,560×1,440)||5.2-inch 1080p HD LCD (1,920×1,080)|
|515 ppi||401 ppi||538 ppi||524 ppi|
I will say, though, that the G3 looks noticeably dimmer at full brightness than the rest, and that the Note 4 exhibited smooth color gradients and strong contrast. It was perhaps just ever so slightly better than the rest, but not nearly enough to warrant a rowdy debate. Even when viewing 4K video, hawk-eyed CNET editors and photographers gathered around the phones could only tell slight differences in the amount of detail on display.
Other external features
If you’re familiar with Samsung’s Galaxy S5 , you pretty much know what you’re getting with the Note 4. A physical home button and two capacitive soft keys rest below the screen, each with a secondary function when you press them down. The power/lock button decorates the right spine, with the volume rocker on the left. A rapid-charging port at the bottom edge balances out the 3.5 millimeter headset jack and IR blaster up top.
Below the camera lens, an LED flash module combines with the heart-rate sensor that is rapidly becoming another Samsung hallmark. The back cover pulls off to access the battery and microSD card slot, which you can fill with an up-to-64GB card (but not the 128GB you see on some other phones). The S-Pen holster bores into the back as well.
View full gallery There’s a lot of power inside the Note 4, just no waterproofing.
One thing you won’t notice is a rubber gasket surrounding the internal parts to help keep them free of water, unlike on the Galaxy S5. This isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, though some folks find that “waterproof” phones (also like the Xperia Z3) are a little more convenient for their hydrophilic lives.
Music plays nice and loud out of the speakers, though its certainly passable audio quality is a little tinny and thin, not quite the rich, rounded audio of the HTC One M8, for example. Behind the scenes, the Note 4 supports Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC.
OS and apps
Android 4.4 KitKat is practically a given on this phone, as is Samsung’s custom TouchWiz layer. If anything, Samsung seems to have scaled back from the Galaxy S5 rather than piling more on top like it usually does.
My Magazine, the newsfeed that lives to the let of your home screen, has morphed into Flipboard (which powered it anyway). The Toolbox feature that was introduced with the S5 is also gone. I also enjoyed color-coding app folders on the home screen, which is another relatively tiny Note 4 omission. Google Search’s always-listening ear is off by default, but you can turn it on in the app’s settings menu under “Voice.”
View full gallery Android 4.4.4 is the backbone beneath Samsung’s TouchWiz layer.
Otherwise, you’ll find a slew of ways to customize things from motion control to the notification panel. Blocking mode and private mode are present, and those who find the UI a little too frenetic can switch to a simpler Easy mode. As a security measure, the biometrically-minded can set up the fingerprint scanner as well (though its time-saving property is dubious).
Large phones like this one often come with settings to turn on one-handed operations. New in the Note 4 is a persistent panel hosting icons for your home-button functions, plus one to shrink down the application window for theoretically better one-handed use. You can expand or hide it on any screen, and of course, customize the icons.
Features that would help me use the phone one-handed are some I’d like to like, but in order for it to work, you have to be able to comfortably grip the phone and navigate with a thumb, something I had problems with while grabbing a pole on the bus and giving blood, both activities that really test these claims by taking an arm out of commission. Also, though it’s meant to be temporary, shrinking the app window defeats the purpose of having such a large display in the first place.
View full gallery Shrinking the screen is one way to use the Note 4 when you’ve only got one free hand.
Just two more notes on apps before we move on. You may notice a few tiny changes to S Health. In the US at least, S Health gets a new optional “coach” you can use that’s sourced by healthcare provider Cigna. In addition to checking your heart-rate, the app can also monitor your blood-oxygen level (SpO2).
You might also notice fewer bundled Samsung apps in general, like the Kid’s Mode that came pre-installed in the S5. These haven’t disappeared, they’re just packaged into Galaxy Apps and include partner apps (many that comes with deals) like Dropbox and Kindle for Samsung. Any other bloatware you find on your phone is most likely courtesy of your carrier.
Multitasking and more
The Note 4 still supports a split-screen mode that lets you resize two app windows from a list of supported programs. You can now launch it several ways, including from the Recents tab, and can also create smaller pop-up windows to drag around the screen.
Even more, you can shrink the size of a popup to float it around the screen as a persistent bubble — a lot like a chathead in the Facebook Messenger lexicon, or like the Toolbox bubble found in the Galaxy S5.
(Watch the video below for examples.)