It’s Mission Samsung time again, folks, and this time around, the wonderful folk at Samsung sent me a Galaxy Note 4 to integrate into my life for a week. For those of you who don’t know, the Galaxy Note 4 is somewhere in between “phone” and “tablet”, and thus it was dubbed the “phablet”. Which sounds a little like what would come from a union of Pharrel Williams and Kate Winslet. One of the best features of the Galaxy Note 4 is that is includes a stylus called the S-Pen, which, among other things, allows for a greater degree of precision and control when writing on the screen.

Many of you aren’t aware that in addition to being an entertaining video game reviewer (which is to say, I am entertaining, and I review video games, not that I only review entertaining video games), I also run a small home bakery (shout out to my bakery OMG! Cake Vir Jou!), and you’re all probably wondering where I’m going with this. Essentially, I wanted to test how well the Galaxy Note 4 integrates into a working environment that isn’t a corporate office.

When I receive a cake order, the first thing I do is hunt around my workspace for pencils, markers, construction paper, and glitter glue, because the way I get cakes done is by designing them on paper. To give you an idea of what my creative process used to look like pre-Galaxy Note 4, here’s my drawing of a sailing ship cake I was asked to design.

Ship concept drawing

It looks like my drawing skills are those of a demented buffalo trying to sketch while on a shaky train.

And here’s the implementation of it.

ship cake

Ship’s tasty, yo

Notice how similar they look? Yep, neither did I, but the reality is that getting from concept to baked cake can lose a little something in translation especially when time, money, and materials are too tight to allow full freedom of glorious creative expression.

Henna Pattern Design

Little-known fact: your tech devices want henna tattoos too

As luck would have it, I had a client order for a small, elegant 2-tier wedding cake. The theme was Indian and the colours were simple blacks and whites. White for purity and black for…everything else, I guess. After the bride and I had a consultation session, we agreed that a cake with a henna tattoo design on it would be perfect. Normally, at this point, I would reach for the aforementioned felt-tip markers, and then once done, send a picture of my frenzied scribblings to the client. This time I reached for the Galaxy Note 4 and started drawing the initial design. The design came to me ridiculously quickly, and within a few hours of my consult, I was able to send the bride a concept (which she absolutely gushed about).

henna cake design, drawn onto a photo of the cake using the Galaxy Note 4's S-Pen

Not the finished cake–simply a photo of a cake with the design drawn on using the Galaxy Note 4’s S-Pen

From there, it was a case of gathering materials, baking the cake, and then figuring out exactly how to translate the design onto the wedding centrepiece. And then the Galaxy Note 4 came to the rescue again, and you can see the results below. After baking and covering, I took a photo with the phablet’s camera (the features of which I’ll be gushing about in a bit). And this is the best bit: I drew the design onto the photo of the cake. This allowed me to make my mistakes virtually, and correct them. With the Note 4, I was able to single-handedly remove the biggest pain I have of cake design: seeing the design realized before getting to work. The S-Pen default tools are amazingly powerful, and include a number of different pen types (pen, pencil, brush, marker, etc); colours (complete with colour picker), and opacities (on some pen types, anyhow). It’s no high-end photo-editing tool, but what it does it does admirably. For comparison, here’s a picture I took of the finished cake. Let’s play spot-the-difference.

Completed henna wedding cake with henna pattern running up the side of the cake

Spot the difference? Well, for one, this cake is missing the masts and pirate regalia…

If you want to take a look at the rest of the photos of the cake, please head over here.

Beyond the business end of things, I made more extensive use of the rest of the features of the Galaxy Note 4 than I thought I would, and I will say that I’m truly impressed by what’s here. My old phone is something that was probably originally used by a tyrannosaurus, so I wasn’t aware of just how insanely powerful phablets had become. The Galaxy Note 4, in particular, has this wonderful multitasking feature; it’s something I’d not expected to see. You can make apps smaller to take up less of the screen, allowing you to reference one app at the same time as using another, or switch between them quickly. I took this screenshot on the phablet so you can see what I mean. Here, I wanted to update my check list while referencing the calendar. This meant not having to constantly switch between the two apps.

Screenshot of the Galaxy Note 4's multitasking feature, showing the check list on the left of the screen and the calendar on the right

Hey, this check list has nothing on it! Does this mean I can go home?

The camera on the Galaxy Note 4 is something to behold (and it’s something I’ve crowed about on Twitter already). There are features here that I’d only expect to see on mid- to high-range DSLRs, such as selective focus, colour corrections, vignettes, and the ability to shoot HDR and panorama photos. Of course, more mainstream features such as stickers are here as a standard, but I’m still amazing by the phablet’s ability to let you draw straight onto the photos. That’s the feature that endeared the device to me.

360 degree panorama photo of Blougergstrand beach

Not pictured: well…not much. There’s no way anything can sneak up on you if you have 360 degree panorama views.

The camera also has a dedicated selfie mode, and the fact that it has a selfie mode goes to show just how much the selfie has seeped into global tech culture. You can selfie with both front and rear cameras. In the case of front-camera selfies, it’s a simple matter of taking the pic: just beneath the camera lens is a heat sensor which, among other things, is used as a shoot button in selfie mode. If you want to use the higher-resolution rear camera, it finds your face and beeps when you’re in view. I don’t normally do selfies, but here’s one of me using the front camera, just for the showing of what it can do.

Selfie on the beach

This isn’t me. I’m actually hiding behind this completely imaginary person.

The video camera mode is just as fully featured, and takes great footage. The maximum resolution for videos is Ultra HD (that’s 3840×2160, two steps above full HD, which sits at a paltry-sounding 1920×1080). You can also set it the camera to record in slow motion, fast motion, and smooth motion. Here’s a vid I took of a kitesurfer at Bloubergstrand. The quality of the video is just brilliant. To get the full effect, you have to watch this clip in full HD.

By the close of my Mission Samsung, I was surprised by just how much the Galaxy Note 4 had integrated itself into my life, and just how fast and seamless it was. I had used its S Health app to help motivate me to exercise (it has a pedometer built in, and kept reminding to take walks!); I used its S Note app to jot down quick notes in client meetings, and I made extensive use of the S Pen to doodle and draw designs. In fact, at the close of my Mission, I’m finding it hard to let go of the Note 4; that’s how much it became such a core part of what I do daily. It’s beautiful, simple, and the screen is truly gorgeous. The battery life is amazing and it charges so fast it makes the bullet train envious. I’ve loved the time I spent with my new buddy, and I’m going to miss just how much it simplified my life. Farewell, Galaxy Note 4. Here’s hoping we meet again.