Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 reviewed

Move past the design and you’ll see that the new Note is a little more powerful in this incarnation, relying on the slightly faster Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor, and the first phone released in Australia to do so, meaning there’s just a tad more grunt in this phone than others out there being released with the older 800 and 801 chips, though the difference appears to be marginal.

That said, synthetic benchmarks appear to be good, and jumping from app to app, we found only a hint of lag, though mostly solid performance across the board, with the 3GB RAM also assisting here, no doubt.

The supply of 32GB storage also helps here, one of the largest amounts of included and usable storage we’ve seen on an Android phone, where the amounts typically amount to 16GB, and there’s a microSD slot if you need it, too, which we did.

And the reason we did is because the Galaxy Note 4, like other handsets from Sony and LG, supports high-resolution audio in 24-bit FLAC, playing back 96kHz, 176kHz, and even the benchmark 192kHz files in 24-bit audio.

You’ll want a decent pair of headphones supporting the technology, as well as some files to make this work, but when you get them, they appear in Samsung’s “Music” application, and if they’re 24-bit will place a “UHQ” box in the top left corner, indicating that yes, you’re listening to high resolution audio.

Plug in as pair of good headphones and you’ll get good audio using this mode, allowing you a little more multimedia than your ordinary phone, especially if you’re already amassing a high-res library at home for that high-res HiFi system you keep telling yourself you’re going to buy.

Samsung’s overlay to Android is also feeling firmer than ever, with TouchWiz easy to get used to, and finally — yes, freakin’ finally — Samsung now allows Aussie owners to change their shortcut dock icons from out of the box.

Give Samsung a clap for this, because it has taken long enough, with Australians missing that feature for a couple of years, since the S3 stopped support for that about halfway into the life of that handset. The Galaxy S5 received an update earlier in the year that fixed this, and the Note 4 doesn’t even need a patch, with this aspect unlocked from the get go.

Look-wise, TouchWiz on the Note 4 is a cross between flat and not-so-flat, but the colours are vibrant, the menu fast and easy on the eyes with left to right menu scrolling, multiple home screens with easy sorting, and a Flipboard “Briefing” menu all the way to the left which from our testing isn’t able to be switched off, but does provide you with a small dose of news in a very easy to read system.

If you like checking out news in the morning or on the way home from work, this system will let you browse through the headlines, and scroll up and down through an article, reading it as if you were thumbing through the pages for real, up and down, printed on a small notepad. As you do.

Some other features grabbed our attention, such as the multi-tasking on Android, which now lets you sort through the apps in large windows, flicking them out quickly when you want to close them, while the audio can be modified to sound like different soundscapes with emphasis on various audio types, such as being more jazzy or classical focused.

An infrared remote is also included, meaning you can use this as a TV remote like you could last time, and just like on the Galaxy S5, there’s fingerprint sensor for on the front for unlocking the phone and a heart-rate sensor on the back just under the camera lens.

You won’t find the fingerprint sensor the greatest at picking up registered prints, and the backup password to get in has to be a touch more complicated than we’d like, but people who like that sort of security will no doubt appreciate it.

As for the heart-rate sensor, we’re still not sure we get the point on a phone, but once again, it’s here if you need it.

One area where Samsung has made the heart-rate sensor effective is by making this aspect used for taking selfies. When you hold your finger over this sensor and then remove it, the phone picks up on what you’ve done and takes the photo, similar to how LG’s G3 picks up on a balled fist opening up to take a selfie.