Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 reviewed

The camera isn’t bad either, though at full resolution can show up with quite the bit of softness and almost watercolour like dabbing.

For most things, people will be happy, with excellent colours in daylight, sharpness on-screen until you zoom in, and some relatively snappy focus.

Darker shots don’t result in as high a quality image as we’ve seen on competing smartphone cameras, but if you hold still, you may be able to get something decent, which is precisely the instruction communicated by the phone.

Image sample from the Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Video is also supported, with 4K Ultra High Definition if you need it, and there’s even a little bit of slow motion technology here.

Interestingly, Samsung has made some changes to both its gallery that are quite pleasing, and yet still left one feature out of its gallery that is, well, less so.

The camera side of things makes us happy because finally — again, freakin’ finally — the camera can be silenced.

You might say it’s better to have a camera that can’t be, and we’ve certainly heard that argument before, but so many phones can silence their cameras, so we never really understood why Samsung phones couldn’t. In the Galaxy Note 4, however, it can be done, and you can fire shots without attracting attention with a sharp glance as your phone makes a particularly loud fake clicking sound.

Samsung’s high-dynamic range mode or “HDR” as we call it also helps out when the shadows are a little too heavy in the image, which is great, and there’s an icon to take you straight to the camera even when the phone is locked, which is a welcome addition.

HDR mode on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 can really brighten up a scene: left has HDR off, right has it on.

But the gallery still bothers us, and if you want to rotate an image, instead of just rotating the phone, you have to rotate the phone and then press a button to rotate the image.

Just… no.

If we’ve rotated the phone, why do we need to tell the software to rotate the image to make this happen? Just rotate the image when the phone is rotated. Every other phone can, so why can’t the fastest phone in Australia do it.

There’s also a dose of high speed mobile downloads you’ll want to pay attention to.

For its final major flagship phone of the year, Samsung has brought Category 6 internet speeds to Australia, before most of the telcos are ready, it seems. We’ve not heard that Category 6 technology is in action across any of our carriers, but when it does go into effect, we’re told you should be able to achieve download speeds as high as 300Mbps, or in laymen’s terms, roughly equivalent to 30 times the average speed ADSL2+ subscribers get in Australia.

Not too shabby.

In our tests, we found Category 4 speeds were more likely, a result that probably will be found across most networks in Australia, now that it’s more than Vodafone with the tech.

That said, we also found a mind-blowing 127Mbps on our tests with Telstra’s 4GX network in Sydney, which pretty much blew our eyebrows off on the way to work one morning, showing just what the Category 6 capable smartphone was capable of pulling in.

Essentially, if you’re planning on using the Note 4 with mobile downloads and entertainment in mind and you’re within reach of a high-speed network, you’ll be most pleased, with solid speeds across the board, and WiFi 802.11ac when you get home (if you have an 802.11ac router).

And of course, there’s the pen.

Ah yes, the Samsung S Pen, the raison d’etre that the Note is so different from the other phablets that appear on shelves of mobile phone stores around the world.

In this incarnation, it does all the things you’ll expect a pen to do, like take notes, draw, and provide 2,048 levels of pressure, emulating the whole feeling of using a pencil when it’s quite obvious you’re not.

The pen still doesn’t feel like a pen, but rather a scrawny piece of plastic that you shouldn’t apply too much pressure with, and the screen doesn’t feel like paper as it’s far too glossy for that.

But still, you can take notes, and pull the pen out in a jiffy to scrawl down someone’s phone number, and you can even make a game plan if you’re a coach at a football game, taking a picture of the field using the camera and scribbling lines to indicate where people go, or something to that effect.

Some people will use it, we’re sure, but this year it seems to us that the pen functionality has kind of been pulled back a little, and aspects from last year’s Note — the Note 3 — are gone, such as the ability to draw a square on your phone’s home screen and make a web browser or another app appear in that little block.

You can make rather strange crops of pictures, which is feature we’re not sure many will use.