2-day battery life and other stories: Infinix Note 4 review

For some reason or the other, maybe it’s a reviewer thing, I’ve had the honour of using every device Infinix has released under its Note series. However, I’ve not had the honour of spending as much time as I have with the latest member of that prized family, the Infinix Note 4.

I’ve had the Infinix Note 4 for over a month now and I’ve even had to dump impeccable devices like an expensive competitor, Huawei’s GR5 (2017), just to see whether it lives up to the hype.

Quick summary: it does.

In the box

Here’s what you get in the big blue box:

Infinix Note 4

Infinix Note 4

Design

When the Infinix Note 4 first leaked by way of several high-resolution press product images, the general consensus was that this was going to be a device with a shiny metallic back, building upon the foundation of last year’s Note 3.

Turns out that wasn’t the case. The first thing anyone notices upon holding the Infinix Note 4 for the first time is that it packs some considerable weight.

The next thing is that the cold metal feel of the Note 3 is missing on the Note 4. Well, because the back is plastic. Through and through.

The shiny plastic is, as one would expect, a fingerprint magnet and, if not taken good care of by way of using the included clear plastic case or something else similar, can be a major source of frustration. For instance, my gold review unit already has lots of tiny scratches scrambling to grab the attention of anyone who cares to look just as the sun’s reflection on the shiny surface does.

The other big design change is the switching in position of the fingerprint sensor’s placement. It moves to the front, beneath the home button from the back where it was located on the Note 4’s predecessor.

Infinix Note 4

While I was among the scores that decried this move, I’ve grown used to the frontal placement of the fingerprint reader since, naturally, the thumbs of either hand come to rest at the bottom of the device where the home button is located, when holding it.

A good display, a good camera and long battery life make the Infinix Note 4 one of the best smartphones one can buy for less than Kshs 15,000 in Kenya right now and a near-perfect template for how to make similarly-priced devices.

Display

Talking about the sun, the Infinix Note 4 doesn’t fare as well as I’d have expected it to outdoors.

The display is rather dim in the scorching Nairobi midday sun (well, before the cold and the clouds that come with it became a thing).

Overall, though, the display is a delight to use. Text is crisp and images are not washed out as would often be the case on similarly-priced budget devices totting 720p displays.

The Infinix Note 4’s full HD display does a good job keeping up with the (changing) times and delivering, at a fraction, an experience that would cost up to 3 times more ordinarily.

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Camera

The Infinix Note lineup has never really been known for its camera prowess. That’s been the preserve of Infinix’s “high-end” Zero series and, lately, the new S series.

With the Note 4, the Chinese brand is bringing the camera experience on the Note series at par with its colleagues.

I was pleasantly surprised at how good the photos I took with the device using both cameras (front and back) were. Sharp, clear and, if I am not misusing the word, popping. Not quite the sort you’d be expecting to shoot from a device priced at Kshs 14,000.

The results are even more impressive if you know your way around the always-confusing manual mode (it’s called Pro mode for a reason, after all).

The image processing does go a little overboard when it’s at night and the lighting is too much, though.

Here are some sample photos I took:

Software

Unfortunately, however good the Infinix Note 4 is as a budget device, its brilliance is undercut by the half-hearted experience one gets out of Infinix’s customized version of Android, XOS.

Over a year (maybe it’s nearly two, I can’t remember) since I first used XOS, I still have problems standing it. Though it’s been great seeing it grow and become the solid option that it is today, it still remains that: an option.

Sure, a huge chunk of Infinix’s user base won’t mind but there’s room for improvement. Maybe not a room, a whole basement.

There’s still the standard set of pre-installed stuff I won’t touch even on my deathbed as well as some useful tools like XHide, which lets you tuck away apps and files from prying eyes should your device land in the wrong hands, Scrollshot, which lets users take long screen grabs and a one-handed mode because, let’s face it, the Infinix Note 4 is a big device, the scaling down of the display to 5.7-inches notwithstanding.

Performance

While the dated MediaTek chip on the device pairs just fine with the Mali GPU to deliver some “just okay” performance, its age starts showing as one multitasks or launches an intensive application or game. Lag becomes common as apps stutter and take their time to launch.

Battery

Infinix Note 4

This is where the device’s brilliance kicks in and it proves its mettle as a true “Note”.

Seriously, one cannot argue with Infinix’s hype over the battery. It’s justified and it’s everything.

I haven’t used many devices in the Note 4’s price point this year but I can’t think of any that I’d pick today from those that are available in the Kenyan market that would match the prowess of the Infinix Note 4’s 4,300mAh sealed unit while still delivering a similar decent experience in other aspects.

I have consistently had over a day’s use on a single charge. And by “a day’s use” I mean the full 24 hours, not a working day of 8 hours. That’s how good this battery is. If you’re not like me, a zombie who’s always on their phone, then getting up to two days of service is easy.

READ:  Infinix S2 Pro: Thoughts on Infinix's "wefie" phone

Simply put, this is the device to take with you on your next camping trip. No need compromising on being able to shoot unforgettable memories by carrying a hideous feature phone in the name of staying connected throughout your escapades far away from charging sockets.

That fast-charging is supported is another reason to like the Note 4 even more.

Oh, and it does not heat up. That’s something that I have noticed much to my amazement. I have no idea what Infinix is doing here even though I remember the company making a big deal out of its liquid cooling tech last year. Looks like they’re really getting better at this. Which is a good thing since you’ll be buying a phone and not a burner like the one Buzzfeed is selling.

Others

Infinix Note 4

For some strange reason, I have been having issues receiving M-Pesa and other text messages on the Infinix Note 4. I had similar issues when I was using the S2 Pro back in April. What gives?

The sound I have been getting from the solo bottom-firing speaker is mostly okay. I cannot ask for more. It’s quite loud.

Infinix Note 4

Network signal reception when making or receiving calls is good; as it is when browsing the internet either on 3G or 4G LTE networks like Safaricom and Telkom Kenya’s (I tried it on both).

I have grown fond of using some of the Infinix Note 4’s gestures – double tap to wake/sleep, draw C to launch the camera etc as well as grown to dislike others like using 3 fingers to take a screenshot or waving to unlock the device. Gimmicks.

Pros

– Fast fingerprint sensor

– Long battery life

– A one-handed mode

– Good camera

Cons

– The display is very dim outdoors

– The shiny plastic back is a fingerprint magnet

– The 16GB onboard storage, which is the same as on last year’s Note 3, is meagre. I can’t ask for more at that price but this here could be the reason why you should look out for the Note 4 Pro which starts selling in Kenya this month as it has double the storage found on the Note 4.

– XOS is still, well, XOS

Final word

It may be confounding to some why Infinix went with nearly-identical specifications to last year’s Note (see comparison here) in the Note 4 instead of a radical overhaul but it’s worth noting that the Note’s sibling, the Note 4 Pro, is just around the corner.

Unlike the Note 4, the Pro model will have a metallic back (goodbye smudges) and more memory and storage, the major bones I have to pick with the Note 4.

A good display, a good camera setup and the long battery life that it delivers make the Note 4 one of the best smartphones one can buy for Kshs 15,000 or less in Kenya right now (the other one I can think of is the Nokia 3) and a near-perfect template for how to make similarly-priced devices.

Emmanuel Chenze

Let's just say I know my stuff. I have 7 years experience handling, tinkering with and then writing extensively about Android stuff. Sometimes it is exciting, sometimes it is not; things can get stale with nothing new to show but I live for each one of those moments. Have something Android-related that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze@androidkenya.com