Given the half-inch difference in screen diagonal, you can expect the Note 3 Neo to look much less compact when compared to the Galaxy S4. Samsung's last year flagship is also very thin and light, so it definitely is much more pocket-friendly, and easier to operate with one hand than the Note. Both handsets sport removable back covers, which on the Neo is with the new faux leather look, so you can quickly swap the battery or add more storage. The S Pen stylus makes the big difference, as it lets you draw and annotate on the phablet's display, which you can't do with such precision on the screen of the S4.
Note 3 Neo has a 5.5” Super AMOLED display with 720x1280 pixels of resolution, which works out to a 267ppi pixel density of the panel. Galaxy S4 has a much higher pixel density, at the eye-popping 441ppi, thanks to its 1080x1920 pixels Full HD 5 inch display. This means that detail and small text are much more defined on the S4 than on the Note. As both screens are built with Samsung's Super AMOLED tech, you can expect oversaturated, somewhat cold colors, deep blacks, and excellent viewing angles.
The handsets are loaded with Samsung's TouchWiz Nature UX on top of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, but we hope to see KitKat on them shortly. With NatureUX, however, the most apparent visual differences that KitKat brings, like a transparent status bar and full-screen wallpaper, are present stock, so there's not much of a surface difference at first look.
You can expect all the bells and whistles that come with Samsung's homemade interface overlay, like Smart Stay, which keeps the screen on while you are looking at it, and the multi-window mode, that can run two different apps on a split screen.
The display size of the Note 3 Neo is nicer for multitasking, enhanced further by stylus-specific apps like S Note, plus various drawing and annotating functions in the Gallery or Calendar. The Galaxy S4 also offers the Air View and Air Gesture features, but you have to hover above the display with your finger instead of the more precise stylus.
Processor and memory
One can find a new hexacore Exynos in the LTE version of the new Note 3 Neo, with two Cortex-A15 cores, clocked at 1.7 GHz maximum, and four Cortex-A7s, clocked at 1.3 GHz. The new Exynos is paired with a decent graphics processor, too, ARM's Mali-T624, so it's unlikely you'll have interface or app lag and hiccups. There is a 3G version of the Neo, which runs on 1.6 GHz quad-core processor, likely the same Exynos found in the Note II.
The hexacore Exynos is clocked slower than the 1.9 GHz quad-core chipset in the Snapdragon 600 version in the S4. Also, just two cores of the new Exynos are clocked at the maximum, while the Exynos 5 Octa version of the S4 has four 1.6 GHz cores, so in both cases Samsung's flagship for last year is likely to be faster than the new Note. As for the GPU, it is likely to be weaker than both PowerVR and Adreno that are found in the Galaxy S4.
Samsung has put 2 GB of RAM in both handsets, as well as 16 GB of internal memory, plus a microSD slot for storage expansion.
We get an 8 MP camera with LED flash on the Note 3 Neo, while the S4 sports a much more resolute 13 MP shooter on the rear, which can capture more detail. Samsung's interface offers an abundance of shooting modes like HDR or Panorama, arranged in an easy to flip through carousel, as well as plenty of color effects you can apply to your pictures and videos. We won't comment on the samples quality, as our preview phablet is still a prototype, but it likely won't measure up to the excellent shooter on the S4. Both handsets are able to do 1080p video recordings, captured with fluid 30fps.
If you are looking for something with a larger display than the one on the Galaxy S4, the Note 3 Neo is a fine choice, as besides the screen size advantage, it also sports the new-gen S Pen stylus, and its accompanying apps as additional input options. The Galaxy S4 is, naturally, way more compact, with faster processors, and with much better screen resolution, but it might come a tad more expensive than the mid-range Note 3 Neo, when it lands in stores.