Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs HTC One M9: which phone is faster? (real-life speed comparison)

Have you ever wondered what makes a smartphone fast and why some smartphones perform better than others? To answer these questions, several key factors have to be taken into account. Firstly, there's the hardware – the capabilities of a phone's CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage have a crucial impact on its overall performance. So does the software in charge of all that silicon, including the operating system and the apps running on it. If you want a phone to be fast, its hardware and software have to work in perfect unison.

With this comparison, our goal is to find out which smartphone gets closer to this state of perfection – the HTC One M9 or the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. On paper, the former seems to have the advantage over Samsung's handset. Under the hood of the One M9 tick newer and seemingly better hardware components, including a Snapdragon 810 SoC and 3GB of DDR4 RAM. The Note 4, in case you need a refresher, relies on last year's Snapdragon 805 and 3GB of DDR3 RAM. On top of that, the Note 4's GPU has to push 1.7 times more pixels around due to the phablet's higher screen resolution. 

But that's all theory. 

The Setup

To see which phone is faster in real life – the HTC One M9 or the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – we picked a total of 21 pairs of apps. These included anything from basic stock apps to Google services and popular third-party applications. Then we measured the start-up times for each pair of apps and gave a point to the phone that loaded it faster. 

Of course, we did our best to keep the testing conditions as equal as possible for the two handsets. The HTC One M9 and Galaxy Note 4 were both connected to the same Wi-Fi network and provided with speedy access to the internet. Also, they were configured to use the same accounts for email, contacts and other services, they had an identical amount of photos loaded on them and they were loading the same web page during the browser tests. Prior to the start of our testing, the Galaxy Note 4 was given a factory reset. The M9 didn't need one as it was fresh out of the box.

The results

At first, the HTC One M9 stood its ground like a champ. We started our comparison by running a few of the phones' stock apps, such as the phonebook and the dialer, and these the M9 handled without much effort. Once we moved on to third-party apps and Google services, however, the Galaxy Note 4 quickly took the lead. It wasn't leading by much in each individual test, but it was ahead nonetheless. At the end of our comparison, Samsung's phablet had loaded 16 out of 21 app faster or as fast as the HTC One M9. 

We're not trying to imply that the HTC One M9 is a slow smartphone. Quite the contrary – it performs really well when it comes to overall UI responsiveness and smoothness thanks to its quick and simple transition animations. Also, it tends to be quicker when switching back and forth between apps. Intolerable lags or slowdowns are practically non-existent. But in the scenario of our speed comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has the upper hand, and that's despite it rocking last year's hardware.

Software versions of the reviewed units: 

HTC One M9:
Android 5.0.2
software number 1.32.401.15 

Samsung Galaxy Note 4:
Android 5.0.1
build number LRX22C.N910FXXU1BOB4

Related phones

One M9
  • Display 5.0" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 20 MP / 4 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, Octa-core, 2000 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2840 mAh(21.7h 3G talk time)
Galaxy Note 4
  • Display 5.7" 1440 x 2560 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP / 3.7 MP front
  • Processor Samsung Exynos 7 Octa, Octa-core, 1900 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3220 mAh(20h 3G talk time)



1. namesib

Posts: 97; Member since: Feb 08, 2015

Better CPU, RAM and lower resolution, but it still lost (and it wasn't even the Exynos Note 4)? What is wrong with this phone? Touchwiz haters where are you?

9. Lauticol

Posts: 404; Member since: Jun 25, 2011

Actually the propietary apps are the ones M9 won. Note 4 did better in all the third-party apps. So definitely Touchwiz is doing something

22. thegeneral7010

Posts: 437; Member since: Dec 10, 2014

maybe touchwiz laggs sometimes but i admit that it is the most functional interface i have ever used multi window is enough to use it ^^

35. gaara6775

Posts: 738; Member since: May 20, 2014

M9 crushed iPhone 6 & s6 in speed test. Check "phonebuff" speed test.

38. DillWeed

Posts: 150; Member since: Mar 14, 2014

but lost to an inferior chip on the Android platform. It doesn't make sense to compare two totally different ecosystems.

37. Geek.T

Posts: 18; Member since: Apr 04, 2015

but in real life i saw some lag on my friend's Note 4, and overall i found my nexus 5 smoother then note 4

51. MrEelSauce

Posts: 20; Member since: Jul 17, 2014

Your "friends" note 4 could have a myriad of user errors compared to other users note 4's or a freshly wiped note 4. Not to mention the new lollipop release is a big improvement

42. ShaikhJGI

Posts: 361; Member since: Jan 10, 2014

Well said bro +1

56. sudhakar8765

Posts: 2; Member since: Dec 18, 2014

May be the apps are not well optimised for sd 810.

2. samsboy unregistered

HTC M9 has space in the men's club.

3. Neros

Posts: 1016; Member since: Dec 19, 2014

Bring the exynos version and let the humiliation begin!

6. TyrionLannister unregistered

Even better, bring on the s6.

21. thegeneral7010

Posts: 437; Member since: Dec 10, 2014

exynos note 4 and s6 speed are almost equal check this

4. Jason2k13

Posts: 1469; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

ever since the galaxy note 2, the note series has been king of android ever since.

7. mrej201

Posts: 226; Member since: Feb 04, 2015

yes sir wait to for the note 5 no competition

5. Neros

Posts: 1016; Member since: Dec 19, 2014

5s to open YT, lol. Gj google.

8. Jason2k13

Posts: 1469; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

i tested it on my galaxy s6 edge just now, took 3-4 seconds lol

10. McLTE

Posts: 922; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

What were the tools used to measure the times? You CANNOT use data that is far more precise than the method used to measure it. If you were using a stop watch by hand, there is no way you can reliably use data that is precise to the hundredths of a second. So many of those measurements between the devices are within the sample error, assuming the times were measured by hand. PA - how did you measure the time???? Critical component of lending credibility to this article. Once again - half baked reporting.

13. Jason2k13

Posts: 1469; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

Lets try something else, you have eyes don't you? now look at the video and you can roughly judge which one is faster. You don't even need a stop watch. Try it.

14. TheGunnyPT

Posts: 252; Member since: Feb 12, 2015


18. Nick_T

Posts: 186; Member since: May 27, 2011

We look at the video frame by frame and count the number of frames each action takes. Then we multiply their number by the duration of each frame.

29. McLTE

Posts: 922; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Thanks for the explanation.. this should be stated in the body of the article!

11. Lauticol

Posts: 404; Member since: Jun 25, 2011

12s in Chrome! Come on my LG G2 does it way better

31. wildfiregt

Posts: 179; Member since: Jun 10, 2013

Watch the video. They used 3 shortcuts on homescreen loading 3 different webpages (closing the app each time) and the cumulative result was 12 sec

12. TheGunnyPT

Posts: 252; Member since: Feb 12, 2015

This is actually funny. Shows how much effort of Qualcomm went to that little hoven called 810. Now, something I'm really wondering is the S6 with that exynos with a 14nm vs Note 4. Either way, it's disappointing this... No need to upgrade from an M8 to a M9, even the camera is not that good from what I've tested.

20. j2001m

Posts: 3061; Member since: Apr 28, 2014

There is some other test vid on the net It went S6 Then big gap iPhone 6 Then big gap Note 4 On the above test ther was 1 or 2 games that slow load on google OS, or the s6! Will have won by a very big gap, the s6 was way faster than the note 4 on the same slow loading games

24. TheGunnyPT

Posts: 252; Member since: Feb 12, 2015

Makes sense. My next upgrade (if.. it s that good will be Note 5. Got note 4 now with google now launcher is perfect)

26. thegeneral7010

Posts: 437; Member since: Dec 10, 2014

exynos note 4 and s6 are almost equal in terms of speed even without 64bit activation in note4 ( which was a stupid thing from samsung to make )

32. TheGunnyPT

Posts: 252; Member since: Feb 12, 2015

WOW! Wish.. We had Exynos version over here...

36. thegeneral7010

Posts: 437; Member since: Dec 10, 2014

u cant always have the better variant in my region i was forced to have the exynos variant of note 3 which was much weaker compared to other SD800 variant and it didnt support 4k video and 4G this is why samsung 2 variant policy is sick s6 is now on the right way

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