Samsung Galaxy Note5 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4: first look


Boy, it feels like it was yesterday when Samsung announced the very first Galaxy Note smartphone. Yet here we are, four years later, holding the Samsung Galaxy Note5 – the latest and greatest Note handset yet. As a direct successor to last year’s Galaxy Note 4, it brings along both major and minor improvements, including a flashier design and faster hardware. On the other hand, some might find the omission of certain features as a step in the wrong direction. Read along as we explore the differences between the Galaxy Note5 and Galaxy Note 4, side by side.

Design


Up to this point, “outstanding” hasn’t been a term we would have described a Samsung Galaxy Note handset with. All of them have been rather conservative in terms of design – stylish and solid, yet modest and unobtrusive with their appearance. The Samsung Galaxy Note5 spices things quite a bit with its classy and modern glass-on-metal design. Visually, it reminds us a lot of a Galaxy S6, with its back and front sides made of Gorilla Glass 4, complemented by a sturdy metal outer frame. Next to the Galaxy Note5, the Galaxy Note 4 doesn’t draw quite as much attention with its faux leather back and beveled metal frame. But it isn’t a bad-looking phone by any means. It is just much less flashy than its successor.

In terms of weight and size, the Galaxy Note5 is slightly lighter, thinner, and narrower than the Note 4, meaning that some might find the former easier to handle. Potentially improving the Note5’s ergonomic properties are the sloping edges of its back.

One thing that’s clear to notice is that the glass back of the Galaxy Note5 is a magnet for fingerprints. This isn’t a problem one would have with the Galaxy Note 4 as its faux leather plastic back is immune to finger smudge.

Speaking of the phones’ backs, we must point out that the Galaxy Note5 has a non-removable one. In other words, its battery is sealed and can’t be accessed by the user should it need replacing. The Note 4, on the other hand, has a user-removable back cover behind which is found a user-removable battery.

And while we’re at it, we must note that the Galaxy Note5 waves the microSD card slot goodbye. Yes, a feature found on every previous Galaxy Note smartphone is now missing on the fifth-generation model. In contrast, the Galaxy Note 4 can easily handle microSD cards of up to 128 gigabytes, and probably beyond.

On the top of the Galaxy Note 4 is found an IR blaster, which allows the phone to act as a universal remote control. The Note5 doesn’t have an IR blaster, and the reason for its omission is beyond us.

We’re glad to see that the Samsung Galaxy Note5 sports a proper, touch-based fingerprint scanner embedded in its home button. The Galaxy Note4’s scanner is of the swipe variety, which makes is much less reliable.

S Pen


The S Pen has been a trademark feature of the Note series since its inception. In a nutshell, it is an active digital stylus that can be used for taking down notes or to draw when inspiration strikes. What makes it different from an ordinary stylus, however, is its ability to detect pressure levels. This allows for strokes to be much more natural as their thickness changes depending on the pressure applied by the user.

As it is easy to guess, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 brings an enhanced S Pen stylus. First of all, the tool is now easier to take out as it is ejected by a mechanism when pressed. On the Note 4, the S Pen has to be pulled out manually. Furthermore, the software part of the S Pen experience has been treated to a welcome upgrade, with new note-taking features built into the phone’s UI.

Display


On the front of the Samsung Galaxy Note5 we find a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1440 by 2560 pixels. And on the Galaxy Note 4, we have… a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1440 by 2560 pixels. Yes, for its next-gen Note handsets, Samsung has chosen to stick with a screen that’s pretty much identical, at least on paper. But that’s not really a reason for disappointment. The screen on the Galaxy Note 4 is still stunning despite the phone being around for almost a year, and we don’t mind having an identical one on the latest galaxy Note smartphone. On the bright side, Samsung is promising to do a better job at calibrating its screens for the Note5's release. The new phablet could bring a welcome improvement in color reproduction. 

Interface


It’s not a surprise that the Samsung Galaxy Note5 runs the latest Android version available, Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. And as expected, we find Samsung’s TouchWiz UI layered on top of it in its newest form. With a TouchWiz-ed Android 5.0 running on it, the Galaxy Note 4 is a step behind when it comes to software. And at this time, we’re not sure if Samsung will update the Note 4 to match the feature set of its successor.

For the Galaxy Note5, Samsung has come up with a handful of new uses for the S Pen. One of them is the option to jot down notes straight on the lock screen - just pop out the stylus and start writing without even unlocking the phone. You should also have more accurate stylus input and less input lag.

S-Pen aside, the Galaxy Note5 comes with the latest TouchWiz variant, which brings along improved responsiveness, support for themes, and various tweaks to provide an even smoother user experience. On top of that, the Note5 brings support for the S Pay payment system. None of that goodness is available on the Note 4, at least not yet.

Processor and memory


Under the hood of the Galaxy Note5 is where a mighty potent silicon ticks. The phone is using the Exynos 7420 SoC, which is the same found inside the Galaxy S6. The chip is an octa-core solution, with four powerful, 2.1GHz Cortex-A57 cores running along four energy-saving, 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 cores. Furthermore, the chip is made using a 14nm manufacturing process, which further improves its energy efficiency.

With last year’s Snapdragon 805 SoC (or Exynos 5433 SoC in some regions), the Galaxy Note 4 is far from a slow smartphone either. Benchmarks, however, indicate that the Note5’s SoC is much better at crunching numbers, not to mention that its 28nm process isn’t as energy-efficient. 

We've added several benchmark results comparing the Galaxy Note 4 against the Galaxy S6. The Galaxy S6 uses the same SoC found inside the Galaxy Note5. 

AnTuTu is a multi-layered, comprehensive mobile benchmark app that assesses various aspects of a device, including CPU, GPU, RAM, I/O, and UX performance. A higher score means an overall faster device.

Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note4
41185.33
Samsung Galaxy S6
58382


In addition to having a much faster processor, the Galaxy Note5 is superior in having 4GB of RAM as opposed to the Note 4’s 3GB of RAM. And RAM is something you can’t have too much of. Technically, that extra gig might allow the Note5 to deal with multitasking more efficiently.

As we mentioned in a previous paragraph, Samsung has passed on the microSD card slot for the Galaxy Note5. You can get the phone with either 32 or 64 gigabytes of built-in storage, with no options of expanding it. However, the UFS 2.0 storage chip used by Samsung delivers almost SSD-like read/write speeds, which undoubtedly boosts the Note5’s performance. And many would find the trade-off worth it. In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 does have a microSD card slot, but lacks the Note5’s speedy UFS 2.0 storage.

Camera


Phones of the Galaxy Note series have always been known for their great cameras. The Samsung Galaxy Note5 is unlikely to be an exception as it appears to be using the highly-acclaimed camera found on the Samsung Galaxy S6. As far as specs go, you get a 16MP image sensor with F/1.9 optics and optical image stabilization. All that’s paired with a powerful camera application with an easy-to-use auto mode, a feature-rich manual mode, and a variety of additional shooting modes.

On the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 we have a pretty similar 16MP camera with OIS and a slightly narrower aperture of F/2.2. Honestly, we’d expect it to perform very similarly to the one on the Note5, knowing that the Note 4 and the Galaxy S6 are pretty much on par when it comes to image quality. The Note 4’s drawback, however, could be its camera software. It isn’t as convenient to use and lacks the Note5’s broad range of manual controls.

The 5MP front-facing camera on the Note5 is a welcome upgrade over the Note 4’s 3.7MP one. We’re promised better low-light performance out of the new shooter, which is great to hear.



Battery


It is a bit disappointing to know that the Samsung Galaxy Note5 has a smaller battery than the Galaxy Note 4. The former sports a non-removable, 3000mAh cell while the latter uses a 3220mAh user-removable cell – a difference of about 7 percent. However, since the Galaxy Note5 has a much more efficient processor, it could very well outlast its predecessor in terms of every-day battery life. But only thorough testing will confirm if that’s the case. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, the Galaxy Note5 features built-in wireless charging. Also, rapid charging is now supported for both wired and wireless charging.

Expectations


Galaxy Notes have been among Samsung’s best-selling devices for a long time, and the fifth-generation phone in the series is also likely to be warmly welcomed by the market. It is shaping up as a great handset, with a striking design, potent camera, and powerful hardware packed under its hood. But as we mentioned earlier, some might see the omission of certain features as a step back for the Note line-up. While the Note 4 had a removable battery, the Note5 does not. The Note 4 had expandable storage, the Note5 does not. The Note 4 had an IR blaster, the Note5, you guessed it, does not. Nevertheless, the cons of the Note5 vs the Note 4 seem to be greatly outnumbered by its advantages. And that’s good news for anyone looking to make the move to a phablet or switch from another model.


Related phones

Galaxy Note5
  • Display 5.7 inches 2560 x 1440 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP (Single camera) 5 MP front
  • Hardware Samsung Exynos 7 Octa 4GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, not expandable
  • Battery 3000 mAh
  • OS Android 7.0 Nougat Samsung TouchWiz UI
Galaxy Note4
  • Display 5.7 inches 2560 x 1440 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP (Single camera) 3.7 MP front
  • Hardware Samsung Exynos 7 Octa 3GB RAM
  • Storage 32GB, microSDXC
  • Battery 3220 mAh
  • OS Android 6.0 Marshmallow Samsung TouchWiz UI

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