Google Nexus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Google has made a big deal about the HDR+ mode, which actually uses a burst mode to capture 3 images at different exposures and then stitch them together for better image quality. We have to say we came away impressed as the HDR+ images did a good job of evening out exposure in images with both dark and light areas and it may be wise to have it always on on the Nexus 5, although it makes shot-to-shot speeds slower. Note that we took almost all of our pictures using the two respective HDR modes. Flash is disabled in HDR mode, so with low light pictures we went back to Auto.
Samsung has rightly gotten a lot of praise for their camera efforts of late. The Note 3 uses a 13MP BSI sensor we are familiar with from the Galaxy S4, and in general produces good results. In fact, under the right conditions the camera is able to produce downright excellent shots that rival some point and shoot cameras as we found in our full review. The Note 3’s 13 megapixel sensor captured better detail in good light, but unless you’re viewing them at 100% crop you will likely never notice them.
Though the Nexus 5 is based off the G2, it unfortunately does not feature the same 13 megapixel camera, opting for an 8MP sensor instead. Thankfully it does retain optical image stabilization, which was immediately apparent in our testing. In two of our low-light sample shots (the wine rack and painting) you can see that the Galaxy Note 3 had some real blurring issues, whereas it was crystal clear on the Nexus 5.
In our tests, the Nexus 5 achieved better images with truer to life colors than the Note 3, whose colors appeared slightly washed out when viewed off the device. In certain situations the Note 3 can outperform the Nexus 5, but for all around performance the Nexus gets a slight edge in our testing. The Nexus 5 is not the best out there, but they have made significant improvements since the Nexus 4, and Google has admitted there are still software enhancements to come.
Both devices offer 1080p recording, and while both were good there were some drawbacks with each. Both produced very good colors, but the Nexus 5 was much smoother thanks to the optical image stabilization. Details remained good even when panning quickly, and the focus easily shifted between near and far objects. However, the mic was very sensitive and as you can hear there was a ton of wind noise picked up. The Note 3, on the other hand, did a good job of muting the wind noise, but had issues with motion blur and focusing. Overall we preferred the Nexus 5’s smoother performance despite the mic issues.
The galleries on both devices are pretty standard, with gird-like thumbnail previews of your photos, folder categorization, and editing options. Samsung lets you split the screen in two, with the folder structure on the left, and their contents on the right, which speeds up gallery navigation.
Video playback is superior on the Galaxy Note 3, not only thanks to the deep blacks and saturated colors of the big AMOLED display that make the footage really pop, but also because its player supports most major codecs out of the box, including MKV, DivX and Xvid. Google's phone, on the other hand, doesn't have DivX licenses, so if you want to play videos in that format, you'd have to hit the Play Store.