Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Samsung Galaxy S4
While the Galaxy S4 is still stuck with Android 4.2.2, the Note 3 is enjoying the slightly newer, 4.3 version of the platform. Actually, this is, in part, what allows the Note 3 to work with the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. However, apart from some very minor graphic tweaks and the S Pen features, the TouchWiz user interface is basically the same on both handsets. The TouchWiz Nature UX is a reskinned version of Android, which looks and feels different from the stock UI. It runs very fluidly and is highly customizable, allowing the user to tweak almost all of its aspects. There's a good number of custom widgets, which make it easy for you to compose a useful and informative homescreen setup that has a relatively unified look. You can easily add shortcuts and widgets to your homescreen by going to the main menu, and then holding and dragging the desired item.
Visually, TouchWiz is not among the best UIs out there. It's mostly fine, though probably a bit too colorful, and it lacks polish. For example, icons don't have tap effects, while some apps, such as the settings, have an old look that doesn't really fit with the rest of the interface. Still, it's mostly a matter of personal preference, as the bright and colorful appearance of the software may actually be appealing for a certain part of the population.
Processor and Memory
There are a bunch of hardware configurations for the GS4 and Note 3, but the main difference is that the most widespread version of the Note 3 will sport the newer and more powerful Snapdragon 800 chipset, while the S4 is featuring the Snapdragon 600. Both are still wonderful chipsets, but the Note 3 is going to have an advantage performance-wise. There also seems to be less lag when using the general UI on the Note 3. There are also Exynos 5 Octa versions of both phones, but we can imagine those will be harder to find.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip on the Note 3 also packs the newer Adreno 330 GPU, which should, in theory, deliver up to 50% faster performance compared to its predecessor, the Adreno 320, which is found in the Galaxy S4. Right now, you'll hardly notice any performance improvement in games and other apps, but as more resource-demanding apps start to populate the Play Store, the extra punch of the Adreno 330 will surely be appreciated.
The Galaxy S4 will give you a bit more flexibility when it comes to internals storage, as it's available in 16, 32 and 64 GB flavors, whereas the Note 3 only comes in 32 or 64 GB variants. Both, however, feature a microSD card slot, easy memory expansion is just a walk to the store away. The Note 3 comes with the healthy 3 GB of RAM, while the GS 4 has 2 gigs. Seeing that the phablet is a bit more multitasking-friendly, considering its bigger screen and S Pen, that additional gigabyte of system memory will probably come in handy.
As we said, most of the software on the Note 3 and Galaxy S4 is pretty much identical. This includes the phonebook, which sticks with its old-shool TouchWiz look, with a black background and suspiciously happy dummy images for those contacts who don't have their own picture assigned. There are lots of settings and options – you can enter a plethora of information about each contact, and you can also quick-dial or quick-message contacts by just sliding left or right over their names in the contact list.
The dialer itself has a nice size – the keys are large, allowing you to type very comfortably. Thankfully, there's also smart dial, which let's you easily find the desired contact by typing in a T9 style on the dialpad. For example, if you press '5' and '8', one of the suggested contacts will be 'Luke' (if you have 'Luke' among your contacts in the first place), because 'L' is among the letters associated with '5', and 'U' is among the letters associated with '8'. It's a good old feature, and we're glad to see that it's still around.
As you can imagine, the Note 3 and the S4 are chock-full of all kinds of organizer features. Still, the Note 3 and its S Pen come with the S Note application that's specifically designed to let you get the most out of the S Pen. You can still do regular text input, but the fun part begins when you take the S Pen out and start drawing. There are different drawing tools, which give your pen a different shape and behaviour. Of course, you can also change colors, paste and edit images, and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, over on the Galaxy S4 we have the S Memo app, which is also quite versatile and allows you to use your fingers to draw. It also gives you a bunch of drawing tools at your disposal, though they are just a tad more limited compared to what's available on the Note 3.
Aside from that, there's also the so called S Planner, which is basically Samsung's version of the calendar. It's a versatile app with tons of functionality, although we have to admit that it's a bit clunky. We tend to prefer the cleaner, stock Android calendar, and thankfully, you can download it from the Play Store.
The Clock application is where you'll set alarms, check out the world clock, or use the stopwatch or timer. The app is quite easy to figure out and offers all the options you'd expect out of it.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 offers a standard smartphone typing experience. Its keyboard is definitely not among the most comfortable out there, but of course, you can always get a nice third-party one from the Play Store. On the other hand, while the landscape QWERTY keyboard of the Note 3 isn't really comfortable to use, due to its excessive width, the regular portrait QWERTY keyboard is great for two-hand typing. If you prefer one-handed typing, though, there's the option to tweak the keyboard's size and position so that all of its keys can be easily reachable with a thumb.
On the Note 3, you can also use the built-in handwriting recognition, though we can imagine that it'll take quite a bit of practice until one can start using this input method with the same ease and accuracy as when typing on the on-screen keyboard.