Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs HTC One (M8)
HTC was the first Android phone maker to put its focus on style: its phones have been the embodiment of good industrial design, a refuge for people who value the marriage of premium quality feel and top-notch silicon running Android operating system. HTC’s latest flagship, the One (M8), released this spring, is the most refined version of HTC’s industrial design efforts, standing out amidst its plastic Android rivals like the Galaxy S5 and LG G3.
On the other side of the fence, after long taking hits for its uninspiring designs, Samsung seems to have finally taken note and it has reacted. The result of its new design work arrives with the Galaxy Note 4: a phablet with a sturdy metal frame and a nice faux leather finish that can finally approach HTC’s creations in terms of style. And while the two may differ in terms of size (the 5.7” Note 4 phablet is much larger than the 5” M8), fashionistas need no longer write off the Note series just for its looks.
The Note 4 has also got time on its side: it packs the latest silicon in the form of the Snapdragon 805 system chip and a polished 16-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization.
But is this enough of a reason to pick it over the One (M8)? Let’s take a deeper look at how the Note 4 compares to the One (M8).
The Note 4 ushers Samsung in the era of premium materials with a sturdy metal frame, and a nice faux-leather back. The M8, on the other hand, exudes an aura of style with its curved unibody design.
The Note 4 marks a departure from plastic for Samsung and opens the era of metal smartphones for the company. This applies to the frame, though - the Note 4 still features a plastic back, but it is styled as faux-leather with a nice texture and feel (a bit rougher than the one on the S5). The HTC One (M8) in comparison features an all-metal unibody construction, a single seamless piece of aluminum that exudes confidence and a feeling of stability. Speaking of pure aesthetic appearance - as subjective as it is - the Note 4 feels like a step forward, but still not really on par with the meticulous finish of the M8. It's also worth mentioning that the Note 4 is noticeably larger than the M8, which makes it harder to operate with one hand.
The buttons on the Note 4 are in the traditional for Samsung position and layout: the physical home key with a fingerprint reader right below the screen, surrounded by two capacitive keys, one for multitasking and the back key. All other physical buttons are on the sides: you have a power/lock key on the right, and the volume rocker is on the left. The keys are a bit too recessed, but very clicky and fairly comfortable to press on the Note 4. The One (M8) in comparison relies on on-screen buttons only, there are no physical keys up front. The biggest flaw in the M8 design remains the weird positioning of the power/lock key - it’s at the top of the phone, making it very hard to reach. Apart from that, it’s clicky and easy to press, it’s just the position that feels wrong. The only other key on the M8 is the volume rocker on the right - within easy reach and with conveniently large size, excellent travel and reassuring click.
Note that neither device is water or dust proof, and you’d need to take extra care to not get them wet.
Samsung's 5.7” Quad HD AMOLED is gorgeous, while the M8’s 5” 1080p screen is good, but not great.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 comes with a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1440 x 2560-pixels (Quad HD), while the HTC One (M8) sports a smaller, 5-inch screen of the IPS LCD kind, but a lower, 1080 x 1920-pixel resolution.
Both are very sharp, but the Note 4 has the upper hand with a pixel density of 515ppi, much higher than the 441ppi on the M8. In real-life use, the difference is very minimal though - you have to hold your phone very close to your eyes to see any pixelization. Pixel peepers would find it most noticeable when looking at text presented in tiny fonts. It’s worth mentioning that the AMOLED screen on the Note 4 uses Samsung’s PenTile Diamond pixel arrangement instead of the traditional RGB (used in the M8).
Turning to color accuracy, we’re impressed with what Samsung has done with the AMOLED screen of the Note 4, especially after earlier generations of AMOLEDs that were pretty inaccurate. In order to see the accurate colors, though, you’d first need to switch from the default ‘Adaptive’ screen mode to the color-accurate ‘Basic’ mode. In this mode, the greyscale balance is spot-on all across, as the white point is almost exactly at the reference 6500K value (meaning that we have pure white instead of colder one), and colors are very, very accurate. Impressive! As usual with AMOLED screens, Samsung also includes other screen modes, where you have richer, oversaturated colors that are definitely not accurate, but are pleasant for many people.
The HTC One (M8), on the other hand, while technically trying to adhere to the industry standard sRGB gamut, has a few problems. First off, the white point is a bit on the cold side at 7182K Then, HTC puts on its own fair share of artificial saturation boost, and the end result is a display with colors with an artificial pop, but very realistic look.
The AMOLED technology has long struggled with low brightness, but Samsung’s continuous improvements pay off in the Note 4 which reaches a sufficiently good 468nits, and reflections are also nicely filtered out so outdoor readability of the new Note is very good. The M8 does a decent job, but is a bit harder to read outdoors. Turning the page to night viewing, Samsung has also managed to cap off minimum brightness at the impressive 1 nit on the Note 4, which means that the screen won’t tire your eyes with excessive glow. The respective value on the M8 is the rather eye-torturing at night 16 nits.