Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Huawei Ascend Mate7
The Galaxy Note series started the phablet craze in 2010, when the first-generation Note shocked us with its gigantic for the times, 5.3-inch display size, but fast forward to these days, and we’re seeing 5 to 5.2-inch devices becoming the norm for flagships, not phablets. Indeed, the definition of a phablet has changed, and today we’re looking at two devices of this new generation of even bigger phablets - the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note and the 6-inch Huawei Ascend Mate7.
Huawei’s Mate7 surprised us with its solid built quality and premium metal build when we took it for a review, but it’s also a well-rounded performer with one of the best fingerprint readers on the market.
The Galaxy Note 4, on the other hand, is one of the first of a new wave of Samsung devices that out style back in focus. The Note 4 features a metal frame, and a nice, faux-leather finish, plus it’s got the latest Snapdragon 805 silicon and an optically stabilized 16-megapixel shooter.
Can the Huawei Ascend Mate7, a device from a brand that is not particularly well known for its smartphones (at least in the Western hemisphere) actually outdo the Galaxy Note 4? We take a deeper look at the two to find out.
Both the Note 4 and Ascend Mate7 feature premium designs, but the Mate7 is all-metal, while the Note 4 still has plastic back.
The Note 4 breaks is one of the first of the new wave of Samsung designs - those of a more premium feel, with a sturdy metal frame, and - still a plastic back cover - but one styled under faux-leather, and featuring a nice texture and feel.
The Huawei Ascend Mate7 in comparison sports a unibody metal 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 in comparison.
The elephant in the room, however, is clearly size. We’re used to seeing big phones in the past few years, but it’s worth making it extra clear that these two are indeed very big devices. The Ascend Mate7 in particular with its 6-inch size that dwarfs the Note 4 is a phone that barely fits in some pockets, and that might be an issue for some people. Large devices like this pair come with plenty of benefits, but single-handed use is a struggle on both, and especially on the Ascend Mate7.
The Note 4 features the traditional for Samsung button layout with 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: the power/lock key is on the right, and the volume rocker - on the left. The keys are a bit too recessed, but also very clicky and comfortable to press. The Ascend Mate7 on its part features on-screen buttons that adopt the Android L triangle-square-circle look, but the neat thing is that Huawei allows you to add a fourth one (that opens the notification shade), as well as rearrange the places of the keys. On the right side, within a reaching distance, you have a lock key and a volume rocker. Both are made of metal, but the lock key has this rippled pattern that gives it a very stylish appearance, but adding to that is also that both are clicky and very comfortable. The Mate7 also features a fingerprint reader – a large one on its back, right below the camera. This feels like the right place for it - it’s right where your index finger stays when you hold the phone, and the scanning itself is extremely quick and very accurate. It works like the one on the iPhone, requiring just a touch and not a swipe as on the Note 4. Even better, you don't have to push any button when the phone is locked – just touch the sensor and the Mate7 will unlock.
The Note 4 has the best AMOLED screen we’ve seen so far: a sharp, 5.7-inch Quad HD beauty with vibrant, accurate colors, while the Mate7 features an even larger 6” display with 1080p resolution and nice colors.
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 Huawei Ascend Mate7 features an even larger, 6-inch screen of the IPS LCD kind, but a lower, 1080 x 1920-pixel resolution. With a pixel density of 515ppi, the Note 4 has the upper hand in terms of sharpness as the quality of the image looks as if straight out of a magazine. The Mate7, on the other hand, also has a fairly sharp screen with a pixel density of 367ppi, but pixel peepers would still notice an occasional jaggedness.
Switching to color fidelity, we’re impressed with what Samsung has done with the AMOLED screen of the Note 4. To see those accurate colors, you’d first need to go from the default ‘Adaptive’ screen mode to the color-accurate ‘Basic’ mode. In this mode, the white point is pinned down very close to the the reference 6500K value (so that whites are pure and not overly cold), and colors are very accurate. The color gamut in the default Basic mode is now also pleasingly within the industry reference sRGB color gamut. As usual with AMOLED screens, Samsung also includes other modes for those who prefer more ‘eye-popping’ colors that are not necessarily accurate. The Huawei Ascend Mate7, on the other hand, also features a very nice display, although not as good. Color temperature is just slightly on the cold side at 7111K, and greyscale accuracy with a delta of 5.16 is not ideal, but those are not huge deviations. Color accuracy is in fact very good, as all tones are within the sRGB gamut and saturations are right.
For outdoor viewing, Samsung manages a fairly good 468nits, and with reduced screen reflectance, the experience is nice and the display is legible even under the direct sun. The Mate7 is a bit brighter, but also picks up a bit more reflections, so readability is just a bit lower. Samsung manages 1 nit minimum brightness, making the screen very convenient for use at night (it’s not too bright), while the Mate7 could be uncomfortable for night birds.