Interface and Functionality

TouchWiz on the Note 4 has become brighter and has less clutter, all steps in the right direction. Huawei’s custom Android skin on the other hand often looks like a blatant iOS clone, but works fairly well.

Both the Note 4 and Mate7 feature Android 4.4 KitKat (the Note 4 has the slightly newer 4.4.4, while the Mate7 is on 4.4.2) on board, but there is a vast difference in the looks of the two platforms because of the different skins.

TouchWiz on the Note 4 appears in its most contemporary iteration, but you can still easily recognize it for its cartoonish icons and colorfulness. The refresh takes TouchWiz to new white-toned backgrounds, cleans it out of clutter, and gives it a more intuitive settings menu. The new set of fresh Quad HD wallpapers also looks great on the Note 4.

Huawei’s skin is called Emotion UI (EMUI, for short), and in the Mate7 it’s in version 3.0. With rounded-edge icons it has a bit of a retro style, and more mature, darker tonality, but you can also tweak this with a built-in theme manager. You also have a nice power usage tool, and an extreme power saving mode like on the Note 4.

Both being large devices, they feature modes that shrink down the screen and make the phone easier to use with a single hand.

Apart from that, basic functionality is well covered on both. The Note 4’s built-in keyboard has a fifth row of icons, and while buttons are a bit on the small side, it provides a fairly good typing experience. The Mate 7 features an XL sized keyboard and you can easily adjust to typing quickly on it.

Samsung’s TouchWiz is ahead of Huawei’s interface in a few areas. The first one is health tracking, an area where the Mate 7 does not offer any built-in app. The Note 4 with its updated S Health and new blood oximetry and UV radiation sensors in comparison brings something useful to the table.

Then, the signature S Pen functionality of the Note series comes in its most polished version on the Note 4. The important question for most users, however, is a simple one: can I use this to take notes as I usually do on paper? The answer is ‘not quite’. Despite its improved accuracy, handwriting on the S Pen is still accompanied with an annoying lag, and if you want to actually be able to read what you’ve written, you need to switch to a gargantuan font.

Finally, both the Note 4 and Mate 7 have a fingerprint sensor. On the Note 4, the fingerprint reader requires you to swipe the home key, while on the Mate 7 all it takes is a tap. The Note 4 fingerprint reading accuracy is an improvement over earlier Galaxies, but getting your finger on the home key is a bit hard with such a large device, and we feel that the rear-positioned finger scanner on the Mate 7 is a better fit for most situations. The Mate 7 is also more accurate and zippier.

Processor and Memory

The Snapdragon 805 is faster than Huawei’s HiSilicon chip: it’s nearly 25% faster in terms of CPU performance, and 50% better in graphics (and that’s on-screen performance).

The Galaxy Note 4 comes with the latest and most powerful Qualcomm SoC: the Snapdragon 805 (there is also an Exynos 5433 octa-core version for select markets). The Mate7, in comparison, runs on a Huawei-made HiSilicon Kirin 925 octa-core chip (with one additional small, ultra low power core) that you are likely not that familiar with.

In daily usage, both do a fine job handling Android mostly smoothly and fairly lag-free. IWhen we look in more detail, though, there is a slight, but noticeable difference in speed in favor of the Galaxy Note 4. It runs faster, something that’s particularly well noticeable when you scroll through lists and surf the web.

Looking at pure specifications, the Snapdragon 805 features a four Krait 450 CPU cores clocked at up to 2.7GHz, while the Mate7’s Kirin 925 comes with four performance-driven Cortex A15s running at up to 1.8GHz and four power-optimized Cortex A7s clocked at 1.3GHz for a total of eight cores. Going deeper in the specifications for the two chips, we see that the Snapdragon 805 is a 28nm chip built on the HPm process, similar in manufacturing to the Kirin 925 which is also a 28nm HPm affair. Both phones come with 3GB of RAM.

Benchmarks show a clear advantage for the Note 4 in terms of both CPU and GPU performance. The Note 4 has some 25% faster CPU and on-screen graphics tests show that the Mali T760 on the Samsung phablet performs around 50% better than the Mali T628 on the Mate7.

Quadrant Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note4 24053
Huawei Ascend Mate7 11609.3
AnTuTu Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note4 41185.33
Huawei Ascend Mate7 42443
Vellamo Metal Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note4 1230.33
Huawei Ascend Mate7 1398.6
Vellamo Browser Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note4 3041
Huawei Ascend Mate7 2813
Sunspider Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy Note4 1087.87
Huawei Ascend Mate7 776.6
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note4 25.9
Huawei Ascend Mate7 17.4
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note4 11.2
Huawei Ascend Mate7 8.6
Basemark OS II Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note4 1038.67
Huawei Ascend Mate7 921.3
Geekbench 3 single-core Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note4 1112.67
Huawei Ascend Mate7 882
Geekbench 3 multi-core Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note4 3259.67
Huawei Ascend Mate7 2960

We should point out that - while most Western markets will get a Snapdragon 805-equipped Galaxy Note 4 - other markets, mostly in Asia, get an Exynos 5433-powered version of the phablet. Unlike the Snapdragon 805, the Exynos 5433 is a 64-bit chip that makes it future-proof and ensures compatibility with all the 64-bit optimizations coming with Android L and the ART runtime. The Exynos 5433 itself is an octa-core chip with four low-power Cortex A53 cores and four performance-driven Cortex A57s in a big.LITTLE configuration. The currently reviewed Snapdragon 805 and Kirin 925 are both 32-bit-only solutions that will not take full benefit from the improvements coming with the ART runtime in Android Lollipop.

The Galaxy Note 4 and Mate7 both feature 32GB of internal storage on board, double that of most rivals. You can also expand that via microSD cards of up to 128GB on both. Interestingly, while Huawei claims it has ‘the fastest eMMC flash memory’, we found the Note 4’s memory to outperform it in both sequential and random reads and writes.

Internet and Connectivity

You have a choice of two pre-installed browsers to surf the web on both the Galaxy Note 4 and the Huawei Ascend Mate7: a custom solution, as well as Google’s mobile Chrome. The Mate7’s custom browser comes with quite a lot of rough edges as zooming in and out happens with a stutter, and there were some other glitches. That is the reason why we feel that Chrome is the better choice if you want a smoother surfing experience on the Mate7. The Note 4, on the other hand, has a stock Samsung browser that works smoothly, comes with a rich variety of option and a nicely immersive full-screen option.

In terms of connectivity, you have 4G LTE on both, with theoretical peaks on both the Note 4 and Mate7 reaching 300Mbps for downloads (Category 6 LTE). Other connectivity options include Bluetooth 4.1 on the Note 4 versus 4.0 on the Mate7, dual-channel Wi-Fi on both, GPS, and NFC. The Note 4 also has an infra-red beamer with an accompanying app that you can use to remotely control electronics like your TV, while the Huawei phablet lacks this option.

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