Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is one of the finest smartphones we saw last year, and we have to say, it held its own pretty well throughout 2014. But the time has come for a better, faster, and stronger heir to stand up and announce its immediate appointment. The Galaxy Note 4 is every bit as good as its predecessor, only better in every regard. Samsung had to go far and out to ensure the Galaxy Note remains the king of phablets. A direct comparison with its powerful predecessor is a good way to find out whether the Galaxy Note 4 is up for the challenge.
Subtle, but impossible to miss refinements make the Galaxy Note 4 the most beautiful one in the series.
The Galaxy Note 4 represents a subtle, but impossible to miss refinement of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3's design. For example, its looks have become more aesthetically pleasing. Instead of dull and flat, the front panel is more sporty and vibrant, and the aluminum frame is not merely something for the plastic to hold on to, but a finely sculpted design detail. The faux leather texture on the back panel stays in the Galaxy Note 4, although it looks classier now that the tacky fake stitching is removed.
The button placement remains unchanged. In both devices, the power key is positioned to the right, while the volume buttons are found on the left. The Home button, positioned in the center of the bottom bezel, looks about the same, although the one in the Galaxy Note 4 houses a fingerprint reader, as with the S5. It is accompanied by the multitasking capacitive key to the left, and the Back capacitive key to the right. And to the lower right, of course, you will find the Galaxy Note's specialty - the S-Pen slot.
Talking about the S-Pen, the stylus itself is 99% identical between the two devices, with only minor cosmetic differences to account for. Notably, the one in the Galaxy Note 4 is significantly easier to take out of its slot – it simply slides in and out. The one in the Galaxy Note 3 required a much tighter grip and pull.
Which phablet is easier to handle? That's pretty hard to say. The Note 4 is taller (by 0.09 inches or 2.28mm), slightly thicker (by 0.008 inches or 0.2mm) and heavier (by 0.28 oz or 8 grams), but it is 0.03 inches (0.76mm) narrower than its predecessor. These tiny differences don't account for a noticeable improvement or decline in ergonomics, and the sameness between build materials makes both phones feel equal in the hand – large, solid and rectangular.
Past mistakes are forgiven! The Galaxy Note 4 has higher resolution and is super color-accurate.
Putting the Galaxy Note 3's 5.7-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display against that of the new Galaxy Note 4 shows how much Samsung managed to improve its AMOLED technology. The Note 4 display has the same 5.7-inch diagonal, but its resolution has been bumped to QHD (1440x2560). This results in a higher pixel density of 515 pixels per inch (ppi) compared to the Galaxy Note 3's 386 ppi. Thanks to this, the Galaxy Note 4's display appears sharper, its individual pixels impossible to spot with the naked eye from any viewing distance. The difference is not immediately apparent at first, because the Galaxy Note 3's display is still pretty sharp. But when the two phablets are put next to each other and viewed at a normal distance from the eye – say 16 inches (40cm) - the predecessor's screen seems a little blurry.
Resolution bump aside, picture quality is a huge area of improvement. In terms of accurate colors, the Galaxy Note 4 is the first Samsung phone to really have such. The Note 4's standard color temperature is a wildly impressive 6667 Kelvins - a hair's distance from the reference level of 6500 Kelvins. The Note 3, in comparison, verges far into the realm of cold colors with its temperature of 7972 Kelvins. The Galaxy Note 4 screen's color and grayscale errors are minimal, while the Note 3 has overblown colors and greenish look, that may wow somebody, but is pretty inaccurate. Note 4 not only has the most color-accurate AMOLED phone display, but also one of the best phone displays at all. However, if we nitpick, we must note the gamma level - the Galaxy Note 3, which measures 2.25, is almost on point with the preferred Gamma value of 2.2, while the Galaxy Note 4 measures a lower 1.97 gamma value. However, the lower gamma of the Note 4 is the result of brighter highlights only, with the shadows remaining as dark as they should be. This means that the screen ends up being a bit punchier and more contrasty than normal, though the effect is not so overdone as to be annoying or distracting. And it is still presents a much more realistic, color-accurate view than the Galaxy Note 3.
Finally, let's have a look at how the two displays perform outdoors and indoors. Pleasant outdoor usage requires a bright display covered with high quality, non-reflective glass. Both phablets are covered with high-quality glass that isn't overly reflective, so we have this part sorted out. But what about brightness levels? Although the Galaxy Note 3's display is reasonably well visible under direct sunlight, its maximum brightness level of 360 nits is surpassed by the 468 nits its successor is capable of. This means you will have a much easier time seeing and operating the Note 4 outdoors in the sun than its predecessor.
Bedtime reading requires a very low level of brightness to not strain your eyes. Both phablets fare very well in this regard, as the Galaxy Note 3 gets down to 4 nits of luminance, while its successor can muster a terrific 1 nit, ensuring a very comfortable night reading experience.