Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5



Ever since the launch of Samsung’s first phablet, the original Galaxy Note, released in 2010, two smartphones have defined the fortunes of Samsung - the Galaxy S series and the Note lineup. While Samsung releases its Galaxy S smartphones in the spring, the larger, phablet-sized Notes arrive in the fall, just before the busy Holiday season, and this year is no exception.

Half a year after the Samsung Galaxy S5, comes its bigger sibling in the big Samsung family - the Note 4.

Going back in time, the Galaxy S5 launch was marred by sky-high expectations of a Quad HD display and hopes for a new design that would make the device feel a bit more premium, but neither materialized. With the Note 4, on the other hand, we are seeing Samsung deliver on all those hopes and expectations: the fourth-generation Note features a high-res, Quad HD, 5.7-inch display, and it features a sturdy metal frame and pleasing design. It’s also got a brilliant-looking display, an improved camera with optical stabilization, a renewed focus on health with a richer S Health app, a bunch of new sensors, as well as an improved version of its unique feature - the S Pen.

All this calls for a detailed comparison between the Galaxy S5 and the Note 4. Let’s get right to it.


The Note 4 features a sturdy metallic frame with a premium feel, but it’s not all that thin and is a very large device. The S5 is smaller, but uses less inspiring plastic.

The Galaxy Note 4 bids farewell to plastic and ushers Samsung into the era of premium materials with its sturdy metal frame. The back is still plastic, styled as faux-leather similar to the Galaxy S5, but this time around with a rougher feel and a more rigit texture. Gone is the perforated pattern of the S5 and we have a slight, naturalistic texture on the new Note.

Size, however, remains the elephant in the room when comparing the Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy S5. Samsung shrunk down screen bezels in the Note 3, and those improvements carry on to the Note 4, but it’s still a very large device in comparison with the S5. It also does not feel very thin: at 8.5mm it’s in fact thicker than competition from the Apple camp, and it’s also bulkier than the Samsung’s own S5.

Buttons on the Note 4 are positioned in the same way as they are on the Galaxy S5: 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, just like on the S5. The keys are a bit too recessed, but very clicky and fairly comfortable to press on the Note 4, while on the S5 they are a bit mushier but still fairly comfortable to use. On the back, just like the S5, it has the camera protruding slightly, making for a small hump.

Interestingly, gone is the microUSB 3.0 port of the Note 3 and Galaxy S5. Samsung backtracked on the gigantic and aesthetically not all that good looking microUSB 3.0 and Note 4 uses the smaller and better looking microUSB 2.0 with no flaps, and no protection. Speaking of protection, we should warn you that the Note 4 is not water or dust-protected like the Galaxy S5, so don’t be fooled by the somewhat similar looks and definitely don’t try to immerse it in water. The S5, on its part, boasts IP67 protection rating meaning that it can withstand exposure to dust and submersion in water up to 3 feet deep for as long as half an hour.

Samsung Galaxy Note4

6.04 x 3.09 x 0.33 inches

153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm


6.21 oz (176 g)

Samsung Galaxy S5

5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches

142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm


5.11 oz (145 g)

Samsung Galaxy Note4

6.04 x 3.09 x 0.33 inches

153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm


6.21 oz (176 g)

Samsung Galaxy S5

5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches

142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm


5.11 oz (145 g)

See the full Samsung Galaxy Note4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5 size comparison or compare them to other phones using our Size Comparison tool.


Can you say wow? Samsung have perfected the art of the AMOLED display and brings us a brilliant, color-accurate 5.7-inch Quad HD screen in the Note 4, a huge improvement over the Galaxy S5.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 features a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1440 x 2560-pixels (Quad HD), while the Galaxy S5 features a smaller, 5.1-inch screen of the same Super AMOLED kin, but a lower, 1080 x 1920-pixel resolution.

While both are very sharp, the Note 4 is the one that really stands out: pixel density on it is 515ppi, way above the 432ppi on the S5. In real life usage, the difference is not all that evident - you have to hold your phone very close to your eyes to see any pixelazation on the S5, and it’s mostly noticeable when you look at text presented in tiny fonts. Notice that both displays use Samsung’s PenTile Diamond pixel arrangement rather than a traditional RGB. Color aberrations in the diamond pixel arrangement are lower compared to earlier PenTile matrices, but still higher than on a traditional RGB screen and in real life they result in a slight moire-like pattern visible when you’re looking at large areas of one color.

In terms of color accuracy, we’re happy to report that Samsung has done an excellent job with the AMOLED screen of the Note 4, as it’s not only the best AMOLED display on a smartphone so far, but also can rival and beat some of the best LCD screens. That is if you switch from the default ‘Adaptive’ screen mode to the more color-accurate ‘Basic’ mode. In this mode, the greyscale balance is excellent all across, the white point is almost exactly at the reference 6500K value (indicating the right white balance - not warmer, nor colder), and colors in the default Basic mode fit right in the industry reference sRGB color gamut. Color saturations are no longer overblown, and the display is very accurately calibrated across the spectrum. Impressive! We can see why Samsung has also included the ‘Photo’ screen mode where colors are modified to approach the wider Adobe RGB color gamut (that is also used by a limited number of professionals), but unfortunately it’s effort in this screen mode is off the reference values, so we can’t really recommend using it. The other ‘Cinema’ screen mode has the colors wildly oversaturated, for that WOW look, but it comes with a very cold white point, and a non-linear gamma.

You can see various opinions about AMOLED displays on the web, and the Galaxy S5 in particular has been a subject of quite the dispute. While it was an improvement over previous generations of Samsung displays, truth remains that the Galaxy S5 does not fare well in terms of greyscale accuracy in any one of its screen modes. Put simply, it has a very noticeable green-ish tint and even in its most accurate color modes, tones are not accurate. The default screen mode in the Galaxy S5 is wildly inaccurate, featuring crazy colors that might look eye-popping at first, but have very little in common with the realities of color accuracy. As we mentioned, you can get similar look on the Note 4, but you can't get the S5 to show accurate colors.

Taking the two outdoors, you can see brightness shoot up, especially on a sunny day, and screen readability is excellent. Both deal well with filtering out reflections, but brightness is a bit higher on the Note 4, which makes it a bit easier on the eyes. In the dark part of the day, when you look at your screen at night, Samsung has further improved the minimum brightness threshold to the impressive 1 nit on the Note 4, down from a 2 nit minimum on the S5. Getting those low brightness levels, puts less strain on the eyes if you read on your smartphone in the dark.

Interface and Functionality

The Note 4 brings a fresh take on TouchWiz, a couple of new sensors, and a renewed focus on health. The S Pen is here and it has also improved.

With Android L still to be released, Samsung ships the Note 4 with KitKat, just as it does with the Galaxy S5. Both feature Samsung’s TouchWiz custom user interface on top of Android, with some differences as the Note 4 has the newer version.

The differences in the user interface are mostly subtle: a fresh set of Quad HD wallpapers, a new, white-toned background in exchange for the dark-themed in the S5, simplifications in the UI with less icons and fields, plus more visual cues to text, and - finally - a well structured settings menu that you can customize yourself. Interestingly, be it for the faster chip or some optimizations on TouchWiz, we noticed much less of that typical lag as apps opened faster and everything seems to flow faster now. The brighter backgrounds also liven up the experience in comparison with the fairly dark S5.

Signature Samsung touches like the multi-window multitasking solution as well as the air gestures are on board on both devices. Multi-window can be used in two ways - you first enable the option in settings (bring down the Notification shade -> select the top-right icon -> enable Multi-window), and then you can use it to either: split the screen displaying two apps at the same time, with adjustable sizes, or have a pop-up, floating window on top of the other one. The former is a particularly neat way to multi-task on the large, 5.7-inch display of the Note 4.

There aren’t many new apps in the phablet, but with a couple of new sensors, the Note 4 does come with a renewed focus on health with the updated S Health app.

S Health

The new sensors are a blood oximetry sensor placed right next to the heart rate monitor and a UV radiation sensor alongside. The most common use for the ultra-violet sensor is when you want to sunbathe - start the S Health app and select the UV option, then point the phone with its rear camera facing the sun and hold it like this for a few seconds, and you get a reading showing you the UV levels and how safe it is to have your skin exposed.

The blood oximetry sensor on the other hand is now used within the pulse readings so you get a combined heart rate + SpO2 measurement, with healthy levels of SpO2 being above 95%, and everything below 90% calling for medical attention. SpO2 is a measure that indicates oxygen levels in your bloodstream, and require some explaining: doctors use such readings in a variety of cases like measuring the efficacy of lung drugs, for instance, or to detect conditions like sleep apnea or more serious conditions related to worsening oxygen circulation in the blood (those include a heart attack, asthma, pneumonia, etc). For the general public, those readings could be used as a measure for how you react to increased activity levels. Note, though, that these are not medical-grade sensors and should not be used as such. We did get slightly varying reading for blood oximetry, so if you reference the results, it’s wise to only use them as a starting point requiring confirmation from a true, medical grade device.

Other nice touches in S Health include a reminder that pops up when you stay inactive for 1 hour - the phone just tells you to get moving, promoting a healthier lifestyle. Other options have remained the same - you have nutrition tracking, fitness measurements and goals, as well as a coach by Signa for health that helps staying focused on improving your overall health including diet, workout frequency, and so on.

Fingerprint reader

The fingerprint sensor is of the same swipe type as in the Galaxy S5 - it requires you to swipe from slightly above the button (actually, starting from the bottom part of the screen itself) and through the key. Others, like Apple’s iPhones, use a different finger scanner where you only need to tap on the button to register your finger scan.

Accuracy seems to have improved slightly over the original finger reader in the S5 (Samsung has pushed a few updates with improvements to the S5 as well), and we find it decent, though, not great. If our hand was not wet, we’d have the sensor working on the first or second attempt most of the times, but still it’s not 100% accurate as we would have liked. We have a bigger gripe with using a fingerprint reader positioned so low on a large device, as it’s hard to reach it, and this requires some uncomfortable hand gymnastics.

S Pen and S Note

The S Pen is the signature feature of the Note series, and in the Note 4, Samsung is finally matching the color of the S Pen to the color of the phone itself, which is a nice touch. It’s a bit easier to take out the pen in comparison with the Note 3, where you had to literally chop it out vigorously.

The S Pen is powered by Wacom, a leading name in professional drawing tablets, and it uses a digitiser layer built in the display that makes it possible for the S Pen to not require its own power source and still have pressure sensitivity. In fact, the new S Pen comes with double the sensitivity: it now detect 2,048 levels of pressure, compared to 1,024 on the Note 3.

The big question for most users, however, would really be a very simple one: can I use this to take notes as I usually do on paper? The answer is ‘not quite’. Despite being more accurate, for handwriting the S Pen still draws 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, so that your notes end up looking like a kid’s first attempts at writing (especially if you jot down quickly, on the move).

In terms of pure functionality, the most impressive novelty is the ability to use the S Pen as a mouse - just pull it out, press the button and select anything on the screen as you would do with a mouse. There’s also a new Smart Select feature that allows you to cut sections of the screen and ‘collect’ them for easy access later on.

Processor and Memory

Snapdragon 805 on the Note 4 is top of the line in the Android world, and it is capable of taking the load of the Quad HD display, and still perform on par with the Snapdragon 801 on the 1080p S5.

Being the newer device, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 ships with the latest Snapdragon 805 quad-core system chip, while the Galaxy S5 runs on the earlier, Snapdragon 801 chip.

The chips are definitely more than capable to keep up as well with daily tasks as with heavier games, but there’s the occasional stutter here and there that we’re used to seeing in TouchWiz.

The change from Snapdragon 801 to Snapdragon 805 is a lot about improvements in graphics and less so in CPU compute. The reason for this is that both the 801 and 805 use a similar Krait processor with the main difference being the clock speed - the 805 can run at up to 2.65GHz, while the 801 maxes out at 2.45GHz.

The bigger change is in the graphics department: the new Adreno 420 runs at slightly higher clock speeds, utilizes a much wider memory bus, and comes with a promise for better performance and lower power consumption. Looking at benchmark results, it becomes obvious that the Adreno 420 is capable of running games on the Quad HD screen of the Note 4 at around the same frame rates as the Adreno 330 does on the 1080p Galaxy S5.

It’s worth mentioning that while most Western markets will get a Snapdragon 805-equipped Galaxy Note 4, other markets, mostly in Asia, will get a different version of the Note 4, powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 5433 chip. Unlike the Snapdragon 805, the Exynos 5433 is a 64-bit chip that makes it more 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.

Last year, Samsung instituted a change in the internal storage for its base Galaxy Note model starts, doubling it to 32GB and the Note 4 also comes with 32GB of built-in storage in the base version. The Galaxy S5 in comparison ships with 16 gigs on the base model. Luckily, both support expandable storage via microSD cards of up to 128GB.

QuadrantHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note424053
Samsung Galaxy S525041
AnTuTuHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note441185.33
Samsung Galaxy S536603
Vellamo MetalHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note41230.33
Samsung Galaxy S51186
Vellamo BrowserHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note43041
Samsung Galaxy S53479
SunspiderLower is better
Samsung Galaxy Note41087.87
Samsung Galaxy S5777.3
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screenHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note425.9
Samsung Galaxy S527.8
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screenHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note411.2
Samsung Galaxy S511.7
Basemark OS IIHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note41038.67
Samsung Galaxy S51054

Internet and Connectivity

Note 4 brings 4G LTE at up to 300Mbps (but your carrier has to catch up). Surfing is great on both, and you can use the two as a remote for your TV.

The Galaxy Note 4 ships with two browsers on board: Samsung’s own solution and Google’s mobile Chrome. Both are quick and get the job done with a few differences: the stock solution allows you to sign in with your Samsung account and get bookmarks synced this way, while Google’s Chrome has the slightly better optimized for touch card-based interface and syncs across all devices with Chrome. Loading up web pages happens at a similar speed, and zooming in and out, and scrolling around is fairly smooth.

In terms of connectivity, you get 4G LTE on both the Note 4 and the Galaxy S5. The Note 4 uses a newer modem that supports LTE category 6 with downlink speeds of up to 300Mbps, while the Galaxy S5 has category 4 with download speeds maxing out at 150Mbps. Other connectivity options include dual-channel Wi-Fi, A-GPS, Glonass, and NFC on both. The Note 4 supports the newer Bluetooth 4.1 specification, while the S5 is Bluetooth 4.0-compatible.

The two also come equipped with an infra-red beamer, and Samsung’s Smart Remote app, that allows you to use your smartphone as a remote control for electronics like your TV or air conditioner.


Small changes go a long way: despite both having 16-megapixel cameras, the one in the Note 4 is a ‘notable’ improvement, and OIS seems to be the culprit.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 comes with a 16-megapixel main camera with a single LED flash similar to the 16-megapixel shooter on the Galaxy S5. The big new features in the Note 4 is optical image stabilization, something that is missing on the S5.

The camera on both phones sticks out a bit to form a slight hump on the back of the phone. In terms of optics, both have an f/2.2 aperture lens. We know that the Galaxy S5 has a large, 1/2.6” 16:9 Samsung-made sensor, and we guess that the Note 4 features the same one.

Samsung has traditionally one of the richest camera apps when it comes to manually adjustable settings, and while it retains this functionality in the Note 4, it is not overwhelming you with options right from the start screen. There, you have the basics: a camera switch toggle, HDR option, a settings button, separate image capture and video buttons, as well as a key to access various shooting modes. In order to get into the manual adjustments, you tap on the settings key and then on the dots key. This will grant you access to adjustments like ISO, white balance, metering modes, as well as other options for the photography enthusiast. Interestingly, Samsung has removed a lot of the options in that advanced menu, fitting it on a single non-scrollable list. Options like picture stabilization (aka night mode that uses longer shutter speeds to achieve less noisy night images) and face detection are now gone, as the phone decides when the conditions are right and starts the corresponding mode automatically. The separate burst mode is also gone – just tap and hold the shutter key to start shooting images in bursts of up to 30 frames. The somewhat gimmicky selective focus from the S5 where you could adjust the focus of the image after capture is also gone on the Note 4 (and we can't say we miss it).

When it comes to image quality, the Note 4 is a marked improvement over the Galaxy S5. Images coming from the Note 4 feature impressively sharp and rich detail consistently all across the frame, and the improvement is particularly noticeable when you compare the images directly with those from the S5. Colors are definitely looking good on both, but if we had to pick the nits, we’d say that both err a bit on the cold side.

Indoors, the Note 4 camera has an even bigger advantage over the Galaxy S5. Blurry images with mushy detail on the S5 appears very sharp on the Note 4, and we’d say that having OIS in it is the possible culprit. The tendency for slightly muted, colder colors is present on both the Note 4 and S5 indoor images as well.

You can select different modes for different purposes. You have a night mode that applies longer shutter times for brighter images in low light, but this does not work well when you have objects moving in the frame. Samsung also has a very high-res panorama mode that captures great panoramas, very rich in detail and with seamless stitching.

The front camera is 3.7-megapixel one on the Note 4 for higher-res selfies, and the result is indeed improved with more detail over the 2.1-megapixel shots from the S5.

Taking a picLower is betterTaking an HDR pic(sec)Lower is betterCamSpeed scoreHigher is betterCamSpeed score with flashHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note42.8
Samsung Galaxy S52.5

Turning over to video recording, both the Note 4 and Galaxy S5 are capable of recording 4K video recording at 30 frames per second and 1080p at 60/30 fps. You can see the same great level of detail from the images in the Note 4 videos, and color representation is nice. OIS adds that final touch contributing to much smoother footage. The Galaxy S5 is also a very good device for video capture with a nice depth to its details and pleasing colors, but if you’re shooting handheld the recordings turn out shaky.


The large size and the brilliant color reproduction make the Note 4 a true beast when it comes to media.

The Galaxy Note 4 is an absolute beast for media: watching movies or browsing through photos is nothing short of a sheer pleasure on the large 5.7-inch display. It’s not just the size, though - the great color accuracy makes pictures look close to their best. In comparison, the Galaxy S5 with all the inaccuracies of its screen makes for a less pleasing media experience.

You have Samsung’s gallery app with its dual-panel layout allowing you to quickly toggle between folders and easier navigate large galleries of images. You can also zoom in and out inside the gallery to see more images. Samsung is bundling an image editor right in, so you can do some basic editing like cropping and filters from within the app.

The video player is identical on the Note 4 and S5, showing you animated thumbnails with previews of videos and once you open a video you can scroll through frames to find the right moment easier.

You have two music players on the Note 4 and S5. The first one is Samsung’s music player with options galore.

With all of this, the Note 4 comes with a disappointingly quiet and tinny loudspeaker. The Galaxy S5 does not have a much classier speaker, but it’s decently powerful, while the Note 4 just lacks that oomph.

Headphones output power(Volts)Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note40.41
Samsung Galaxy S50.43
Loudspeaker loudness(dB)Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note485
Samsung Galaxy S581

Call Quality

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is a very good performer when it comes to call quality. Voices in the earpiece sound very clear and loud enough for the most part, but if we had to pick the nits we’d say that volume could have been a notch louder in the earpiece. On the other end of the line, voice quality is clear and volume is sufficient.

The Galaxy S5 in comparison performs good, but not great in terms of call quality. It’s sufficiently loud in the earpiece, but it lacks in clarity as voices sound a bit muffled. On the other end, volume is again sufficient, but voices do sound sharper than we’re used to hearing, with a boost to the higher frequencies.


The Galaxy Note 4’s large size allows for a larger than average battery size, and we have a 3220mAh battery pack included. In comparison, the Galaxy S5 features a 2800mAh battery. When it comes to actual battery longevity, though, the Note 4 faces a tougher challenge as its Quad HD display is both larger and driving significantly more pixels than the S5. Our initial impressions are that the Note 4 manages to last through a full day without much effort, and it’s generally as long-lasting as its predecessor.

We have put the Note 4 through its paces in our own battery life test where we set the display of all participating devices to a brightness of 200 nits (typical for comfortable indoor viewing), and run a custom script mimicking real-life non-stop use. The Note 4 scored among the best with a battery life of 8 hours and 43 minutes, more than the already very good Galaxy S5's 7 hours and 38 minutes. In reality, this should allow you to not worry about heavily using your Note 4 and still getting through a day of work/play. Go for a more moderate use, and the Note 4 could even last you in the proximity of two days off the charger.

Starting with the Galaxy S5, Samsung is bundling its higher-end phones with a few unique battery conservation modes that allow you to squeeze the most of your battery. The Ultra Power Saving Mode (UPSM) in particular turns your display into greyscale, limits processor performance, and kills all but essential tasks. You can still browse the web, but access to the camera and other apps is limited. The feature is present on both the Note 4 and the Galaxy S5, and allows your phone to survive tens of hours even when you enable it with just 5% of juice left on the phone.

In addition, both the Note 4 and S5 come with fast charging, so you can quickly replenish your phone’s battery. The Note 4 goes from a dead battery to 50% charge in just 30 minutes.

Finally, both devices feature user-removable batteries, which is a nice feature for travelers and others who go for days without access to the electrical grid and can pack an additional battery and swap it when the first one dies.

We measure battery life by running a custom web-script,designed to replicate the power consumption of typical real-life usage.All devices that go through the test have their displays set at 200-nit brightness.
hoursHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy Note4
8h 43 min(Good)
Samsung Galaxy S5
7h 38 min(Average)

hoursLower is better
Samsung Galaxy Note4
1h 35 min
Samsung Galaxy S5
2h 2 min


The Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S5 are devices of different size and there’s no going around that: the phablet-sized Note 4 is not among the thinnest devices out there and its heft is felt at that large size. In return, it will reward you with one of the best Android experiences out there starting with the brilliant, 5.7-inch Quad HD display, the latest Snapdragon 805 system chip that scores at the top of the Android ranks, and an improved camera with optical stabilization.

The Galaxy S5, on the other hand, comes with an important advantage - it won’t drill a hole in your pocket. We’re speaking literally and figuratively - literally, because of its more manageable dimensions, and figuratively because of its reduced price. The full off-contract price of the S5 stands at around $520 (480 euro), while the Note 4 starting full price is a much tougher to swallow $800 (800 euro). The Galaxy S5 is also protected from the elements, something that could be important to many. On the flipside of things, you have to make a couple of noticeable trade-off with the S5 - the comparatively lackluster display comes first and foremost, the slightly sub-par camera second, and the slight performance delta last. Decisions, decisions.

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