Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S517
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.
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.